I almost deleted this from my inbox, instead of reading it, because this morning my inbox was just one more thing I had to deal with. But the title piqued my interest, and I’m really glad I opened the link. I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did.
“Fun is good,” Dr. Seuss is quoted as saying on the internet, so I can’t be entirely sure it’s true. But even if it’s not, I could just quote myself saying it right now: “Fun is good.” – Matt Because honestly, we need to be having more of it. Yes, even you. (Image/download-wallpaper.net)
Do you ever find yourself in situations where you’re supposed to be having fun and feeling good, but you’re not and you don’t?
Not only is what you’re doing NOT fun, but there’s the bonus element of suckage resulting from your unmet expectations and ensuing disappointment.
There are countless reasons why something we expected to be good turned out to be bad. Maybe we’re having a fight with our spouse or partner and now the party we attended with them isn’t fun. Maybe we have a chronic injury and the pain we feel on long runs or…
(Image/wolfman570 – Flickr) They had a chance encounter on 5th Avenue in New York City.
The boy and the girl in the movie I was watching.
They were two old friends who crushed on one another growing up together in Texas. He was an aspiring novelist attending the University of Texas. She was going to Yale, after abandoning her childhood dreams of being a creative artist.
They reconnected over dinner and drinks, catching up from the years apart.
He was a dreamer. And his hope and optimism was contagious and inspiring. His belief in her and encouragement to chase her dreams moved her. It made her feel good. She was in love.
In a later scene, we see the young woman having dinner with her mother, where she reveals her plans to leave Yale, return to Texas to attend the University of Texas, and marry this boy from back…
I am the sort of person who has favorite trees. I’ve always found trees to be a little bit magical, a piece of the past that roots into the future. When I was a little girl, one of my favorite trees was the willow tree in our backyard (the namesake of our lane). Now, though I have many trees that I love, one of my absolute favorites is my backyard western pine.
Very few types of evergreen trees are actually native to Illinois. If you see them here, it’s usually because they were planted, or perhaps their parent tree was planted. They grow tall and lovely, and can rival the height of the native oaks and maples, but they don’t reach their true potential they way they would if they had rooted in their native soil.
And yet, they are the monoliths of the ridge line. Apparently the result of depression era planting, there are rows upon rows of western pines scattered across the farm. They edge the farm road, they frame the back fields, and one particularly lovely and tall evergreen commands the back yard. I am the sort of person who has favorite trees, and this particular pine is one of my absolute favorite trees on the property.
I sat in my sun room on Friday, reflecting on a particularly difficult day, starring out at the backyard and my stalwart pine tree in its field of oaks and maples. It swayed gently in the wind as the sky faded from blue to pink behind it.
The sunset was extraordinary; I watched the colors slip from one to the next like the tracks on a well loved CD, so quiet in their transition that before you realize one song has ended, you’re listening to a new one. I feel like God gave us sunsets to remind us that endings can be beautiful.
And I think maybe God gave us trees to remind us of our own brevity. Those trees in the backyard have watched over this place for decades. To their lifetime, I am a footnote. But not even the trees are permanent. Everything is both stable and changing, all the time, all around us.
I’m not sure why, but those ideas comforted me that evening. Endings can be beautiful. Nothing lasts forever.
Pink to orange. Orange to purple. Purple back to blue before the night settled in. The moon like an iridescent white pearl against the black, crushed-velvet sky. By the time the night settled in, I felt much better. Because sometimes, endings can be beautiful.
And, regardless, the sun is going to rise over my favorite pinetree in the morning.
I have a bottle of wine chilling in my freezer. I will need at least a glass of it to make it through this post.
Some of you have reached out to me since my post on depression, asking why I’m not writing much anymore, why I’ve dropped off of the WordPress radar. I wonder the same thing sometimes. Honestly? I’ve wanted to write. I’ve had words upon words ready. Ready to talk about the two horses I’ve rescued since my 30th birthday. Ready to tell you about the duckings that were hatched by a turkey hen then raised in the house, culminating in this little one wandering upstairs on her own in search of the bathtub.
I’ve wanted to tell you about the creatures I’ve lost. The ones I’ve found. The everyday beauty of life in this little corner of the universe. I’ve considered writing again about the depression that I’ve struggled with on and off for most of my adult life. Sometimes the words have seemed almost ready to spill out.
But then I would start writing.
And I would stop writing.
Because, deep down, everything I was starting to write felt deeply inauthentic. What I wanted to say and what I felt I could say, or maybe should say, were two different things.
The most pressing issue in my world wasn’t something that I was ready to talk about, and it seemed wrong to pretend otherwise. No matter how much I love the horses I rescued, no matter how funny it seemed to be hauling a pet chicken to the vet in a cat carrier in the back seat of my Jetta, no matter how much my llamas made me smile, it all paled in comparison to the fact that my marriage was falling apart. That things had been crashing down around me for the better part of two years. That things weren’t ok, and that they hadn’t been for a long time.
I promised myself when I started this blog that I would be authentic, that I wouldn’t just be another voice on social media sharing only the good stuff and none of the bad, a voice making readers feel like everyone else has their shit together while they don’t. For the most part, I think I’ve succeeded in some level of balance there, but divorce?
I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know how to tell my story without telling parts that don’t entirely belong to me. I didn’t know where authenticity just became whining. Mostly though? I really didn’t want to admit that this was happening to me. I didn’t want to see it in black and white. I didn’t want it to be real.
But, I guess whether or not it’s what I want, this is what’s real:
Two years ago, almost to the day, the most important relationship in my life started to unravel.
November of 2015 marked the worst month of my life, and I spent the next year and a half fighting to leave that month behind, move past it, and save my marriage to the man I loved more than anything else regardless of how that relationship had hurt me.
Six months ago, Jeremiah moved out. Not long after that, he sat across the couch from me and told me that he would never “stay here and make himself miserable.”
And now? Well, he just signed the papers, which I guess is why I’m finally admitting that this is all real. It’s happening. There is no magical marriage fairy on her way to wave a wand and fix things.
A little over six years ago, I married one of the best men I had ever met. Currently, I am divorcing one of the best men I’ve ever met.
That is the truth of my life at the moment.
Meanwhile, the world spins madly on, and I’m still here, still managing 50 something animals every day, working an office job, and trying to remember that “I can do hard things.”
Today, I felt the weight of all of this pressing on me and I changed it to “I can do hard things…for an hour…in my pajamas” before heading out to take care of evening chores.
The ranch is still here. I am still here. I am not going anywhere, and neither is this blog.
This isn’t really an announcement to most of those who are close to me. Most I’ve told. Many have heard it through the proverbial grapevine, which I realized this Christmas when cards started showing up from family to “Cherity” and not “Cherity and Jeremiah.” Even some of my readers have hinted at his absence in my posts, or the fact that he seemed to always be gone, but I know this will catch some of you by surprise. In a weird way, this whole thing caught me by surprise too.
They say that “life happens while you’re planning for it,” and I guess that’s true. There is no cultural road-map for thirty, childless, divorced, and managing a farm–no psychology textbooks for that life stage—yet, it’s where I find myself.
Life is tricky, and divorce makes it trickier.
So, what now?
I keep asking myself the same thing.
I think, on some level, admitting what’s going on just opens the door for me to write about a hundred other things that touch on this subject without feeling like a fraud. I think it opens the door for me to be a little more honest and authentic in my writing. I think, as much as anything, maybe I’m just putting this down in words so that, maybe, someone out there going through the same thing might feel a little less alone.
And I think, for now, that’s all I’m going to say about it. For now, this is enough.
As an Almost Farmgirl living in the heart of the Midwest, I spend a lot of time thinking about winter. Planning for the next round of cold begins almost as soon as things warm up in the Spring. How much hay did I use last year? How much hay will I need this year? How much space will it take up? Should I put up a lean-to shed this year for the horses or can it wait until next year? (Note: I decided to wait. I shouldn’t have.)
When most people are watching fireworks in July, I’m stacking hay to last me through January.
…No. Seriously, my last two Independence Day Celebrations looked something like this:
July 4, 2015
July 4, 2015
And when most of you are sighing in relief at the first break in the heat in early September, I’m beginning to wonder how long I have until the ice comes and the water spigot in the horse barn freezes. Weirdly though? I don’t hate winter, even with all of it’s extra work and required logistics.
Last week, I woke to our first snow of the season. It’s usually the first sign that winter has checked in, and with him his ice and white and wonder. (And freeze your ass off, wear three pairs of pants to prevent frostbite temperatures…it’s a mixed bag). I woke to snowflakes falling, and I spent my time before morning chores in my sunroom; I drank my coffee, snuggled with the cat who climbed into my lap, and just watched the snow fall. I’m not a huge fan of the cold, but I adore the snow. (And I’ve always believe that if it has to be cold outside, it might as well be pretty.)
This year, the winter season came late and quiet. While my love for the winter season isn’t usually long-lived, I will admit to a predictable infatuation that comes briefly every year when snow first starts to blanket the ground. Earlier this week, while the snow fell, I fell enamored.
It’s so many little things this time of year. Maybe it’s the ugliness of the gray brown mud being covered up with something so lovely and unblemished as the snow. The birds, so hard to spot against the lush green backdrop of the woods in summer suddenly stark and visible against a white, winter canvas.
(I have an arrangement with the wild birds of this place when the temperature plummets: I feed them, and they make me smile when I watch them out of my windows. Of course, I have no objection if the woodland neighbors stop by for a nibble of corn as well, and this girl was just outside my bedroom window that evening.)
My dad came to help me with morning chores while it snowed. Regular maintenance met seasonal necessity, and we worked for an hour and a half to get the ranch ready for the day and ready for the season. Water heaters were set up. Heat lamps plugged in. Round bales set out.
Then, with all of the creatures comfortably tucked in, I did the strangest thing. I went into the house, took a hot shower, put pajamas back on, and sat on my couch for the rest of the afternoon watching the snow fall, reading a book, and cuddling with a cat.
Not even laundry.
(I am beginning to be a big believer in occasionally doing nothing…)
Only after an entire afternoon of blissful nonaccomplishment did I wander out in the dusk to start evening chores.
There is something so complete about the quietness that comes hand in hand with the first snow. During all of our other seasons even the quiet comes with a subtle cacophony of nature: owls, crickets, frogs, all of them singing their songs as I go about my business. But in the winter, the quiet takes on an austerity. It’s the sort of quiet that feels holy: an invitation to notice what stillness feels like, or maybe just an invitation to notice. The only sound was the crunch of my own footsteps as I walked to the barn, so I stopped walking.
The ground glittered.
The woods were perfectly still.
The world looked like a painting in black and white; the harsh edges softened. The muck temporarily erased.
The quiet was complete, and for a moment, winter felt utterly magical.
Merry Christmas, Everyone. May it feel utterly magical.
I spent the other morning holding the lead line of my largest horse, an off the track thoroughbred named Vinny, while our vet quietly sedated him and stitched a gaping dermal laceration on his neck. It was ugly, probably four inches long, and bloody, a surprise when I went out to check the horses. It’s his second emergency vet visit this month; a few weeks ago he tore open his shoulder open just about six inches below his current tear. That, plus another “stitch” visit (for one of my ponies, Slash) has made our vet such a common sight for us this month that I’m beginning to feel like he lives here.
I’m still not entirely sure how he hurt himself. Sometimes with horses it’s like that. You just have to concentrate on fixing the issues even if you don’t understand why there was an issue in the first place.
I watched the vet stretch the broken skin back over the tissue on Vin’s neck. Vin, whose sedation had him happily enjoying the sound of the color orange, barely seemed to notice the curved needle slowly, methodically, putting him back together where he had torn himself apart.
There’s been a lot of stitching around the farm lately: literal and metaphoric.
The last eighteen months have been difficult for me for a lot of reasons, many of them stories that aren’t entirely mine to tell. I’ve lost creatures who were dear to me. I’ve had relationships that I believed to be as steady and dependable as the hills turn upside down. I’ve lost people I cared for. And, for a little while, it began to feel like I would lose myself.
Depression is a strange thing, and a lot of people just don’t understand it. It isn’t just “sad.” We all get sad, and we all feel depressed sometimes. But honest to goodness depression takes up residence, moving in as a second occupant in your life, one that zaps you of all the joy you would normally feel. Days that should be good feel indifferent, and days that would normally be difficult feel impossible. It leaves you nearly numb to the best of life while simultaneously leaving you raw and exposed to the worst of it, like nerves that have been left open to the air.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that I haven’t had a good day for over a year, but all of the good seemed to belong to a sort of fog that wouldn’t entirely lift. I spent a lot of time crying, a lot of time talking with friends (while crying), and a really healthy chunk of time talking to a therapist (still crying).
But then, last week, the fog lifted.
I want to be careful here, because a lot of people who are depressed are told to just “get over it” or “think positive,” and I don’t want to contribute to the belief that it’s that simple. Trust me when I tell you that if a depressed person could just “happy thoughts” their way out of depression, they would. But I will say that the end of my depression seemed to come from a new understanding of my emotions and thoughts. I began to understand how to not be a slave to them, how to take the negative thoughts off of the endless loop that had been created in my head before they could direct my emotions and thereby control my worldview. I decided not to give those thoughts the time of day-dismissing them, not repressing them-and with them left the fog.
I cannot explain why it worked this time and didn’t the thousand other times I tried to “be more positive.” I don’t have a formula. Despite my Midwestern upbringing with it’s emphasis on hard work and bootstrap success, I would not say that I pulled myself out of this by force of will.
I have never had depression flip like a switch before. In the past, climbing out of it was slow and difficult, a trail you blaze uphill in a Midwestern heat wave.
I just know that I was depressed for a really long time and now I’m not. I know because the numbness is gone. Food tastes better (or, really, just tastes). I can see the beauty in small things. And I can feel things fully, all the way down to my soul.
Guys, today I found myself reflecting on just how stunningly beautiful the color green is and just how delicious raspberry jelly tastes. It seems ridiculous, but when you’ve been deprived of feeling deeply for this long, when you’ve been numb, you appreciate things that most people would overlook a million times.
This last week has been like waking up, shaking off the dust of a sleep that lasted far too long.
So why am I telling you this?
We live in an age of Instagram and WordPress and Facebook. And, because of that, we think we see each other, but most of the time we don’t. We see the lives of everyone else through a filter, and we see our own lives without one, and we start to think that maybe we are the only ones who don’t have our shit together. And I don’t want this blog, this space, to be one more place to see through that sort of filter. Yes, I have a thousand pictures of adorable, fluffy animals. Yes, I adore this place and this opportunity. Yes, it’s serene and beautiful and lovely…and a complete and total mess.
I’ve tried to write about all of this a dozen times in the last eighteen months, and I think I’ve touched on it here and there, but I couldn’t really find the words. Maybe because of the numbness, maybe because of fear. (If I’m being honest, this is a scary thing to hit the publish button on…) Likely because it came hand-in-hand with a hefty dose of writer’s block.
But here it is: If you feel like your life is in chaos, I can promise you that you aren’t alone. If you’re depressed, you’re not alone. If every single day feels like walking through quicksand, I’ve been there. If you’re looking at your life in disbelief, wondering how on earth you got here, I understand.
You are not alone, and it gets better.
I remember having lunch with a dear friend a few months ago and learning about some of the struggles she faced in high school. I was stunned by what she told me. Flabbergasted by what she had suffered through alone. She didn’t have to be alone. I was only a phone call away the whole time, but she didn’t pick up the phone.
Depression is bad enough all by itself. It can be isolating, and it does a really good job of making you feel unworthy of love and light. And the more you pull into yourself, the worse it gets. It’s not a mood. It’s a disease. And isolation and loneliness are symptoms.
If I learned nothing else in the last year and a half, I learned this: Reach out.
Glennon Melton of Momastery.com (one of my Yodas these days) says this:
“Sometimes life’s load gets too heavy and hard for us to carry alone. I don’t think the hard is a mistake. I don’t think the hard means we’ve done anything wrong. I think the hard is purposeful, so that we’ll need our sisters.”
Sisters, brothers, friends…we need our people. None of us are without struggle. None of us can do it alone. We all need each other. Especially when it feels like the best course of action is to shut down into yourself.
Vin’s stiches came together beautifully. Then he came out of the sedation slowly. Today, my herd check revealed that his neck is healing well; I’m not sure there will even be a scar from this wound.
It’s amazing, the things that can be stitched back together.
She thinks she’s bragging, but the little girl, or teen, or grown-ass woman (or perhaps man) who utters those words in the horseback riding world has failed to read the room. We are not impressed. In fact, the polite among us are trying not to laugh in her face. She looks with at the other riders with expectation, all of us with muck on our boots, sweat under our helmets and horsehair on our jeans. We, she implies, have fallen, and she has not; therefore, obviously, her skills are greater. We should accept the inevitable conclusion that she is the superior rider.
It’s almost cute, really…
But we know something she doesn’t. We know there are only two types of horseback riders: Those who have fallen off, and those who will. Continue reading “Falling”→
My bipedal servants seem to think that I owe you an apology.
I think they’re wrong…but they do refill the hay nets on demand, and I believe that they have access to grain, even though they don’t give me any of it, so I do what I can to stay in their good graces when it isn’t too inconvenient.
I, of course, am Slash. High King of the Hill, Guardian of Camelot, and First Pony of the Alpacalypse.
I assume you’ve heard of me? (Of course you have. It was silly of me to even ask, but I do try to stay humble.)
And you, I believe, are referred to by the bipeds a “Neigh Bores.” (They worry about us making noise, but you have “Neigh” right there in your name.) I gather that you are other bipeds who are not indentured to any equines, camelids, or chooks. That’s sad for you, but I won’t rub it in, as I imagine it is a source of despair and humiliation in your little hooman lives. (Seriously, what do you even do with your time? If a hooman wakes up in the morning without a horse to feed, does it even exist?)
Oh, right, apology…
(How does one even do this?)
I’m sorry that you were unprepared to behold all of my majesty, standing, as it were, in your front yard. It must have been quite a shock. (Next time, avoid looking at me directly, or perhaps wear sunglasses. I hear that helps when beholding glory.)
Also, that I pooped on your lawn; apparently that was “inappropriate” and “gross.”
In my defense, it was a lovely yard, and someone left corn there.
(*Editors note: regardless of how hard I try to convince him otherwise, Slash still thinks you left the corn there for him, as he believe that feeding the local deer is a waste of perfectly good horse food.)
My servants have informed me that it was naughty of me to climb under the gate and spend the day “running amok” while they were at work.
I think it’s naughty of them to put up gates and fences. We all have opinions.
The bipeds wish for me to conclude this little literary experiment with a promise to “never be such a little ass again,” but there, they ask too much. (Also, I’m really not sure how they can mistake me for a donkey, but the one is pretty nearsighted.)
I will grace you with my presence as soon as I can once again escape these foul fence lines. Leave more corn next time, and try to shoo the deer off as they were in my way.
(Ha. Not really)
(*Editors note: The neighbors were actually super nice about the fact that our tiny horse took up temporary residence in their front lawn.)
Several months ago, I was asked to host my sister’s bridal shower. (She’s getting married in August.) I agreed. A date was set. All I had to do then was everything else.
Here’s my confession: Generally speaking, I hate “showers” (the party, not the method of cleaning oneself…just to clarify). Baby showers. Bridal showers. Not sure if it’s the cheesy games or the social obligation or just the fact that I’m a raging introvert, and I find such parties (populated largely with people I don’t know) completely exhausting, but I just don’t enjoy them. I attend them willingly and fairly often, knowing that attendance at such events and the gifts we bring do mean something, but I have never been the sort of person who gets excited about them.
Anyway, when faced with hosting such a party myself, I decided that I wanted it to be different from “normal” bridal showers. Mostly, I decided, hosting a normal bridal shower would make me want to stab myself in the eye with a fork, and that seemed unpleasant. So, like any good millennial, I went straight to Pinterest. And I typed “bridal shower” into the search bar. And it came back with a million and one possibilities, most of which seemed to involve making “wedding gowns” out of toliet paper…because that’s totally a thing. There were wine tasting bridal showers and coffee shop bridal showers and strawberry field bridal showers…the list of possibilities is endless really. But none of them seems quite right. And while it was tempting to throw a bunch of wine at a commonly boring party and see what happened, it also seemed a little dangerous.
“No wine.” I thought, sadly, clicking on yet another list of themes. And so it was that I found our theme, a blip on the radar. Hmmmmm…Alice in Wonderland. And it all sort of came flooding back. The trip to Florida where my sister played “Alice” over and over and over in the van’s VCR. Nothing else allowed. (As younger sister I didn’t really have a say.) The “Alice” dress she cherished with the white rabbit on the apron. It was decided. For better or for worse, my sister’s bridal shower would be “Alice in Wonderland” themed.
This year, with all the chaos that is our lives, short a living room, and tight on funds, I thought I could go without a Christmas tree. I figured, what’s one year without a tree in the long scheme of it? But my inner elf could not be dissuaded. Christmas, after all, has always been my favorite holiday.
As a young idealist, I had always assumed that the man I would marry would feel the same about Christmas as I do. But Jeremiah’s childhood experiences were very different from mine. For me, Christmas was candy canes and carols, huge family dinners and a late night drive from Grandma’s on Christmas Eve (once or twice I was sure I saw Santa…), presents and friends. For him, Christmas was a reminder that his dad was deployed…again. It was a time of higher stress, a reminder of difficulties. Later, as an adult working in the emergency services, the holidays showed him the worst of humanity. And, even though I understand all of that, it is rough to be an elf married to Scrooge.
(He literally says Bah Humbug when I first bring up Christmas. He sent me the above photo by text earlier this year.)
So, you might say we’re a mixed marriage in that way. All of this is simply to explain why I always end up decorating the tree by myself.
But for me, decorating a tree is about way more than putting shiny baubles on branches. You see, elf that I am, I’ve been collecting my ornaments for more than ten years, and nearly every ornament on my tree has a story.
It all starts with an empty tree.
We bought this one at the local market. It’s small–our last house had vaulted ceilings; this one does not–and more than a little Charlie Brown-ish. But that doesn’t matter.
You string the lights and garland. The tree begins to take on the spirit of your Christmas trees past.
And then you add the heart.
I’m not much for trinkets. They create clutter and tend to lose their meaning in time. (“Oh, yeah, we got that on vacation…now it sits on a shelf, and I have to dust it.”) But Christmas ornaments? They only come out once a year, and, for several weeks when winter is at its bleakest, they remind you of their story, first when you unpack them and carefully hang them on your tree, then when you walk past them each day, then again when you carefully pack them away. I’ve had some people think that I’m just really into ornaments, but that’s not really true. Even the most glorious ornament has no meaning to me if it doesn’t have a story. But those that do have stories? They are like old friends
This one sits near the top of our tree. My parents bought it for us for our first Christmas in our first house. It has special meaning this year, the first Christmas in our new home.
The front and back on one of my favorites, I bought this one while living in Salzburg, Austria. The reverse is the cityscape of a place that will always feel like home.
These three are from Jeremiah and my first vacation together. (There’s also an ornament from the Kennedy Space Center from that trip.)
I bought his one from the rescue that saved little Amelia before she came home with us.
Our first Anniversary
Of course, I am the daughter of a pilot, the wife of a pilot, and I work in aviation. I believe my parents bought me this one the first year I worked for the family business.
I couldn’t find an ornament I liked in Switzerland, so I made one from a trinket cowbell. (MORE COWBELL!)
I brought Santa and his gondola home from Venice.
This little otter came home from the Shedd Aquarium, a just for the heck of it trip I took with Jeremiah while we were dating.
I made this one from our wedding program.
But this one, which I brought home from Vatican City, might be my favorite.
A surprise inside, lest we forget the reason for the season
And there are so many more…
So I guess every year I will have a tree, and I will decorate it myself, if only to bring these old friends out of their boxes and let them shine for just a little while.