2019 has started off hard. Coming off the high of the holidays to the reality of a cold, wet winter and seemingly endless farm demands has been a challenging transition. I’m gaining a whole new appreciation for the restaurant and retail businesses, especially the small ones. And for anyone who works outside all year long with animals, especially the ones who are experts in stopping in front of you broad side so their herd-mate can free-stand on her back legs to knock the feed tray out of your outstretched hands. Who knew that making cheese means washing dishes 90% of the time and dairy is mostly picking up poop and cleaning? Or that mastitis is really easy to cause and hard to treat, operating an inline CIP milking system involves a lot of mechanical parts and chemistry, some water pumps can’t be stopped from leaking, and live cultures do change naturally during the year?
So, here I am on the back side of the honeymoon of this new farm venture. I’m working beyond my physical and mental limit 7 days a week only to barely do the things that have to be done, my church attendance is falling, my exercise is not regular, my marriage isn’t growing from a working relationship alone, I’m running out of things to do in the truck on the 60 mile round-trip commute that sometimes is done several times a day, the savings balance is falling at a rapid pace, and I’m wrestling negative feelings too much. I’ve always had some level of peace, but I also have always had a tough time bouncing back from frustrations during a day. So, life has become more challenging, which gives rise to more opportunity to get frustrated, which results in less and less peace...and bellyaching.
A few months ago, I was drawn to really think about the “accepting hardship as a pathway to peace” phrase from the Serenity Prayer. Hardship and peace seem like contradictory terms…how could they be linked? I’m having hardship and I want peace, so how can “accept” get me there? Is hardship the only way to have any peace, or does “accepting” allow peace when it is not easy? It became clear that I define “accept” as “like,” and I really don’t like hardship, so I am far from accepting it. My number one daily goal is to control things in order to avoid hardship.
The more I studied and contemplated this idea, the more I could see “accept” as being ok with what is. I don’t have to like or dislike whatever is happening but just accept that it is and to admit that my world is not going to collapse if something doesn’t happen the way I want it to. This perspective is somewhat lifting the burden.
I am also starting to consciously direct my thoughts to the positive realities of my life. I have my health, I live comfortably in a free country, I have a beautiful, healthy wife and kids, I’ve learned how to have meaningful relationships, and I possess abilities to survive in this capitalist world. I get to stand in the middle of a field at 5 a.m. on a brisk winter morning in awe of countless, glittering stars light years away, only to be outdone by a brilliant shooting star that streaks across the horizon. My new occupation has also provided the opportunity for me to stand in amazement of the adaptability of humans. We have evolved from hunter/gatherers to be able to build skyscrapers, explore space, perform brain surgery, and make economies work. There are always plenty of things to be thankful for and in awe of, when I choose to focus on them.
I’ve experienced lots of challenges before and many outcomes different than I had planned, and I’ve lived through all of them with no major implosions. Some results were even better. It’s comforting to admit that I can’t be perfect, that some things are just out of my control (which is made abundantly clear by my kids), and to see that there can be joy in chaos. The resistance is starting to lighten, and I feel more patient with the hard work I encounter.
Recently, I witnessed acceptance at a major-league-level when some friends lost their 8-year old son in an ATV accident. The Hooks responded with confidence their son was in Heaven, which is allowing them to process this tragedy incredibly. Clearly, faith and trust in God plays a vital hand in accepting hardship.
Now, I’m feeling encouraged that peace is possible even in hardship…whether it be a major event or getting knocked around like a ping-pong ball while trying to load the hay manger day-after-day-after-day. Allison and I are certain this path is right, regardless of what happens. I am determined to get better at accepting, regardless of the how steep the mountain is.
P.S. This has gone on longer than I originally planned and thoughts keep coming. But, I’m drawing it to a close for now with more to come later.