October 2013: The Month of Changing Weather and Changing Moods
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 10 Americans suffers from depression. I know what you’re thinking. Oh no, I don’t want to read a Negative-Nancy post about depression. It’ll make me feel sad too. Well, I assure you this post ends on a happy note. And, it is pretty important to talk about. Most of those 1 in 10 will only experience depression a few times in their life. Others will suffer chronic and major depression for long periods of time or in bouts throughout their whole life. Many people who suffer from depression won’t tell you about it, in fact, they may seem chipper most of the time. But, for many, as soon as a lonely moment presents itself, the negative emotion wheels start turning. This is how it has been for me this October.
The weather has had some extreme fluctuations, some days with t-shirt weather, some requiring multiple hoodies. And many overcast days. All the rain has actually green-ed up the pastures, but the cold at night makes me worry about the chickens, though they are fully feathered now.
It has been extremely difficult to focus on all the planning and designing, provisioning, and developing, researching and organizing the components that make up our future at H.O.M.E. Farm, when that future seems so far away. The latest on getting our right-of-way access is that there is a possibility of it January 1st. It seems like that is so far away before we can actually get our hands in the dirt and start building our home. It seems like we are just waiting here, living in my in-laws house, waiting to start our life.
The other major addition to my negative outlook on life is that I really miss Illinois. There is a connection that I have with those tree-lined streets and rich black soils. Thunderstorms break the heat of the summer and lightning bugs flit about, while you walk through the grass barefoot. You can’t walk barefoot inside the house in this boot-wearing country. Illinois has snow in the winter and lush green landscapes in the spring. The fall landscape displays an exquisite vibrant array of colors to enjoy and always a symphony of birds. You don’t realize these little things until they are gone. I remember waking up to that symphony of birds, different ones in different seasons, and that’s what I really miss. Here, there is such a lack of trees and habitat for the birds, not to mention my mother in-law’s critter-killing Jack Russel terrier in the back yard, that even bird feeders don’t attract the birds. I’m having a hard time connecting with this yellowed, seemingly life-less landscape.
And then there’s the constant feeling of despair for our earth that probably depresses most environmentalists from time to time. In a world where it seems no one cares about the most important entity in our lives; our home, our planet, it is hard to try to do good. We could simply live up to the American consumerist culture, complete with a lawn, and a hummer, and eat whatever the grocery store offered, turning a blind eye to how our food and animals are raised. That life would be convenient. But because we don’t live that lifestyle, we are confronted with criticisms and raised eyebrows. Being different can be alienating and that contributes to my depression.
I recently watched an interview with one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry. Bill Moyers gave the interview at St. Catherine College in Kentucky, Berry’s home state. He has had to endure the destruction of his native landscape to mountain-top removal and he has witnessed the changing landscape of farming as it has gone from millions of self-sufficient small farms to a few thousand big agri-businesses. When asked what message he had for the young people of this world, he replied:
I say to the young people, don’t get into this with the idea that you’re going to solve all the problems, even in your lifetime. The important thing to do is to learn all you can about where you are and if you’re going to work there it becomes even more important to learn everything you can about that place. To make common cause with that place. And then resign in yourself, becoming patient enough to work with it over a long time and then what you do is increase the possibility that you’ll make a good example. And what we’re looking for in this, is good examples.
This is exactly what I needed to hear. There’s nothing quite like your favorite author telling you that you’re doing the right thing and to keep at it. You can see the rest of the interview here.
A major symptom of depression is an inability to see the future. A person in the hole of depression lives in this moment, which is all very zen and Eastern, except that this moment is very sad and self-loathing. If we think of depression as our view of the world from inside a deep hole, our view is very obstructed. We are basically alone with ourselves in the bottom of this hole. It is very easy to get stuck in there and very difficult to find our way out, simply because it is so dark. I have found that the best way to find the ladder is to go for a walk and really let out the tears, just tell the world how hard it is right now. Then, after a good cry, a self pep-talk props up the ladder that you will eventually climb out on. I tell myself all the things you read on those high school self-esteem and perseverance posters; anyone who has ever done anything great, important, or life-changing went through a struggle. They didn’t just simply do it with ease. They had to work at it. They had to be patient, they had to think positive thoughts, and they had to maintain focus. I think hearing yourself say those words of wisdom means more than if someone else says them, because they came from within. And that self will-power is what pushes you out of the hole so that you can see the whole perspective again, the Holistic view, if you will.
In my struggles with depression, I have learned that completing one task at a time is realistic and conducive to getting a lot of tasks done. Yoga at least twice a week helps me feel refreshed and focused. Eating good, wholesome, unprocessed foods is a given to help boost my mood as well. And, for that added inspiration, I just look to Mr. Wendell Berry. I try to focus on all this situation has to offer; we have a comfortable house to live in, time and resources to do our research, and we are taking steps to get where we want to be. We already have a lot of seeds ordered and we have a couple of home designs drawn up. I try to remind myself how much more difficult this would be if we didn’t have the internet! Believe it or not, there are birds! I got a book, Birds of Oklahoma, by Stan Tekiela, and I have spotted at least 4 of the birds. And, on the way home from running errands yesterday, I saw this:
If we want more birds, we have to create more habitat for them. If we want more trees, we have to plant them. If we want to live on this land, we have to learn it and love it! Perhaps this waiting until January is a necessary step in our progress. A time to really fine tune our plans and ideas. In these endeavors, I am constantly reminding myself of that quote from Gandhi; Be the Change you Wish to See in the World. That change is coming, but we have to be patient to see it.