I'm trying to decide if wild enthusiasm followed by deep regrets is my modus operandi, or if I'm just not realistic enough. Do I allow myself to slowly tiptoe into that bracingly cold ocean, acclimatizing myself ever so gradually, or do I wade in quickly, ignoring the cold, sure I'll warm up....and then have a cold, hard smack of reality when that first wave hits? I think it's somewhere in-between. I want to go into that ocean, want to ride the waves, let the water take over. I check the temperature, read the tide tables, then decide that regardless of all that, it's gonna be great and stride right in. Sometimes it's everything I could wish, being carried to the shore as much by exhilaration as by the water, and sometimes I wind up wave-battered, squished into the sand like a used cigarette butt, dragging myself to the surface and up onto the shore, landing bedraggled and sad on my towel. Until the next time, anyway.
No, I'm not planning a beach vacation (although having taunted myself with the above, am now wishing Linda and I could steal away to some New England beach). It's the chickens. Yep, some 9 months after deciding we had to have chickens, 3 months of hard work and too much money, and 7 weeks of being a chicken owner, I'm having serious doubts. Oh, I researched, read books, joined a 500+ member regional chicken listserv, subscribed to Backyard Poultry and Mother Earth News. I picked the brains of our chicken-owning neighbors (who laughed at the books, the listserv and my obsessiveness). I felt ready to enter the world of chickens.
Here's what I didn't know: first, chickens poop, all the time, everywhere; they're really pretty gross about it and don't care where they do it. It's their second favorite pastime after eating (okay, that made me laugh), and right above digging up hostas. People say chickens are smart. Nope, don't think so. Stubborn doesn't equal smart. Chickens do exactly what they want to do. We may call them 'domestic fowl', but they're worse than cats when it comes to going wherever and doing whatever the spirit moves them to do. Chickens get worms, and I don't mean the early-bird kind. Even if their coop is kept very clean, and they're given premium food, and ample--and then some--free ranging freedom, they get worms. If one is a certain type of person, all that equals frustration and stress. When I first told one friend about the chickens, she said "you do like to complicate your life, don't you?" which kind of surprised me. No way! I like life simple. I don't think I complicate it, and yet....I consistently take things on, envisioning that fabulous outcome, whether it's something I'm doing for myself or other people, and find myself with regrets.
It seems that at 50, one should stop trying things on and maybe focus on some real commitments, be it to learning to spin, raising chickens, learning to parasail or getting a graduate degree. Pick something, give it your all...make it work (thanks, Tim Gunn). Linda says you should never stop trying things on, figuring out what works and what doesn't, what you like and what you love and what makes you miserable (I'm paraphrasing).
So I'm trying to decide if poultry farming was a huge mistake. I have this homesteading-wool spinning-picking dinner from the garden-preserving food-chicken raising-and then writing about all of it-Earth mother image of myself. That image doesn't allow room for being prissy about cleaning chicken poop, or figuring out how the heck we're gonna get water and food up to them in the winter, or the stress that comes from constant worrying about these funny little beings that now depend on me for pretty much everything.
I abandoned something else this year that I really thought I wanted to do, only to discover it no longer gave me any joy. And maybe that's my answer...although the chickens have amusing moments, and tasty eggs, I'm not feeling the joy. It feels like one more thing complicating a life I've been working hard to de-stress. Is it quitting to keep seeking out what may bring more joy and discarding what doesn't, the way a chicken tosses the kale out of the bowl to get to the cantaloupe guts at the bottom? Is there any chance that feasting on the sweetness is wiser than choking down the bitter when there's choice to be had? And if so, does that make me a wisewomon, rather than a quitter?