January 28, 2013
Courage, Faith & Survival
“The fact is that in order to do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand shivering on the bank thinking of the cold and the danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.”―Sydney Smith
“I grew up with an ambition and determination without which I would have been a good deal happier. I thought a lot and developed the faraway look of a dreamer, for it was always the distant heights that fascinated me and drew me to them in spirit. I was not sure what could be accomplished with tenacity and little else, but the target was set high and each rebuff only saw me more determined to see at least one major dream to its fulfillment.” ― Earl Denman
There have been many times in the past few years that I have shed tears of grief and fear that we would fail and watch our dreams slip away. We have remembered where we came from, and felt downright terrorized by the idea of going back.
There have been many times that we have tightened our belts, clenched our teeth, and moved forward with faith that if it feels so wrong to do anything else, that this is the right thing to do.
We have talked about giving in. We have discussed the possibility with our children, their tears making it feel impossible. And so we tighten up more and push on.
We make due in other ways. Rule number one: Never, ever, buy anything that is not food or survival related. New clothes and shoes do not qualify. An animal that produces food qualifies. Food at a restaurant, junk food, prepared foods, etc. do not. Internet so that Jeff can do his job qualifies. TV service, entertainment, alcohol, cigarettes, etc. do not. It's a fairly simple guideline for us to follow, however emotionally trying it might be to people living in the first world. And trying it is.
However, tightening, abstaining, thrifting, bartering, making due, and getting crafty, though allowing our survival and a massively effective education in want vs. need, is truly looking like it may not be enough.
This year, though we have made strides forward in self sufficiency, we have also lost income, tripped over unseen hurdles, and felt the pain unavoidable crop losses. So, here we sit. The most difficult time of year for a family who has stepped aside from the norm. No crops in the ground. Animals to feed. Food prices skyrocketing. Contracts dried up. Winter is the time of belt tightening, hunkering down, and surviving. With Spring comes the hope of fresh food, fresh eggs, free grass to replace expensive animal feed, etc. The trouble is that equations actually requires that your winter stores carry you not to Spring, but to Harvest. Harvest, which (for us), arrives no earlier than July. So five months remaining to the finishing line. Five months remaining when we have already resorted to selling the last of our stocks, and have moved on to household items. Five months remaining when the price of hay (goat food) has risen to $16 per bale. Five months remaining with no word on this year's contract existence, much less value, from Jeff's employer. Five months remaining to choke on our accumulating electric bill, and the fact that we have spent nearly $120 per month to heat our water this year due to a likely (and yet unfixed) leaking propane tank, and an old and over-sized boiler system.
It's not looking good. Our family has added 'deer in the headlights' stance to our grieving as we try to figure out how to move forward and where to put our energy.
I'll be honest. The thought of returning to the city does feel like the worst case scenario for our family. Watching Jeff return to the soul sucking life of a corporate drone hurts everyone. Returning to the polluted air and water of metropolitan areas equates to a gnawing guilt and fear for the health of my children that be inescapable. It's a fear that births the new fear that will likely lead to a necessary lobotomizing in the form of modern culture and the Valium of lying corporate media. It's okay. Fracking is good for you. It's okay. We can't hurt the environment. It's okay. The massive growth in cancer, autism, asthma, infertility, fibromyalgia, etc. is normal. It won't touch my kids, and there's nothing to be done about it anyway. Constant innumdation by elctromagnetic, microwave, and radio waves is perfectly unaffecting, otherwise my TV would warn me about it. It's okay. Go buy something. I've been there. It's not conjecture. I know the drill.
There are some things, that when you truly go out and force yourself to wade through all the information and misinformation, are terrifying and cannot be unlearned.
We took a big risk. We did not know if we could pull it off, but we were compelled to give it our very, very best effort. We may not pull it off still, but the alternative looks like suffering and soul death. It's the most excruciating rock and hard place that I've ever been stuck between.
“Most men either compromise, or drop their greatest talents, and start running after, what they perceive to be, a more reasonable success, and somewhere in between they end up with a discontented settlement. Safety is indeed stability, but it is not progression.” ―Criss Jami
And so, being us, we try harder. How does one do anything else? When you truly, truly believe in your values, dreams and soul's ache, how do you give them up? I can't. As a family we have decided that they will have to be ripped from our hands first. And, so, we look at our house and box up all that is unnecessary and might buy us time and and edge. We plant lettuce in the windows. We learn how to stretch a piece of meat for three days. We make sure the children are never hungry, and we look forward to getting nice and lean ourselves.
We learn how to stretch fruit in to more nutritious, higher volume, fermented drinks. We attempt to grow carrots in deep pots by the windows. We prayed for help with the propane/water heat situation and promptly got a new system that will likely reduce our cost by 50%. So now we switch to praying for the propane leak to be repaired. Jeff sends out resumes constantly, and takes on any job that is offered, no matter how small. We pull 5 gallons of nutrient dense broth from each old rooster.
And each and every day we chase down every single opportunity with the voracity of a starving beast. Our lease holds us here for another year and a half and we are hell bent, not only on making it there, but being able to sign a new one with a peaceful certainty.
I have fought against such fear. Such deep, obliviating fear. Fear of the death of everything I believed about myself. Fear of the death of my dreams, my faith, my belief, of everything I thought I knew. I have feared the complete annihilation of self. It is a scary thing. The scariest. Much, much scarier than physical death. The death of one's purpose, of one's heart and soul. I have feared, and begged, and pleaded, and cried, and tried to give in, but how does one give in when every fiber of your being is telling you to hold on? To cling with every single thing you've got? When your deepest self says that this is the right thing - Fight!? How? How then do you give up?
“Even in its darkest passages, the heart is unconquerable. It is important that the body survives, but it is more meaningful that the human spirit prevails.” --Dave Pelzer, A Child Called "It"
I have not given up, but I have not yet given everything. I have wasted much time, crouched for impact, and been impotent with fear. I have not given everything yet. I have wasted much talent, and made many excuses. I have suffered losses that might have been avoidable, but were not avoided, and I have learned and been strengthened. Perhaps they were not avoidable at all. Perhaps they were always necessary - training, strengthening, fortifying. I only know that I'm not done. I am going to live my very best life, and at the end of that life I am going to know that I did my very best, that I followed my dreams through all hell, and that I never gave up. If I really believe in life's work, a path, a soul's purpose, and I do, absolutely, then I have nothing to do but risk everything with utter faith --- and if it all falls apart, it's not the end yet. In the end, even if I failed, I can say that I did not fail to do everything possible to succeed.
And somewhere in every day, every single day, I will savor. Savor the moments that will never return. Savor the beautiful space we occupy. Savor the opportunity to be here. Savor chubby cheeks covered in the juice of the oranges I didn't think I could afford. Savor the absolute innocence of children raised away from "it all". Savor the quiet. Savor the simplicity. Savor the certainty and peace of mind that comes of knowing that you are, absolutely, doing your best.
In the end, even if nothing turns out the way I planned, I will have the happiness that came of the moments that I had it in my hands.
“No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side.
Or you don't.”
―Stephen King, The Stand
“Fear is a part of life. It's a warning mechanism. That's all. It tells you when there's danger around. Its job is to help you survive. Not cripple you into being unable to do it.”