Lets talk about farming.
“Once you decide on your occupation you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”
I am a farmer. To be honest I hadn’t really said that, to myself or to others, and really felt it in my bones until recently. I had been living my life without examining it too closely, in a whirlwind of action and reaction that almost led to a nervous breakdown. I hadn’t really known why I always felt so frustrated, overworked, stressed out, and worn down to the bone. Living this way damaged my relationships with everything and everyone, including myself and my body. I could go on about causes and effects, reasoning my way free of personal responsibility, but the fact is that I hadn’t ever dedicated myself to anything 110%, and it showed. All around me projects laid unfinished and ideas were left unpursued; I could start anything, but following through all the way to the end seemed impossible somehow. I was losing passion for life even. It just seemed like there was an endless array of problems without easy solutions. I couldn’t feel the beauty of the grass waving in the sweet smelling wind anymore. Finally, pushing myself to get the cabin done in a sort of haze of self-loathing and dehydration, I fell off some scaffolding and bashed up my ribs and arm, sending me to bedrest for a month. Everything seemed fucked up in some way; my body, my mind, my heart, my relationships, my work, my home. I let that assumption control my mood and actions, believing I was a perceptive pragmatist, when in fact I was bucking responsibility for my life and actions. All my problems are out there, right? No way are they all within me.
Winter didn’t improve my outlook. Only as spring brought forth life and my troubles began to overwhelm me was I pushed out of the nest into the reality of what taking responsibility for myself meant.
I think a lot of us in our 30s are still hanging on to some of those dreams we had in our 20s. Either that or we try to leave our options open, so that we can feel like we are free from being stuck in one thing forever. I have come to the conclusion that real freedom resides in dedicating yourself to something outside of your self. When we live inside our heads we’re stuck in a dark prison of our own making. When we live inside our heads we can’t take care of business very well – whether that be baby turkeys that need bedding and water, or a restaurant that needs freshly baked breads, or even just sweeping our home. Inside our heads, we’re stuck in a feedback loop that never lets us act without fear.
For me, it came to the point where I had to consciously stop the inner dialogue as that feedback loop was going to drive me totally nuts. I stopped and looked around and just saw and felt where I was. Who am I, I asked? Who do I want to be, where do I want to go, what do I want to do every day, and how do I want to make my living? At that point I may have felt in my heart that I would rather be traveling the world, or even be employed and get a paycheck so I could homestead comfortably, or that I wanted to be a yoga instructor, chef, cartoonist, social worker. When I listened to my heart, it thrummed back at me with the warm tones of love for farming. I looked at my beaten up hands lined with dirt and felt the goodness that comes from being a craftsperson, someone who uses their body, mind, and heart every day to increase the quality of their discipline. Stepping outside of my mind allowed me to actually see everything around me, including myself, and to imagine a vision for the future that wasn’t all tied up in my immediate fears. At that point I said out loud,”I am a farmer.” And it was true.
I breathed a sigh of relief, standing by an old barbed wire fence that was always tripping me up because I never took the time to do anything about it. I went and got a wire cutter and cleared those sharp obstacles from my path.
Each farmer must farm something every day. My wide intellectual focus is on the relationship between livestock and perennial crops. My narrow practical focus is on actually raising pastured pigs . Each day I have this big picture understanding, and each day I strive to further my understanding and skill at farming. I let my own self get in the way of my work for quite a while, but even so, there is no point in looking back with regret. As my old landlady said to me as I drove away from my old apartment to start farming, “Onward and upward!”