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Unclench That Jaw

It’s important for me to look around sometimes and notice how things are improving. I don’t do it enough. I am always running on a low-hum of anxiety, it’s become my new normal. I have lived here for a decade never knowing when or how my next mortgage payment will be made and that creates a different kind of tension in a body. I am the kind of person that needs to be told to unclench her jaw while watching a movie, or relax her shoulders when typing on the laptop. I can’t help it, I am always bracing, expecting the day to be littered with hope but preparing for broken windows and cracked teeth.

All that said, it’s important to look around and take in the reality of the situation, because despite my gut reaction to panic, there is a marked difference between life here in my forties and my thirties, it is way better. Outside there’s a safe car that runs and can drive me anywhere I need to go, for hours. For most of the last decade I have been driving 20 year old vehicles with rusting frames and slurring tape decks. My Subaru might be from 2009 but it is being lovingly tended to, with oil changes and new (new to be, they are used) winter tires. When I get inside it, I have heated leather seats and a working AC and a safe netted backseat for my dogs. I sold my white pickup truck, so now it’s my only vehicle. But my only vehicle is solid, safe, dependable - at least today.

The farm and property looks so much better, and its managed so much better. If you’ve been following my story for a while, there’s been years of chaos and passion and years of depression and experimentation and now there’s the post-coming out life - everything is so much better and feels so much safer. I have the clarity of self, the confidence in my own body, to not be distracted by fear and depression. You don’t realize you were living with it until you are out of it, but last night while closing up the coops and checking on the horses before bed - I saw the way things are now. I saw the trimmed and weed-whacked lawn and tended gardens. I saw the new porch on the side of the house, the flowers in pots, the way the hillside is green and pasture managed with the right number of livestock for my acreage and how lush it looks compared to years in the past.

The house is slowly getting repaired. Last summer the bathroom floor was ripped up and replaced from water damage. This summer my friends are helping me repair the kitchen floor. I need to figure out how to pay for that plywood and lumber on top of firewood and winter hay and a broken sliding glass door (long story) but I will hopefully figuring it out. I am running a logo and pet portrait sale. I am working a part-time job, and I have never worked more or harder. The disci[line that has come out of necessity is what I am most proud of. I am still here, still working for the same dream, and somehow things are a little better all around, from the way the living room is decorated to small improvements - it feels like a place being tended, because I am finally tending myself.

I need to take time and think about days like these. How a few days ago I woke up and wrote for a few hours after tending the animals and plants on my own farm. How I made myself a breakfast of my own farm’s sausage and eggs, and then took a shower with soap I made. I spent the day creating art for customers, working on freelance, and then when I couldn’t handle another email and had communicated with at least 5 clients on their projects - grabbed my rod and fishing gear and walked down my mountain road to fish. All I ever wanted was a small life in my own hands. I didn’t care if I was rich or poor, single or married, none of that felt as important as being content and safe within my own home and body. I used to read books and stories of people who felt their life was enough and the peace that came with it. Now I inhale and exhale slow, and I look around a home that I still worry about slate roof leaks and weak floors, but that I am slowly improving. For years things fell apart, and now there’s more hope they will get better.

I think I will rehome my horses before winter. I don’t want to, but it may be time. The cost of hay on top of the higher mortgage is too much. Thinking of Merlin leaving has my arms shaking a little as I write but that’s just where things are. I think to get through this winter I will need to eat, live, and be more frugal than ever. If you’re local and may be interested in Merlin and Mabel, send me a note and we can chat.

In other news, I am working on feeling safer. I am working on writing more. I feel like writing is what I am best at, what I can do that can make more people feel at peace with their own farm or forest dreams, and perhaps sharing my own fears and insecurities will help relieve yours?

Things will get better. I just need to keep trying, keep asking, keep hoping, and keep writing. I’m 17,000 words into this River Diary project. I hope to keep it up through trapping and hawk training season, keep this a journal of fins and feathers and maybe no one will want to publish it but me, but I can assure you it’s better writing than anything I’ve done before and it somehow has kept hope alive in me that things can still get better. That I can still write books, make art, raise animals, and support myself out here. Things are scary and uncertain, they always have been, but now in my 40s I just want to feel safer. So change is coming, it has to, but hopefully part of that change is a lucky break. In the meantime I am reaching out to magazines and websites, working part time, seeing what has to stay and go, and hoping to just make it to that holy day in October when the firewood is stacked, the house is repaired, the barn is full of hay, and instead of fearing winter I can just feel like I’ll be warm and safe.

This life has been a fight, you just can’t know. But I am grateful for anyone still paying attention. Thank you. I hope there’s still a book in me you’ll see in a bookstore again, and I hope I get to fall asleep one future August day without that racing heartbeat. Today, things are scary. I don’t know how I’ll pay for all the things coming this month. I just know I will figure it out because I have to. Because I always have. Because it’s all I know how to do. It’s just me, and it’s always been just me carrying the weight of this farm. And if I only can depend on one person, I’m glad I ended up with myself.

So here’s to better luck and more hope. I want to stay, at least long enough to publish one more thing. Send positive thoughts. I need them.

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