A New Year’s Plan: Worshipping the Earth   15 comments

I’ve always enjoyed New Year’s Eve and the ensuing New Year’s Day. The midnight celebrations of the new year strike me as somewhat magical moments, with a fresh year stretched out before me and all its promises of bad habits eliminated, mistakes corrected, good habits established, a fresh sense of proper living beckoning. I’m a sucker for this arbitrary moment so embraced by our culture. I feel as though I should transition that moment of renewal to the Winter Solstice—to synchronize personal and natural transitions—but New Year’s Eve was always the celebration in my life growing up and so that tradition still has its hold upon me.

Sometimes I make resolutions and sometimes I don’t. But I never fail to attempt to regroup in the early days of January. I begin a new year of reading with a new reading list. I think about the bad habits I want to leave behind and the productive habits I want to establish. I take stock of the ways I’ve gone astray from my life goals and look to recenter and refocus myself. This year is no exception.

In fact, this year offers even more of an opportunity for a fresh start than normal. On January 1st, I took up a new residence. For the first time in over two years, I’m not living on a farm. This isn’t as drastic a change as it might seem, though. I continue to work the same two farm hand jobs that I’ve been working for the last year and my move was only about a mile down the road from where I was before. My life is changing, but it’s not a complete overhaul.

I moved to a new place, about a mile down the road. This is the view out my bedroom window, looking out on the North Fork of the Nehalem River. As you can see, we had a dusting of snow this morning.

I moved to a new place, about a mile down the road. This is the view out my bedroom window, looking out on the North Fork of the Nehalem River. As you can see, we had a dusting of snow this morning.

I’ve moved in with a couple, Anthony and Victoria, living in their house on nine acres along the North Fork of the Nehalem River. I have a decent sized room, my own bathroom, and a walk in closet. The house is a manufactured home that’s been altered and retrofitted. Anthony is an architect who focuses on sustainable design, so this home has been updated to at least somewhat take advantage of solar energy. It’s very well insulated. A number of windows were added to let in natural light and a few solar tubes were installed in the bathrooms for daytime lighting. The home is outfitted with a solar hot water heater which assists the electric water heater. It also is equipped with a highly efficient Sun Frost refrigerator. A wood stove sits in the living room and provides much of the heating during the winter. The furnace rarely turns on.

There is a large gardening space, as well, a green house, a compost system, and a wood-fired sauna that sees occasional use. A stream cuts through the property on its way down the hill to the river, though the drinking water comes from a well. This is perhaps the worst aspect of living here: the water has a strong sulfur taste and smell. After living on two farms with incredible water from above ground creeks, I was spoiled. The water doesn’t too much bother me, though. If that’s the worst part of being here, then I can hardly complain.

Over the last few months of 2012, I slipped into bad habits. I was distracted, spending too much time on the internet, and had allowed my living space to devolve to the point of messiness that it left me unmotivated to engage in productive activities. During the summer, my lovely roommates Kayleigh and Lily kept me socially engaged and my garden—in addition to my work, of course—kept me physically busy with productive tasks. Once winter rolled around, the roommates left, and my garden died back, I took all that extra time available to me and sunk it into bad habits of distraction. I wasn’t cleaning up after myself regularly and would far too often choose the distraction of the internet and movies over good work.

This was my own fault, the result of allowing bad habits to take over. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I’m very susceptible to patterns and habits. The bad ones put me into a negative feedback loop and the good ones put me into a positive feedback loop. But my self control is something that I’m still working on and leaves much to be desired; even when I know I’m engaging in bad habits and understand what I need to do to transition myself to productive work, I too often don’t do it. I allow myself to fall into distraction even though it depresses me and reduces my quality of life.

This happens most often when I spend a lot of time alone. At my previous place, I was alone more often than not the last few months. The farm owners also live on the property and I still was working, so it wasn’t a constant solitude, but the farm owners live in a separate house and we didn’t spend significant amounts of time together. The other social outlets in the area largely clear out in the winter. There are a good number of people around in the summer but far less in the winter, and many of those who do stay here through the winter time are people in town whom I haven’t made friends with.

Much of my socializing, in fact, has been happening in Portland, where I’ve been dating a woman now for a couple months. She’s fantastic and has made my life quite a bit better, but she’s 80 miles away. She’s not integrated into my day-to-day life. I go into town to see her, have a grand time, feel good about life, then I come back here to the coast and to a certain amount of solitude and my bad habits. It’s been unsustainable and it’s knocked me off the path I’ve been talking about here at this blog, upon which I place such high value.

Another angle of the view out my bedroom window.

Another angle of the view out my bedroom window.

I believe it’s important that I be able to change bad habits and unproductive patterns without having to make large physical changes in my life, such as moving to a new location. One of the downfalls of our modern society, I believe, is something of which Wendell Berry has written of extensively: the migratory nature of our culture. Many of us here in America have an expansionary frame of mind stemming out of the westward migration of the past and the availability of cheap energy and resources. As such, we feel we can use up a place because there’s always somewhere new and fresh to move to and begin anew. Sometimes this is conscious activity, sometimes not. Cautious and thoughtful husbandry, within this frame of mind, is not required. But, of course, this is a destructive and false belief and one that contributes to many of the ways in which we live poorly and destructively. And so I fight to eliminate this way of thinking from myself and to reorient myself toward the ideal of staying in place and of caring properly for my home.

Yet, in recent years, I have moved continuously. In the last four years, I’ve lived in six places, including my new residence. This has been the result of multiple farm internships and of the way I’ve chosen to live my life in recent years, with far fewer resources. It means that my homes have often been temporary, either of necessity (a set-period internship) or of likelihood (living situations that are expected to be temporary but with no set expiration date.) In some ways, this can be frustrating. In other ways, it’s one of the costs of how I want to live. But ultimately, I want to settle into a particular place, learn it well, care for it, and establish the patterns and habits that will allow me to live more sustainably, on less, with a small amount of money and resources and energy. Familiarity of place is one of the most critical elements of such a way of living.

In my small defense, the last three places I’ve lived have been within a few miles of each other rather than spread across different geographical areas. I am closer to settling, and I would be happy to live in this area here on the north Oregon coast for the rest of my life. I like the community, I love the land, and I continuously feel blessed to now be making a living farming, outside of internships. As others might feel about landing a powerful and high-paying job, I feel about finding good farms to work on for a small but sustaining hourly wage: it is a grace. Here is home for now, and hopefully a good ways into the future.

But once again, I have moved, and I must admit that this move feels like a fresh start and an opportunity to limit my bad habits and reinstate good ones. I had fallen into a funk at my previous residence, through no fault of the place itself but only of my own shortcomings. This move has given me a psychological boost to changing my behavior. It’s a small condemnation of myself that I felt a need for such a physical move to make psychological and emotional changes, but it’s just the place where I’m at for the moment as a flawed human on this chaotically beautiful world. I’ll continue to work on making myself better, on gaining a greater control over my habits and patterns.

There is an element to my new home that is specific to this place, though, which is the people I now live with. I’ve only been here ten days, so there no doubt will be continual learning of how to live with my new roommates and continual adjustments for all of us, but I must say that it’s a joy to be living with people again after a few months of residentiary solitude. Particularly in the winter, I think it’s important for me to be a part of daily community. I’ve enjoyed sharing meals again, having casual evening conversation, having new perspectives and ideas introduced into my thought processes. Similarly, my roommates are older than me and are conservationists—they have designed habits of living rooted in an attempted sustainability and lighter living. They have established patterns and habits that support these ideals as well as a seemingly settled way of day-to-day living. This, I have to say, is a godsend for me at the moment.

As mentioned earlier, I have been scattered and at the mercy of my own bad habits of late. I haven’t been living particularly well, though I can’t say I’ve been living horribly, either. But I have been undisciplined and that lack of discipline has pushed me from my stated goals, which has been painful for me. Through their behaviors, Anthony and Victoria are reminding me of the value of good habits and patterns of living, and of how simple it can be to integrate tasks and ideals into my day-to-day life. They are reminding me how to live well, which is something I had half forgotten the last few months. That, too, is a basis for a fresh start—the modeling of good behavior in my small community of residence.

So 2013 is bringing a particularly fresh start for me this year. I have new residence in a beautiful and settled place, with good people providing good conversation, and who model excellent patterns of behavior for me. I am reminded of good ways of living and of the simplicity of it, given the right frame of mind and a deterrence from self-defeating thought patterns. Much as with the good work I have found, this is a grace.

With this fresh start, I have fresh goals. First of all, I plan to refocus on my reading and study this year. Last year, I only read 17 books. I imagine this will seem a lot to some people here and not a lot to others. For me, it’s a small amount. I normally read closer to 50 books in a year and I like that level of reading. I plan to get back to it in 2013, assuming I don’t run myself too ragged in the summer (though much of my reading takes place during the year’s shoulders, anyway.) Second of all, I plan to get back into various homesteading projects. I haven’t made butter in a number of months; I want to resume that habit. I have some cabbage in the mudroom that will make some fine sauerkraut, as well as providing fresh eating. Fermented ginger carrots would be excellent, as well. I’ve been meaning to make my own enzyme cleaner for months. I finally am going to do that. I’ll attempt to bake a homemade loaf of sandwich bread that will reduce or eliminate my desire to keep buying Gabriel’s bread, a Portland bakery whose sandwich bread I adore. I haven’t made ginger ale in a long time—add it to the list. Homemade pasta on the simple, hand-powered pasta machine I received for Christmas over a year ago? Absolutely, it’s time to give it a try.

When I step away from the computer and engage in a productive activity in the home, I feel infinitely better than if I had just spent that time continuing to stare at a health-sapping screen. And yet, the screen beckons me constantly. It’s a weakness, the amount of time I give to it doing unproductive things. Turning it off and engaging myself in the kitchen, rediscovering the earth through my food, reading a good book or watching the birds on the back porch, considering the world, writing a letter to a friend, taking a bit of time to listen to good music and watch the flames in the wood stove—all this brings me a happiness the screen often can’t. And so, in this new year, I am recommitting myself to stepping away from the screen and putting my time and effort into quality activities, into connection and good health and happiness. I’ve noted this quote before, but Peter Berg once relayed these words of a woman from Mexico City: “The kitchen is the place where you worship the earth.” I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment and, further, think screens are often where we lose touch with the earth—one of the primary places where we learn to degrade the earth. I want to worship the earth instead, which means more time in the kitchen and less time on the internet.

That said, I am keeping my commitment—sporadic as it’s been of late—to this blog. There is still much I want to say and much conversation I want to have with all of you, those who take the time to read my thoughts. I know I’ve been largely absent for many months now and that I’ve made false promises in recent times. All I’ll say at this point is that I intend to write more regularly here going forward. I don’t yet know how regularly that will be, but I enjoy writing for this blog quite a bit when I actually sit down and do it and I want to resume that habit in the new year. The screen is not so bad in this regard.

I expect I’ll continue to add to The Household Economy as I recommit myself to kitchen projects and other homesteading activities. I also intend to write more entries in the Encounters series. I have a number of encounters I still want to write about. The How To Be Poor series on voluntary poverty is a different beast. I have not felt happy with it of late. It’s not that I don’t still have a commitment to voluntary poverty, but I don’t like what I attempted to do in that series of writings. I knew too little. I portrayed the series as one of instruction when, in reality, I am far more a student than a teacher when it comes to such a way of living. I tried to avoid being too preachy, but it came through anyway. It’s not that I don’t think I should write about voluntary poverty, it’s that I think I should have been writing about it in a different way, with more humility, more openness, and more a sense of imparting my own experiences rather than attempting to give people advice, which was one of the ideas behind the series. I made a mistake. I got ahead of myself. I do that sometimes.

I’ll have to think more about How To Be Poor before I decide what to do with that. I may just put it to bed with a final post in which I express some of the thoughts above. Or I may try to take it in a new direction. I’ll decide soon enough and then put up a new entry in the series. (I’m open to suggestions, too, if anyone wants to provide some feedback in the comments.) Whatever I do with it, though, expect thoughts on voluntary poverty and simple living to remain a part of this blog. After all, it’s a major component of what I’m trying to do with my life.

Finally, I may yet start the Considerations of Death series that I anticipated almost exactly a year ago. I still think about it at times and have a few entries in the mental queue that I would like to write at some point. I’ll leave it up to whim for the time being.

Yesterday, after doing a couple hours of work over at the farm I lived at until just a couple weeks ago, I wandered over to my garden there and began the long-neglected work of harvesting out some of the remaining food. I filled a 14-gallon plastic trash bag with multiple heads of cabbage, a few pounds of frost-sweetened carrots and parsnips, an oversize bunch of kale, and a few stray beets. I brought them home, cleaned them, ate a bit and packed the rest away in the fridge and the mud room. There is still a bounty of food out there: more carrots in the grounds, lots of parsnips, probably at least a hundred pounds of potatoes that I really need to retrieve. Still more kale, as well. It’s the remaining legacy of this summer’s good work, of the fulfillment of ideals and the result of good habits, of sustaining patterns. It was a reminder, as well, of the importance of working against distraction and malaise and of finding a constant renewal within an engagement of the earth. That can happen out in the garden, in the kitchen, at either of the two farms I work for, or even on the back porch, the back yard, in the fire in the wood stove, in all the abundant places in which the natural world asserts itself and recaptures my attention.

I intend to cultivate that capturing. I intend to worship the earth—and to let it revive me in this new year.


15 responses to “A New Year’s Plan: Worshipping the Earth

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  1. Read this post through a few times, and each time has left me feeling more peaceful. Thanks!
    My own thoughts and plans for the new year are quite similar to yours. Read more, enjoy my surroundings more, garden more, stay away from the computer more ;), and help my family do all these as well.
    Best wishes and always waiting for your next post!

    • Thank you, Kathleen! Unsurprisingly, I find your list of intentions excellent. I wish you much success and I should have another post up here in the next couple days, so it shouldn’t be too long a wait.

  2. Hello Joel, it’s been quite the time since I last commented on your blog (it’s been quite a year for me too), but I’m very happy to see you posting again.

    I have a few things to say to you about the things that you say – (though in no particular order):

    I doubt that I am the only one of your readers that appreciates your candour in your self-scrutiny and life journey, but you DO write about it so well and I always enjoy what you have to say, the sincerity with which you say it and also the poetic eloquence of your writing. It’s a real, life-affirming pleasure to share your thoughts and words and also, that, ineffable sense of solidarity and love of the earth (wherever we are on it). So thanks for that, and please do carry on writing and sharing (though not as a distraction of course!).

    I find it interesting how you feel the need to set yourself such hard (as in discrete) goals. Where does the drive to set yourself such a list of things to do come from? And who or what are you comparing yourself to when you find yourself wanting? In short, I think you are way too hard on yourself and if I were you I would spend a goodly amount of time looking deeply into yourself and the need to perform. Who else in your life is measuring you? Why do you need to do it?

    We are all human here, and for the most part, we all share your dream – keep up the GOOD work and remember that you are never alone in your striving, even in your solitude.


    • Hi Matt,

      Thank you so much for the kind words about my writing. I can’t seem to cut back the candor here, so I’m glad that there are those out there who enjoy that element. I’ve always felt like it might help those who find these lifestyle changes challenging at times. It would seem a cop out to me to write about my successes in living up to my own ideals without noting the failures. Besides, I’ve always found that to be the interesting part of life, hard as it can be sometimes (more along this line of thought in a future post.)

      As for the rest of your comments . . . whoo boy, that’s a tangled mess of psychology, answering those questions. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it, or that I don’t have some sense of what drives me and has shaped my attitudes in life, but there’s quite a bit to it. Your questions are good, though, and I actually really appreciate that you’ve given me a few specific drivers for this line of thought.

      I set hard goals in the hopes of actually accomplishing something substantial. If I don’t set hard goals, it’s as likely as not that I won’t get much of anything done. I love good work and find it very rewarding—but if it’s up to me to choose between work and lounging around drinking coffee and reading, there’s a good chance I’m going to do the latter. Which is great, up to a point! I love lounging, coffee, and reading, and I’m perfectly content to do a good amount of that without guilt. But there’s more I want to accomplish which means putting down the coffee and getting to work.

      I’m comparing myself to an ideal of who I want to be, which I suppose is made up of some combination of the people I read and then the abstract and concrete ideas they help me form about what I believe is a good way to live in this world. Of course, I’ll never live up to an ideal, but I can get closer. I can improve. Do I take this too far at times? Very possibly.

      One of the realities about my psychology I figured out long ago is that I’m a pleaser. I want people to be happy with me, to be impressed with me, to feel that I’m competent and kind and a good person to have in their lives. Essentially, everyone is measuring, at least in my head. I’m sure most aren’t in real life, and I’m certain that people give me far less consideration than I imagine them to. This is actually one of the reasons I make these public statement of goals—a goal stated just to myself is far easier for me to break or fail than one I have confessed to in public because I don’t want to disappoint anyone.

      I’m not saying this is particularly healthy (or maybe more specifically, that the extent to which I take it is healthy) but it is what it is for now. I’m aware of it, if nothing else.

      Now to talk about the source of all this, we’d have to get into my childhood, family, and other elements of my past, and that would just be the stuff I’ve figured out. Too much for a comment and much of it too private to account for on a public forum. But I certainly could write more on this topic with some time for thought, consideration and organization. I wonder if anyone would find such a post interesting?

      Anyway, thanks again, Matt—both for your encouragement and for providing me new thought and focus on my psychology. It’s helpful.

  3. Hey Joel,

    Sorry, for some reason I must have subscribed to the thread via my old email address so didn’t know that you’d replied.

    I hope that you didn’t consider my questions too blunt – they were off the cuff and I meant them in spirit of open debate and friendship. I too struggle with discipline much of the time (though I have the excuse of 3 young children), though interestingly, I often choose the opposite path to you in that I don’t set myself enough hard targets. And it’s a fair point, that if you don’t set a target, then you don’t miss the target do you?! So you can’t beat up on yourself (great), but instead you beat up on yourself for not achieving things with a more diffuse, vague sense of failure.

    And there it is – failure – miss the target and you’ve failed, don’t set the target and you’ve failed. You’re right, if you are a ‘pleaser’ as you describe, then you are bound to be aware of others’ expectations, whether actual or imagined – and this too can drive you on to set more targets. Some you might hit, but some you won’t. Does this make you a good or a bad person? Right, it makes you neither! But it can greatly contribute to how you view yourself, whether as a failure or not. But really we need to get way beyond this ‘performance’, we need to get into the meat of experience, and being, and oneness with the universe. I’m not sure setting targets will make this more or less likely – my guess is not, and that it’s just a peculiarity of us dealing with our ego. If we can lose ourselves in the moment, in good work or some other meditation, then we can shed the need to perform. But to do that we need to get our ass off the sofa! Which is back to discipline, and so, to targets…. ho hum

    Whenever I feel that need to strive (for whatever reason), I always bear in mind the Zen saying: ‘it’s never too late to do nothing’ and that often keeps me grounded.

    Anyway, I certainly wasn’t probing into anything too personal on here, but if you do find the time and the inclination to write about this issue of motivation, then I for one would be interested in your thoughts as I for one have found your honest writing style really useful in my life. Thank you.

    • No worries, Matt, I didn’t find your questions too blunt. I don’t tend to be overly private and am pretty willing to get into my mental nitty gritty.

      I agree with you about the need to get into experience itself, rather than constantly measuring our performance. That’s an ideal I’ve been aware of and subscribe to, but it’s something that I struggle with at times. It manifests not only just in a frame of mind, but even in the right balance of activities. Sometimes I wonder if I should be spending a bit less time reading and more time out taking walks. Probably, I should, but boy, I do love the reading, too! Then again, I’m outside much of the time for my work, so it’s not like I’m spending too much time cooped up inside. On the other hand, I often am focused on my work while outside and thus fail to engage the world in the same way I would if I just went out for a stroll. (Except when the bald eagles call. Whenever I hear that at work—which is at least once most work days—I stop what I’m doing and look for them.)

      Since you bring up children, I’ve been recently spending some time with my girlfriend and her three year old daughter. What I’ve noticed during that time is that I’m content to just be with them, to play with the little girl, to talk and cook with my girlfriend, and so on. Granted, this is often time when I’m sort of “on vacation” in a certain sense, so it would be interesting to see how it played out if we actually lived full time as a family, but it’s interesting to me to see how many of the concerns and interests I have on my own fade to the background when I’m with them. How much would having a family change the way I lived my life? How would it alter my goals and desires and the ways in which I measure myself? I feel like part of these numerous goals and intentions stem from the fact that I’m a single person, so I can spend much of my time focused on myself and the way I want to and feel I should live rather than having to take into consideration not only myself, but my family as well.

      Anyway, I’ll mull the idea of a post about the personal motivations and psychology behind what I do. I think it would be good for me to write and hopefully a few people—at least you, if nobody else!—will find it interesting and perhaps helpful.

  4. Always good to see a new post up from you. Usually, when I see you’ve posted something over on the Arch Druid Report, I know there’s a chance that there’s something new, over here.

    Oh, habits. Good and bad. I certainly know a lot about those. Unfortunately, in my case the bad outweigh the good :-). I also moved this last year and thought it would be something of a new beginning. In some ways, yes. I’ve established good routines, good habits, but some I did early on have fallen by the wayside. Too much of my life runs on “might as well do it tomorrow as it doesn’t, absolutely have to be done, today.”

    I’m good a small things. My morning routine is pretty good. Automatic pilot. Two cups of tea and one cup of water. I alternate between a bowl of oatmeal with fruit and an egg sandwich and banana for breakfast. Do my back exercises. Dip into my little daily meditation book that’s so well used that it’s falling apart. (Thought for today: “At the end of the game the king and pawn go back into the same box.” Old Italian proverb. Might want to save that one for your “Considerations of Death” thread.) Floss and brush my teeth. I never leave dishes in the sink. Don’t know where I picked that up, but I just do. But beyond those things …. Todays a red letter day as I also did laundry and baked a loaf of cornbread. Cooked up enough rice to see me through a week.

    And, I’ll probably spend the rest of the day drinking tea, reading and watching DVDs from the library. When there’s so many other things I need to be doing. There’s still stuff sitting around from the move, almost a year ago. Boxes left unpacked. Stuff on the counters. But, on the other hand, I’ve taken 14 boxes of stuff (mostly antiques and collectibles) to auction. Since Thanksgiving. Time to round up another 4 boxes, or so.

    As far as the Internet goes, I probably spend an hour or two a day in front of the screen. So far, I have managed not to sign up for Netflix or Amazon Prime. A constant temptation that rears it’s ugly head every time I want to watch something from the library and the hold lists are abysmally long. But I know if I do, I’ll be spending too much time in front of the screen. Can I live without season 6 of “Dexter?” Season 3 of “Walking Dead?” Season 4 of “True Blood?” Probably.

    I’ve got so many big projects on the back burner. I’ve got to fortify the garden area against the varmints along with building a chicken house and yard. Looks like my friends are going to give me their 6 Barnevelder chickens if / when they go to Idaho. Apple trees to prune.
    Screen door to repair. Section of gutter that needs to be replaced. Etc. etc..

    That bit you mentioned, “…everyone is measuring…” Yup. I feel that a lot, too. I hate to have people watch me work. Which is one of the reasons I don’t like the idea of people moving in so close to me. But, it looks like they’re gone most days. Part of it is if I do something stupid, I’d rather do it in private :-). But, rationally I know that most people are so self absorbed that they really don’t give me a thought. Especially since I’m now old and rapidly moving toward invisibility as far as the rest of the world is concerned 🙂 . Another thing I heard awhile back that I try to keep in mind; “What other people think of me is none of my business.”

    Well, I certainly do run on. One last thought which veers off in a completely different direction. My friends brought me by three packages of goat meat. Some steaks and some ground. A first for me. From two of the goats I took care of, while I was farm sitting for them. Laverne and Shirley. I’m sure I’ll think of them when I chow down. But not too long or too hard. Same goes for the chickens I helped process, last summer. And, got a share of. Well, I’d better get used to the idea. Once I get my chickens, I’m sure there will be some “processing” I’ll be doing from time to time.

    • Hi Lew,

      Always good to see a new comment from you! I like keeping up with your life and finding out the latest happenings.

      I quite like both the Italian proverb and the bit about what others think of you being none of your business. Good wisdom in both of those, seems to me.

      Love the morning routines. That’s pretty hard and fast for me, too. It always starts with a thermos of coffee. I actually am about to start cutting back a bit, as I’ve slowly grown the amount of coffee I drink over the last year or so. But I’m not ready to cut it out completely. That time may come—we’ll see. But yeah, coffee first and foremost when I get up and I make up a couple fried eggs and toast, too, if I’m working that morning. If I’m not and I’m just gonna be lazing around reading, I may make up the eggs or perhaps oatmeal or I may just drink the coffee and not eat until the afternoon. I’ve always had something of a morning routine, ever since I was a kid. Used to be I always ate cereal for breakfast and for the longest time I had to take a shower every morning. I didn’t feel awake or functional until I did. I lost that habit around the time I started to farm and now it’s generally just a shower every two or three days, except sometimes during the summer when I’m doing quite a bit of gardening and farming every day and getting pretty mucky. And now I very rarely take showers in the morning. Interesting how habits change.

      I’m also right there with you on the hatred of being watched while I work. I irrationally hate this, and pretty much for the same reason—I hate the idea of screwing up or appearing incompetent in front of another person. I’m not entirely sure why this is, but I imagine it goes back to the self-esteem issues I always had as a kid. Thankfully, I now work for people who mostly are good about leaving me to figure things out on my own. Sometimes that’s intimidating in its own way, but it’s also been very helpful and an excellent way to learn.

      Understood on the unpacking. I’m trying to be better with my recent move and actually getting things put way, but it’s so tempting to just shove boxes back in the corner of the closet. It’s a good indication, though, that I need to get rid of some stuff. Good on you for taking things to the auction and clearing out the abundance. A little bit of catabolic collapse on the personal level, right? (This is actually an idea I’ve been knocking around in my head the last few days—perhaps I’ll be writing a post on it in the future.)

      Avoid Netflix and Amazon, if you can. I had Netflix back in the day, before they were doing the streaming and it was just DVDs. I know enough not to dare sign up for it again, especially with the streaming. I’ve experienced it via other peoples’ subscriptions and, man oh man, what a trap that is. You don’t need the new seasons of those shows at all—but I understand wanting them. I’ve watched two of those three myself, after all and I’ve only avoided Walking Dead because I’m trying not to bring a new show into my life to suck away the time (Game of Thrones did that last.) And season six of Dexter isn’t that great anyway (though, okay, I admit it, season seven was quite the revival, I thought.) But yeah, I partake in those distractions, too, and I understand it, especially when you’re living alone.

      Anyway, you think you run on. Look at this! I’m the worst of the lot here. But I like your run ons as it’s always good to catch up with you. Your list of projects sounds like a good one and I look forward to hearing how they go. As for the goat meat—enjoy the hell out of it, after sparing a few moments for some reflection on your time with Laverne and Shirley. You don’t always get to enjoy meals you so thoroughly earned.

      • On reflection, I think staying on top of the dishes thing dates back to my heavy boozing days 🙂 . If I kept the dishes under control, then everything else was under control.

        On not being observed while working, and possibly screwing up. I just write that off to “being a guy thing.” 🙂 .

        Oh, I’m very leery of Netflix and other such things. I had Netflix for awhile. First it was one disc at a time, then two. Then streaming. Being very aware of all kinds of addictive behavior, I could see it for what it was and went “cold turkey.” The stuff I get from the library eats up enough time. Maybe I’ll take up knitting, just to be a little productive instead of just zoning out. Or, I could also be pulling stuff together for the auction and unpacking more boxes.

        Well, back up to the top. I see you have a new post.

        • Heh. I thought I might take up knitting once. Got a lesson from the co-owner of one of the farms I worked for and promptly never did it again. Not that I didn’t like it or anything like that, I just never much felt the urge to do it. I guess if I’m sitting around, I’m probably just gonna read. But it seems like a great hobby to keep the hands busy, so I recommend you give it a shot. Hopefully you’ll take to it more than I did.

  5. Man, I saw “The Power of Letting Go” in my email inbox and figured I’d read it…that was an hour ago. I’m still here. For some reason “A New Year’s Plan” never got emailed to me.

    I relate to your struggles with time management. I’ve been having a bit of a mental crisis on that front myself. That is to say I’ve been thinking a lot about how important it is how you spend your time. What do you spend your time doing? What could be more important than that? Yet, at the same time, what is there that is important for you to do? What is the point of your existence? The question you have to ask yourself is what do you want out of life? I struggle with all of this as well.

    I think we can live too intentionally. I think you, like me, were probably raised with a good bit of the protestant work ethic programmed into you. I left Christianity for Atheism in my teens and then moved to Buddhism in my 20’s and left that for nothing (cept maybe some lip service to Druidry thanks to JMG). The Buddhism gave me an understanding of time and purpose that I otherwise would not have. In the end your inaction can be just as important as your action. I would say the two are equal. Not doing something can be far better than doing the wrong thing. I think it’s more important to allow yourself some compassion to just be. After all, who is judging you other than you? I think, for me at least, the greatest good is to just be, and to be okay with that. I’ve bought into Buddhism’s eight fold path, although I don’t practice it consciously much anymore. I too read a lot. What are you doing when you are reading? You are just sitting there, reading. Is this any better than just sitting there meditating? Or staring at a television screen anesthetized by entertainment? With all three you are just sitting there doing nothing. I would say it’s a matter of quality. But I don’t have the answers either. Like I said, I’ve been struggling with the exact same things as you. We are very similar. Well, except you are much more optimistic than I…at least optimistic sounding.

    Lastly, on the question of family and it changing your outlook. It does, drastically. I married and we have a 2 and a half year old son and our second son is due in May. It changes EVERYTHING!! If it were just me, I’d like to think that I’d be in some other country living the life of a subsistence peasant. I’d like to think that I would NOT be contributing to the American lifestyle and our destructive wealth pump. Or maybe I’d be in a monastery meditating my way out of Samsara. The point is that I can’t do those things now. Now I find myself in nursing school because I need the money and for no other reason. I’m not complaining. I’m just stating facts. The question is (as pertains to the family one), do you want to have your time to yourself for the majority of your time and then occasionally, when you think about it, wonder where the meaning is? Or do you want to have the majority of your time sacrificed to family and in those times of reflection be filled with meaning? At times I wish my time was my own. Yet, there are feelings of Joy and fulfillment that I get from watching my son that I would never know any other way. He also drives me bat shit crazy a lot, as does my wife. The life of a married man. Yet I consciously chose it. I don’t regret it either. Just makes it a lot harder to live by your ideals. Because for me, the ultimate question is can I afford to have the ideals? I’ve got a family to feed and care for, so until those requirements are met, I don’t have the “luxury” (if it is a luxury) to ponder.

    • Good thoughts, Aaron. I constantly struggle with the question of how to spend my time. And while I wasn’t officially raised in any religion, I definitely got a good heaping of protestant work ethic programming.

      The thing is, though, I don’t have a problem with doing nothing. Granted, I don’t do it that often, but when I do actually do nothing, I’m generally pretty content with it. If I lay in the grass on a nice summer day, I’m cool with that. Wander off into a stand of trees and sit and think for a bit? No problem. Stare off into the sky while I search for Bald Eagles? Definitely not beating myself up over that. Listening to the creek, watching the water flow, running my hand through it? Some of the best nothing I could possibly do.

      No, it’s the distractions I beat myself up over. The internet. Media. Reading multiple articles about the NBA. Those moments of just giving myself over to a pointless pop culture when I could be doing something more worthwhile. Granted, sometimes I do that and allow it, am fine with it. Sometimes after a good day of work or a successfully-written blog post, I’ll kick back with a beer and some downloaded show or a movie or a basketball game and just allow it, and that’s fine. But some days I’ll get up and get on the internet and then some hours pass and I’ve just been wasting time on nonsense, and then I get frustrated with myself.

      This is just my psychology. I’m working on it. I want to find that balance in using that psychology to keep me motivated to do good work and not letting it become too self-defeating. Even if I find myself “wasting time,” no need to beat the hell out of myself over it. But at the same time, I don’t want to just give myself a pass each time because a good portion of my life has been spent on these pointless pursuits—or distractions, to use a more honest term.

      I don’t know. I’ll get there. This is just one of my struggles right now. I know just being in this new place of residence has helped a decent amount.

      And as for the family stuff, yeah, what you say sounds like a pretty accurate representation of some of the things I’ve been sensing of late with this relationship. It’s a challenge in a lot of ways. I really value having the freedom to live my life the way I want to, even as I find myself really enjoying the sense of family. Then again, it looks like the relationship I spoke of isn’t going to work out due to the long distance aspect, so I guess it’s back to being somewhat unrestricted for the moment. There’s a small relief in that, I suppose, but I really loved the meaning of that relationship. We’ll see what the future brings for me. Just gotta keep on dancing with this crazy life.

  6. I think in the end family is a good idea. I just didn’t want to short change myself in life. I wanted to make sure that I experienced as much as possible. I figured procreating was on of the big ones about the human condition that I didn’t want to miss. I worry about things now…lol. I didn’t ever worry in my nomad 20’s. I lived the drunken moment.

    I’d recommend family to anyone who wants it. If you get the chance, have kids. It’s true that the future is austerity, but then hasn’t it always been? Aren’t you glad your parents had you? And at any rate, we’ve got a responsibility to combat the idiocracy…at least that’s what I tell myself. My wife and I have concluded that this is the last child. I was an only child and my wife’s sister is 10 years younger. We wanted our son to have what we didn’t. So we’re going to end up with two boys three years apart. They will know about the long descent before they can even understand it. I’m gonna cultivate little long descent druid leaders. That’s my good work now. The world is going to need as much of that as it can possibly be given. I’d have more kids if I had the time. But by the time I’m done with nursing school, and actually can afford another kid, my wife will be in her late 30’s. Not worth the risk. I’d love to experience a daughter (well…maybe…daughters are an entire different ball of wax for parents to put up with), but looks like it won’t be in this life. I suppose I’ll have daughter in laws to look after one day. That’s fine by me, let some other sap worry about his daughters.

    • It’ll be interesting to see if I have kids. I’m not convinced I will and I wonder if I really should—god knows we have too many people on this planet as it is. Then again, I think I could do well by a child. I’m not as worried about the austerity of the future. Humans have survived just fine through worse. I think the uncertainty gives me more pause, and the question if I should add to the population. Adoption? I don’t know, they probably don’t give kids to people dead set on voluntary poverty.

      End of the day, it’s going to depend mightily on whatever partner I end up, assuming I even do eventually find myself a long term partner. Either way, perhaps one day I’ll meet your long descent druid leaders. Sounds like the sort of people I should have a beer with in a dozen years or so.

  7. Pingback: A New Year’s Plan: Looking Inward | Of The Hands

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