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The Slipper Doesn't Fit  RSS feed

 
Posts: 61
Location: SW Ohio
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When I was a small child, I knew that the grown-ups had no idea what they were talking about, and that everything they did (and expected me to do) was wrong. I have spent most of my quasi-adult life waffling between dreams of lush hills and grazing goats, and trying desperately to swallow a giant nasty pill that everyone told me was necessary, but that just wouldn't go down. I didn't mean for that to sound dirty but I guess I'll work with it.

Okay Cinderella, what's the problem?
If you just work hard enough, do enough people-pleasing, follow all the rules and be pretty, POOF you will suddenly be happy with a giant fucking house and slaves waiting on you and your adversaries being tortured for your satisfaction. Wait..... that's supposed to make me happy? Torture, vengeance and opulence? That's what every hard-working, sweet-natured disenfranchisee wants, right? Right???
Society ain't no prince charming, but it sure wants to chop my toes off to make me fit its shoe. (Double irony in that at even most "successful" people are overworked and managing debt rather than accruing actual material wealth.)

Basically... and I'm SURE I am not the only one who has this experience... I've been trying for years to do the "normal" thing and have a steady job, a car, somebody to suck face with and all that jazz. In order to interface with others, I had to reject myself, suppress my gut and my conscience and do my damnedest not to let the misery show on my face.
I have known with varying degrees of certainty for some years that there WERE ways of living less horribly, and that it had to do with growing lots of different things in different ways than they do in the big dusty fields. I even heard the word "permaculture" and have been ignorantly bandying it about.

Recently a series of events left me seriously injured... by way of violence, by way of society's failure to deal with mental illness by means other than drugs and incarceration. I was REALLY depressed before this even happened, but it's been a lot more intense in the aftermath. What I want to say is... corporate institutional world, you are not my prince! I am not your princess! I don't want to wear your stupid glass slipper. It's stupid to make a slipper out of glass. I want to be barefoot and pick my nose and fart. I want to work outside and not hate dandelions. I LIKE the way cicadas sound.  People trying to convince me I was being bad by being sad trying to live the "normal" way, people trying to convince me I would feel better about myself if ONLY I would get a REAL job... you are wrong!!! You people telling me how to take care of myself, trying to convince me that loving myself means chopping my soul into tiny bits and selling two thirds of them plus 40+ hours a week not including commute, you are wrong! I did it, I tried! I got the money! I got the car! What I did to get it, only made me hurt more. Having it only made me feel empty. Trying to be happy made me really, really sad and doing what you said was "the right thing" made me feel really really really icky inside. What I did was, to come into agreement with your judgement on my deepest essence, and rule it toooo idealistic to use. So I tried to be a robot. I was a very good robot but I was very unhappy. I wanted to push the self-destruct button. So then I spent allllll my emotional energy trying not to want to push the self-destruct button. BUT I HAD ALREADY PUSHED IT THE MOMENT I GAVE UP MY DREAMS AND TRIED TO DO THE "right thing."
Well.
Enough of that.
I actually really like my deepest essence.
So do all the people I have deemed worthy to share it with.
The slipper doesn't fit, and I'm glad it doesn't.

I am glad that there is a better way. That it doesn't just have to be a less horrible way, but that it can even be a good way. I am glad that eventually I am going to have my grassy hill with goats on it. Maybe I do not know how exactly to do all the good things, but it is enough for me to know that lots of people are trying lots of different ways to do good things, and to spend my time learning. And that all together we are figuring out lots of really cool stuff that school and factories made us forget, and that we have tools that can help us learn and understand without having to steep knowledge in superstition in order to pass it on through tradition.
 
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Oh Sarah, I know some of the emotions you are facing well, and I am indeed empathetic to you for some of them.

In some ways I wish to comiserate with you, and in some ways not because in my own life a few things are still pretty raw...dealing with cancer, the loss of a baby, the theft of $11,000 worth of forest products...and just a general sense of hoplessness (some days) regarding what seems to be a never-ending parade of people trying to take advantage of me.

Fortunately I have never tried to be something I am not, but just being me has certainly caused problems. Cancer has disrupted my sleep patterns a lot these past three years, so last night I was thinking of just what I want, and know that living a traditional life is NOT something I want. This flys in the face of my parents who are welthy beyond belief, and live a very materislistic lifestyle. My father is a workaholic and retired 5 times, and just retired again. We had a huge retirement party on Saturday and on Monday he returned to work. He just cannot stop. Me...I would rather invest the time with my wife and children. A minamilist by nature, I am happy with less, and in the midst of giving up our sprawling house for one half the size.

However, one of the hardest things to deal with is the theft of our forest products. I get angry when I think about being robbed, and yet feel dumb in ways too because looking back there was some things I could have done to prevent it. I guess they call it victim-guilt. You were pretty vague on what happened to you...and that is okay...I am not prying for more information. I know friends on this very forum who have been victimized in horrific ways violently, and so when I weigh what has happened to me...and how I feel about it...my heart is even heavier for those who have endured far worse than me.

No, the glass slipper does not fit, though for me...a guy...I am not sure what exactly that would be as an equivilent...muck boots definately fit.

I do not believe in Karma...never have and never will...but do know that I am only accountable to make the most of the aspects of my life that I can change, and try my best not to get angry at the man that robbed me.
 
Sarah Koster
Posts: 61
Location: SW Ohio
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Travis,
thanks for your reply! I think that we can agree on the pain of helplessness, in regards to those things outside our control and our futile mental exercises to attempt to prevent them after the fact. I am sorry for the loss of your child and your illness. My mother miscarried when I was ten, and I had similar thoughts of I-should-have-prevented-this even though obviously it was not my fault. It was emotionally devastating even though it happened fairly early in the pregnancy, and I know that once a child is born the pain of losing them is far greater still.

I remember the moment I first realized that other people were ashamed of/disgusted by me... I was five years old. This was probably because I was honest, more so than my love for playing in mud. I would bring my mother bouquets of what were, to me, pretty wildflowers, but depending whose house I brought them into (my mom was very happy with them, it's other people who said this) I got "get those weeds out of the house!" The adults in my extended family were raised to be very image-oriented, wanting to appear to be at least as good (and preferably much better than) their neighbors. This meant mowing the grass frequently, spraying lots of chemicals, lying to make themselves sound good, wearing fancy clothes, being condescending towards black people and trying really hard to hide their hillbilly ancestry. They had a curious habit of trying to outsource their own shame by making fun of or manipulating others, especially kids. There was simply no room in their worldview for a child who could naturally point out their foolishness and wickedness just by being.

As for my not-being-myself-- this was almost always due either to financial pressure, or to attempt to please/appease a significant other or church group. My parents are extremely wasteful, live outside their means and struggle to keep their house. With my history of mental illness, homeless stints and a pernicious knack for being targeted by manipulative sociopaths, along with having the wonderful luck to have graduated college in the midst of the 2008 collapse, my parents house has been the designated landing pad for whenever something goes horribly wrong.
The problem with my parents house... my mother has ADD and my gardens and food forests have been subject to sporadic herbicide applications and lawnmower razings. I had cardboard around the bases of my trees CLEARLY marking them as "this is my tree I planted" and they got mowed over, along with my raspberry bushes. The raspberry bushes just grew back, but my little persimmon tree is all mangled to hell.
Secondly... I feel like a super JERK for holding back any of my paycheck from the household expenses. The problem is, regardless how much I contribute, the rent will still be a struggle because mom will just spend more to counteract my contribution. I am watching her waste my dad's retirement and he hasn't even retired yet... he is angry, she is nuts.... not a place where I can really get on my feet.

So... having no career and being miserable in whatever seasonal or fast food jobs were available (and yes, I have had to leave the college degree OFF my applications in order to get hired) no bondmate, no safe bit of land, and no young... I naturally feel pretty sucky. My jaw was broken and let me tell you, I REALLY like food so not being able to eat solids has been mega suck. PTSD flashbacks are mega suck, and worrying about whether or not my assailant will come to the house with a gun when he gets out of jail, is mega suck.
 
Travis Johnson
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Again, some of those things I can relate to, and some I cannot, but it does not mean though that I am not sympathetic and on others empathetic. I am honest to a fault, so if I said, "Oh Sarah...I sooooo understand", honestly on a few things I don't, and on many I do..., but I am sorry you are saddened. I really am. Deep hugs wherever you are from a true friend if you could find it in your heart to consider me one.

With the issues I have had the last few years, I felt compelled to write about the last three years of my life, stopping work on a few farming books I was working on. That was because the past three years have been trying times, but I am just now coming to terms with why it all happened, but more importantly, how I can help others through my experience.

It is probably a pipe-dream, but I would love to go throughout the country and share the amount of loss I experienced, my battles with suicidal thoughts, and ultimately where I always had a glimmer of hope. It was enough...just enough...but enough.


 
Travis Johnson
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Sarah...I have shared this before on here, but figured you might have missed it. It was a few months ago that I posted it. Still I think it shows how I felt at a very dark time in my life (January 2018) and hope you, and others can realize you are not alone, but there is always hope. Things do change...

I called it Black Thumb


The snow squeaks under my snow boots as I step upon it on my way to a tree that stands majestically before me. Snow only squeaks if it is below ten degrees, and this morning the digital numbers on the thermometer of my house have a negative sign before them. The thermometer is not the only thing that tells me it is twelve degrees below zero here, and that is Fahrenheit and not Celsius, but almost everything.

I had to beat the gate latch with the back of an axe to get the gate to open, had a battery charger on the battery bank of my bulldozer all night, and used almost a full can of starting fluid getting the diesel engine to start. Even then I am not sure if the copious amount of starting fluid proved too much for the metal rings on one of the pistons because at such cold temperatures, metal loses its strength, and the engine now has a skip to it. I do the math in my head for a rebuild, easily a thousand dollars, not to mention the lack of production that will result from all the downtime. It almost is not even worth it to have started the lumbering machine up, as at best a day of intensive logging will net me five hundred dollars for the day, and that is when things go well. When it is this cold, experience has proven that everything takes longer, resulting in lower production and less money made.

Sadly, it is all about the money because if I had a choice I would not even be out here. Property taxes alone mean I must be just where I am, and despite the damage to moving equipment at such temperatures, at four o clock when my day started, I saw the dreaded email from my banker, demanding a response, and more importantly a payment for a back-owed loan that is two months behind. The words were coarse and haunting, yet typed while he sat in a cushioned office chair, probably a supplemental heater under his desk because his thin argyle socks hardly help from the overnight chill of the office building as it dips slightly from seventy-two degrees down to sixty-eight. All this helps to form a tear in my eye from the cold, anger, resentment and jealousy that wells, and just as quickly freezes.

“I made the commitment, I gotta make the payment”, I say to myself, as I talk to myself, which is something I do a lot, and yes, I even answer myself. I spend ninety percent of my time alone, and with the exception of Ole Buck, who has become a friend these last two years; following me around with his big fourteen point rack since my skidder, bulldozer and chainsaw keep the deer hunters away in November, and the limbs and tops from the trees I cut, provide feed on which he can dine in the winter; I live a solitary life. Yet the statement I make to myself is the heart of all farmers; we pick ourselves up by the bootstraps, and try to soldier on, even though no one can predict the future, and for us the odds are stacked against us. Agriculture policy, government bureaucracy, and the fickle taste of American’s palettes all play a role in creating an environment in which we tread, yet have little control over it.

I wish I could talk to my wife about such things, but with four young daughters, she is forever preoccupied. Monday is grocery day at all costs, and when the kids are not in school, parent teacher conferences, school pick-ups, and church events all take up her time and concerns, so what is there to say? I hint, but even she misses the dire signs; “I am so tired”, “What about you getting a job?” “Is there anything we could save money on?” The pressure to pay bills is mounting, made worse by the fact that we are already frugal. With no vices to blame, like cigarettes, drinking or smoking; emotionally there is nothing to fall back upon either. There is nothing to numb the pain of guilt for not working hard enough, and the incredible amount of fatigue.

The latter is not from depression, but rather from cancer that is confirmed within my body. It was discovered six months before when my chainsaw cut through a sapling that was bent over by a felled tree. When it whipped up, it sent my chainsaw flying into my face leaving me knocked out and a gash between my forehead. With no cell phone…a needless cost since I have no one to talk too anyway…I looked at my skidder for a second, saw it was hitched to too many trees for a fast getaway, and instead starting to run, the snow at my feet covered in spraying blood. I made it just past the stream, just past the halfway point to my home and passed out from exhaustion. Coming too, I saw the pool of blood in the snow and knew if I did not get up and run, I might never get up. Again, that solitary life, where it could be hours before anyone even suspects something is amiss, let alone that I might be out in the woods and in trouble. However, I did make it home, made a call to 911, and ultimately to a hospital where twenty stitches and four days in the hospital allowed me to recover. It was there, in getting my CAT Scan for my concussion, that cancer was found.

A few months later it was removed, but the bank does not care if a farmer had surgery and could not work, or that the cancer depletes all energy levels. Every part of me is sore, and this includes the soles of my feet that are now feeling like blocks of ice in the deep freeze Maine is now in. I try to shake it off, to clear my head, of bills to pay, a sputtering bulldozer engine, snow up to my waist and absolutely no energy. The doctor’s think blood tests show signs of my cancer spreading, but I already know it has; not because I am negative in nature, but because no one knows my body better than me, and I can just feel its affects.

And yet in some ways I feel fortunate because I have good insurance, a benefit of years of working for unions that provide benefits after retirement. In regards to health insurance, that is great, but in terms of the life insurance it is more of a curse. That is because I know I financially I am better off dead than alive.

As I step up to the tree and begin to bore my way through the first cut, what would have normally taken just a few seconds to power my way through, takes an agonizing amount of time despite the sharpness of the saw due to the frozen wood. Still it is that same saw that can give my family what they deserve, not from the felling of trees that can be sold to a paper mill for money, but the taking of my life. Secretly I wish it would, and looking deep into the photos of me logging, a person can see it; not so much what is seen, but what is not. There is no safety gear, for if I make a mistake and my saw makes contact with flesh, what is it to the world? It has already happened three times, and it is not because I am too dumb to learn from my mistakes, but rather because I do not care if the next cut is fatal. I am just a dumb sheep farmer who misjudged income levels, cannot seem to work hard enough to pay my bills, and could relieve my wife of her vows of matrimony for life so that she could find someone better, someone with more energy, and whose dreams did not involve little white woolen balls, eating green grass, pooing out black pellets, that somehow makes red meat.

I have told her this, at least in my own way, telling her through tears that it sucks when your dreams die. She did not understand the gravity of the situation, and while she was sad and teared up, she has no idea how many times suicide runs through my head.

Even now, as a stream of sawdust spews from my saw; the thought invades…a shotgun blast to the head or the chest…which would be a faster death? I have thought of it so many times it does not even bring me to tears anymore, just a dark somber though of the details of it. I really do ponder which technique would be better. Just from this alone I know today will be a bad day as I know mulling suicide will beseech me all day…will bombard me a dozen times or more as I freeze out in the cold and ponder, ‘why do I do this?’

The truth is I know I am hardly alone, in fact, statistically speaking, I have the highest probability of actually following through with my thoughts. That is because I am a middle aged, ninth generation, full-time farmer. Despite the vast amount of media coverage regarding veterans and suicide, farmers have twice the suicide rate than veteran’s. This is a sad statistic as it is often stated, “armies travel upon their bellies.” This was pointed out one day when at age eighteen, and army recruiter who would not take no for an answer, took me to a restaurant and asked, “don’t you want to do something for your country?” Without saying a word, I gripped his plate of food and slid it towards me. He just looked down, then at me, then back at the removed plate of food and saw the point I was making, and later took me home and never asked again if I was going to join the army. The point was poignant; without farmers the country stops, even the greatest army in the world.

One reason the statistics are so murky on farmer suicides is that we have an ample amount of ways to carry it out. If I cut myself with a chainsaw and bleed to death, no one would be the wiser that it was self-inflicted, and not that of an accident. We also have access to massive equipment, so being driven over by a bulldozer is just as likely from and accident as from suicide, considering the high fatality rates associated with farming. All that and more means the statistics that are often cited for farmer suicides are probably low; very low. Self-inflicted gun-shot wounds are far easier to decipher, but considering the free access we have to them, it is no wonder they are often employed.

With the changes to the tax code, it is more than likely that farmer suicides will increase. This has been one of my most stressful years, and yet because of changes that were not in place just a few years ago, while I cannot even buy stuff to put in the Christmas stocking for my wife, on paper it looks as if this is the best year I have ever had financially. That says nothing about the payments my banker is so adamant about receiving, yet I cannot even deduct that cost, making the stress even more pronounced. The reality is, I must work through flesh numbing cold, to make money that I cannot keep, and pay even more money for making that money again on April 14th. For the farmer this all seems so wrong.

“How patient will my bank be: is the real question, and one I am not sure I know the answer too?

I have a history of always paying our bills, and love the feeling of paying off loans and being current on payments even if it means my family goes without, but there is a limit to trees that have grown to enormous size that makes valuable logs. Even now I am not logging to supplement my logging income, but rather to clear forest into fields so we can raise more sheep. Maine has lost most of its paper mills, and saw mills are failing as their own supplemental markets file for bankruptcy as well. In two years’ time, our forest, part of the American Tree Farm System has lost one-third of its value, and I am scrambling to convert forest into field while I can still get rid of the wood. This was not the way it was supposed to be, family forests such as mine, managed for sustainability were supposed to have its forest products purchased in difficult times as a reward for doing the right thing. Instead, the paper mills chose to not honor that agreement, leaving our well managed forests worthless. For me, this is forest that has been selectively harvested for nine generations. The pressure of losing such a long-standing farm is tremendous, and I would rather face the bite of one hundred shotgun balls to my chest or face then to be at the helm when all is lost.

My faith in God is pronounced, and so far, it has kept me from toting my shotgun to a far-off field and ending it all. It says in the bible that God will not give you more than you can handle, so how can I thwart his plan for my life by ending it via my own hand? Yet I have known many Christians who have lost everything too, and that includes farmers like me. For many I see their nine-hundred crosses dotted across in the mid-west from back in the 1980’s when they could not make their payments. Inevitably many of those farmers had faith in God as well, so how could they have taken their own lives? So far, the answer lies somewhere in the middle, keeping my shotgun resting on the rifle rack, but my chainsaw safety gear on a nail in the garage; should a logging accident end my life, so be it, it would be the ultimate relief from it all.

And so, I as I continue through the cold, notch out my tree, and make my back cut; skill allows the tree to start leaning over on its fateful arch to the earth. Somewhere along the way its branches hit a widow-maker and send a large branch crashing down. I see the movement out of the corner of my eye and dart out of the way at the last second, and yet as it crashes into the frozen ground, I curse myself for instinctually bolting.

“Darn”, I say, knowing sadly I am not under it, and all my problems as a farmer are gone.

Death, a final loving gift to my wife and four daughters.
 
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Location: Eastern Kansas
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Hi, Sarah.

I could not entirely unplug because I fell madly in love with a city boy, but I hear you.

We compromised: we moved out to the edge of town onto an acre of land, and I use the land as it suits me. And, I am so MUCH less stressed than when I lived in town and had to act "normal"! For unknown thousands of years our ancestors  did NOT live in cities, and some of us re just not suited for city life.

I feel so much better now that I can truly unwind! I did not know how on edge I was until I got out of the city!

What we did, was,  we found work in a smallish city, and then we took the interstate out of the city to what would be a reasonable commute. And that was where we looked to live.

Today I made relish from my own cucumbers and deviled eggs from my hen's eggs. Tomorrow I will pick blackberries and serve them on home-made yogurt. Life is now MUCH better!
 
Sarah Koster
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Travis,
let me take a wild guess and say your wife and kids see every day WITH you as a gift?
I think that when someone is very very ill, there's an urge to separate oneself and place oneself in danger. Dogs wander off from the pack when they are close to the end of their lives, presumably so that they don't spread disease or draw predators to the packmates. My guess is this sort of depression is hormone-driven.
But you are not a danger to your wife or kids, when that time comes you're not going to be luring any bears to the vicinity and the only thing that ONLY you can give them, is time with you.
I'm hoping you're not feeling this way anymore.
BUT if we REALLY want to fight the root of the problem.......
We need to stop valuing ourselves based on our material worth in society's terms, in terms of how much money we provide to whom.
Even if we default and lose our land, it does not diminish our value as human beings, or our value as loved ones to our loved ones. If we do our best to do what we think is best, that is enough. It is okay to "fail." It is probably even healthy to fail at some point. There is even a time to give up... but to give up what? Our values? No. Our convictions? No. Our relationships with those who care for us, and whom we care for? No. Making the payment? Probably at the point when what it's costing you in terms of time, labor and hardship more than it's worth to you, it's time to give up on that. The price may be too high. I don't know the details and not pretending to be qualified to give advice, just... Don't be ashamed if you can't do everything you wish you could. Enjoy what you can.
 
Terri Matthews
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Travis, my Mother died of cancer. We loved her and we valued the time we had with her.

You just being there is a blessing to your family.
 
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Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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Sarah, your opening post introduces you more.  It’s also “a vent” — and venting is something pretty well everybody needs to do sometimes, in one way or another.  You’ve found your direction and are finding your kindred spirits, and the likelihood is that much in your life will go better for you now.

The thing that you’re probably realizing (or have already vividly realized) is that people who become members of the Permies.com site/forums are like you… in the broad sense that their personal natures, outlooks, and values do not fit the modern North American personal models.  Just to be a serious organic farmer, or a serious organic gardener, or a permaculturist is an expression of that fact.  So you’re immediately among friends here.  So “we get it.”

For instance, I was raised around guys who were hyped about alcohol, party drugs, fast cars, football, and figuring out how to make as much money as possible with the least amount of effort.  I only had to be out of the family nest for a couple years to find my nature-loving friends and to get my hands into soil and a hundred self-reliant skills.

All sorts of good things get aired here.  You can relaxedly communicate about lifestyle, personal, or technical matters with people here.  Glad you found your way to your new involvements and to Permies.

One other thing that occurs to me is that you may well find that certain skills and understandings you acquired out in the conventional-job world may come in handy for making your way in self-employed situations.  It's that way for myself and many people I know.
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