We make a habit of closing down The Homestead in July and traveling far away from the Mississippi heat, animals, and work each year. We spend much needed family time making new memories and exploring parts of the world that are very different from our own. I always come back renewed, rested, and ready to go. This year I came back to a s--- storm (I am trying to be better about my language as I have to pay my children a dollar each time I slip, and they are getting expensive.)
Two awesome friends were in charge while we were away, and they had some bad news. First, the chickens had been getting picked off one by one for the last week, despite their best efforts at trapping and staking out this sneaky predator. There was also the issue of fire ants that had crawled inside a wall and set up residence, and a small mold factor from a leak in a window. The gardens, expectedly, had grown over my head with weeds. The dog we got to guard the animals has figured out to get through the electric fence and has taken to guarding the entire neighborhood.
My friend Rosie, who had been on duty during our vacation said, "Alison, I don't know how you do it!" What she really meant, I think now is, "I don't know why you do it!"
I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and felt grateful that I had REALLY enjoyed every minute of my vacation. Mike was on call for the next two weeks, so I put an ad on Facebook for someone to help out, explicitly describing the degree of hard work we engage in out here, and started hauling stuff to the truck to take to the dump so I could replace the carpet where it molded. Then the boys and I started attacking the small garden.
As we sweated and hauled and cleaned, I began to think we were making progress. Then more chickens disappeared. Then the refrigerator broke. Then the help I hired turned in 9 hours of work for the entire week. Then the farm truck blew up. Then we caught our one remaining chicken in our own predator trap and killed it. I was ready to take a match to the whole thing, so I called my Dad for some encouragement. He has owned rentals for years and I knew he would offer sympathy.
"Hey Girl! Listen, I can't talk right now. I'm in a dumpster. I'll call you later."
And in that moment, my life was explained. Of course my 66 year-old dad was in a dumpster, pushing down material so the waste guys would actually pick it up. Because who else is there to crawl in the dumpster? Who else is there to work with the intensity and duration? This the same man who once dug a couch-sized grave in our yard when he found out they would not take an old sofa at the dump. The same man who works as many hours as a Presbyterian Minister as he did when he was a lawyer in a large firm.
I knew something else. It is a choice, and it is not. Mike and I choose to work like crazy people. I choose to take on projects, gardens, and animals. I also do not choose. It is who I am. It is in my DNA, my story. I am a person drawn to hard work, even when I don't have to be. It may not be the best way, but it is my way, and I have to remember to balance this side of myself with self-care and play. While I appreciate my capacity for getting things done, I also have to remember not to judge people who probably have a more balanced view of work and play than I do.
Today I am writing this blog, which I enjoy, staying out of the gardens, playing with the kids, and ordering new chickens. I am also dreaming up our next vacation. The neighbors brought over their new dog, and I am sure they will be much better dog owners than we are. "First world problems, I tell myself." Anyway, when I feel overwhelmed, or sorry for myself, or think I am the only person on earth who still knows how to work hard, I think of these guys: