Yesterday one of “my” librarians asked my how my year was going.
I said “It’s been free of stress and chaos.”
“Are you writing?”
I laughed. “Yeah, actually, that’s why it’s free of stress and chaos.”
Made me think about how we get ourselves into, and through, a bad year.
2011 was one of those years. I had two books come out, so in many respects it was a good year. But it was also a year filled with unexpected frustrations.
We’ve been self-employed for years, which means we pay for our own health insurance. Since MN doesn’t recognize our legal marriage, we’re stuck having separate policies. My premiums have been fairly steady, but Melissa’s premiums recently shot through the roof, nearly doubling in 4 years. Not to get into it too deeply here, but Melissa was afraid to change policies because an insurer could exempt every sort of coverage she needed.
This was why she had to get an off-farm job. The farm just couldn’t support itself and our insurance bills. She found the perfect job for her—locating underground utility lines. She was outside all day, walking around people’s yards, neighborhoods, and out in the country. She had her own little truck and laptop. It was mentally and physically challenging.
It also required massive amounts of overtime. She worked from 7 am often until 7-8 pm. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t much left for anything, or anyone, at the end of the day. She was so tired on weekends that I asked her not to run any power tools or equipment on Saturday because she often hurt herself or broke something. Sunday was her only day to work on the farm.
The bulk of the farming obviously fell to me. I have broad shoulders, and managed to keep everything alive and healthy, but weeds overtook and drained the electric fencing. The animals stayed put only because they were polite. 🙂 I fed 3 baby calves 3 times/day for 3 months. I fed two bottle lambs for nearly as long.
By fall, the weight got heavier and heavier. I’d basically spent more time alone than I had for years. I’d also done a great deal of traveling to promote my books. All the household chores fell to me. We had two elderly dogs that required a complicated array of pills, and cleaning up of accidents. How the heck do couples with two fulltime jobs and kids DO this?
By fall, everything started slowing me down. I stopped writing and sank into a major funk. Usually when I get depressed, I get bored and snap out of it in 1-2 weeks. But this lingered and lingered. I spent the fall not only struggling to keep farm and home together, but also sitting on our front deck holding our kitten Emmett, watching Netflix (all 11 seasons of Frasier! All 5 seasons of Friday Night Lights! All seasons of Parks and Recreation!) and drinking wine. Pathetic.
I tried antidepressants (screwed up my ability to daydream, and thus write) and therapy. (When I told the therapist I thought I was a lazy person, she nearly grabbed her copy of Hit by a Farm and smacked me in the head with it. Interesting therapy technique, but I got the point. Maybe not so lazy after all.)
This is why, when the end of 2011 arrived, I said, “Good riddance,” (My actual words were a bit earthier than that) and started a fresh year.
I’ve written nearly every day in 2012. The depression seems to have lifted (although it sneaks back every now and then to slap me around), and I’m excited about the new year. I know that Melissa will be gone a lot, so I’ll do a better job of reaching out to friends and family. I know all the farm chores will be my responsibility, so we’re freezing the size of the farm—no new animals for awhile. I’m going to line up help to do chores when I’m out of town, and someone to help me keep the weeds off the fences. Our beloved elderly dogs have died, leaving huge holes in our hearts, but less daily chaos. This next year it’ll just be Molly and me going on lots of walks.
I’ve learned my lesson. Stopping what you love to do isn’t a way to feel better—it’s a way to feel worse. I’m not going to go more than two days in a row without writing. No more Netflix, considerably less wine, and having Melissa home for the winter has been great. We’re both resting and recovering, building up the strength we’ll need to get us through another season.
Now matter how your 2011 went, I’m hoping your 2012 goes better!