Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Season of Rest

I've been fighting for months to come up with the words, sweet readers. Months. Everything I start to write seems trivial; anything positive seems false and forced. The summer was, to be very honest, saturated in quite a bit of sorrow and frustration for me; it was an awkward conglomeration of death, division, and disappointment. I get mad at myself because whining about a privileged life is spitting in the faces of the oppressed and less fortunate...but this is not a place of flawlessness, this blog. This is not a place of perfection. It's my place, with real feelings, well-placed or not.

We lost an amazing treasure in June. Sweet Abigail Greene, a beautiful child from a beautiful family, was taken to heaven after a shockingly swift, terrorizing fight with brain cancer. The loss of Abby is excruciating and numbing all at the same time. The sight of her parents as they sat at her grave, the sight of her father as he had to walk away, those images will forever be imprinted in my memory. That could be me, my selfishness and empathy cried. That could be any of us. How is life so horrifically fragile? 

My girls and I visit their grandpa, my father-by-love as I suppose I can't call him my father in-law any longer. Each time I go over there I expect to see her, my mother-by-love. I expect to hear her puttering around in the kitchen making a mess out of some weird jungle fruit or sucking the juice from a carrot. I expect to see her glorious mantles overflowing with just the right amount of garland and lights and figures and wreaths. Every time I walk in there her absence hits me like lead. I can still smell her there. I can feel her around her husband, worried sick about him and wanting to comfort him. It's not getting better, her death. It's just sitting there, staring at me, waiting for me to realize it isn't going away. 

The new job makes me painfully aware of how misaligned my priorities sometimes seem to be. All this real life stuff going on, people leaving the earth forever, and I'm choosing to drive into an office 60 miles away so I can do what, exactly? I don't feel like I'm moving toward my long-term goals. I'm not spending this precious time, that can be taken away at any moment, with those I love. I'm not building anything with my hands, or planting green things, or making a large-scale impact on those who need me the most. I'm not doing any of those things. There are people out there who do that every single day. They make an impact on those who need them the most. I am not doing that. Why? The conflict between my heart and my mind is overwhelming.

And I feel bad about it. I feel bad about complaining. I feel bad about whining about a job, any job. I feel bad about wanting more out of life. I feel bad about wanting to be home with my kids and I still feel like I'm failing them even though I know my provisions are plentiful in every area of their lives. I feel guilt on top of shame on top of pain and whenever this happens to me, my first instinct is to fix it. Research my way out of it. Plan resolution and take steps toward resolution every day until I get there. 

I exhaust myself, basically. I push myself to find the answer. I push myself to get things right, buck up, make the most of every day by adding more to my plate, one impossible goal at a time, until I feel like I've maxed out my capabilities. I struggle to sit still because I fear the undeniable draw of stillness and isolation. I've been there before, the girl in bed for days at a time, allowing life to pass and watching the light rise and fall on the wall of her bedroom through glazed eyes. I am terrified of falling into a routine of stagnancy and complacency. I don't want to be alright here, because if I am alright here, what propels me to improve? What motivates me to do better? If I am ok here, I will remain here, I fear, and this is not where I am supposed to be. 

I know this  incredibly hott   super attractive   bearded beauty of a man   nice guy who has a bunch of ying-yang stuff tattooed on his body. I asked him once to explain his tattoos and I kid you not, about 1/3 of them had to do with balance. He told me the key to anything is always balance. You need good with bad. You need action with relaxation. You need despair with joy. And he made perfect sense. 

But how in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks does one find that balance? How do I force myself to not feel bad about letting things just be for a little while? How do I force myself to live in this life and stop making plans, slow down, just work this job for a few years and stop trying to plan the next 5? Beer can't be the answer, dear readers. Beer cannot, unfortunately, be the answer. 

Maybe I need to look no further than my own back yard. My backyard is where all my happy-Jen experimenting takes place. It's about this time of year, every year, that I begin to feel pretty disgusted with my experiments. Right about now every bed, plant, weed, and tree is overgrown and out of control. I let things lapse for weeks on end while the mosquitoes live their lives in my paradise and then whammo, it gets cool and I get out there and I basically see Tarzan come flying out of a tree and hand me a blow dart gun so I can hunt the undoubtedly large population of mongoose and other small, gregarious mammals I likely have living in my yard. 

But without fail, everything falls away. Leaves turn gold. Plants die off and can be picked, plucked, and composted. The weeds lose their footing and don't grow back. My beds become bare, the dirt looks tired, begs for a blanket of leaves. The grass, the sunlight, the warmth...all of it surrenders to sleep. Even my chickens stop laying, their little rhythms syncing up with the loss of light, their bodies concentrating on food and keeping warm through the winter. Everything stills and my time, magically, doesn't require the intense division between garden and work, food and family. It's done, my growing season is over, that is all there is to it.

It's a huge sigh, a nod toward the way things should be, a small suggestion that not even the pressures of a man-made rat race can slow the inevitable change of seasons. Perfect example of balance. It's infuriating that we, as the smart lil' humans we supposedly are, cannot acknowledge, learn, and shadow what the earth does every single year. Grow, work, produce, rest. Grow, work, produce, rest. Are we that arrogant? Do we think we can do better?

Where in the American Dream does rest exist? From my perspective, we put it at the end...in the future...in a series of "somedays," that we're never guaranteed. I will rest when I am in my little cob cottage in the woods, scooting my heritage-breed chickens off the front porch and kissing my man when he comes home with fish for dinner and settling down to a fire and a good book by my solar-powered lamp. That will happen for me later, I always say. Not now. Now is the time for work, steps, do more, make that vision a reality, and for gosh's sake don't slow down because that dream will never come true if you do. But also live in the moment and be happy now and don't let time pass you by because if you do, you might leave this earth never feeling like you've lived at all and you'd only have yourself to blame, dummy. 

It is immeasurably hard for me to feel content with that type of duality singing in my brain. How to balance the two....the driven, the hardworking, the rested, the happy. Can we have it all? Is it even possible? 

Nature says so. There's no fear of death, no need to get somewhere sooner, no feelings of guilt for daily disasters. Things just are what they are. Nature works incredibly hard. She evolves and pushes against challenges and overcomes and shows merciless power. But she also dies back for 3-4 months a year and just lets life lie still.

We have a season of rest coming up. I am already waist-deep in food preservation, trying to make the most of my garden bounty. I've got plans and backup plans - things I will bake, trails I will hike, leaves I will collect. Making plans is a habit of mine. It helps me feel in control. But an absence of plans sometimes allows the steady, natural, intended cycles to push forward, to overwhelm my sense of control, to force me into compliance. This, our season of rest, invites me to feel whatever it is I want to feel, unencumbered, unashamed. It invites me to sit with my feelings about those who are no longer with us, allows me to feel the loss and not feel weak, allows me to absorb my current situation and make some decisions about how I want to spend my time and efforts. Only one life to live, yes, but also only so many hours in a day...and while some need to be spent working, worrying, and makin' plans, some need to be spent simply sitting still.


Stay tuned for another video, coming soon! This one will outline my fall canning process, by request from one of my dearest readers :)

As always, thank you for reading. 

Jen 


1 comment:

  1. I just found your blog and I wonder how you are doing since writing this. Blessings!

    ReplyDelete