I’m in my mid thirties. I barely have any wisdom to impart on myself. I honestly don’t have much to offer that is original material. I absorb it like an amoeba just swallowing things as they are pelted at me through time and space.
But, I am a writer. So, I am good at panning for the nuggets of insight in a conversation, pocketing them, and bringing them back to my lab to melt them down into something gleaming and important. Someone else thought it up. I just made it shiny.
This is all a preamble to say that I was wallowing in the high tide of change and adjustment to our new life, the other day, to a good good friend of mine. As our children destroyed the patio of a local brewery. We ignored them, drank our beer, continued talking.
I relayed my fish-out-of-water feeling here. Like being a Donkey at a Horse party. Kind of blends in but… something isn’t right.
But my friend said, “Have you ever heard of the term ‘to lie fallow’? Its a farming term. It kind of means, to hang out and just wait, just be ready for the next opportunity.” I absorbed this idea like a shock wave, she continued, “You can just simmer.” I chewed on this. I convinced my daughter to get down off the 6 foot chain link fence. I drank my beer.
There are actual brain scientists studying the effect of uncertainty and change on the human brain. To sum it up. Not great for cortisol levels. We have built a world that is too stressful for our evolved psychology. The amount of mental, and physical stimuli we are constantly assaulted with is just too much for our processors. Our brains hate change and uncertainty, it treats these things like a threat, akin to being chased by a predator. This is the root of modern anxiety. Humans, we are our own worst enemy. We expect too much from our psychology.
It has occurred to me many times that in our culture, hyper-business is virtue, resting is considered lazy. In America, we “seize'”, “persist”, “pursue”, “hussle”, “gather”, “grind”… One of the reasons we ended up out here, was to peel away from the Grind. But I still have this “seizing” mind set. That if you are not actively pursuing an idea. If you aren’t constantly on the Grind, you are worthless. This is an idea I have struggled with as a primary parent. Choosing to forgo the Grind for story time at the library, mid morning stroller rides, breastfeeding and watching Netflix. I was suffocated by guilt for this decision. Watching my partner leave early every morning and take extra work that I knew he was too tired to take, framing decks in the pouring rain. It took years of deprogramming in therapy to feel like my choice to stay home with my kids wasn’t weak and selfish. That even though I wasn’t bringing in money, I was still contributing. And even now. After six years. I still fall back into this “grind” mindset. Treading water isn’t enough. I must also be knitting a hat and cooking dinner.
I am not alone. This is not just me. This is a cultural problem. The value of “household management” or “the mental load” (i.e. care of children, cooking, cleaning, pet care, doctors apts.) is not valued or lifted up here in western society. It is something that, if we can, we hire others to do for us. No matter what your work distribution is like in your house, these chores will largely fall on the female partner (in a heterosexual partnership). I’m not making this up, it’s like part of lots of studies and shit. For example, I order the toilet paper. No one else in my house knows where it comes from or how, it just appears for them and never runs out. If I died suddenly, there would be a panic as Rob took down the last roll on the shelf in two weeks. But, then, 24 rolls would appear the next day, on the front porch, because I automatically subscribe to that shit! And I have perfectly timed it. No one would ever figure out my password to stop the toilet paper from coming. I’ve made sure of this.
Save your excitement. I don’t have any answers. I still feel the pressure to contribute, even though, I run this place with the efficiency of the Barry Goldwater campaign. This is strictly an observational regurgitation of other people’s wisdom. But I am going to take my friend’s advice, and lie fallow. Not worrying about the grind, about my place, about contributing. I’m just going to soak in the enormous amount of upheaval our lives have been for the past six years. I’m going to process the nutrients, and let the flavors coagulate. Don’t rush it. Like a curry. Always better the next day.
In October, the sunsets are burning hot and short. We often get stuck behind tractors on our way to/from town. The dogs come in wet and smelly. We throw an extra log in the stove before bed. We are pulling the quarts of soup out of the freezer for dinner and drinking a lot of tea in the afternoons. The one hundred year old floor groans under me in the morning.
The kids are still little enough to fit in my arms and carry up the stairs. My son still has this one little baby curl that hides under the hair on his temple. It is fine and soft. He doesn’t care if the kitchen table is a crime scene and we haven’t found a bookshelf for the living room yet. The day I am sitting next to him at the kitchen table and run my hands through his hair to find that his little baby curl is not there anymore, I will wait until he leaves for the day, then I will sob into my pillow and curse time that wretched thief.
What will happen if I just lie fallow, stay quiet, wait, and watch the year unfold? What if all thoughts of inadequacy just left and never came back? What if doing dishes, making lunches, chopping wood, and reading stories was just enough for now? What if I could just be slow and soft. Watch how the light comes in and stay open. I’m going to try this out. I’ll let you know how it goes.