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Anything but Bitter, In the Bitter Cold

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Anything but Bitter, In the Bitter Cold

I’ve noticed a bit of a change in North Dakota the past couple days.

We are through the holidays and on to the new year. We have taken the time to celebrate and rejoice. We took down our holiday decorations and braced ourselves for bone chilling cold of deep winter.

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We watched the temperatures drop. Not just to 0 or even -11. But to -27.

When the wind blew it felt like -55 in our backyard.

Yes, that is cold. Bitter cold. But are North Dakotan’s bitter? Not at all. If anything, I get a sense of optimism as I connect with people.

They know there is peace and they know there is hope. I am beginning to think this has something to do about how we manage to survive such harsh winters.

It gets cold. We wear layers. We invest in good socks.

We find ways to enjoy the winter. We bird watch. We ice fish. We take photographs. Ready to fish

We build our networks. We strengthen our relationships. We spend time with the ones we love.chilly kisses

We find excuses to stay inside. We find good reasons to turn on the oven.

We cook. We create. We read. We plan.

I am really beginning to enjoy the peaceful renewal winter brings.

We embrace it because we know it won’t last forever.

We let ourselves soften.

We look to our dreams.

We appreciate the moments we have.

We look toward the light of warmer days.

One day, spring will bloom again. We will plant the garden again. And it will grow.

 

Learning to Let Go: Excitment and Motivation

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I’ve been taking sometime to look back at how far I’ve come in a year as an entrepreneur.

I left my full-time academic job in July of 2012, but it wasn’t until November of that year that I began marketing myself and my talents. I didn’t have a network or a whole lot of support. I knew very few people in my town. Most of the folks I knew within the state of North Dakota, I knew because of my career, in some way. It was scary and I was lonely.

But things have changed.

Today, my young philosopher overheard me calling a friend. “Mom, you know I can’t even keep up with all the people you know!”

I thought to myself, Wow. I really do know a lot of people! Things have changed in a year’s passing.

I was quiet pleased with myself. I took time to give myself the praise, “You have done well finding good people to connect with. It certainly does make life quite a bit richer.”

But that’s only the beginning.

After today’s Farm Beginnings Session, I was extremely motivated.

We talked about mission statements and marketing. I didn’t realize I love this kind of stuff so much, but I do!

I left energized, wanting to share EVERYTHING I learned with my husband, who had to work today.

I left wanting to revisit my visual business plan.

I wanted to get home and beg my chickens to PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE start laying eggs again.

I was ready to dive into next my proposal.

I wanted to go set up for the art class I teach on Monday.

I couldn’t wait to start thinking,

and reading,

and researching.

I wanted to start compiling information for my presentation at Farm Beginnings in December, in which I will be talking about how to tell YOUR story.

So much excitement!

But this was familiar…

My mind was reeling with ideas, but I was tired.

I had a quick thought to leave myself a voice message, telling myself about ALL this excitement.

Wait, I’ve done that before. And it wasn’t good.

(Remember, I struggle with issues such as overworking and undervaluing myself.)

It is easy for me to believe that I need to prove my worth through what I do.

In my final 3 months as Vice President of Land Grant programs, I would call my office phone on my drive home. I would leave myself messages about all the things I needed to do the next day.

This my friends, is not a good habit.

I thought it was brilliant at first, but it certainly led to some earlier morning cursing when I checked my voicemail each day.

*Light-bulb moment* Maybe that has something to do with my own disdain for to-do lists. To-do lists are made with our own self-talk imbedded in them. They can be painful if that self-talk used in writing them is overly critical, judgmental, or down right mean.

Hmmm….

The point is I had been down this road before. So I backed up.

I did a U-turn before I got to the point of giving myself a to-do list on a Saturday night.

I retraced my steps.

I slowed down and took a look around when I got back to the excitement.

Was it impractical to think I could manage to do all the things that I wanted to do tonight? Or even this weekend?

Absolutely!

I suddenly remembered that I had been here too, and that there was a bit more worth exploring.

I remembered the first time I shared my business plan with the folks at the New Rockford Area Betterment Corporation.

I remember the amazing amount of things I wanted to do when I came home.

And I remember not doing anything!

Instead, I was still.

I enjoyed the moment. I felt the excitement.

I didn’t force it into a product or accomplishment.

I let it be part of me.

And I wrote about it! It was my second blog post ever!

I was on the road I wanted to be on. And, I even took it on a little further.

I mentally broke these tasks up by priority and complexity and I scheduled them into my calendar when I got home!

This is truly a first.

I came home, motivated and yet tired, and said to my husband, “Michael, next weekend, I would like to schedule a time to sit down to go over my business plan with you.”

And then, I let everything else “to-do” settle in my calendar and in my brain.

I let the excitement reside in my body as joy.

And then, I played the piano that magically found its way into our house this afternoon.

Thank you so much, Michael. Thank you!

Why Halloween Terrifies Me

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I have a confession to make. And since it is Halloween, it seems an appropriate time as any.

I don’t like festivities. I don’t like parties. Holidays drive me crazy. The chaos of multiple events, expectations, and excitement just seems like a magnet for drama to unfold. Halloween is certainly spooky for me. I have challenge enough in sharing myself with others. I have difficult enough time trusting their intentions. When you throw in costumes, tricks, and treats, I just don’t know what to think.

Skull of a cougar

Photo by Rachel Brazil 2006

Since I have had children, I try to be open to possibilities and new traditions. I strive to recognize my discomforts, honor them as true, and adapt ways to celebrate the holidays that will work for our family. But of course they want to do all the things all the other kids doing.

It’s kind of peculiar that Halloween is one holiday that really gets under my skin, as I am in love with all things autumn. Even more, I have a slight biological fascination with all things dead. Skeletons are a normal part of my home decor.

I don’t mind creepy crawlies or the like. In fact, the last year I truly celebrated Halloween, in 2005, I was making my living cleaning animal skeletons for a University comparative collection.

I’d go to work in my laboratory. Surrounded by animal remains and listen to music like Bauhaus, the Raveonettes, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Joy Division.

I dressed mostly in blacks and grays for only one reason: my most recent opportunity to purchase clothes had been for my grandfather’s funeral a month prior.

I was grieving, but delighted in learning about the living through the dead. (I was an archaeologist after all). I took pictures in the lab. Ranging from the cougar skull featured above, to the bat that the director had brought in right around Halloween. The entire process was absolutely fascinating, examining details that were beyond skin deep.

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Photo by Rachel Brazil 2005

That Halloween, I went to a party with a boyfriend. Even though I struggle at them.

I wore a costume. Even though in doing so, I felt like I shared more of my true self than I was comfortable with.

I carved a Jack-o-Lantern, working carefully to recreate a skeletal version of my hand. I no longer have a picture of that, sad to say.

As much as I tried to put my best foot forward. I couldn’t do it. I hated the party. I wanted to go home. I was willing to walk 12 miles to get home. Instead, I curled up in the back of the car and fell asleep. When I finally got home I had a full-blown violent meltdown and slept on the hallway floor.

For so long, I let that event become a defining moment in that “there must be something wrong with me.”

But, as I’ve written before, I’m through with believing that.

I am who I am, and when I am expected to be something other than that, it really bothers me.

Having strangers knock on my door and ask for things bothers me.

Going on to other people’s property freaks me out.

Eating loads of candy at midnight usually results in a sugar hangover the next morning.

Acting like I am someone else clearly messes with my sense of being.

Having to interact with people in costume makes me want to run away crying.

The ghouls and the gross don’t bother me. Nor does the fake blood or a random body part. So maybe my best bet is to be a hermit for Halloween. I will stay in, with my loves (who happen to be ill today). We will make creepy treats shaped like eyeballs or ghosts. Maybe I’ll try my hand at homemade caramels or chocolate candies. Maybe we’ll play with costumes and perform spooky Halloween skits.

But really, why should I do something I am not comfortable with, just for the sake of a holiday?

My Vulnerability

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I’m beginning to notice, something strange that happens

When others fail to listen to me.

I get angry.

Like a little child.

Afraid of the crises that might ensue.

“But wait! I see something wrong!

Please! Please listen to me!”

 

There are some days that it happens all around.

Others are too busy and overbooked to listen.

Then the kids won’t listen.

Then the dogs.

Then the cat– wait, never mind the cat isn’t biologically capable of listening to human.

 

And then among my children,

is my inner child.

Angry.

Scared.

Wanting to stomp her feet

And say,

I just need someone to care about what I have to say.

It gets pretty ugly.

 

The best I can do is treat everyone to ice cream.

Have a tea party.

Invite all those who won’t listen.

Shed a tear or two.

And carry on.