I over book my life with good things. I live in a Midwestern college town that, despite its smallish population, has a great music and art scene. Every weekend there are festivals, displays, visiting musicians, concerts and traveling exhibits. They are fun and always educational. I feel an obligation to take my children to them, even though we don’t end up going to all that many because we are too busy doing other good things.
As a homeschooling mom, I create self-imposed personal burdens to make sure my children are involved in ample extra-curricular activities, church groups and service opportunities. I spend a great deal of time getting the kids to all the places they must go. After all, they need to be well-rounded.
When meal planning for my family, I feel obligated to search for non-GMO grains, organic produce and humanely-raised meats. I watch out for trans-fats, work on ways to add coconut oil into my cooking, and try to cut the carbs. I strive to achieve adequate sunshine, ample exercise, and the appropriate levels of hydration (from filtered water, of course).
Sometimes I get so busy I feel like I need to remind myself to breathe.
For Thanksgiving this year our family took a road trip to southern Tennessee to visit our relatives’ farm. As we snaked through the Smokey Mountain foothills we searched for the narrow black top road leading to their house – that would be Possum Trot Road. When we arrived, our relatives already had a small fire going outside. They knew we liked to sit around the fire at night and talk. It is so quiet there. It’s muddy and it smells like cows, but it’s very, very quiet.
Despite their seventy acres, our relatives do have neighbors. From the top of the hill you can barely glimpse the dark rooftops of distant barns and homes. It’s easier to spot them in the winter when the trees are bare. We seldom see these neighbors but we know they exist. Sometimes their cattle wander up along the north fence line or we hear a distant chain saw, tractor, or shotgun.
Decisions over whether to enroll children in piano versus cello lessons are non-existent in that area. People don’t have the money for such things. The kids go to school, then they come home and help on the farm. Down there, cultural events include hunting and horse shows, and those don’t happen often.
The Walmart nearest to our relatives is ten miles away. The nearest clothing store is ten miles away. The nearest gas station is five miles away. Heck, everything there is miles way. People stock up on sausage when United Grocery Outlet runs a sale, or toilet paper when Dollar General gets in a big shipment. It doesn’t matter if the meat is pasture-raised or name brand; what matters is the price. Budgets are tight and you do what you can.
You’ll catch the local gossip as well as cattle-feed additives at the nearby Co-op. On one of our past visits, a neighbor brought our relatives a newly-caught snapping turtle. They wondered if we wanted it. For soup…I guess? During our recent visit, the Mennonite family from down the hollow (pronounced “holler”) sent us home with wheels of Colby cheese and hugs, and told us to come back and see them soon.
While in Tennessee our children hiked, wrestled, played with dogs, helped drive cattle, went target shooting and tended the fire. They didn’t ask for their video games. They didn’t even want them. And I didn’t worry once about getting somewhere on time. I was too busy listening to unusual songs from the birds overhead and the winds gliding across the hills. Besides, in that part of the country, nobody seems in a hurry to get anywhere. Life is so much simpler there.
We are back home now. I have a meeting tomorrow. I need to remember that my son’s piano lesson has been switched to a new time on Wednesday. I am out of my free-range chicken. I will have to get to the store soon. I have a coupon that expires Friday for a store at the mall. Maybe I can get over there after I pick my husband up at the airport.
Welcome back, Complexity. I think you and I need to have a talk.