It’s been really hard to focus on the present these past couple weeks. It’s a lot to think about, to be part of a nation where elected leaders squabble across partisan lines rather than attempting to address the root causes of sexual assault and gender inequality, to give up a treasured relationship over my abstract desire and optimism to have children some day, to be wondering where I want my farming path to lead toward. It’s all been weighing heavily on my heart and mind, and I’ve noticed it: out in the cilantro bed, day after day, my brain running through news clips rather than savoring that overwhelming aroma. Swirling salad mix in the wash tubs, replaying rough conversations about interpersonal incompatibility rather than feeling the icy water reach my forearms, letting my thoughts override my eyes’ delight at the shimmering reds and greens below me. Trying to keep up pleasant conversations with coworkers and volunteers after spending an hour on my own, brooding over a president’s recent speech that reinforced rape culture. It’s just a lot to think about.
And all the while, out of the corner of my consternation, I see that there’s always a lot to think about. There’s always something negative in the news, some injustice that won’t be solved, some comment that makes me fearful for my safety or for that of my neighbors. There is always an opportunity to think of the past, future, and wider world in dismay. Things really are, in so many ways, going to hell in a hand basket. There’s always something interpersonal to resolve, to work through, to let go of. I’ll always have an opportunity to be wanting something I don’t have, or trying to change something I do have, or languishing in relationship angst from whatever angle I choose. There’s even always, as I said to Ted yesterday over lunch, the relentlessness of the farm: every other week is a “big week”, every month there’s a deadline for planting or tilling or sales, every day there are new people to train or new weeds to tackle. It’s objectively overwhelming. The farm, the world, all of it.
As someone who’s prone to overthinking, I could easily just wallow away in it all, let it overtake my energy and become pessimistic, resentful, hopeless. It could happen, and it does happen at time, and I’m sure it will come back, again and again.
But there’s always a moment in a day filled with existential dread that snaps me back to reality. Yes, reality is “out there” in the news and future and others, and it comes to meet me and others in painful ways sometimes, but usually only insofar as I choose to let it infiltrate my thoughts. Just as real, if not more so, are those shimmering salad greens in the sink and the smell of cilantro seeping into my pores. Real is the booming sound of water jets echoing in produce totes as I spray them. Real is the moment I look up from bunching kale and lock eyes with Sophie as she tells me about a death in her family. Real is the feeling of engaging my core as I lift something heavy, and real is when I finally stop my constant organizing, stand to face someone who’s been busting their ass in the field all morning, and listen wholly to what they’re sharing.
Yes, the experiences that lead to stories in the news, the feelings that are shared in relationship, and the urgency of to-do lists are all real, too.
To feel like I lived my day though, whether with joy or sadness or everything in between, it really helps to pay more attention to how the evening breeze simultaneously whisks away translucent, crisp onion skins just as it carries the bright stench of rotting tomatoes to my nose. So much is happening, right here.