I have just discovered a kernel of truth that sets me free from the pressures of farming. I am not a farmer. I never was. I never will be. There is so much release in this discovery – here are some thoughts about this.
Lately I’ve been driving myself into the ground by comparing ourselves to all of the other farmers we know. I look at what they are capable of and I am in complete awe and wonder at what they accomplish. What they grow, how much of it, how early, where and how they sell it, what they charge – mixed with the other aspects of their lives that they are balancing (off-farm work, young children, off-the-grid farms – whoah!). Their entire process has been sending me into a feedback loop of shame.
I am ready to put down the sword.
Often I watch my children do what they do and I swear that my insides are about to burst with pride. Not because I feel I’ve had anything to do with their little beings. But because I have been given the privilege and honour of front row seats to watch them growing up. I have no idea how I scored such a good deal! All I have to do is show up, pay attention, love them relentlessly, keep them from hurting themselves whenever possible and provide food, shelter and clothing. On a good day I throw in opportunities to learn and a chance to rest when needed.
I didn’t make these children, you see, nor am I responsible for them. I am not their Master or their Creator. I might be a facilitator or a guide at best. I go along beside them, point things out, step in their way if needed, add an extra layer of clothing once in a while but I cannot be responsible for everything that happens to them. I am only their Mother.
Similarly, I am not a Farmer. I am not responsible for everything that happens on our farm in a day. I can put up a fence, build a shelter, fill a trough, put a cover on, plant a seed, but I can’t completely control the outcome. I can guide it, facilitate it, but it is not for me to decide how it will become.
I do not enjoy competing against other people. I don’t need to be better than anyone else. I am pretty insecure most of the time. I can tell you that my ability to feel inadequate has no limits. Therefore, my competition is to run the race against my perceived incompetence every day.
Who am I kidding? What a large load of ego it takes to believe I could possibly be in control of every little thing. When was I put in charge of the universe? Stuff goes right. Stuff goes wrong. You win some, you lose some. All we can do is our best and wait for the result (and take it all in stride etc. etc.). It is even unnecessary for us to judge whether outcomes are positive or negative before the whole story is told. How can we know that the bus we missed that made us late for work isn’t about to get in an accident?
I am so very grateful for the hard work of the successful farmers who grow excellent food around us. They have learned a dance with their land and living things that no other could emulate. What they produce from this dance is also unique. It is not envy I feel, just a small sense of not doing my share. Not showing up and doing enough or as much as is possible, apparently.
A dance with their land. And living things.
A child begins from the planting of a seed. We initiate the dance that brings that seed to life in the landscape we call our bodies but we do not control what happens next.
A farm begins when a person cultivates a piece of land in hopes of producing some form of food from it one day. The Latin origin of the word farm means to strengthen or make firm. The intention behind early farms was to secure a predictable lot of living things (and a profit to the landowner). This is a lovely idea. But whoever associated the idea of taking something uncertain and giving it structure as being a farm still must have believed that just one more tweak would be the ticket to controlling nature’s balance.
We are Mothers. Not Farmers. We cannot solidify our creations. But we can work hard, do them justice and hope we have offered something worthwhile to the world at the end of the show.
The word mother apparently literally means ‘breast-feeder’. Our purpose is to feed (oh, and a few million other things but that’s another blog post). I can do that. That I can do. I can feed people. Even my back-talking inner mean voice couldn’t argue with the truth of that.
I am a Mother. Not a Farmer.