I am a big believer in “signs”. For instance, if the bluebird of happiness landed on your front porch as you were walking out the door you might consider it a sign that a great day was in store. Conversely, when running late for work you recognize the flop, flop, flop of a flat tire, that sign might indicate the beginning of a crap day – one some might label “a day from hell”.
Over the course of my life, my expectations have usually stemmed around being prepared for the worst to happen. That way, I was rarely disappointed when something didn’t turn out well, and pleasantly surprised when it did. You know the routine – expect the worst and be tickled to death with anything better. That was my mantra. I was critical and leery of everything and everyone. I looked at life and situations with a glass half-empty.
For much of my life I simply went through the motions of doing what was expected of me. I got up early – like all good farm girls do – even when I wasn’t a farm girl anymore. I was responsible, practical and had good common sense. I was a hard worker and dependable. I went the extra mile wherever I worked. I took pride in my accomplishments. Observing these characteristics, one might get the impression I was a top-notch kind of person, but maybe one who was just a bit hard-headed and critical. And, indeed, that was the superficial me – just looking at the surface. But inside, I was miserable, unhappy, and horribly negative. My personal life was a wreck. I was exhausted from pretending to be something I wasn’t. At the age of 47, I hit rock bottom and cratered. I quit work. I desperately needed a sabbatical.
About the time I quit my day job, FD and I decided to move to this ten acres we live on now. We started making plans to clean up the area. We put up a 40 x 60 metal storage building. During the weeks and months that followed, I worked at tearing down old stock pens, burning wood, and cleaning up the pastures to prepare a site for our home. Hard physical labor had always been a therapeutic way of working through problems in my mind – a coping skill if you will.
Our house in town sold before we were ready to move, so we opted to utilize a one-room cabin (the “sleeping house”) behind my mom-in-law’s home on the same property, for our sleeping quarters. To supplement this temporary arrangement, we borrowed a 24-foot travel trailer from FD’s sister for our cooking/shower/TV and computer area.
I often marvel at those two months we lived like gypsies between the old “sleeping house” and travel trailer. All of our household goods were in the storage building, including our refrigerator. Each morning, we would gather breakfast food and clothes and head to the trailer (hooked-up in a nearby area of the property) where FD would shower while I cooked breakfast. FD would go to work around 7:30 and I would head out to the area where the house was going to be, continuing our site clean up and preparation efforts.
Through this process, I dealt with contractors, including some who didn’t want to talk to a woman. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed; like I didn’t accomplish enough in a day and needed a man to dicker with the contractors. Often, I was frustrated, but FD would leave work and come to my rescue when the contractors needed a little “guidance”. These were the hot summer months of September and October. I was overwrought, tired, and filthy dirty most afternoons when FD got home.
Life in the travel trailer was… well, an adjustment. Dinner was generally cooked out on the grill and, afterwards, I would clean up dishes in the tiny midget-sized kitchen of the travel trailer. Showers were hurried. With only a 10-minute supply of hot water, it was more like a spit bath. We both literally crashed into bed each night, completely exhausted from the day’s work.
One morning, I had to make a Walmart run to pick up a few necessities for the travel trailer. While living gypsy-style, I often found it necessary to go shopping every few days, as it seemed we always needed blades or a tool or a food item. This particular day, I had to have supplies before I could get started with my outside work. In a bit of a funk (which seemed usual those days), I dashed into Walmart and hurriedly grabbed the items I needed.
On returning to the car after filling my shopping cart, I noticed something that lay on the ground directly behind the trunk. It looked like a badge of some sort, so I picked it up. As it turned out, it was an embroidered patch of Eeyore, the donkey character from Winnie the Pooh. The patch appeared to be clean and had a couple of little rhinestones on it. I became instantly aware of… or rather “felt” the message from the badge – it was plain as day to me what it meant. I had become Eeyore. I knew it. I thought briefly about flinging the little patch back out in the parking lot; after all, who knew where it came from? But something inside told me to keep it. The character on the patch depicted Eeyore smiling; well, as much as Eeyore ever did smile. I felt it was as if he was gently chiding me, in his lovable way.
Eeyore, the old grey Donkey, stood by the side of the stream, and looked at himself in the water.
“Pathetic,” he said. “That’s what it is. Pathetic.”
He turned and walked slowly down the stream for twenty yards, splashed across it, and walked slowly back on the other side. Then he looked at himself in the water again.
“As I thought,” he said. “No better from this side. But nobody minds. Nobody cares. Pathetic, that’s what it is.”
From: “Winnie the Pooh”
Realizing the essence of being Eeyore in this manner, I decided I did not wish to be pathetic anymore, nor did I wish to have this little black cloud of expectant gloom and doom follow me around any longer. The Eeyore patch was a “sign”, to me, that invoked change. So I asked for help, knowing sometimes I wasn’t even aware of my blatant negativity, because I had practiced it for so long. With FD’s loving words of encouragement, and constant reminders from my Sissy Jo, I slowly began to see my cup as half-full instead of half-empty.
It has not always been very easy taking the steps necessary to change my ways, and I still backslide sometimes into the abyss of the half-empty glass. When those moments or days arrive, however, I now focus on finding a way to happiness and contentment. Most of the time, as one might suspect, I find it right under my nose… here on this little piece of land with FD, its enchanted forest, my 3 Chin(dren) and my loving Daisy deer!
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…