Friday, September 23, 2011

The Right to Bake

I’m going in again folks. Wading into that deep dark chiasm between the mother who leaves the house to work and the mother who doesn’t. It’s a topic that has the power to offend at the drop of a hat. I even offend myself most of the time.

Probably because there are endless opportunities to find out what the RIGHT way to be a parent/woman/worker is. There is no shortage of self-talk that makes us feel like someone else has got it all going on when we can’t even remember to wash our hair. Behold, the Super Woman who can do far more than you can!

In the past year, I have had to admit defeat on the working front and take up only those tasks that are close to home. I couldn’t do it all. Some might view this as quitting. I view it as sanity, for me, right now anyway.

I work on the farm. I cook for my kids. I wash clothes and sometimes sweep the floor. That’s about it folks. I recently turned down a job offer that could have allowed me back into the job fray but the cons far outweighed the pros in this scenario and home-bound I am once again.

Vicki Iovine in ‘Girlfriend’s Guide to Getting Your Groove Back’ wrote about how women CAN actually have it all. Just not all at the same time. Best description I ever heard of a woman’s conundrum in today’s world.

I snuck off to a movie the other day and saw the one with Sarah Jessica Parker called ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’. In it you will find a sequence of stereotypes positioned to outline all of the views that people seem to have of mothers in the working world. One from the guy that has a wife who does everything for him while his greatest trouble is picking out which golfing socks to wear. One from the single, workaholic woman who vows never to have children. The single mother friend at work weighs in. The stay-at-home mom who spends 6 hours at the gym each day has lots to say. The nanny who can be there for SJP’s kids when she is off at work voices her opinions.

I personally was offended by most of the characters, but particularly the stay-at-home mother. She was apparently always bringing home-made things for the bake sales (a sin, I now realize). She bought two of everything so she didn’t have to pack for trips to the country house. She seemed to judge anyone who would let a nanny raise their children. And was far better groomed than her working parent counterpart.

Firstly, if I remember correctly, I was far more likely to brush my hair when I was around other people in my work environment. My cows don’t seem to mind the dread lock look. Secondly, I do not have the privilege to buy two of everything because we have one less income to work with. Thirdly, MY KINGDOM FOR 6 HOURS AT A GYM EVERY DAY. Wow, the last time I intentionally got my heart rate up (above and beyond carrying buckets around) there was snow on the ground.

And last and my very favourite is that I have yet to see a correlation between how much home-cooking a gal likes to do and what her working arrangements are. I know people who work long, long hours who still make the time to bake bread and cookies. It is just what they do to unwind I imagine. I was one of those people. I recall bottling maple syrup the night before I was leaving on an early flight to Switzerland for work. That is just what I wanted to do.

And don’t think for a second that taking time to cook, process, bake or prepare food for you family is automatically quality time with the kids. Yes, on occasion we add and stir and grind and fry in a team effort. But the real processing gets done without help from my kids. The work is plentiful and steady and at best I can nip the tops from 20 pounds of beans while sitting with my kids on the porch or cut up tomatoes for sauce while they play on the swings in the yard.

I also know mothers who stay at home and choose to buy packaged foods (which can be healthy too – albeit expensive). They want to spend their time doing other stuff. Maybe keeping a clean house (which I most certainly do not) is more important to them. Others that leave all the cooking and cleaning for a nanny AND they stay at home too. Others who grow their own food but still eat processed stuff from the grocery store because they don’t always want to bother with it. I say, POWER TO YOU ALL LADIES!

Where along the way did we decide to chuck each other regularly under the bus for the choices we’ve made? Why do we have to feel so guilty for what we’re not doing? Worse yet, make judgments about those who do what we don’t want to? And why do I feel like I’m letting my fellow working-woman friend down for taking the time to make homemade food? Really?

There is no easy solution to the amount of work on a woman’s plate, whether on a farm or in a financial institution or in a home environment (or all three, for fun). There is no one right way to play out our lives and yet we are told repeatedly the socially correct way to do it.

I have even heard people lately scoffing at the mothers who buy ‘organic’ food. Like they are extremist types who go way overboard on the health thing. Again, people make their choices, spend their money and assess environmental impacts the way it sits well for them. There is not one right way. At least being righteous about it won’t change the world for the better. Its just going to lead to a lot of guilty, angry, offended women. And that’s not the kind of woman you want to mess with. Change, I believe, starts with the individual.

I for one would like not to be judged for choosing to prioritize stock-piling food for my family. I am no baker of pies. I stink at it actually. But I prefer to get any and all food from our farm because I know where it has come from and the price is more affordable. In the past five years this has looked like thousands of nutritious eggs, hundreds of liters of chemical free milk, hundreds and hundreds of pounds of omega-3 and vitamin D rich beef, pork and chicken meat because our animals live outside. These are my choices.

For decades women were made to feel that their work was meaningless. As our voice strengthened over the past century, we have been able to make different choices. Why now are we being deemed little homemakers with too much time on our hands for wanting to can or freeze or bake or ferment? Why would we undervalue the ability and skill it takes to bring quality food to our table? Why are we considered freaky for questioning the contents of food in a store? Why is it not okay to forage your way through the grocery store aisles and make the best possible choices there (especially as consumer demand is shifting what is available on those shelves)?

I don’t think this has anything to do with organic or stereotypes or hair-washing or time or nannies or jobs. It has everything to do with our inability to believe that what we choose to do with our day has any value. As women, we’ve worked hard for this right. Best thing we can do now is trust that our decisions are the best we can make for the time being. Even if our neighbour can pull off freshly baked pies for every single bake sale.

Hey, Lady. Whoever you are and whatever you do can we agree to let each other off the hook? In so many ways, I covet your life. I’m sure you wonder what it would be like to have mine. But trust me when I say that I’ve seen many sides (whether childless or no, city or country, job market or home, packaged or homemade, single or matched up) and one side is not inherently easier than the other. If anything, it really comes down to what you make of your lot.

There really is only one thing you can control and that is how you see your own situation. Live it, love it, change it, leave it but don’t tell someone else how it should go. At least not for the reason that you can’t make your own choices sit well.

Because everybody should have a right to bake a pie without judgment. Or buy the thing if that makes more sense.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Something to Look Forward To

I need a new set of things to look forward to.

Little girls everywhere make lists of the things they want in the future. Among them you might find a life partner and some babies, perhaps a career or a hair colour is thrown in there. But after the kids are made and the career is found, we look up and realize that there is nothing new on the horizon to work towards. Slightly older girls perhaps forget to make new lists.

On our first date, my husband rested his chin as he drove on an outstretched arm draped over the steering wheel. Something I’ve seen him do a thousand times since. But in that moment as I watched him driving, I saw our lives flash forward 40 years. We were 70, driving down a country road together. It wasn’t the kind of little girl’s wish that has her trying out a boy’s last name all over her grade school notebooks. It seemed to be a vision, clear as day, of two people far ahead in the future. Comfortable, happy, settled, kings and queens of the lives they had made together.

Two children and many years later, I still look forward to growing older next to my husband. We chose each other because we worked well together. We also play well together. And if God is willing, we will get the great gift of aging together.

Earlier this month I posted on the idea of mid-life crisis and the idea that it is just the realization that life is not going to get easier. Although I didn’t come right out and say I was having one – I think it is obvious there are all sorts of changes going on for us right now. Do I need a name for it? Not really. Do I think it is crisis? Not quite. Do I need to know that I’m not alone? Absolutely!

So digging a little deeper, a friend and I discovered the idea that what is really missing during these ‘later years’ is something to look forward to. We all wake up one day and realize we’re not getting any younger, our bodies aren’t capable of doing what they used to and the lives we saw for ourselves perhaps aren’t exactly as we’d hoped. But isn’t that beside the point? None of that should mean there’s no more fun ahead. It just means the set of things you had your eye on are already accomplished or took a different turn for better or worse.

So here’s a list of things I am really looking forward to. Can you tell me yours? Let’s bring this age thing on with a celebration and a new page in our grade school notebook. What kind of dreams can we chase now that we’re working with a different deck of cards?

Things to Look Forward To

1. Touring around country roads with my hubby (preferably with a canoe on the roof and a coffee in the cup holder). Perhaps on our way to visit our grown children.
2. Giggling about nothing and everything with my friend Liisa for many more decades to come. Getting to know new friends. Holding court with the old.
3. My fiftieth birthday party (I had an eighties dress-up and dance party for my fortieth and virtually materialized a time machine with all of the retro-fun that was going on).
4. Grandchildren. Will my dear children bring new life into this world or raise small people they will call their own? If so, I hope to be around to see this.
5. Finally losing that 20 pounds I’ve been meaning to lose for 25 years now. Okay, honestly? Perhaps I should start looking forward to not giving a flying goat’s turd what I weigh anymore – how about that?
6. Being able to wear unmatched, ill-fitted, brightly coloured clothes without anyone giving a hoot (including me). Apparently only crazy old ladies can do this despite my best attempts to get away with it over the last decade.
7. Being forgiven for not being able to keep track of things. Oh, it’s just old age, I’ll say.
8. Showing my daughter her beauty as she grows into a woman. In the words of Tina Fey: it is damage, not the beauty that attracts the creepy soccer coach’s eye.
9. Showing my son how to respect and show gratitude for everything a woman is. Basically find out how my husband’s mother taught him.
10. Sitting on the couch, increasingly more every year, watching great movies or doing crossword puzzles, cuddling with furry critters, eating excellent snacks.

What I look forward to the most is looking back on a life and knowing with my full heart that I lived it the very best I knew how in every moment. I raised those kids with everything I had. I gave that farm its due diligence. I was a good daughter. An excellent wife. A fine sister. A consistent friend. Even when things were hard or the road got bumpy, I want to know that I embraced it all. Why wouldn't I look into the future with the same lens?

Bring in the crazy, old lady. She and I have a lot to look forward to!

How about you? What are some of the things that you can’t wait to do with your 70 year old self?

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Night Before Frostness

Being a tomato grower in these northern parts is an absurd thing to do. It means you plant your seeds in February inside your warm house that you will be heating for a couple of more months at least. Then you may move these little seedlings out to a greenhouse that you might heat as well on those cold nights (we do). Come the end of May or early June you will transplant those baby sweethearts into soil out in the fields and hope you don’t get one of those unlucky early June frosts.

Come the end of July you might see one of those green lovelies turning the slightest bit of red. You will hope to see your first tomato in July but most years, okay every year, you really won’t until August.

You tell people at market that you’ll have tomatoes next week. Then you don’t. You hope it will only be one more week but it probably won’t be. Mid-August you begin to see red tomatoes. Then you start kind of wondering what you’re going to do with all of those tomatoes. Then you are sort of drowning in crates and crates of them and delivering mass quantities to anybody who will take them.

The slightest ugly spot or bruise and the tomato is rendered chicken feed or…

There comes the day that it is time to put tomatoes away for the winter. Out comes the propane outdoor burner and the 60L pot and my gigantic whisk that I got at a restaurant supply store.

The tomato rig

Almost done!

After a day of turning the whole tomatoes into crushed sauce, I run the whisk around the sauce until a mass of skins gets stuck on the rungs. I give the whisk a big shake in the directions of the chickens. After a few of these there are much fewer skins left in the sauce.

Into sterilized jars they go and back into their cardboard box. Sometimes I use medium Ziploc bags lined into a shoebox type thing to keep them from folding until they freeze. The jars are put in the freezer as we grow a lot of heritage varieties that are low in acid and don’t keep too well on a shelf.

This is where I must buy a pressure canner. Or just buy a fourth freezer. Likely I will do both.

Thank you dear tomatoes for coming to fruition this year once again. In this climate it is a full wonder that we ever see you at all. The next two nights show a frost warning in these parts. Perhaps we will see you again next year. Perhaps we will get lucky and you will survive another week or two (or three or four).

Time to go put on some row cover - a gauzy blanket-type material that runs the length of the 200 foot rows. I know we can't elude you very much longer, Frost. As always, you mark the beginning of the end of another long and plentiful season.

And a well needed sleep for these farmers.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Trail of Crumbs

I just have to share one quick thing with you while my dinner is in the oven.


Have you read the book 'A Homemade Life' by the Orangette blogger Molly Wizenberg? If you have not, you ought to. Her book and posts are full of intimate personal stories that make you want to duplicate not only her appreciation of food but also her perspective on the world. Two years later I'm still trying to finish this book because I can only read a page or two before I must head to the kitchen and make one of her recipes. She has taught me about grilled cabbage with cream. She has a wonderful respect for ginger. And she makes good use of her scraps.

Here's what she taught me. All those heels of bread that you have in your freezer imagining one day you will invite the Royal Army over for a stuffed turkey dinner? You can chuck them in a food processor and let the bread turn them into bread crumbs. Only do a handful at a time or you burn out the motor. But these bread crumbs not only take up much less room in the freezer, they are easier to find a use for.

Tonight's supper here is sole florentine. The spinach groweth madly in these parts. And I love fish. Layered with some cream, butter and cabbage, the fish will soak up the butter and become delectable and tender. Next comes the layer of spinach with bread crumbs and grated jarlsberg cheese on top.

Nothing wrong with that. Gotta go.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mushroom Story

Underground somewhere in Oregon stretching over 1600 football fields is a single being that is estimated to be over two thousand years old. It could very well be the largest living organism in the world (and one of the oldest you would think). Evidence of its existence, the part you and I can see, is a fruiting body, stout and perfect, showing its face to the world for only a handful of days. Otherwise, the rest of the time, this body lives entirely underneath the world we can see.

What is it you ask? It is a fungus. The honey mushroom.

There are three major classification kingdoms that house the things we eat. Animalia, Plantae and Fungae. This is on a visible-to-the-eye level at least. We eat all kinds of other things unintentionally from smaller worlds of course. There is a fair bit of controversy around who’s related to whom and how far back the shared lineages go. There are strong beliefs that the whole evolution thing is a crock because God did the whole thing in a handful of days. But one thing that fascinates me is that we animals are considered to be closer in relation to fungus than we are plants. Fungi behave; they make decisions about which way to grow, with whom to mate, when to reproduce, when to dress themselves up in pink or orange or blue.

Most fungi live entirely underground as bits of stringy cells expanding over large areas called mycelia. The mushrooms you see (and not all fungi make mushrooms) are just ephemeral bodies meant to cover off one aspect of their reproduction. Short-lived and relatively minor in the fungi life cycle.

But they are all that we can see.

The other interesting things about the fungus world is that the number of different species are said to be well over a million, yet only 5% or less have been classified or named to date. These fun guys are relatively unexplored in a world where we thought we knew everything.

Don’t get me started on their importance in soils and growing food. That’s a whole other blog post if not a library of books in itself. Suffice to say they play a pretty important role.

It is estimated that humans use less than 10% of their brains. This idea was first entertained when a huge metal post when through the brain of Phineas Gage in 1848 and he came away talking and interacting normally with folks around him.

So what goes on in the other 90% that we don’t use? Cool stuff that they could make television shows out of if we were able to access the information? Like could we talk to ghosts? Predict the future? See God? Make up good songs? Read minds?

All that we cannot get a handle on yet must live in there.

I recently took a hike with my little family down a beautiful trail leading to a spectacular view of the Ottawa river valley. Oiseau Rock was the name of the trail. The previous day had been relatively wet so what we thought would be a day of gazing through green carpets of forest and over meandering blue water below majestic rock cliffs, was instead a day of staring at the ground. Because today was the day the fun guys were having a picnic.

This is a season when our time is so precious and the hours of fun we cobble together as a family so few (outside of sharing farm work, of course). My daughter got on a school bus for the first time this week. Our tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and zucchini are in full swing and saving them for the winter is something I consider essential. The cold weather is starting to blow in and fall fleeces and warm boots are being dug out. The cows are getting tired of their grazings and have started breaking down their fence to visit the greener grass on the other side. The chickens, pigs, and soon a cow are heading into the freezer.

But these are just all the things we can see. This work is the veritable mushroom in our lives if you will. What we couldn’t see was that a relatively short drive away we would find a trail that brought us into a world of magic and wonder.

Magic hidden in the brush

Should you need to get out of the rain

Tiny Magic

Magic in the Trees


Through the Eyes (and into the hands) of Children

I see now why fairies are said to be responsible for arranging mushrooms (in a fairy ring). It makes sense that those little blue forest Smurfs chose mushrooms as their homes. Certain mushrooms have other magical qualities that can take your brain on a wild ride if consumed. Chanterelles or morels sautéed in butter? Mouth-watering to say the least.

Just when I was beginning to think that magic was hard to find, one journey on one day showed me quite the opposite. The stolen time we found to take a walk met the small window of opportunity given by these soil dwellers to allow us to appreciate their beauty.

There is so much more to see than meets the eye.

Ten years ago a terrible act of terrorism sent the world spinning into a state of war, grief, fear and uncertainty.

I imagine that there is so much more to the world than we can think with our brains. There is so much more going on than we can explain. There are so many ways of looking at the world and being in it. So much difference that can be embraced instead of feared.

Today, lets spend more energy giving magic a chance.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tiny Things

I have been feeling sick for a couple of weeks (or more, I can’t remember now). As a result, my ability to get things done has varied greatly depending on whether I’m willing to push through the exhausted, swollen, weak self that I have become. I would guess it is a cold. But mixed with the heat and the workload it is impossible to tell whether the cold is worse from running around or I just have a bad infection. A doctor’s visit is now in order.

I have finally decided to put every thing down for a day and see if some rest will help. My husband made breakfast, got a load of laundry in (I might have done that actually), got the kids dressed, and off to day care and I lurked around in the shadows feeling useless, trying to back him up and failing miserably as I fell on the couch for yet another ‘lie down’.

Now I am sitting half-alive slouched on the couch filling in reimbursement health care forms, checking off school supply lists and assembling backpacks, looking into credit card payment options for our farm produce online etc. (and yes, writing a blog post). All the things I can do in my slumped fog. I promise that at the end of the day I will feel awful that I have gotten ‘nothing done’.

I learned some things this morning. One is that what I once took for granted turns out looks like a lot of work. I felt so much guilt watching my husband undergo my tasks of the early morning. But I can’t rightly assume I don’t contribute to the family, then ask my husband to do my work and feel terrible about all that he has to take on alone, can I?

Husband is now doing the barn chores for me. 10:30am and still not able to get to his usual work. And yet still, I have always assumed my work to be negligible.

I recall the days not long ago that I would feel so frustrated as I ran the kids to day care, and did the morning errands in town (feed store, tractor diesel, fencing parts, plumbing parts, canning jars…), did my morning barn chores and then wondered why at noon I had still not started my day.

I’m not exactly sure what it is I’m hoping to ‘start’. Isn’t the meal-making, the laundry-doing, the chores, the drop-offs, the form-filling all part of a day? Why would I exclude that in the definition of a productive day?

I think, my friends, that I have discovered a major kernel of truth about the day women chose or were expected to get out and earn an income. I know for me, the day I dawned a crisp, clean outfit and proper click-clacking shoes to head to an office somewhere was the day all other jobs were rendered ‘free time’. And with my ‘free time’ I was able to do things like put food in my fridge, clean my clothes, service my car, clean my house etc. if I wanted to.

Or, as time grew more and more scarce, especially once children entered the stage, I could pay for my meals in the freezer section of the grocery store or the local take-out spot and pay someone to clean my house, do my oil changes and take care of my kids. All of that so that my ‘free’ time could now be spent doing things that I actually wanted to do – like read books, listen to music, take dance classes, learn origami, go surfing in the Bahamas, whatever suited my fancy.

But here is the truth I figured out. Once you are responsible for the care of other living things, there is no such thing as free time. This is true whether you have 3 off-site jobs or you do all your work around the home, fields and barn. There are only choices about which things need your attention more urgently. There might be ways of sticking out your arms and carving out small windows of time to intentionally go on a date with your husband, take a trip, or do nothing! But the free time doesn’t appear in vast expanses as it had when we were younger, less responsible human beings. You will never stand there and say: ‘wow, I’m all done my tasks for the day, perhaps I will make myself a coffee and sit down for a bit.’

Well, if you’re anything like me you make that coffee and sit down anyway. Probably with a thunk so loud the neighbours can hear. But the list is never done. The work is never finished. And the guilt about this great ‘rest’ you are taking never goes away. I think the best we can do is justify the rest as the sane thing to do. It is the right thing to do. It is human to need to stop. If only for 66 seconds.

So now it is time to start viewing the day-to-day work that I am doing as important and necessary. It IS my day. I can’t assume that all the stuff I do is just what gets done before my day starts. Under this perception, my day may never really start.

These things that make up our days, wherever our work finds us, they matter too. They are the building blocks of a life as strong and valuable as any other. But I don’t have to tell you that, do I? You knew that already. It seems I needed to learn it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

This Magical Life

Do you ever wonder if somebody else would do a better job at your life than you? Do you ever think that somebody else could handle it all better? They could come out of the challenges unscathed, be happier in the joyous moments, figure a way to speak their mind at just the right time, be more kind to their loved ones?

That’s the problem I find with being a mother. You are the most important person in your child’s life – you are the center of their world no matter how you play it – and yet it seems so common for mothers to doubt their competence for the job. From the day that my newborn babies were handed to me in the hospital, I have been uncertain of whether I can give these little humans all that they deserve.

We are so willing to displace ourselves. Here: take my chair, eat my breakfast if you’re still hungry, take over the space in my bed, take my sweater, take my mind, my heart, my soul. I don’t need any of it?

Have you ever gone hungry for three hours before realizing you actually forgot to feed yourself a meal as well? Have you ever lost sleep to stay up with a sick, wired or frightened child? Have you ever gone cold, postponed going to the bathroom for hours, left out the shower? I think you’re laughing at me right now. Who would bother asking such a stupid question of a mother?

Lately I’ve been deeply wondering if someone would do a better job as my husband’s wife. As my farm animals’ keeper. As my mother’s daughter. My brother’s sister. Here: take my life. In my exhausted delirium I have even tried to think up alternatives for all of the above. But how would I slip away without being noticed? If someone would do a better job at being me, how would I go about seeing this transition through?

If you’ve ever had thoughts like this – stop them now! Shut them up immediately!

You are the only one that can live the life that you’ve created for yourself. You are the best one for the part. Only you can play out this role. You are unique – there is only one of you and only ever will be, only ever was just one of you. If you slip away your life will go unlived without you. The walls will tear down and all that’s left will be the place where your life should have been.

A friend recently said that her summer was magical. I was so proud of her as I watched her work so hard to give her children a number of wonderful experiences and memories. Camping trips, zoos, beach wanderings, hikes, parks, family, friends. She made garden stones out of artifacts collected from beaches that were visited. Picture books were printed. And when the adventures were all over, she kept them home to rest their tired heads.

So small, these things that a mother will do to build a life for their children. So many sacrifices gone unseen. So many doubts and fears that all that is done isn’t enough.

But this, my dear friend, is your magical life. Only you are fit for this role. And you are doing it just perfectly.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mid-Life Solution

I recently heard an excellent definition of mid-life crisis. It is simply the realization that life does not get better. We spend our childhood and youths with hopes that the future is going to be a big, bright playground where all of our dreams will come true.

Next comes the reality of having to buy your own groceries, pay your own bills. The responsibilities of education or work. What cats and/or kids require. This is before we start caring for our own bodies that are inevitably ever-changing with age.

The realization that none of it is going to get any easier.

Well now, lets have a look at that. What makes life easier? Is it gadgets? Money? Health (definitive yes here). Friendships and support? Feeling worth? What does an easy day look like compared to a ‘hard’ one?

Hard days for me are the days when the things I attempt don’t turn out as I expect. I don’t have energy, I am sick or someone close to me is sick and I can’t get to the things I’ve planned. Time goes too quickly when I need more time.

What surprises me here is that receiving bad news does not make this list. Things out of my control – well, those are the things I can’t do anything about so why beat myself up about it? Disappointing, sad, infuriating – all of these things don’t necessarily mean hard. If the situation reasonably calls for anger, then that is okay for me too. These reactions are not my first choice, not necessarily easy but also not worthy of struggle.

In short, hard days are the ones where you try to control everything.

Easy days are the ones that go by as though the universe is perched symbiotically on your shoulder, making sure that all traffic lights turn when you want them to and all of your efforts work out as you hoped. Easy days can be challenging but are usually without expectation. The kind of day where you go with the flow and let things happen as they will.

In short, easy days are the ones where you give up control.

So is our problem that we built dreams in the first place? Is having expectations or willing a certain outcome the worst possible thing we could do for ourselves? Do people who have no desires end up the happiest, avoiding the great mid-life crisis altogether?

Buddhists would have a field day with these thoughts. According to Buddhist philosophy desire is the source of all suffering. But in my opinion it is not so much the desire itself that creates suffering. It is the thinking that you can completely control the when, where and how of achieving your desires.

I began writing this post without an answer. In fact, two days later I am finishing it because as always, the answer has come once I opened the door with the right question. At least an answer that works for me.

In my foray working in an ‘alternative’ bookstore in the nineties, I came across an author who spoke to me. Her name was Marianne Williamson. At the time I had no connection to the Christian faith, however, so many of her words were lost on me. Recently, I have begun reading her books again. And as these things happen, one printed from 1993 called A Woman’s Worth found me in a second hand store. It sounds like she wrote this shortly after turning forty.

In it is what I will call the mid-life solution. I will share it with you here:

“Without a spiritual life, what are we left with? What is there to strive for? Where do we look for clues? In magazines?

Here are some basics for spiritual renewal, what to do to make age less scary.

First of all, meditate. Do transcendental meditation, Christian meditation, Jewish meditation, Buddhist meditation, open-eye meditation, full-moon meditation, Quaker meditation – it doesn’t matter. Just do it.

Also, pray. Engage in some sort of daily spiritual practice – nonreligious, religious, whatever.

Above all else, try to forgive.

And lastly, treat your body well. Practice yoga or some equivalent form of concentrated physical exercise.

Do not look to your husband, your lover, your children, your job, your money, or your therapist to make you happy. It’s not their function, nor within their capacity to do so. Look to yourself, to the Goddess within you, and take responsibility for your own state of mind.

Women can be masters at negative programming. We constantly tell ourselves what is not right: our figure, our hair, our relationship, our job, the weather, someone else’s behaviour. Sometimes, we do this because we have legitimate complaints; at other times, we criticize simply because it is the turn of our minds to do so. Every time we do, regardless of why, we attack ourselves. We are programming our subconscious – the part of the mind that hears what we tell it and then creates more of the same – to manufacture the life we’re describing.

And then magicians that we are, lo and behold, we have a new, even more negative life the following day….

….We are not a little powerful; we are enormously powerful. Every time we say a negative word, we lay the mental plans for negative things. There is no escaping this law of the mind. As we think, so shall it be.

…Spiritual techniques cannot not work. The question is not whether they work but whether or not we actually do them. If we remind ourselves often of the woman we want to be, then the woman who has been masquerading as us all these years will breathe her last breath and give us back our life.”

Marianne Williamson: A Woman’s Worth – 1993 (some sentences removed, nothing changed).

My report card on this? I’ve done no manner of spiritual practise or intentional exercise since the farming season began. Some might say that farming itself can be meditative and/or exercise. I will say that the latter is true a lot of the time but the former completely depends on the individual approach. I have been a ball of negative promotion for my fragile mind.

Thank you Marianne, for reminding me to look somewhere bigger than myself for solutions.

I finish with this quote that has been circulating as an email for years and showed up in a recent blog post I read:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." -Marianne Williamson
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." -Marianne Williamson