Lesson Learned: What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward? (Author: Tara Weaver)
I have been busier this year than I have in a long, long time. My job at the seminary has evolved a lot, and the attention it has taken to learn how to do what I do in a new educational environment (given our new online program) has required a lot of thought and creativity. Then there's the farm.
January is the only relatively quiet month on the farm. By quiet, I mean, I don't have to be outside in the milk barn at 6:00 a.m. The goats are dried up. The sheep and chickens are on their winter pastures. There are relatively few (if any) parties at the cabin. The greenhouse is in maintenance mode. There's a lot of cleaning and dreaming and planning that goes on, but there are also nice long evenings to watch a movie or to play dominoes.
In February, we start back up with dinners and parties, planting and kidding. There's more kidding, lambing, and planting in March. And in April, market season starts, and then things really heat up.
On Saturdays during market season, it is not uncommon for us to get up at 3:30 a.m. and work until we collapse in to bed at midnight, exhausted and barely able to move. These are the days when we have dinners at the cabin on top of selling at farmers market. On such days, I don't dare sit down for more than five minutes or I won't be able to keep going.
So what does all of this have to do with lessons learned? In spite of the busyness and while we do know there are aspects of it that are outrageous and unmanageable long term, the pace of the farm suits me very well. I need to make some adjustments to allow for time to write, but the level of activity and the time outside has conspired to leave me happier than I've been in a long time in my life, perhaps ever.
Now, of course, a great deal of this happiness is due to the love I've found with Lisa and to finding a life that I love, full of animals and physical activity and an opportunity to provide something for people that leaves them healthier and truly satisfied, on top of a full time job where I work with people I truly enjoy and that enables me to do something that is meaningful. But, I've come to realize that my past struggles with depression may be largely due to lack of physical activity and, brace yourselves, boredom.
There is no time to be bored here. None. And I'm a better person for sending boredom packing. In these slower days of winter it's tempting to entertain it from time to time and in very brief moments it feels like there is actually nothing to do, but the reality is that there is nothing urgent to do. When I make friends with the slower pace and realize it means I get to be more thoughtful and intentional about my work, that I get to use the extra space to be creative, the boredom that is lurking in the shadows quickly fades. I'm able to use down time to rest and relax, but it's purposeful and helpful; it is not boring.
For me, boredom is that passionless sense of just biding time until the next important thing starts and occupies our time. I'll stay off my high horse today, but I want to state emphatically that I believe boredom is behind a lot the diagnosed depression in this country. I do not say that to minimize honest struggles and pain, but I am deeply aware, and I include myself in this, that many people can't name why they are depressed, and for many of them it may be simply because it never occurs to them that boredom and depression could ever be linked.
Now here's the startling revelation of the year. Brace yourselves. I've been looking for a good excuse to confess this in public and I can't think of anything better than a post on lessons learned as a springboard for coming out with this.
I like manual labor.
Did you catch that? Let me try again. I like manual labor!
There. I said it. Send me to the loony bin. I don't care. It's true. Sometimes there just isn't a more satisfying way to end the day than to have worked with my hands, mending fences, moving shelters, putting up new walls on the barn, harvesting vegetables, cleaning up the farm yard, mucking barns, moving hay, whatever. I like the feeling of muscles that have worked, tasks that occupy my attention such that my mind can't wander, sweat pouring down my back, mud and dust caking my hands, and the sense of deep satisfaction that comes from seeing the fruits of my labor, of being able to sit back with a cold beer and look at what I've accomplished and consider the ways in which it will make life better for someone on the farm.
This does not mean I will be giving up my desk job anytime soon. I do still like it, after all. But, I'm just grateful that I have something that fills my life up in a way that leaves me satisfied and happy, to know that in those free hours, when I'm off the clock, I have purposeful work to do that requires my body as well as my brain to accomplish it.