Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Matter of Perspective - Part 2

The two girls in the last post are both me - on a bad day and the other on a good day. I tend to have more good days than bad days, and honestly, my Girl One mindset usually only lasts about fifteen minutes and then it gets tiresome and I talk myself out of it. But I wrote them down because I've been thinking a lot lately about why I am generally happy and why I know some folks that nothing ever seems to go right for them. And when I say generally happy I don't mean all the time. I still was very sad when I had to put my horse down in December and grieved that and I get really pissed off if I watch the news and they're talking about politics, but I also appreciate that I have an exceptionally good life and there are things in my life I get excited about and every day has at least something I look forward to. I figure, if I could know how I got to this place of general happiness, maybe I could help others get here too? But I haven't quite figured out how I did so this is just another of my attempts to understand why some people tend to be mostly happy and other's don't.

One of the most valuable things anyone has ever said to me and it has helped me tremendously is that it does no good to base our happiness on something that has not and may not happen. A woman named Lucy Suzuki told me that years ago when I was still living in the city and I felt like I would never be happy until I was able to move to the country, which at that time seemed impossible because my husband had no desire to ever live anywhere but in the city. My life just wasn't what I thought it should be for me to be happy and it seemed like there were too many obstacles in my way to ever achieve those goals that would make me happy and therefore I was screwed and destined to a life of frustration and misery. Which really wasn't fair. Damnit.

But I took what Lucy said to heart and decided to try and make my life the way I wanted it right then and there with what I had. I dug up part of my yard for a garden, I got some chickens, I drove an hour each way to go out of the city for riding lessons and eventually was able to afford to get my own horse who I kept at a farm forty miles up north. And I made a conscious decision to find ways to be happy with what I had. And strangely enough it worked. I still think back fondly on my little "urban homestead" back in Seattle.

The thing is, even now living in the place that I thought would make me happy, I still have to work on my perspective every day to maintain feeling content with my life. It would be very easy to say "I can't be happy until I have an arena/a barn/a nice tack room/a truck/fancier horses" or "I can't be happy until there is a cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis" or any other number of things.

So today, you may have some really awful stuff going on, you may feel like without enough money or without being healthier or without having a better job (or even having a job) your life can't possibly do anything but suck. But just as an experiment, try to find something about your circumstance in this day to enjoy and be thankful for and entertain the idea that maybe you can achieve what you want with what you already haveeven if it doesn't look like your original plan.

As a concrete example, I'm taking a class called CERT which stands for Community Emergency Response Team, and today we worked on making splints out of whatever we had on hand. So my team mates made a splint for my leg out of cardboard, blankets, some scraps of torn fabric, and my KUOW messenger bag. And it worked just fine and the instructor said in a real situation it would work as a splint to stabilize a fracture. It's the same idea - work with what you've got and you might even have fun being creative with the scraps you find lying around in your life.

Here is a photo of my team mate, Laura Jean after saving me and my pretend broken leg.

A Matter of Perspective

Two girls move to farms at the same time - during summer when it is sunny and dry and beautiful and although there are obviously repairs that need to be made, both their farms are lovely and a childhood dream come true. Girl One is excited to finally live on a horse farm after a lifetime of dreaming of doing just that. But she came from boarding her horses at a long-time established facility with indoor and outdoor arena, ventilated tack rooms, hot/cold running water in actual wash racks and even more importantly, hired staff to feed and muck stalls. But hey, the work sounds worth it to have her horses at home. But as time goes on, she starts realizing this is a lot more work than she'd thought it would be. Feeding twice daily, mucking pastures (in mud and grass - which is much harder than mucking out a stall with shavings or a graveled paddock) trying to keep the tack in the old shed from getting covered in mildew within days of cleaning it, the rats - OMG the enormous rats!!! And the mud! Is the island sinking? How can there be this much mud and where did those ponds and that creek suddenly come from on the property? And is that a swamp? Because that certainly looks like a swamp appeared in that pasture overnight. The work to fix up this property that looked so nice in summer is never ending. And there is no where to ride her horses anymore! The trails are too wet, the yard is too wet and now her horses are at home and she can't even ride them. And it is so hard to get hay at an affordable price on the island, and why do the handy-men she calls to help with all these fixer-upper chores never seem to call her back. She's getting a repetitive use injury in her shoulder from picking poo and it seems like everything is covered in rust and moss and mold. Was this really her childhood dream? What's the point of following your dream if it's just going to end up sucking? It was so much easier living in the suburbs in a big house with a three-car garage and central air and forced air heat. Now the carport is something like 50 yards from the house and there are no lights so it is pitch dark once the sun goes down and having to carry groceries from the car to the house in pouring rain and pitch dark when you can't even see the trees in front of you? It's horrid! Add to that, her husband doesn't seem to want to help with the horses and when she asks for help it seems like just a trickle of help comes in but not enough to get her through everything.

Girl Two is excited to finally live on a horse farm after a lifetime of dreaming of doing just that. She came from boarding her horses at a long-time established facility with indoor and outdoor arena, ventilated tack rooms, hot/cold running water in actual wash racks and even more importantly, hired staff to feed and much stalls. But hey, the work sounds worth it to have her horses at home. And honestly, it is worth it.  The mud has been pretty easily remedied by planning out ways to replace muddy areas with layers of gravel and digging retention ditches. And both of those projects are kind of interesting because she and her husband had to do research the subject and learn as much as they could about mud abatement and drainage ditches. And thank goodness there are people on the island to hire to help with some of the hardest of the work. It takes some looking, but when you find the right person to help you it turns out awesome.  There is no arena to ride in but there is a forest literally right next door with miles of trails and even though it's kind of muddy it's still passable in places and it's a new adventure to get used to riding on trails more than doing arena work. And it's actually a pleasantly relaxing change (which the horses are enjoying too!) And it has brought up a whole new hobby - training to do wilderness equine search and rescue! Some of the work is really physically hard, but when she's run into periods of being too sore to do the work it's amazing how many neighbors are right there willing to help. The community of horse people in her new neighborhood is just amazing. It is so different from living in the city or even the rural suburbs and there is so much to learn, but it is so fun learning all this new stuff and it's become kind of a joke that she can't ever seem to get her hands clean. Her new theme song has become Red Clay Halo by Gillian Welch and that makes her so happy.

So, what is the difference between these two girls? Besides that it sounds like Girl Two has moved to a much nicer farm to begin with than Girl One? I'm curious to hear what people have to say about how these two girls could be in control of their situations and if they think Girl One could do something different to maybe make her life a little easier?

Here is a song for intermission before I go on to writing Part 2. And I really would like to hear people's ideas about this about their thoughts on Girl One and Girl Two's situations.