When all you’ve got is never enough

I’m a busy mama and a farmer so when I sense that my efforts aren’t making the most use of my time I get pretty overwhelmed.  When I say overwhelmed I mean an over reaction to every little thing altered by a paralyzing fear that puts me on the couch.  I recognize this as a mix between selfishness and the burden that comes along with taking action and it’s something I want to work on.  In some ways this is an apology to everyone around me who has said, “there’s no way she can keep that up”.  It’s the reality that I really am not that important and that’s a good thing.  I’m meant to do my thing and hopefully it will inspire you to do your thing and then maybe this world will become a bit more tolerable.

I’ve never really seen a reason to sit around and complain about what’s wrong with our food system or the way we give birth.  In fact, I’ve always felt like it’s really a waste of my time-not to say that I don’t do it from time to time.  There’s nothing we can do about what’s already happened, but we can do something about what’s happening today and hopefully make things better in the future.  The more aware we are about the reality the more likely we will be to make better decisions.  We can get people together, share our stories, bring good food, encourage someone, and just show up.

I find myself compelled into action by concerns.  One of the biggest concerns I have about our society is what appears to be the desire to replace mothers and farmers with something easier, less messy.  I realize that may seem like an absurd thing to say, but consider that most of my work revolves around a woman having the right to breastfeed her baby-think about this for a minute-we’ve become a society where we place the comfort of individuals consuming comfortably over the comfort of a mother feeding her baby.  Another concern I have is with the ability of small-scale farmers to overcome all of the obstacles that stand in their way.  We’ve become a society where the people who grow our food-the good food-have to figure out creative ways to get around the systems that have been built to support food industries that are killing us-I don’t say this lightly-as I’ve attended the funerals of those people.  I realize that Nathan and I have been given a lot of opportunities to overcome those obstacles and many Kentucky farmers still need a lot of help.

So I do things. 

But,

I know it’s not enough.

We put a lot of work into efforts that don’t even touch the needs of our community or food system.  But it’s a start.  It’s hard to do all you can and realize you’ve come up short because there’s so much more left to do.  It’s hard to keep trying. 

It’s all about putting into perspective what my friend Heather calls good-old fashioned country common sense.  We’re mammals so we were meant to nurse our babies-but instead we’ve sexualized breasts and commercialized a substitute.  There’s good, fresh wholesome food and we were meant to eat it-but instead we’re addicted to the fake stuff.  I’m not even all that interested in the science or research that backs these concepts-although luckily the science is there for those are.  I’m mostly concerned with the fact that I matter, you matter, everyone matters.  If I can grow a human being in my body then I’m fairly certain I have instincts and should have rights to how I care for it once it’s earth side.  If I cook three meals a day for my family then I should have a voice to how that food is raised.  If I care about my own rights then I better be concerned with the rights of others.  If I realize I’ve been given opportunities that others don’t have then I better meet their obstacles with a whole lot of compassion and grace.

A lot of this work begins to shape how I view myself.  I must believe that as a mother and farmer I am important enough to make a difference in my own children’s lives and in others.  I learn something new every single time I’m out in the community.  Mothers, kids, teachers, farmers say things that stick with me and not only make me a better person, but make me a more engaged person in my community.  I remember being on the other side of this.  A family taking my mother and I in at the moment we needed it most and filling my plate with food fresh from their garden, a farmer visiting my school and inspiring me to spend more time outdoors, a woman empowering me that the roles society puts on us isn’t hard and fast.

Recently, I’ve felt this pull to step back, opt out or stop the work that I do in order to follow something that allows my family more rest. It’s hard to explain, but there must always be an authentic balance to the work I do.  When my past (good + bad) meets up with my gifts and abilities there is a place of faith and hope that my life will matter for eternity.  Most importantly, I must never NEVER become more important than anyone else in my own mind.  I must never think that money, success, goodness makes you better than anyone else.  Let me tell you why…

I have these dreams where I’m reaching out to take the hand of one of my girls as they move forward into something better than I’ve ever known.  I hear a voice and turn around to see myself as a young girl about 6 years old with blonde curls and a mischievous smile.  I reach back to take her hand so that she can go with us, but I’m never able to reach her.  You see, this is why I do what I do.  Helping others who need me the most is like finally grasping my own 6 year old hand.  This doing for others is in many ways doing for who I once was.  This knowing that everyone matters reminds me that I matter now and I mattered then.

A wonderful woman and mentor to many passed away yesterday.  She inspired me to finish this post and hit publish.  All quotes from Maya Angelou:

“I work very hard, and I play very hard.  I’m grateful for life, and I live it.  I believe life loves the liver of it.” 

“We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike.”

“Let me tell so much truth, I want to tell the truth in my work. The truth will lead me to all.” 

If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” 

People like Maya Angelou remind me that folks like me are okay.  We’re not messed up or too busy or unrealistic.  She believed in God.  She believed in black people and white people, rich people and poor people.  She believed that we all have value and none of us are more important than another.  She spoke to the black culture, but intended her words for all people.  I hear a lot in her words that applies to mamas and farmers these days and wonder what she would have thought about the oppression of those two professions when she was first stepping out in courage.  I speak to mamas and farmers, but I intend my hope for everyone.  A new peace is over me as I realize that I can give all I’ve got-it won’t be enough-and that’s okay.  I hope to find myself at the end of my life weary and hopeful and ready to rest.