Wednesday, February 19, 2020

In a Sprint

Farming for a living is the most amazing choice I have ever made with this small life. If you've done the same, you understand. It's heroic and hard, but also foolish as hell. Because every single one of us knows that we don't have to do this. Every single one of us knows there's a desk or a ditch out there calling our names and we don't have to struggle with making our land work. We can sit down to a spreadsheet or pick up a shovel - yet we remain.

Maybe we're wrong? If the comments and emails I've received over the years are any metric to go by, I certainly should have stopped farming 8 years ago. The minute this farm went from joy to fear I was told to either get married to a man for help, sell the farm, get back to the job and life I hated, or turn my home into an air bnb (this last one is always suggested by people living with a partner that do not live in an isolated farm house alone and without the fear of strangers on the internet that have stalked them for years anonymously online!).

I've done none of those things and I'm still here. This May will be a decade since closing on the farm and making these 6.5 acres in Jackson NY mine. I did it with the help of an amazing community - on and offline. I did it by being vulnerable and honest about how hard it was. And so that is what I am doing this morning over this first cup of coffee. It's what has kept me sane and present.

This was one of those mornings where I lay in bed knowing everything I need to accomplish by the time I return to it tonight, and it's borderline impossible.

I'm not talking about the regular winter morning chores like carrying buckets of water and sleds of hay around the farm. I'm not talking about stacking firewood or tinkering with my 30-year-old truck. I'm talking about the staggering reality of keeping this farm mine and how it has been increasingly hard to do so. Because getting up (which I did), and the chores (which I also did) was the easy part. Now I am sitting down with my emails, messages, client work, bank account balance, bills, dental appointment later today, and knowing I have ten days to make this payment happen to avoid any possible foreclosure.

This farm has been right up against it every month for a very long time. Years of stress trying to figure it out, and sometimes the only comfort I have about that is I'm still here after all of it. That there's this past of check receipts from house payments and butchers and firewood cutters and truck repairs and I am still here.

But I also know what doing that took. And I know today I need to do it again. I have a number I need to make to be on track and cover this broken tooth repair (not surgery, hopefully under $200) and what I need to make in sales today to cover that and keep building up the savings for the mortgage on time. But I got out of bed and put the coffee on, so I must be willing to do the work, right? I'm writing about it here to both help convince me and to vent my stress about it.

I know this blog went from hopefulness and joy of country living to the constant uphill clawing to keep what I have. I know half of you think I should quit and the other half need to hear I should keep going. And I'll tell you this for free. If this next book doesn't sell, or flops, then I will. I will have to. Or change my life drastically in some way because waking up ready for battle every day just to keep a roof over your head and your house warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing is worse than smoking three packs a day. This is why I wasn't updating much. Because hearing that every day isn't any kind of inspiration or fun. But it's what I was going through, and I did. I made it through the darkest part of this winter and now bird songs are changing and the light is sticking it out a little longer and so am I.

This is what I focus on every day. It makes maintaining more than a handful of relationships impossible. I can't keep up with everyone I care about or was a huge part of my life. That creates guilt, which compounds into stress, which only adds to making getting out of bed harder. If you know someone who has fallen out of touch with you, be mindful it probably has very little to do with you and a lot to do with them. I have no more than 6 people at a time I can manage a close, reliable, reciprocal friendship with right now. Because 90% of my energy goes into simply figuring out if I get to keep my house this month.

Every day I need to decide if this fight is worth it. If i's fuel or poison. Today it is fuel. All the panic and stress tearing at my heart isn't making it weaker. It's breaking down and repairing the muscle like lifting weights. I am so much stronger for it. It may look tired but it is so determined it could beat Secretariat in a sprint.

I'm going to keep trying.