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Fear is the Mind-Killer

by Tara

Over the past few weeks, we've been lucky to last more than two or three days without one of us having some kind of emotional breakdown/explosion. With night falling sooner and sooner each afternoon, it feels like darkness is descending upon us. More often than not, my thoughts fall heavy upon me, and I become mired in worried fears that have me wondering what in the hell we're doing with our lives.

Putting things down on "paper" in this journal has always helped me make sense of the chaos, so here goes. As of this moment, these are the three most notable concerns:

The Camper

In a space so small, keeping any semblance of order or cleanliness is a futile endeavor. No matter how basic the activity undertaken (e.g. preparing a meal, getting the mail, coming in from working outside, etc), the camper looks like a disaster immediately after. The endless chore of cleaning (or living in disarray) is really taking a toll on our psyches.

Doing dishes every day without readily available hot water does not make me feel like a badass Laura Ingalls Wilder. It makes me feel shackled to this camper like a Victorian housewife. Our tight living quarters do not make me feel like a trendy hippie living in a Tiny House—they make me think people who choose live this way forever are insane.


A major project that Tyler's consulting business had slated for this winter recently fell through. As a result, our ability to pay as we go for this homestead is looking more and more unlikely by the day. If nothing changes, we'll be really lucky if we can settle the last of our bills for this year's projects before it's time to embark on our much-needed house-building adventure this spring.

Which brings me to the third worrisome thing.

The Future

Life isn't going to get much easier any time soon. We still have six months to a year of living in this camper before we'll have a house. While our little cottage will be warmer, and slightly bigger, and very hopefully a lot more charming, it won't have a shower or a washing machine, because we don't have a septic system yet. Those luxuries exist so far in the future that I can scarcely fathom them.

Meanwhile, we're dumping all of our resources into this project, and unless something drastic changes, it will be years before we'll be able to justify doing anything but homestead-related activities. Even a weekend away, feels prohibitively expensive. Right now, the future is dizzying and frustrating and everything seems impossible.

It feels good to articulate all of these fears, to try and let them go—anything is better than letting them run rampant in circles in my brain. Despite all of the things I just wrote, I can't imagine quitting this project of ours. We've already burned the farm, so to speak. As hard as it is to be here right now, I love our home. We really are headed towards something great—we just aren't there yet. All we really need to do, I suppose, is take each day as it comes. We'll keep working, and trust that everything will pan out.

Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry - all forms of fear - are caused by too much future, and not enough presence.

Eckhart Tolle
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Our offer still stands.
Posted by Dan Reap on November 24th, 2013 at 4:58 PM
Long-time reader, first-time commenter here. I've enjoyed following your journey for the past year or so--the natural building posts are especially inspiring, because I someday hope to build myself a cob house--but this post finally moved me to say something: I feel your pain. My situation is in many ways very different than yours--I'm 29, single, and came back to my family's farm to live/work instead of starting from scratch with a partner. But I feel so many of the same things after five years (three part-time years on top of the past two full-time) of wrestling with this place, trying to find my niche and a way to make this work as my life and livelihood. I have the benefit of existing housing here, but living with family is challenging and I don't really have a space I can call my own. There's infrastructure, but most of it was installed 10-15 years ago with my parents' vision in mind (livestock) and figuring out how my vision (herbs and plants) evolves and thrives is hard. I make so little money compared to my prior career as a graphic design that it's sometimes terrifying. And at the end of every day, I want to be here and make this work so desperately it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. I know how amazingly fortunate I am to have family support. But I understand the frustration of looking to the future and wondering just how the hell this is all going to turn out. I wish y'all the best this winter, and look forward to seeing the light shine in.
Posted by Em on November 24th, 2013 at 5:51 PM
While we don't have an offer or a cure, we do sympathize... We just read Leo Babauta's article a couple of days ago and, as I'm writing this, I have a list titled "Future" with "Unease, Anxiety", etc underneath it, on my whiteboard. Funny, right?
Posted by Cristi and Adriana on November 24th, 2013 at 5:55 PM
We empathize; Seth and I are at the fear and doubt stage right now. How do you cope? I get through with Laura Ingalls Wilder books at my bedside. Seth makes lists like yours. Sometimes I think the best we can do is hold on until Spring returns. Other times I think we're better off getting a sun lamp and sitting under it every night. Usually we take a walk with the dog, and then tell each other to take it as it comes. Good luck!
Posted by SavvyChristine on November 24th, 2013 at 7:14 PM
Dan (& Tambra) - Thanks you guys!!

Em - Your story made me all teary, and really touched me, so thank you for sharing it. Even though it can be troubling for you, I find comfort in the knowledge that there are others out there who share similar (and yet different) circumstances and dreams. I know exactly what it is like to live with family (wonderful and challenging, etc), and I totally understand the desperate desire for a place of one's own. I wish you all the best in your endeavors! Keep us posted!

Cristi & Adriana - Ha, nice! Also amusing is the fact that this day in 2009 was "The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day." Good luck you two! We're rooting for you. :-)

Christine - Thank you! I'm sending sympathetic e-hugs to you both! Walks definitely help. Fire helps-- as in lots of candles, wood stoves, and bonfires. Friends help, too. I like to go back and read our journals, so I have some proof that we're making progress. Good luck you guys!
Posted by Tara on November 24th, 2013 at 8:15 PM
Thanks for your honesty. I've been incredibly impressed with your optimism through this journey. While it's clear that you both are capable of doing whatever you put your mind to, I would have guessed there'd be more of these moments of doubt. And I totally get the frustration of living in such a small space - I've been living with my family out of a car and tent for the past eight months as we travel around the country. Washing dishes with hot water (when we can get it) is such a joy now! Best of luck sorting through the fears and perservering. You have lots of people pulling for you and willing to cheer you up when you're feeling down. It's rare that I've been so impressed by people that I've never met.
Posted by Stacey on November 25th, 2013 at 9:30 AM
Ghee! What a heart touching story! Life isn't easy during winter at the Rocky Ridge Farm ;-) Why don't you do something complete different until you feel a deep need to continue the project? Remember we discussed the possibility to make a job in San Francisco? It's not for eternity, but gives you the chance to take a little distance. Just an idea. Just before Tara starts to scalp some folks. Laura Ingalls Wilder: „If I would have been an Indian, I think I would have scalped more white folks“. God bless you.
Posted by Yves on November 25th, 2013 at 1:56 PM
Hope things start picking up for you two, I've just gone through a bad patch on the bike here in Namibia but coming out of it thankfully....all the best :) Derek
Posted by Derek Cullen on December 1st, 2013 at 10:37 AM
I totally feel your pain... I just feel like we are so behind on getting our dreams into order -- how will we ever get to them, and afford them? And to top it off we just keep turning our life upside down... I can't wait to be settled and get started. Currently not living in a small space, but cohabiting with family, and that's not easy either!

Hang in there guys, you will get there! It if was easy everyone would do it... right?
Posted by Magalie on December 5th, 2013 at 9:01 PM
I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I can absolutely relate to your camper woes. The fucking dishes! I don't remember at what point we did, but at some point we gave ourselves permission to boil a big pot of water on the stove for doing the dishes. It was glorious. And we immediately realised how bizarre it was that we'd been thinking of this as such an extravagance. We didn't notice the extra gas used at all. It's so much easier to get gas than it is to do dishes in cold water.

If we were to do it all over again we would invest in an awning. One of those ones that has three walls and closes up completely. It would have been so amazing to have somewhere to take off our muddy shoes, keep coats, dry laundry, and on and on. It would have doubled our living space. Honestly, it's madness not to have one. The only thing that would have made a bigger difference to our quality of living would have been some way to do laundry, other than by hand.

I hope this comment finds you in a better state of mind. If not, I give you permission to boil an extravagant amount of water! It will make you feel better.

Posted by Katherine Herriman on March 2nd, 2014 at 12:39 AM