I haven't slept well lately. Like almost everyone, I fumble through the trials and tribulations of fitting square pegs into round holes; the constant challenge of striking a work/life balance. The false promise that if you tidy your life into neat little rows and bins and color coordinate the labels, it will all fall into order. In fact, increasingly, I realize that reaching my goal of becoming a full time farmer/writer/cheesemaker is a little like buying a piece of furniture from IKEA. I'm excited about the end product but have to put it together myself. Inevitably, pieces will be missing. The instructions are not translated correctly. (But the drawings are hilarious.)
That's how things feel right now. I never anticipated how complicated life would become once we moved here and collected animals and physically grew roots so deep it's painful to leave. On a cellular level, I am rooted to this place. If your life becomes your passion, then the day job is secondary. There is no way around that. No one can adequately convey how completely these commitments may consume you. I know lots of people who are drawn to stories like ours feel the same pull towards place, towards gardens, and animals, and big skies and expansive views. Prepare yourself because once you come here, there is no going back. My life, before the land, was relatively simple. I was 100% committed to finding a dream job and becoming a truly spectacular dream job worker. Whatever that was. It meant I cared a lot about whatever paid the bills during the day, and I came home to make a nice little dinner, pour a lovely glass of wine, then park myself on the couch until the next day when I'd go at it again - rinse and repeat. In retrospect, things were clean and tidy. As it turns out, I discovered that the dream job I chased was exactly what I started out loving since I was a wee girl, and it just never occurred to me that those things I loved the most might be worth pursuing - only because they weren't conventional. And they weren't tidy.
Since we bought the land, four years ago next week, we took our world and gave it a good throttle - and it's remained disheveled and messy ever since. Nothing goes as planned. If something's broken, plan to fix it yourself. All costs are underestimated, most projects are insurmountable, and something always hurts. Always. But, for now, we still work - full time - day jobs. The notion of balance is adorable and hilarious to me at the same time. The biggest difference between pre-land and post-land is that this lifestyle is all-consuming in such a away that it can't be left in the parking garage before taking the elevator up to the office. It doesn't stow away nicely into the overhead compartment on a trip across the state. Aside from the physical space I fill when I walk into a room, I'm always followed by the sprawling expanse of a pasture with a rusted fence, the worry of my goats' health, the plans I have to build a new hen house, the dimensions of the milking stand we're making. They fill the spaces too, all around me. It's an aura I can't shake.
During these times when my job becomes a noise so loud I can't concentrate on anything else, I am grateful to have given up on striking a balance. That goal was abandoned four years ago. The only way to make it work is to weave the loose strings of this farm into whatever responsibilities I have to meet each day. A little at a time, tucking pieces in between a call, a meeting. Knitting the dirty bits of my chosen life into the conventional work that helps pay the bills at the property. Sometimes, it feels too heavy and as if we've signed onto and up for more than two people can bear - as if it's an impossible choice between the two.
Prepare yourself for that - for the choosing. And don't you do it. Don't tell yourself it's one or the other, because if it was worth coming this far, then it's worth finding ways to blend the reality of jobs into messy dreams. In those moments, I walk to the outside spaces that are constant, where the leaves always dry up and fall in October, where the grass springs forth in March - each year. I unlatch the gate at the barn and the goats sprawl out in lazy piles, chewing their cud in the late afternoon light, eyes barely open but alert enough they greet me with quiet bleating and wagging tails. I crouch down onto the dirt floor and spend a few solid minutes patting the heads of animals whose existence in my life makes little sense, whose needs absolutely complicate me daily.
It was easier before them and before the 15 acres and before the house and before the mud and the scorpions and the coyotes and before the stinging nettles that keep my feet swollen with hives. It was easier to focus only on promotions and my resume. Which, by the way, I'm still working on. Someday I hope my resume just says: "Herder. Cheesemaker. Writer." Until then, I'll keep tying the loose strings together and knitting the two worlds so they hold strong enough - patting the little goat heads for meditation and the reminder that - regardless of noise from the computer/phone/office - there's room for both in my life.