Friday, March 16, 2018

Making My Bed

I keep writing and deleting posts here. It's been two days of starting passionate confessions and then removing them. I begin with this brutal honesty about my insecurities and real doubt I'll be able to keep this farm. How it's been too long without a book deal, loan, or lucky break. I write about not being able to sleep at night, about how long that has been going on, and how if I was in a relationship with anyone who mildly cared about me they would have convinced me to quit years ago (probably around the time both the toilet and hot water both didn't work).

I write about my winter angry as if I'm treating someone I love horribly. I made an enemy with my morning reflection. I haven't slept through the night in weeks. The stress eats you. The responsibility claws into you. And the fact that every mistake and failure is shared here or on Twitter makes it more like a public self-flagellation than anything else.

You get the gist.

These are not upbeat posts. Few posts this winter have been. It's been horrifically cold. An obsessed troll sent police officers to my door. I have managed to *just* keep ahead of foreclosure every month, which gives me about two days to exhale before I realize I'm already in trouble again with time. Rapid heartbeats and cold sweats are normal. I got sick recently and I don't think it had anything to do with disease.

Some times I'm glad it's just me here, because I mean to stay. I mean to see this place through till summer comes home. I have no idea how that'll happen but I know that every morning I wake up and I make my bed. I make it even though no one else will ever see it but me. I make it because it starts my day with the tiniest courtesy, the choice for order in a life so tenuous I started getting chest pains. I walk down the stairs to begin my day and remember these three things:

I am not a victim and never have been.
This is my fight and I chose it.
I can either keep going or quit.

And for some reason I choose to keep going.

I chose this life because it taught me the meaning I was searching for: a reason to exist. I know that sounds whimsically pretentious (at best) but my luckiest moment in life was when I found the upside-down puzzle piece of farming by accident and realized it fit perfectly into the hollow piece inside of me. Agriculture connects me to my ancestors, to myth, to religion and sex and celebrations and death! It lets me be civilized and an animal at the same time. It gave me strength and skills I could never even imagine while sitting in a college typography class forever ago. It brought me horse feathers and hawk talons and the glorious drunk-exhaustion of checking for babe lambs at 3AM in a snowstorm.

This life makes me feel wealthy in ridiculous ways. I recently got an email from friends swimming with whales on vacation by some steamy archipelago. All I could think about was how sad it was they could just pick up and leave a home that didn't need them. The poverty of their reality was palpable. Island vacations feel like a distraction to happiness, a job someone has to do to appear normal. That is, of course, my crazy belief. They feel the same poverty and pity for my story knowing I can not leave. We are both correct. We are simply different religions.

Living on this mountain with this particular mix of animals gave every season a story. Spring is for new livestock being born, shearing sheep, the first cold crops planted and prayers for warmer days. Summer is for fast horses, trout fishing, running across long stretches of farm roads, and lazy river swims. Fall is for eating all the hard work of summer, for bonfires, for ghost stories, for hunting, for preparing for long cold nights ahead and the real fear of not making it through. And winter is for flying trained hawks, snowshoeing through the forest, and proving those fall fears false.

Homesteading requires the sacrifice of presence. That cost is too high for most people to pay, at least on their own. Travel is social currency. Fill your passport and you're considered worldly. Stay on six acres by choice and you're a bumpkin. I'm a college educated, several-times-over published author but in any social setting of consequence that means very little when people hear I haven't spent a night away from my farm in over six years. My lifestyle goes from earthy and quaint to a recluse, or worse, prisoner.

Everyone I know that does leave their farm does so because they aren't alone. Most blogs sharing the country life include a husband, some kids, and an off-camera a second income, health insurance, and a 401k. Let me be clear - none of those things are bad. They just aren't mine.

Cold Antler Farm is not a 501c3. It is not getting checks from the government, not in subsidies or any other form of assistance. It isn't funded by a spouse, or my parents, or some cashed-in investment or magical inheritance. It's one woman waking up and making a list, hoping for luck, and having the brutal audacity to believe she'll do it again the next day.

I have a couple hundred bucks in my checking account, a heart, and two working hands. They're all backed up by a head running on fumes and the proof positive of eight years of figuring it out alone. I let that be the reality I believe in.

We aren't the sum of our mistakes. We're a collection of the lessons we learned from them and person we are trying to become. Every year I become stronger, smarter, more certain, more ready to do whatever it takes to legally keep this place in my name. And I need to believe in that version of me because the other option is leaving the only thing that ever gave this world sense behind. 

I made my bed and I plan to lie in it,
 even a few weeks from now,
even alone,
even afraid.