Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Carry a Hammer

Art by Milo Mars
Remember when I told you about the reader who sent me a notecard asking me to please write more? She sent me a thank you card yesterday for doing so, and you have no idea how much I needed that little boost!

It was a rough weekend - for farm and personal reasons. Two of my closest friends lost one of their close friends. I sat in a state police office, filing a harassment complaint. The weather hit hard. My truck broke down getting hay. My nerves broke down shortly after.

So getting a letter in the mail with a few sentences just sharing that she was happy I was writing again, and how her electric blanket was like her version of the space heater in the bathroom… I know it doesn’t seem like much but knowing that there are still readers out there who want a connection has been a powerful reminder.

It has encouraged me to write more, both here and to really bare my teeth and focus on this new book. I care more about this new book than I’ve cared about anything I have ever written. It is taking so long to feel good enough to send to my agent. But I will get there. I will write this book. It’s the book I so needed ten years ago when I was so afraid of all of you, and more so, myself.

Back to my truck. I was stuck Saturday in my friend Patty’s driveway in my 1989 f150, tires spinning from ice and then she stalled out. Since I was on a hill and sliding backwards and the brakes did nothing I panicked and stomped on the emergency brake, which snapped into place and stuck, broken. The last few days of worry over friends, winter, wood, bills, and already still paying off the last truck repairs… I started feeling the uncontrollable shaking and tears and weight in my chest from a panic attack. They come on like an assault over every security. By the time Patty walked out to my honks she saw a shaking, crying, woman in her stuck truck unable to even make it up her driveway. She talked me down, leaning her calm and kind arms on the driver’s side door through the open window. She talked my foot off the brake and assured me it was safe to come out and no one would be hurt if I left the truck alone. She walked me up to her farmhouse, holding my shoulder, helping me not slip on ice.

We got into her farmhouse and she let me cry it out. She went through all the simple steps to get the truck unstuck and repaired. For people with anxiety, not nerves, but real anxiety, this is better than anything short of a prescription pad. To have someone listen and help solve the issue that caused the attack to occur (even if it has nothing to do with the underlying anxiety) is a godsend. I don’t know what I did to deserve Patty and her husband Mark. But they have been in my life since Patty showed up at a local Barnheart book event in Cambridge a lifetime ago.

The truck remained unable to drive but we got it to slide down the driveway and off the main road. She helped me get hay for my animals and loaded it into her truck, and she drove me to get anything else I needed in town while I didn’t have a vehicle. She took me home to my farm and helped me unload and stack the hay out of the weather. And I felt a lot better. Yes, because I had all this farm could need for a while and didn’t have to worry about my truck at the moment, but also because I have a friend like her in my life. I have the luxury of breaking down every once in a while and being okay.

Part of what keeps me going when times get like this is the hard data that I made it this far. That I bought this farm in 2010 when I was a terrified, inexperienced, attention-hungry, overly-enthusiastic, highly-imperfect human being terrified that she liked girls in a world that told her to just find some strong farmer guy to take care of her. And now, a decade later, I am still often terrified, but more experienced. I’m still attention-hungry and overly-enthusiastic, but tempered by a mountain farm that taught me patience and self-reflection. I am still off-the-charts imperfect, but I am not scared to like girls. In fact this is the first Valentine’s Day I’ve looked forward to in 37 years. Keep going, it gets better.

Yesterday while I was finishing work inside I heard a sound I’d know anywhere. Taylor, my pickup truck, was pulling into the driveway. The dogs barked and I whooped! Patty came out of the driver’s side and threw her hands in the air in victory with a hammer raised above her head. THIS IS WHAT FIXED IT! She laughed like silver coins rattling, so bright and happy. I couldn’t believe she did it, and I hugged her so hard. She saved me having it towed to my mechanic and more truck bills on top of the regular winter struggle. I cried again after she left, but not from fear. From grace.

You gotta judge yourself not on the fear sliding backwards in driveways or the lowest points.You need to judge yourself on the people in your life, their character and love. My friends and chosen family in this small farming community have helped me become such a better person, and such a stronger woman.

Last night I sat in a friend’s living room in Cambridge and listened to her talk about her lost friend. I hope I was in some way of use to her, and made her feel better. I hope if I ever write a book that pays off this farm I make sure Patty and Mark have the most comfortable elder years a human being can experience. And I hope all the people that remind me that even at my most vulnerable and weak moments, that I am loved, that they know I love them too.

Happy Valentine’s week to all of you out there. Thank you for listening. Now go love someone, be kind, send sweet notecards, and carry a hammer just in case.