My ex didn’t want the farm.
Actually, he did, until he didn’t anymore, but that’s a little beside the point.
That day last summer, the day that he yelled over the phone that the farm would kill me, that it was too much for me to do on my own, he was pretty clear on not wanting the farm.
I stood between my barns, acutely aware of everything that was broken or undone. Everything that required my time and my energy and my money. Everything that needed to be done that I didn’t know how to do. Tears ran down my cheeks, because his words left me with no future.
He didn’t want the farm. He insisted that I couldn’t handle it alone. He didn’t want to live in Illinois. He didn’t want all the animals. My future with him hung on my willingness to give up the farm and the animals, to move states away from my good-paying job, my family, and all my friends. And, even then, it seemed that I would be trading one version of alone for another: even if I had given up everything in my life and had moved to Pennsylvania with him, he still wouldn’t be around. He was still chasing a work schedule that had him on the road three weeks a month, and he made it pretty clear that that wouldn’t change. I would still be alone, only without a job, friends, my animals, or my family.
As far as I could tell, the life he wanted didn’t have any room in it for me. It certainly didn’t have room for the critters we had rescued together. I considered what my life would be like in Pennsylvania, trading my ranch for a one-bedroom apartment somewhere near the fancy Pennsylvania barns, and I racked my brain over what would happen to the animals that I wouldn’t have the space or the money for if I followed him.
And, ugly crying, I called Lauren.
“What if I can’t do it? He says this place will kill me.”
Lauren has the collected disposition of someone who has spent most of her life dealing with the unpredictability of horses, and while I’ve seen the “New Jersey” come out in her once or twice, she generally doesn’t get too upset. But I heard her blood pressure rising in her next words.
“You can’t handle it? What the fuck does he think you’ve been doing for the last year and a half?”
I knew I had struck a nerve; Lauren had been running her own ranch alone for nearly as long as I had been running mine, and, like me, she had fielded her own share of negativity.
“Look, of course you can’t do it all alone, but no one does this all alone. That’s not how farms work. You will do most of it, like you have been, and you will ask for help when you need it, and things will get done. You probably won’t do things like he would, and that’s ok.”
“Besides, even if it turns out that you can’t manage everything on your own, that will be ok, because you will have tried. And honestly, you never signed up to do all of this by yourself. It was supposed to take two of you. That was the deal.”
My ex wasn’t the only one to tell me I couldn’t handle the farm on my own. As news slowly spread of our break up, any number of well-meaning individuals expressed the same sentiment, albeit without the yelling. Saying things like, “Oh honey, it’s just too much!” or “I just don’t know how you’ll do this.” Some cloaked it in feeling sorry for me. Some felt betrayed by my ex’s behavior on my behalf.
I remember walking down the farm lane one afternoon with a friend, carrying a dead chicken upside down by her legs. The chicken had been killed by a predator, and I was taking her into the woods, far away from the coop. I didn’t want her body to draw more predators into the barnyard.
I was feeling so nearly defeated, this dead pet hanging limp next to me as I walked, and my friend, feeling badly for me, let loose a volley of what I’m sure she considered to be sympathetic thoughts about how unfair it was that I was dealing with that on my own, about how hard everything was, about how she just couldn’t see how I could manage.
The words were different, but the message was the same as my ex’s: This place was far too much to manage. I would fail.
The message landed in my weak places because of the truth in it.
The truth is, I had never planned to take this place on my own. I don’t think it would have been offered to me as a single person, and I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to say yes to it if it had been. The truth is, I have questioned a thousand times whether or not I was strong enough to keep this place running by myself. When my depression comes knocking, it tugs at those fears like a loose thread in the fabric of my life.
“What if I fail?”
“What if I can’t?”
“What if I’m not strong enough?”
“What if it all falls apart?”
But then, if my divorce has taught me anything, it’s that all the “what ifs” in the world will never change what is.
As things fell apart, I debated my path almost endlessly, looking for a direction that made at least a little bit of sense. I considered following him. I considered downsizing. I considered running from this place that had been my dream since I was a girl out of fear of failure.
And then, though I’m not sure when, I decided that all of that was bullshit.
I wanted to save my marriage more than anything; I nearly tore myself in half for two years trying. But somewhere along the line, I realized that I couldn’t save a relationship with someone who would make zero room in his life for me. I couldn’t save a relationship that he had willingly betrayed for someone else. (Yeah…I haven’t told you all about that part…) And, if I kept trying, I would wind up losing myself.
In the end, when faced with the choice between losing him or losing myself, I chose to save myself.
And it fucking sucked.
Turns out, this place hasn’t killed me yet.
Nearly every step along this path is difficult. I am learning as I go. (Trial by fire, as it were.) But, at nearly every step, I have been surprised by the kindness and willingness to help of those around me. Help mowing. Help watching the animals. My dad teaching me to run my equipment or to install a new floor. The local farmer who delivers round bales to my horses when my equipment isn’t working. My friends who come out to hold llamas for shots or trimming. The vet who taught me to give my own equine shots. My extended family, who rallied to bring in 200 bales of hay out of my fields last summer before they got rained on.
(This, by the way, is what it looks like to “call in the cavalry.”)
Over and over, when I need it, help shows up. Over and over, I realize that I’m not entirely alone: out here or in this life.
Maybe this place would be too much if I were doing it alone, but I am realizing now that my latest lesson is this: None of us do anything alone, not really. The trick is to ask for help when we need it, or maybe just to accept the help that we’re offered as it comes along.
I’m learning that that’s ok. Accepting help doesn’t make me weak. Asking for help doesn’t make me less capable. It makes me human and reminds me of what Lauren told me that day when everything felt impossible and tears streamed down my face. No one does this alone.
13 thoughts on “I get by with a little help from my friends.”
Ah shucks, I loved reading this because it shows that you are strong. Actually stronger than you ever believed that you could or would be. Many women run farms and or rescue operations by themselves- with a little help from friends and sometimes strangers. Just keep on doing what you are doing and you will come out of this so much happier than you ever thought possible. I wish you continued strength and may good fortune and karma shine a bright light on you.
Actually I think that you should keep writing your thoughts and experiences and eventually you’ll have a book. With your smarts it will be well worth the effort to get it self published. I would not sugar coat anything. Raw is good and folks like to read about grit and determination and country life and animals. I’d buy it in a New York minute.
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Thank you. That is all so very kind.
And I will let all of you know when the book is ready. 😉
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Very good and with those words, I’m assuming that you have a book in mind and that is a very good thing.
You can do hard things. ❤
A wise woman once said something to that effect, and I tend to believe her. 😉
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This made me smile
The philosophy I’ve taken in life isn’t “What if I can’t?” – I look at things and say “Other people do it – why can’t I?”. It works for me… it’s not always easy, but when things are accomplished, I feel very proud of myself. I’m running a small farm by myself – I can get very creative when it comes to figuring out how to get things done myself 😛 I am pretty happy with my life 🙂 I’m am sure that you be able to do what you need to be happy!
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Our experiences are exactly what we need… it’s about being open and moving forth (ok, plodding sometimes!). It’s about choices and decisions and working through whatever we meet. It’s about finding joy and delight in the tiniest things, or feeling proud in the grandest accomplishments. It’s also about discarding what doesn’t work and moving forth without lingering or looking back for long. It happens in our personal lives, and it happens in communities, regions and countries. Yes we can. You have the heart of a woman on fire… a woman on a mission. Be happy, Cherity, and love your life! 🙂
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One foot in front of the other, plus help from your friends. That’s how women keep getting it done. Follow your passion!
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Thank you for such an awesome post. It seems to me they’ve been making the wrong superhero movies. It’s folks like you who are the real superheroes. Those who follow their dreams, even when things get rough. Truly rough. If I’ve learned one thing it is this. Any dream worth pursuing don’t come cheap. They often cost everything of us. But the path we pursue is so enriching, we never want to look back. With this post, you have reminded all of us that those who pursue their dreams, what Joseph Campbell called their bliss, will find that there are others who will support us along the way. Thank you for your courage, your authenticity, and yours generosity sharing this piece of your life.
Thank you for such a kind comment. And thank you for reading
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Good for you for keeping the farm! I admire your courage into sticking with your dreams, and your practicality in accepting help when you need it. I lived in a farming community for a while, and one thing I observed was that no farmer “does it alone.” They all helped each other when help was needed, and that sense of community kept them all going.
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