We had a small upheaval at our place this weekend. Facing facts. Getting real.
I came to the realization that in our second year of homesteading we have drifted. We have made too many compromises, or held them for too long. I might have fallen for this idea that we had done the hard thing and the next thing ought to be easy, because (what?) surely those two things alternate.
- The bad news is that things don’t work out like that.
- The good news is that with my best self, I don’t really want them to.
I’ve heard it said that a writer doesn’t love writing, but loves having written. I think there is something of this in the practice of radical homemaking as well. I don’t love the moment of saying, I will not go shopping; I will make a meal of what I have. But I do love eating that meal, which tastes of discipline and caring.
I don’t love the moment of saying, I will not travel to such and such exciting place; I will stay here and make plants grow in this dirt. But I do love caring for those plants, which smell of perseverance and rootedness.
I don’t love the hard part, but I do love having gotten through the hard part.
I write a lot about creativity, and how I think creativity is built in to each and every one of us. I write a lot about how I think we’d all be healthier if we could practice creativity more, and dependency less.
But I might sometimes skip over this part about discipline.
In my effort to work against scarcity thinking, and to personally not be ruled by fear, I might neglect to mention that in every creative process is that bit of steel, where you say…I’m starting now. I’m starting now with what I have.
Sometimes that moment kind of sucks.
To prepare the meal out of the odds and ends in the jars under the window? Steel. To write the book before you know how it ends? Steel. To send deeper roots into the home or community that is frayed at the edges or racked with hardship? Steel. To engage in your own context a justice issue that makes you feel impassioned but also super insecure? Steel.
And yet, this is not all hardness. It is a discipline of softness…a discipline of trust.
The discipline of creativity isn’t about self-hatred. It can’t be. It isn’t about scarcity or cruelty or competition. It’s about the radical belief that you do have what you need, right now, to begin…even if you can’t see how that could possibly be true.
So often when we have a vision for making things better, we hold out on it. We’re waiting for guidance, or resources…we’re waiting for the shelves to be fully stocked. The discipline of creativity says begin, and those things will be drawn to you. It says stop waiting for someone else to come along and be you. You are already you. Frankly, I find that less than reassuring. But that’s where the steel comes in.
We are warriors for beginning.
This past weekend I spent some time thinking about what it was like when we got started, out here in the woods. All the adrenaline and excitement, long days, resolving problems right and left. There was so much of dreaming up new ways.
This is the greatest value of the homesteading construct: to re-conceive what is possible. This kind of mind bending is required to release our dependency on systems that, when examined, make our hearts hurt.
But there isn’t any resting on our laurels. A shift into consumer mindset in the second year of homesteading is no more ingenious or admirable than having stayed in a consumer mindset the whole time. It just becomes another version of the American Dream. Look at me! I have a beautiful yurt, and now I’m going to live just like I would if I were in the suburbs! It’s just another picket fence.
But the discipline of creativity is always unearthing, always returning, always beginning. The discipline of creativity says, even if this criticism is valid, it isn’t the last word.
Go looking for the dream, again. It is still there. Start, again, with what you have.