Life Lessons From The Farm: Part Two
Updated: Apr 7, 2020
Letting Go Of Control
So I had a plan for my post this week. I was planning on writing about a particular lesson that had been on my mind since I wrote my last post… but when I opened up my computer this morning to start writing, I realized the lesson that was presenting itself to me over the past two weeks, was not the one I was planning on writing about, but was actually the one I hadn’t even been thinking about at all (I honestly opened up my “brainstorming” document about five minutes ago, and when I read through it, I thought, “oh I completely forgot about this one... oh shit, this is what I am supposed to write about this week, this is the lesson that keeps coming up for me right now.” And even as I’m writing this intro, I realize how perfectly fitting it is because, like I said, I had a plan (oh hello Control, you old so-and-so), and now I'm realizing that it’s not what I’m supposed to write about this week -- even though there is a serious wild west battle happening in my brain because I had a plan!
Alright Amy, time to practice what you preach -- let it go, let it gooooooo… definitely just started singing the song from “Frozen” in my head as I typed that out… and now you’re singing it in your head too! Maybe..? Or maybe I’m just a childless 31 year old with a song in my head from a Disney movie that came out six years ago...
What was I talking about?
Oh ya, letting go of control. Which is different than losing control (i.e. completely forgetting what I’m supposed to be doing because I’m totally lost in an inspiring Disney movie ballad about inner strength and self-discovery…….. no! Get it together Amy!)
So anyways, over the past couple of weeks, several things have happened on the farm and in my personal life that have brought me back to this lesson: let go of control.
In my last post I mentioned our good friend, mentor, and expander, Becca Anhalt, because we had just recorded a podcast episode for her show, “Align & Thrive”, and since then, I have noticed that her messages on social media have been deeply resonating with me (even more than usual), and every time we start chatting, I am just blown away by her wisdom and insight. I had loosely planned on writing about this topic at some point in the future, but then we had a spontaneous conversation about control a few days ago and it just really inspired me to write about it in this post.
LETTING GO OF CONTROL
We often think we’re in control. That if we do all the “right” things, we will be able to control the outcomes, but with farming and with life, we really only have a limited amount of control. There are some specific areas where I feel we would benefit from letting. it. go. They are all interrelated and are really just rooted in our fears and insecurities (as are most of our struggles, I think), but I feel it can be really therapeutic to take a good look at why we adopt certain habits and behaviours, so that we can take responsibility for them and consciously work on creating new, healthier habits that improve our wellbeing. Because we deserve it -- we deserve to work on ourselves and to feel better.
CONTROL OF ENVIRONMENT
This lesson comes up a LOT in farming because our livelihoods are truly at the mercy of mother nature. We can plant at the “best” time, and fertilize the “perfect” amount, and spray all the “bad” weeds, but if it doesn’t rain, or it rains too much, or it’s not hot enough, or it’s too hot for too long -- then our crops will suffer. We can do absolutely everything within our power to ensure we will have a good crop, but if mother nature decides not to cooperate with us (and really, I can’t blame her considering everything humans have put her through), then all the effort we put into producing the crop won’t really matter! At some point, after doing everything we can to set ourselves up for a successful crop, we really just have to let go of our grip on trying to control it, and let whatever happens happen.
This applies off of the farm as well, because for the most part, we cannot control our environment. We probably have the most control over our home environment, but even at home there’s always the possibility of things happening that we weren’t prepared for, like a pipe bursting and flooding a room, or someone showing up unannounced at our door, or if we live with anyone else -- pets, roommates, partners, children -- then their actions will always be largely out of our control. At work, or in public places, we have even less control because there are so many more variables. I think that this often leads to anger and frustration because other people do not always do what we expect or want them to do, and we often feel like they should -- we have this inner dialogue that is constantly making judgements of what is happening around us. Which is a totally natural, human thing to do, because our survival used to depend on our judgment of our environment, but it doesn’t anymore (at least not to the same extent), and it really only causes anxiety and frustration. Also, when we place expectations on our environment, we are setting ourselves up to feel disappointed, or even angry, when our expectations are not met. Why do we have these expectations? Why do we allow the actions and behaviours of others to negatively affect our inner peace? What would happen if we let some of that go?
I have a personal story that really highlights my own struggle with wanting to control my environment.
A friend and I were standing in a big line-up this past winter, and a situation arose... A mother had (temporarily) lost her little girl in the building, and was clearly in distress. The mother spoke very little English, and so, while her family was helping her look, it took us a few minutes to figure out exactly what was going on, and by the time we did, the little girl was found -- she had gone into the men’s washroom, and while her mother had opened the door and called to her daughter to see if she was in there, the daughter hadn’t responded, but did eventually come out on her own. There was a couple behind us in the line discussing the situation, and the woman was expressing her disgust at the fact that the mother had looked into the men’s bathroom while her partner was in there using the facilities. I was immediately angered by this -- a little girl was MISSING and she was worried about a frantic mother potentially catching a glimpse of her boyfriend’s flaccid penis?! Really?!?! So I turned to my friend and told her what I had just heard, and told her how upset it was making me. And she said, “hm, that is an interesting perspective that she has about this situation.”
I was blown away by her calm, neutral response. And I was embarrassed for getting so worked up over something that had NOTHING to do with me -- the mother of the child was out of earshot, and was just happy and relieved to have found her daughter, so it literally wasn’t an issue for anyone else other than for this woman and me.
That was a huge moment of self-reflection for me. I was allowing something to drastically alter my mood because I felt like I needed to be some kind of martyr -- to defend the mother’s actions to this woman. But why? Why did I feel the need to control the woman’s reaction to that situation? Because I thought I was morally superior and she didn’t have the right to her own feelings about it? It would be different if the mother had heard and was hurt by the comments, but she didn’t, and she wasn’t. So why was I allowing this to negatively affect me? I honestly don’t know. But for some reason I wanted to control my environment more than I wanted to feel at peace. And I’m sure situations like this will happen many more times before I can remain calm and neutral like my friend, but I am working on it.
CONTROL OF FUTURE
On the farm, we try to control the outcome of our crops. We plant and tend to them as best we can, and then we expect a certain result. Again, of course it is important to do these things to give ourselves the best possible chance at a good crop, but at some point, fussing over every drop of rain, every weed, what the weather will look like two weeks from now, what the weather will look like two months from now (yes, farmers really do this, and no, it is not usually accurate) -- all of the things that could happen over the course of the growing season -- just isn’t healthy, productive, or beneficial to our wellbeing.
In daily life, we try to do the things we’re “supposed” to do. We try to choose the “right/best” job, the “right” friends, the “right” partner, the “best” vehicle, eat the “right” foods, do the “right/best” exercises -- and of course, there is value in these things, just as there is value to tending to the crops, but ultimately, we don’t know what will happen in the future. There are SO many variables outside of our control -- the thoughts and actions of others, accidents, illnesses, political instability, economic crisis, natural disasters -- we like to think we have control over our lives, but in reality, we have a pretty limited amount of control. Our circumstances can change in an instant, which I think should just remind us to bring our focus back to the present moment as much as possible, and to really live those moments. We can get so completely lost in trying to control all the different aspects of our lives, trying to plan the next thing, and trying so hard to give our life meaning, that we forget that just being alive is meaningful.
It is certainly difficult trying to figure out what we should “worry” about, and what we should let go of, but I think that asking ourselves on a regular basis, “is worrying about this worth my energy? Will worrying about this have a positive (or any) effect on the end result? Am I trying to control the future?”
By simply recognizing and identifying what we are doing, we take some of the power away from it, and give it back to ourselves. Because one thing we do have the ability to learn how to control, is our thoughts. Of course, we won’t change our thought patterns overnight, but every time we recognize a thought pattern that is harmful to our wellbeing, and we choose to redirect our thoughts to something helpful, or even neutral, we are training our minds to find new pathways! How cool is that?! So even though I keep talking about how we have very little control of our external world, we do have the potential to control our inner world. Which I think is very exciting!
Of course I do fully recognize that mental illness can make it nearly impossible to change our thought patterns, as I was unable to even consider using these practices until I went on antidepressants. But now that I’m on a medication that works well for me, I practice this as much as I can, and it has undoubtedly improved how I think and react in certain situations.
(If you’d like to read about rewiring our brains and neuroplasticity, I’ve added a link here!)
CONTROL OF OTHERS
By “control of others” I don’t actually mean physically controlling others, or brainwashing them or anything. It’s a little less dramatic than that. I just mean trying to manipulate what others do or how they feel (and not necessarily in a malicious way), as well as trying to control how others perceive you.
This is the topic that Becca and I had our conversation about the other day that impacted and inspired me so much. She had posted about setting some social media boundaries for herself, and encouraging others to do the same, and when I messaged her to let her know how amazing I thought it was, we got into a conversation about how we try to present a certain version of ourselves online instead of being fully authentic, because we want people to like us… and then she took it to the next level and said that for her, people-pleasing was a fear of loss of control, because people-pleasing is actually an attempt to control how others perceive us. BOOM! Mind. Blown. I don’t know if this hits you guys the same way it hit me, but she flipped my whole world upside down in that sentence. We often see people-pleasing as almost a positive characteristic, because people-pleasers are usually “nice”, but when did it become more important to be “nice” than to be authentic (and by "nice", I mean people-pleasing-nice, because I do believe in always respecting others)? When did we decide that being what other people want us to be is more important than being the person we want to be??? And why do we try to make other people like us by presenting ourselves as someone who isn’t our authentic self? Because we are afraid of judgment, right? But then Becca reminded me that people are already judging! And we can’t change that because we can’t control their thoughts! I know, she is a wisdomous goddess, you guys.
(I know wisdomous isn't a real word, but it just feels right. I have also watched a lot of "Friends", and Joey uses the word wisdomous when Phoebe asks him to walk her down the aisle at her wedding, sooooo.)
Okay, I think I am going to leave it there for now, because I would like that last point to reeeaaally sink in. (The part about control, not the part about Joey.) And also because I’m hungry and tired. Although I’ve been hungry and tired for most of my life, so it’s mainly to let that last point sink in. Buuuut also so I can get a snack and go to bed... and maybe watch "Friends".
Oh, one last thing! I mentioned this in my last post, but I’d like to share again that Becca is an Intuitive Life Coach. This isn’t just a “plug” to try to get my friend some business (although of course I would love for this to positively affect her business), I just genuinely believe that she is so incredibly talented and I want as many people as possible to benefit from her insightful teachings, because she teaches me SO much, and I just want to spread that beautiful energy. If you are interested, you can find her website here, her facebook page here, and her instagram here!
As always, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this post! Did any of this resonate with you? Is there an area of your life where letting go of control would be beneficial? Let me know!
Take care and be kind to yourselves, Root & Sprouters!