Today I am struggling, I have wept tears, I didn’t feel like I could stop. In between the tears I promised myself that whatever else there was to do, when the kitchen chores were done I would get out on a walk to lift me.
I think my low mood was triggered by the discovery of my baby photograph in a file out the back whilst looking for insurance documents. When I looked at it I thought why did my dad give up on me and not wish to be part of my life.
This morning an insurance man was here and he was talking about wills and pensions and I found it very overwhelming when he asked me out of the blue what would I do if Keith died? I honestly didn’t know. It panicked me, I can’t farm alone and the house goes with the farm but not only that the thought of all the years of sacrifice and Keith’s hard work would just end seemed to me to be a tragedy in itself let alone the fact I would be a widow. I know it was a hypothetical question but I suddenly felt very insecure.
The trouble with being me is; it doesn’t take much for me to question myself, at times I don’t even know who I am or what I am doing. No plan just following ideas as they come up. I lack future focus.
Somedays I feel like a complete failure with a fear of the future.
I have had labels in the past to be able to introduce myself. Shop assistant, dental nurse, teacher, photographer but now I dont really qualify as anything. I work on the farm but I am not a farmer, I bake and cook but I am not a chef, I help run the business but I am not a partner, I clean the house but I am not a cleaner and so on. Why do I feel the need to still ‘be someone’ other than myself.
3 years ago I left the teaching profession and I started writing a blog which I eventually ended up deleting. The blog was called ‘I Quit’ because I had quit and I had no idea what I was going to do. I walked out of a career that I had done for 20 years including 3 years training at University. I remember saying I need to put my ego in the bin and pack my pride in my purse and take time to get over this.
I joined Instagram and I began writing, writing to soul search for what I was going to do next. Three years later I’m here again.
Although I enjoy the farm work it is limited to very early mornings and early evenings milking the cows. Most of the sheep jobs are done by Keith, his brother and Luke my son. I help out with the sheep when Keith needs me but it isn’t as often as I would like. Therefore even though my time is taken up with washing, meal making, running my children around, food shopping, baking, dog walking, paperwork and general administration such as phone calls I don’t actually qualify as anything anymore. I don’t have a label and it makes introductions slightly different. I certainly don’t feel the need to inflate my ego by saying I’m this or that but sometimes think what am I doing and where is my life going?
I have children therefore I am a mother. I have friends I am a friend. I have a mother I am a daughter, and a daughter in law. I have a husband I am a wife. I have siblings therefore I am a sister but if sister is a verb I am not. I don’t speak to both my sister or my brother. I am a sister in law but I don’t speak to Keith’s brother either. So in the sister role I am a bit of a flop, a stubborn flop.
Gaining my qualification in teaching was a very proud moment for me, it meant I was more than the girl I had been told I was. I was going to do something which was worthwhile and recognised by people as being a professional role but much more than that it meant that the feelings I had had about myself being stupid and not good enough were untrue. Slowly those feelings have begun to creep back in. It’s not all the time, sometimes when I am feeling ok I feel proud of myself, especially about raising my children. All three are individuals and it is a pleasure watching them grow and begin to make decisions about their own lives now. Being a mother is an important role but it just doesn’t fill me up completely I feel like there is something else I should be doing.
When I began milking last year it wasn’t through choice it was through circumstance. Michael, my father in law had always milked with Keith and when he took ill he left suddenly and I had to take over. We only milk a small herd of cows so to pay someone extra to come and help everyday would not make the job worthwhile, saying that I think it would be extremely difficult to find someone to do what I do every morning.
When I started milking and calf rearing in August 2016 the work was so extremely different to what I had ever done. There was the obvious shit external conditions, the weather and my lack of knowledge to do any of it well. Not only that there is no staff meeting, work appraisal or no real rewards so I had to find that for myself. I do find rewards when I see a healthy, clean happy animal on the farm and the landscape is magnificent. Through photographing the farm, the animals and expressing how I feel through my social media I can look back over what I have done and that feels good. The job itself is so simple yet it is complicated on a level that is very difficult to put into words.
When I was learning my brain didn’t and still doesn’t work like Keith’s. He is so experienced at milking he does it easily. I was learning a new skill and in very basic conditions. I was tired with the earlier mornings and I was exhausted with caring for Michael both ends of the day but I kept on.
During the first few weeks I was reminded of a book I had read called Man’s search for meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. This book, the story of a concentration camp survivor, nothing in my life compared to what he had endured but in likeness to it, everyday I found myself having to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of and do things I hadn’t ever imagined or chosen to be doing. It kept me going to know I would get used to it.
‘It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.’ ‘When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.’
I did get used to it and eventually I even began to enjoy it. I noticed that I was less and less tired and Keith and I were now in a position where we were working together every day, financially no better off but investing everyday in each other.
But where did those feelings of self doubt begin?
Are we born with them?
I do wonder that because my eldest son is often filled with self doubt. And I do feel I have tried very hard to support him through those times to help him achieve his maximum potential by encouraging and helping him. But why are some people so hard on themselves. I think that in some way I was too hard on him as a young boy. Did I try to control him too much? Did I make him that way?
Barry Patrick Bower, Big Baz as he called himself for singing was my father. He made me but didn’t raise me. I don’t feel qualified to discuss him really. I don’t know him. He was in my life until I was 2 then he and my mum separated. I didn’t see much of him after that. And after the age of 4 he made no contact at all. I do remember him vaguely from when I was a very little girl, I do remember a faint memory of him: a birthday gift,riding a motorbike, a purple teddy, fish and chips, tattoos earring and an old van that you pushed a handle round the front to start it.
We didn’t have contact ever, only in the street now and again by coincidence.
I remember when I was about 7 or 8 going to Ulverston on the bus with my mum and brother. The bus used to stop to let passengers on and off at each stop along the 5 mile journey, pushchairs, babies, dogs it had a smell of smoke. You could smoke everywhere then but only smoke at the back. At one stop a man got on, he recognised my mum and spoke to her and went to sit at the back with her having a fag. Me and my brother were on another seat nearer the front and we were obviously a little curious as to who the man was. It would have been strange to make the journey up the moving bus to ask and would have been rude to ask in front of him. So the bus motored on and so did my thoughts until the bus eventually reached the main stop where the kiosk stood. Everyone got off at that stop and the man said goodbye to my mum and walked off in the opposite direction. I immediately enquired about the man and asked who he was, my mum replied “That was your dad.”
That memory still shocks me and hurts on many levels. I had sat for some distance on the same bus as my ‘real dad’ as I referred to him and I didn’t even know it was him. He didn’t look at me or speak to me. Not only that but my mum had absolutely no idea that that was anything to be bothered about, my brother and I were irrelevant and she had no comprehension that that might feel strange for us. I turned myself around and I began walking backwards, trying to keep pace with my mum while watching the stranger walk away in the opposite direction. He didn’t look back. I walked and watched for as long as was physically possible until I had to give in, turn my back and continue on in my own direction.
Whatever I was feeling wasn’t mirrored by my mum. She had no empathy and no reason to think that she should have. I love my mum, I understand she didn’t want to hurt me she just got through each day the best she could. She couldn’t drive and had no support she did what she thought was best. But these upsetting incidents became part of my life, feeling things that when I looked to the main adult in my life for validation were not understood, addressed or reciprocated so I began to think my thinking must be wrong. I bottled everything up and self doubt set in.
I battle it and keep on though it’s a hidden invisible flaw that people might think is just all in my head but these habits are difficult to change and sometimes even harder to step out of. When consumed by these thoughts I get locked in and can’t see out. But the beautiful surroundings I live in are a gift, a gift I am tremendously grateful for. And I try to take myself out there to ground myself whenever time allows.
Can all this negative thinking be changed? I hope so. I still have hope. Even after years of counselling, therapy and shit loads of self help, I hope that my latest counselling sessions which are my second attempt at CBT will one day help me feel self love and give me a sense that I am good enough, just being me.