Where I live in the southeastern Montana seems to be a land of extremes; extremes of possibility and limitation, hope and despair, change and inertia, open hearts and closed minds; and yet we are almost directly in the center of the nation between Gulf of Mexico and Arctic Archipelago and between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
It can be frustrating to be in limbo between letting go of the old and giving birth to the new and often takes going to both extremes before we find our middle ground.
Then again, sometimes, to get from where we are to where we are going, we have to be willing to be in-between. One of the hardest parts is the concept of letting go of what is old and familiar, but what we don’t want, and being willing to stand with our hands empty while we wait for God to fill them.
This may apply to feelings. We may have been full of hurt and anger. In some ways, these feelings may have become comfortably familiar. When we finally face and relinquish our grief, we may feel empty for a time. We are in between pain and the joy of serenity and acceptance.
Being in-between can also apply to relationships. To prepare ourselves for the new, we need to first let go of the old. This can be frightening. We may feel empty and lost for a time. We may feel all alone, wondering what is wrong with us for letting go of the proverbial bird-in-hand, when there is nothing in the bush.
Being in-between can apply to many areas of life. We can be in between jobs, careers, homes, or goals. We can be in-between behaviors as we let go of the old and are not certain what we will replace it with. This can apply to behaviors that have protected and served us well all of our life.
We may have many feelings going on when we’re in-between: spurts of grief about what we have let go of or lost, and feelings of anxiety, fear, and apprehension about what’s ahead. These are normal feelings for the in-between place. Accept them. Feel them. Release them.
Being in-between isn’t fun, but it’s necessary. It will not last forever. It may feel like we’re standing still, but we’re not. We’re standing at the in-between place. It’s how we get from here to there. It is not the destination. We are moving forward, even when we’re in between.
I accept where I am as the ideal place for me to be. If I am in-between, I will strive for the faith that this place is not without purpose, that it is moving me toward something good.
Just as the seasons change, our own lives bringing times of reflection, darkness, birth and rebirth, to help us on our journey of growth. Every season serves a noble purpose and to escape or avoid one season is to cheat the other.
I haven’t been able to make myself write a blog post for over a month now. At first I berated myself for my lack of motivation determined to push through it, which didn’t work. Eventually instead of beating myself up for my lack of motivation, I just observed. I asked myself what I really wanted to do. Finding that sometimes it’s better to go with my own flow and do what I feel called to do at the moment instead of forcing a schedule upon myself. This fallow time is often needed for new inspiration or a different perspective.
Hesitation or procrastination can often be a form of wisdom. Motives become clearer or new information shows up and amazing things can happen when you choose inner rhythms over the external pressures, as well as, the internal pressures of “have to, should of, could of, would of.”
This can be a positive thing, very much in tune with winter’s implicit message that down time is important. Winter is nature’s way of regrouping, a hibernation from duty, a long rest before burgeoning into spring with renewed energy.
There are times in our lives that we are very productive. Times when our energy is high and we can go non-stop. Then there are times when we must lie fallow, like the winter fields and pastures, that are purposely laid to rest for the winter in order to prosper in the spring. Not because we are lazy or uninspired, but because we must regain fertility in order to be prepared for the long days of calving and spring branding that is soon ahead, as well as, to create again.
One of the greatest blessings and most profound lessons about ranch life is about learning to follow nature’s rhythms and patterns, and in the process having the time and space to learn the ebb and flow of our own unique rhythms. Just like nature our internal and external lives also cycle through distinct seasons and a sense of peace can be found in working in harmony with your own proper timing, doing things in the right season and seeing your efforts bear fruit in later seasons.
Often we lose sight of the changes that the natural cycles of life bring, especially when our lives require us to live on a set schedule year round. I’ve worked the 8 to 5 jobs in town that ceaselessly demand maximum performance and output for eight hours a day, five days a week. These jobs have always left me feeling drained of spirit, internal resources and left running on empty. Yet here on the ranch with the shorter days of winter giving me some repose, it makes it possible to work 10 to 12 hour days this spring in more physically and mentally challenging situations than I’ve ever had at any desk job.
Fallow times also provide an opportunity to go internally within myself and clear out the old, clearing the way for the new. Even when you can’t see evidence of growth or new life above ground, life is still there growing, strengthening, changing underneath the barren fields.
Much of what we need to know, of what we long to know, lies beyond words, in a silent, hallowed place of knowing that is accessible only through the suspension of frenetic activity. Wordlessness by definition is indescribable, but its effect is unmistakably real, spawning a palpable sense of ease in my spirit. For now, I’ll go with that, trusting this fallow time to replenish me and lead me where I need to go.
In the darkness of winter, I turn within and learn to know myself. I go deep within to face my own fears and shadows, to heal and prepare myself internally for who I want to be and what goals I want to accomplish this year. It is a sacred time of preparation that must come before the new season of my life.
I sense my spirit rearranging itself, sifting through on what’s gone on before and needs to be laid to rest, as well as, looking to broader horizons evaluating the possibilities of what is yet to come, and see the possibilities of aspiring to greater things than even I could have imagined, as glimmers of inspiration bubble up from this deep place, guiding me forward in ways that logical consideration cannot.
This has been a time of letting go of all that no longer serves me including, parts of my past that have haunted me and hold me back from who I am capable of being, old hurts and resentments, negative self images and even negative people. The truth is, only when we let go of the old, forgive ourselves and others, accept situations just as they are and recognize that they are over and done with; can something new enter into our lives. It is also about realizing that at 38 years-old, I am too smart to be the only thing standing in my way of creating the life of my dreams.
Even though the present, harsh, snapping wind today is real and threatening, this wind is not for me to engage with, try to stop, or contain. Instead I go under, go within, and rest while feeling the warmth of being held inside the dark place—within the womb—where all creativity is born and new life begins.
I can rest in the company of these barren fields because I know their barrenness is necessary and the fallow ground covers the new seed as it breaks into being. New life that reaches through the darkness to embrace the light, creating itself anew, unfolding and the promise of tomorrow, potential held within. Just like I know from the experience of many seasons, new life will come and the work of my hands will flourish. I may not see the fruit in the season I expect. I may not see the vibrant colors I dream of by spring, but I know there is growth, there is life, there is time.
“That which can never die – When you think of your life as an open field, an empty field when something has occurred in your life a great transition even turmoil that makes you feel as though this field that was once full and alive has been burnt to the ground, please remember that new seed is faithful, it comes on the wind whether you want it to or not and it roots most deeply in the places that are most empty. New life comes if it is willed for or not.”
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Ranching offers a way of life with a distinct pace, a distinct set of rhythms and priorities. Just as the cows and horses who live according to nature, following the rhythms of the seasons, births, disasters and deaths, I find myself also living within the distinct cycles of my own life and changing with each season.
I have always dreaded winter because of the harsh cold, darkness and ice that seems never ending. Nothing takes your breath away or chills you to the bone like being outside caring for animals when it’s -30 degrees with the wind blowing snow at you sideways at 70 mph.
Within the last week we previously had warmer weather, melting away much of the snow and then the next day a storm front moved in, freezing everything into treacherous sheets of ice and turning the pastures into skating rinks.
While feeding this week we found a cow down with a broken hind leg. Her hoof dangling with nothing but hide and ligaments providing any structure for her to stand on. Her pain was evident when trying to move her back to the barn and she was not opposed to letting us know what she thought of what was being asked of her. Being bred she is due to have her calf in a couple months and so we made every effort to ensure both her and the calf’s survival.
After a quick trip to the vet clinic for supplies, and a brief lunch with my son. I returned to the ranch to cast her leg. We roped her, laid her out on the ground and tied up her other three good legs. Tom, the ranch manager sat on her keeping her down while I went to work setting and casting her leg with the assistance of Tom’s wife Mary.
While casting the leg I couldn’t help but think about the parallels in my own life. My only child, Sheridan is Army bound, he leaves in June for Boot Camp and sets off to create a life all his own. While I am very proud of the young man he has grown to be I can’t help be feel like that cow laid out and tied down. Without him near I feel as though a part of me is broken and the events in his life are moving so quickly and I am bound and can’t change them. Not that I would even if I could, knowing that part of his journey into becoming a man is following his own path. But as his mother, with world events continually changing, it’s hard to imagine my son who is very strong, yet incredibly kind and compassionate going to war and how that will change him for both the better and possibly the worse as a person.
Once we have children our lives as adults become all about them. We attend PTA meetings, sporting events, school concerts and activities, we sometimes forget to live our own lives because we are too busy living vicariously through our children and making sure we offer them every opportunity we felt we didn’t have as a child. Being a parent becomes our main identity.
Pretty soon along with the responsibilities of paying bills, raising a family, divorce, hardships and other broken dreams, we as adults deny our passions and find our lives much like the long cold months of winter, dead and dormant; responsibilities seem dreadful and activities feel like obligations, it feels like there is no end. We become cynical forgetting the joy and enthusiasm of things long forgotten.
Yet, Sheridan in his youth is excited about his future and enthusiastic about venturing out into the world on his own. He is teaching me that a new season has also come into my life and I once again have to find within me what makes me so enthusiastically happy to be alive that I just can’t contain myself. His enthusiasm is my cast that gives me the structure to heal and like the cow I too am gestating new life that will soon be brought into the world.
Bulls, bullshit, emotional pain, excuses, fear, finish what you start, follow through, goals, growth, happiness, iintegrity, judgement, learning, live fully, motivation, potential, procrastination, promise, responsibility, success, vulnerability
Just before the New Year with winter setting in, it was time to gather the herd and put them on winter pasture and bring the bulls in to winter at my house for the season. Bringing the bulls in I was reflecting over the last year, thinking of the strides I’ve made in certain areas of my life and what direction I am heading in the year ahead. I realized that it was high time to call myself on my own bullshit!
I had several goals, projects and ideas to pursue last year that I didn’t follow through on. Some of them I have lost interest in, which is alright to let go of and move on; yet others were still really important to me and I still really want to do; some I have even started but haven’t finish.
The human mind is miraculous, it is like a bull on the fight when it is up against evidence that it needs to change. Our psyches are equipped with layer after layer of bullshit defense mechanisms designed to shoot down anything that might keep things from staying exactly the way they are — just ask any addict.
I can come up with all sorts of excuses why I didn’t finish what I started but the bottom line is that I alone must make something of myself and my life.
Calling myself on my own bullshit means taking full responsibility for my own life and killing the excuses before they kill me! Each time I betray myself by not following through on something I promised myself I would do I lose integrity and respect for myself, and it takes a tremendous toll on my belief in myself. When I remember the agreements I have made with myself and follow through on these commitments, being true to myself, that is when I have integrity and feel good about who I am.
We all have the greatest intentions in the world about what we are going to do, but fail to follow through. It’s much easier to break a promise to yourself, than it is to a loved one, friend, client or coworker, but the results are much more harmful.
We use the excuse “as soon as” to mean – as soon as I have the time, as soon as I have the money, as soon as the stars are in perfect alignment and all is exactly right in my little world; then I will take action. Unfortunately, the right circumstances never come and we are left with the ” shoulda, woulda, could have’s” and ultimately regret!
Sometimes we forget our own potential. We become so wrapped up in the muck and manure of living day to day, yet this is just another excuse too. Each day brings new opportunities to perceive our own potential. In any situation there is a myriad of ways to see something. We take responsibility for our lives by taking responsibility for how we see our lives. Each challenge is an opportunity for growth and every situation will give back to you, what you give to it, because you give each situation all the meaning that it has for you.
We spend a lot of our time consuming things others have made (TV, music, Facebook, video games) instead of putting our own unique interest, skills and talents out into the world. Most of which is a waste of time and doesn’t contribute to making us better people nor contribute to the world we live in. Doing so is just another form of procrastination and another excuse to not begin living our own lives fully.
We hold ourselves back because the fear of failure is greater than the desire to succeed and it’s much easier to not create anything in our lives rather than feel like a failure when it doesn’t turn out perfectly. In order to succeed we first have to at least try. It may not turn out perfectly but we will have learned something from the experience.
People who don’t try, don’t fail, but they don’t succeed either. As a society we have come to value comfort over effort. Misery is comfortable, which is why so many people prefer it. Happiness takes effort. Happiness is a choice. It isn’t controlled by others or by outward circumstances, but comes from remaining centered and in integrity.
It takes effort, practice, repetition, and discipline to become good at anything. We quit because in our society of instant gratification it takes too long to see results. What we often fail to understand is that, the process is the result.
“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it,
but what they become by it.” John Ruskin.
My projects may never make me any money or go anywhere, but I will certainly feel better about who I am as a person because I honored myself and followed through on what I said I would do.
I personally have held myself back because I have let the heartbreaks of the past cause me to become cynical, yet again another excuse. Emotional pain doesn’t have to devastate us, we can learn from the experience, and learn from our emotions; but this requires us to sit still and fully feel the uncomfortable emotion in order to move through it. Life requires vulnerability for our own growth and development. Real power comes from being strong enough to be vulnerable; to feel hurt and in knowing we can take care of ourselves when we do feel the pain. Real power also comes when we stop holding others responsible for our pain and we take responsibility for all our feelings.
We all fail at times. Sometimes plans don’t work out, but I can no longer waste any more time using this as an excuse and being upset over it. It’s now time to pull myself up by my boot straps and try again, learn from my mistakes and use them to make a better plan.
We also hold ourselves back because we fear success and lack the courage to put our heart and soul into a project only to have others attack it. Welcome constructive criticism, feedback helps us improve and disregard unconstructive criticism. Those who judge your creation are only expressing their own fears and using it as an excuse to do nothing themselves!
Judgment arises when our expectations are not met, but often our expectations are idealized and unattainable and therefore impossible to meet. When I find myself judging others it’s usually because I’m holding myself or others to a set of impossible standards. We can’t expect unrealistic perfection in far from perfect circumstances or from others who are constantly evolving, maturing and changing.
“Don’t mind criticism. If it is untrue, disregard it. If it is unfair, keep from irritation. If it is ignorant, smile. If it is justified, learn from it.” -Anonymous
The choice to be bitter vs. motivated largely determines whether or not you will succeed in life! Attitude is everything it helps you push through to succeed or is the hidden obstacle that stops you from achieving the success you desire.
Be honest with yourself, call yourself on your own bullshit, hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for your own amazing life. Live from the heart without hesitation and grateful to have the opportunity. Trust your inner calling, ignore criticism and judgment and show the world who you are!
I am a single woman who lives and works as a hired hand on a ranch in eastern Montana. I love my life and lifestyle!! This blog is about my adventures in ranching and the life lessons I am learning in this amazing journey.
I am a very passionate person who lives by the Cowboy/Cowgirl Code of ethics and am wholeheartedly focused and driven to be the best me I can possibly be and the best at whatever I love and choose to do. Whether it is working cows, training horses, writing, teaching therapeutic riding lessons, facilitating Equine Assisted Learning workshops, or my own personal growth I will always give 110% of what I am and have to give at that moment. I give my heart completely to what I love and believe there is no other way to live! That is the cowgirl spirit!
For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be a cowgirl. Horses have always been my passion. I grew up on a ranch in Nebraska and studied Animal Science at South Dakota State University. But my life took me on other adventures and down different career paths and yet the destiny of the spiral path of my life once again lead me back to ranching as a single woman in my late thirties; this time with a different perspective on life.
I hope you enjoy my adventure!
On the ranch I work on in eastern Montana there are pastures so vast that you can see or ride your horse endlessly for miles without encountering another human being or civilization. The pastures are bountiful in their emptiness, offering the respite of solitude and the space for room to grow; wide open spaces to mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually just be me. I easily find myself forced inward by the sparseness of what is outward and visible in all this land and sky, and once within find an expansiveness and openness that has allowed me to discover gifts in myself and others that are much harder to recognize or find while sitting in front of a computer or TV, shopping at the mall or lost in a crowd at a large event.
We tend to get so caught up in the daily grid that it is easy to lose sight of the big picture of our lives. Here you can see for miles with the freedom of no visible boundaries which inspires me to dream of the endless possibilities in my own life. While it may appear to be empty the land itself shows me that so many possibilities are inherent in the flow of the land from its dramatic draws that can’t be navigated by vehicle or ATV’s, to odd twists and cut banks and proud buttes. There is also a wide variety of plant and animal life. You never know if you will come across a rattlesnake, badger, antelope, hawk or sage grouse, reminding me that the possibilities are truly endless when you can see the emptiness of your own life as full of variety.
This is sacred space that returns me to the center of who I am, even when I myself cannot see the outer boundaries, where I find that what seems harsh at times and almost empty is merely open, a door and an reminder to me to return to a simpler holy state within myself where my heart and mind is just as open and vast. (Written June 27, 2012)