Inhabiting the consequences

Those three words have been knocking around in my head on a daily basis for most of the past year. Inhabiting the consequences. This little phrase has been a distinct and ongoing meditation for me. It asks me: Are you willing to feel what it’s like to have an impact on a place? Are you willing to take responsibility? Are you willing to release perfectionism? Are you willing to cultivate bravery? Are you willing to be honest? To be seen? Are you willing to hold love in one hand and grief in the other, and to sit with the paradox?

I learned to draw blood from goats yesterday. (Thanks to my friend Katy for getting a picture of me in the action!) It’ll be a good skill to have for regular disease and pregnancy testing, and it’ll save me lots of money over time to be able to handle this part myself. To do this, you have to find the jugular vein, which intimidated me! The last thing I want to do is needlessly poke around inside my poor goats’ necks. I always pray before I do a new thing like this: “Forgive me my learning…”

Over time I’m gaining confidence in the process. It wasn’t that long ago that I said the same prayer before I milked sweet Jazzy for the first time- which ended with me covered in milk and dirt, near tears! I remember my little family cheering me on, saying “You’re doing great!”, to which I shakily replied “NO. I’M. NOT!” Fast forward to now- I can milk out 3 goats without a hitch, and it’s become one of my very favorite chores around the farm. I haven’t magically become more skilled at all the things I’ve never done, but I am building skill in a different area, one that enables me to continue to show up with more and more faith each time.

This kind of thing is part of why I love this way of life. There is always something around the corner, asking you to participate- whether you know how to do a thing or not, with no guarantee of the outcome you hope for. I really see the benefit of this practice in my life. Over time it’s helped me loosen my hold on any moral or intellectual perfectionism I might’ve had, and to meet myself in real-time, with a necessary dose of compassion and humility. And often shaky hands and a beating heart, betraying my inexperience.

I find that most of the well-seasoned farm folks I meet (like the lovely Kat who generously showed us how to do this today) share this solid and accepting and heart-filled vibe. It’s a vibe that is happily devoid of a kind of judgmental and controlling energy that I believe is literally a useless drain to folks who really work on the ground. I am so naturally attracted to it when I see it, and I really hope it grows well in me so I can offer it up in service. It occurs to me that these kinds of perspectives are only rare now because of our strange industrial and abstracted design, literally removing most folks from the living element. This enables in me a kind of out-of-balance imaginary ideal, an existential anxiety. But follow anything all the way down, there it is- wild and paradoxical and beautiful. It says to me: There is no good, there is no right, there is no safe. There is only life on life’s terms.

It’s magnificently freeing stuff.

I’m watching a show with Jeff- a historical drama about warrior Vikings and the struggle for land and culture in that area of Europe in the late 9th century. What a brutal time! Recently I saw this scene that I just loved. A man was essentially whining to the king about his judgments of another man’s actions, talking all about how it could’ve gone, mistakes that were made, etc. The king became visibly exasperated and shut him up, saying “Decisions were made, consequences followed. It is the way.” I *love* this sentiment. It was so matter of fact, so rooted in the reality of leadership. I know that the context was a fictional show discussing matters of war, but nevertheless this quote made it’s way onto my humble white board near my early spring seedlings. It’s a funny reminder to keep participating in my life, even if I’m scared of the consequences.

This meditation hit home in a new way last year, when Jeff and I decided to invite his dad to live with us after a diagnosis of Lewy-body dementia. It became clear he couldn’t live alone anymore, and so we converted half our walk-out basement into a little apartment for him. It was a scary decision, and we weren’t sure what would happen. We still aren’t. But, he’s been here since early November, and we all feel like it’s going really well. One day at a time, we all show up in it. The reason I mention it here, though, is that I was amazed to experience the relief of so much anxiety once he came to live here. Something about the reality of it transformed all the terrible “what-ifs?” into a simpler and more rhythmic “what now?” There are days that are more stressful than others, but the deal is fairly clean in our minds. What a grace, yes? Again, this distinction between my mind and my worries and what’s in front of me to do.

All of this isn’t a plea to let go of our plans or precautions or our process of thinking. Most people that know me know that I love these gifts, and I see their value and utility. I have a pretty rich inner life and I don’t plan to change that! But, it feels like it’s time to examine my relationship to those elements, to look at the proportions of these energies in my life. Cuz there’s work to do and lots of creatures to love.

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