Setbacks

A few nights ago, Daniel and I were awoken by a huge WHAPWHOPBOOMBOOOOMBOOOM noise, and our entire RV started rocking back and forth.

Awoken this way deep in the midst of an REM cycle, I grabbed our dog and started picturing that we were being hit by lightning. I really thought I was going to die. This is a highly logical assumption, as it was storming hardcore. Plus, you know, the crazy noise and the shaking.

Daniel later told me he thought a school bus had run into our RV.

Bless him.

So, I told Daniel calmly “I’m scared.” (Aren’t I eloquent?) and made him go look outside. Turns out it was our awning.Screen shot 2015-06-03 at 12.25.49 PM

See that beautiful thing? See how it keeps the muddy mud dry? See the shade? Gorgeous.

Now I’ll tell you, I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with that awning. Ever since we put it up, it’s been my favorite thing. I put up the outdoor cinema out there (AKA blow up mattress, extension cords, tv). I sit out there when I’m hangry and Daniel isn’t done cooking. When it’s raining outside, you can still walk around and not have a mud shoe.

It’s a great thing. So when I found out that it looked like this:

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I had what I call “an Inappropriate Emotional Response.”

I cried. I really did. I cried my little eyes out. Because all of a sudden, it wasn’t just that the awning was broken. It was that, plus this other thing.

There is this other bad thing that’s happened the last few weeks. The farmers installed this thing called a “ram pump” near our RV that irrigates the fields using the creek nearby.

You guys know the creek, right? The one I love so much? That lulls me to sleep every night? First thing I hear in the morning?

Well, if you’ve never been around a ram pump, let me try to give you a few examples of what it sounds like.

1) A three year old holding a hammer and a metal pan and banging repeatedly in your ear
2) The world’s largest metronome
3) Someone holding a giant metal glockenspiel trying to keep time with music, but bless them they can’t keep time to save their lives.

This has slowly, subtly been wearing on my nerves the last few weeks. Because no more reading outside, no more sitting in the solitude and silence. Only the ding, ding, ding of a giant baby playing with a metal glockenspiel.

So when the awning broke, I had the Inappropriate Emotional Response. And I spiraled.

I’ll try to track how quickly my Inappropriate Emotional Responses escalate in situations like this.

Aheeemmmmmm:

1) Our awning is broken
2) Stupid Ram Pump
3) Our awning will no longer be a part of this RV
4) The awning is the only thing I currently like about living in this RV
5) The ram pump means I can’t even lay outside in my hammock anymore
6) Now living in this RV is terrible
7) If living in this RV is terrible, then living here is terrible
8) Living in NC is stupid
9) We’re stupid for moving here
10) Everything is bad.

Now. I will tell you some facts, lest you all rush over here and comfort me (please? Will you? Ben and Jerry’s?)

1) The ram pump will be done June 23rd
2) Awnings can be fixed.

So with that rationale, I feel much better today. But you know, for a good twelve hours, I entered a black hole of despair.

I really do need to work on a more logical step by step process when upset.

When pigs fly, eh?

Dirt

I’ve mentioned before, about how wonderful it is to be in a nature-based setting. But since I’ve been working on the farm several days a week, I’ve realized something else.

The absence of dirt in my life.

Not drama dirt – not like OH dang Victoria’s done something secret and bad, let’s get all the dirt on her. (Got my fill of that in high school and college thank you).

But physical soil. Microbes. Composted plants. You get it.

Even though living in this semi-rural town has been annoying at times I’m looking at you terrible “mexican” restaurants out here, pah, there is a really, really great perk.

We had some friends come in town, some from KC, and some from Coastal Carolina. Were we back in the city, we would have shown off our favorite coffee shops (Oddly Correct, always, duh). We would have walked around Westport, gone in some shops, maybe gone to a park. But that would be the extent of our outdoor time. Our version of being outside was in a confined park or having snacks on a restaurant patio. And yes! We were outdoorsy! Getting our Vitamin D!

I thought we were doing well.

Until we moved, and we went here:

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HELLLLLOOOOOOOOOO nature.

It’s just so important to get out into real, real, real nature. I can’t encourage you enough to drive the extra 45 minutes to get somewhere where you can’t hear cars.

And more so, I can’t encourage you enough to grow things. I do think I have some sort of black thumb when it comes to indoor plants/flowers. I seriously always kill them. But getting to get my hands in the dirt and grow food, grow plants, there’s just nothing like it.

There’s lots of research about how being around dirt is beneficial to us – kids are losing important immune-system building microbes (google it), adults are getting terrible allergies (google it), and we’ve lost a really important part of our nature as settled humans.

Especially if you’re a highly sensitive person (take the test). Which of course, I am.

May Sarton said it well – Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.

It’s weird, but I get the same feeling when I’m working in the field as I do when baking bread or doing laundry outside or making kimchi. It’s this “people have been doing this for a really long time” feeling.

If you don’t have a black thumb, then go buy a window box and put some herbs in it. Or get a succulent because those are supposed to be hard to kill…but I still did. Woops.

But go.

Get outside. Take your allergy medicine so you don’t have snot-attacks all over the veggies. Put on your sunscreen so that unlike me you aren’t the color of an old beet. And go dig in the dirt.

Hear.

Be.

Listen

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Those of you who know me, know that I’m a little-bit-easily-distracted in my day to day life.

This can range from funny to dangerous.

Funny: when Daniel knows I’m not listening to him and says things like “and then after that I thought that I would go and pick up some balloons and tie myself onto a pink elephant and sail away!” To which I’ll respond “Cool.” And he puts his head in his hands, depressed.

Dangerous: suddenly deciding in the middle of driving that I HAVE to hear this certain song, therefore digging around in my center console trying to find my iPod, not looking at the road for much too long, and then almost rear ending the scary looking car in front of me. Woops.

I think if I were to transport ages and suddenly be in elementary school right now, I would be that kid that teachers would be concerned about because I can’t stand hearing long spouts of information. It’s just too hard. There would be meetings.

Anyways, I thought about this the other night. Daniel was talking about farming, and a certain style of crop rotation he’s interested in. And I was totally zoning out. Like, 100% straight up did not listen to him.

Later, I was processing through my day, and thought about this interaction.

Things I know about the situation:

I love Daniel. I love listening to Daniel talk about farming. I’m really interested in farming. Daniel is really educated and brings up interesting points to think about.

So those things all considered, why in the world was I not listening?

And really, the more I thought about it, it’s due to selfishness. This wasn’t a lecture, or a work seminar. This was just a conversation with someone who I dearly love… yet I’d rather pursue my own thoughts and focus on those.

Why do we do that? Americans are marked worldwide for our go-go-go-go attitude. Our to-go coffees. Our quick ten minute lunches. And many of us would say it’s so we can do more, get more accomplished, etc. This carries into our daily interactions with others! Like, “that’s too bad that your weekend was terrible but I’m really thinking about laundry and how I need a new set of kitchen shears and did I remember to pay that last phone bill?”

Selfishness. Because if my brain is going a mile a minute, I’m not listening. I’m not investing. I’m not letting someone know they’re appreciated and loved. And that’s all because I feel like my thoughts and my time are more important. And they aren’t.

Maybe other people don’t struggle with this like I do, but it’d be interesting to check yourself. How many times a day do you catch yourself thinking about other things rather than engaging and listening to a meaningful conversation?

What if instead, we put ourselves last, and let the other person be first? Is it possible to give someone true, undivided attention, even when there are a million things to do?

Selflessness starts here. Because out of the heart all things flow.

Enough

DSC_0070I’ve been thinking lately about the concept of ‘enough.’

I’ve noticed that when something big happens in my own life, I pretty immediately change something physical about myself. It must be some strange coping mechanism. Like, “I HAVE TOO MANY FEELS SO I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING SO I CAN HAVE ULTIMATE POWER AGAIN.”

For example, when Daniel proposed, I had all sorts of feelings, so the next week I went out and dyed my hair Ronald McDonald red. Yes.

It was terrifying, it was shocking, and the masses of people were in horrified awe of the bright red hair that would come rushing by on my bicycle (don’t judge, I was more fit then). Heaven forbid I just direct my emotions into prayer or exercise or organization. No… had to dye it fire-engine-red.

Then, just recently upon the moving across the country and leaving of friends and family, I felt the need to totally overhaul my wardrobe. I accidentally spent wayyy too much money trying to accomplish a certain look I admired, causing havoc and ruin on our lives, sending us into a deathspin of poverty. (Not really. But it could have happened.)

But this is coming from someone who really doesn’t enjoy shopping. But it was like all of a sudden, I just had to change my clothing style or I was just going to explode from mediocrity.

The wonderful minimalism movement talks a lot about how society and modern culture teaches us a way to gain happiness and control via purchased items. See above.

But really, I feel like so many items bought, hair styles tried, new technology obtained, it can’t really satisfy.

And it’s made me realize – I have enough.

Right now, we own four spoons, forks, and knives each. We have cut down our coffee mug collection to about ten (ouch, we had like thirty), and probably could get rid of more. I have a capsule wardrobe that I spent too much on but I still only wear from 30 to 40 items of clothing each season. Yes, ladies. Including shoes.

We even got rid of over one hundred books when we moved into this space. That was tough. Needed some counseling over that one.

I have enough time. Busyness will not overwhelm me.

I have enough clothing. I will not acquire and acquire to fill a void.

I have enough technology. I don’t need the next new thing.

I have enough love. Romance novels and popular culture will not make me wish for more, or different, or better.

I have enough.

I have enough.

I have enough.

 

I have, and it’s enough.

Happy

A really common question I’ve encountered since our move (two months ago…. whoa) is “Are you happy? Do you like it?”

And people, let me tell you. I can’t give a solid answer for that yet.

Those of you that know me, know my brain goes like ten miles a minute. Any given moment I can switch from thinking about weather to new pants to my grandma to wanting to rearrange something to cleaning to someday dreams to wanting ten new tattoos to my ear itching and I don’t even feel tired.

So, when I think about if I’m happy here, I just don’t know. Because truthfully, it changes from minute to second.

It goes like this:

Lots of stars, like! Weird church culture here, dislike! Bluegrass NPR, like! Only bluegrass playing, dislike! Baby sheep, like! Miss teaching full-time, dislike! Mountains, like! Everyone in this entire part of the state looks the same, dislike! Local coffee, like! No good decaf like Oddly Correct, dislike! Polite schoolchildren, like! Nobody knows what scrillah is, dislike!

And on, and on, and on.

I chatted with another intern here last week about this, about how our brains operate on scarcity mindset… as humans, we’re so quick to look to the next best thing to satisfy. Yet once we get it, we’re quick to point out flaws and begin to look for another good thing to make us happy.

So yes, where we were living wasn’t right for us anymore. Our scarcity mindset was that there wasn’t any nature. We didn’t want to live there in the first place. We couldn’t farm the way we wanted. We were stuck in the daily grind of work-dinner-laundry-collapse.

So we made a change. And it was appropriate for us at the time, because – Nature! Farming! Tiny home living! Non-traditional work schedule!

And yes, yes, all those things are happening. But in my scarcity mindset, I’m quick to point out that I miss my friends. That we’re really far from family. That our community has shrunk down to the five people who live and work with us, and though it’s fun and instructive, that’s been way more difficult than I thought. That non-traditional work schedule means getting up at 4:30am for farmer’s markets! Pfffewww!

But that’s just it, isn’t it? There isn’t ever a magic answer. When your life changes, you just roll with it. Happiness isn’t rooted in circumstance, it’s a state of being.

You choose a few non-negotiables, and eke your way out from there. For us, it was to not be in an urban environment anymore. For you, it may be good coffee shops next door. It may be an arts community. It may be family.

But once you’ve got that thing accomplished, you’ll be let down by other circumstances. Because that’s how our brains work; yet we have the choice to let happiness be the constant, and everything else be the fluff. So that’s what I’m trying to do.

Choosing joy day-in-day-out. Regardless.

So when my wishy-washy brain focuses on what I don’t have, I’ll just thank my lucky stars I can hold baby chickens and listen to the wind in the trees at night.

And also that I have reliable cellular service.

Because that’s pretty darn happy.

Catalysm

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I read a recent post from a blog I like, Un-Fancy, about how small change over time will eventually lead to big change. More specifically, if you want to make a huge change in your life, it will take many small steps of planning to achieve that big change.

Daniel and I have been really lucky to have a theme emerge this year. We’ve felt ourselves called to these words over and over – “Make It Happen.” Or, if you would like nineties advertising to be a constant in your life, I presume to borrow the term from Nike, “Just DO IT!”

Let’s apply these two concepts to a few things that have occurred in 2015.

Climbing on rocks at a local river thing

Small changes – mental preparation of slippery rocks, moving of camera bag and purse to my back due to foreknowledge of falling forward due to major clumsiness, deep breaths to calm one’s self down.

Big change – made it to rock, via falling down on my back, thus getting stuck in a weird creek waterhole with camera bag and purse plopping in the water. Camera miraculously saved, but Praise the Lord my cell phone was only $15 because that thang was done BROKE. Friends useless because all they did was laugh (YOU, CHELSEA.) (You, Aaron. You).

But, to be fair, it was concerned laughter.

Moving to an organic farm in North Carolina

Small changes – moving in with our friends to save money, applying for farms, financial freedom via paying off student loans, practicing lifting heavy things (me, not Daniel), mentally preparing Crumb our dog for the big move, getting rid of 75% of our belongings including all my beloved shoes, and taking bee pollen to ward off potential allergies (didn’t work. Sneeze all the time.)

Big change – we live here now, and are following a longtime dream. Made it happen.

So this is the year of doing things. We have a few more things that we have just made happen but those are surprises, because surprises are good things.

It’s really easy to keep making dreams just that, dreams. But HELLO how are you going to start dominating life if you just dream? You have to take intentional steps toward what you want, or it will always stay far away in the future. Nike, people. Think NIKE. I might get the Nike symbol tattooed on me because it’s lyke soooooooooo meaningful.

Kidding.

Maybe.

But really, make big things happen. And be prepared to fall in a watery rock hole and have your friends laugh at you and your phone ruined and your dignity shamed.

But don’t worry. They’ll ask you if you’re okay once you climb back up on the rock.

Marriage

Daniel and I had our dear, dear friend Nick Allen do some more portraits of us in our wedding clothes. The reason being on the day of the actual wedding, I had gunned down so many enchiladas and meaty snacks the five months prior to the wedding, my dress didn’t quite fit. And by quite I mean didn’t zip up like even halfway.

Oh yes. This happened.

Anyways, him and his wife Megan braved the 20 degree weather with us, and they turned out so lovely. I’m shamelessly plugging their business, because a) I love them to death, b) he is an amazing photographer with incredible presence, and c) they’re having a baby and I need them to get money so they can come visit us so I can see their faces and child and talk baby-talk to the baby.

I love these photos so much. Looking at them fills me with happiness, because Nick really did capture what Daniel’s and my marriage is like. I feel like these pictures are truly us.  branch-portraits-37-X3 branch-portraits-43a-X3branch-portraits-32-X3 branch-portraits-62-X3 We have been through so much in the not-yet-quite-five years we’ve been together. Bless Daniel for being the most constant, patient man I’ve had the pleasure to know. He has put up with all of my idiosyncrasies and more… like the other day when we were cleaning eggs and I felt the need to yell “WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH EGG CARTONS, I HATE CLEANING EGGS, AND THIS IS THE WORST EASTER EVER!”

Seriously people. And I claim to be a 24 year old…. like, they let me teach children things. Also, #farmprobz

The last few months have been more difficult than not. Suddenly quitting our jobs, packing up and leaving, Daniel getting his wisdom teeth removed like two days before the move, having to leave a place that’s been our home for three years… that’s all been stressful.

And like, having to relearn what to do when we’re fighting in a less than 200 square foot space. Tip for those of you considering tiny living – go take a walk. Because inevitably after you trip over some roots (angry walking doesn’t go over well in the woods) you’ll go sit by the creek and get zenned out, and then you’ll remember how much you love each other and that MAYBE you were being a brat just then.

We were the forerunners of most of our friends getting married, and the last year or so, a common question has been “How is it different? What’s the point?” And I don’t always have the best answer. But to me, it’s that you’ve got someone in your life with you, forever. You will continue to choose them, even when it’s difficult. They are your best friend in the world, and know you better than you know yourself sometimes, as cliche as that is.

I wanted to share the quote we had read at our wedding. Because it is in times of upheaval that I read it and remember that yes, this, this is love. Not comparable to anything you can read, view on social media, or watch on TV or movies.

This heartbreaking, staggering, fills-you-to-the-top love that can alternately make you so angry at that person you want to punch their beautiful beautiful nose, or make you want to punch someone else’s nose when your husband’s feelings have been hurt somehow. I don’t think I would be a good adherent to a religion that preaches mental non-violence.

Anyways, here it is.

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also many things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called “being in love” usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending “They lived happily ever after” is taken to mean “They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,” then it says what probably never was or ever could be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parents ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be “in love” with someone else. “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

C.S. Lewis

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