Growing up on a farm is a unique experience. The fragility of life is shoved in your face whether you wish to see it or not. Like tiny cold lambs fighting for life in a heater box minutes after their birth into a downpour, or once a cat had kittens somewhere and then walked them through the cow shed with disastrous consequences.
My parents went to Australia recently and I somehow ended up becoming a default farm manager who didn’t have the energy to farm. We had cover for all the work, but in that first couple of weeks lots of things went wrong, from machinery breaking down to a whole barn of cattle escaping on a dark Sunday evening. The vet ended up here more than I’d have liked.
On one afternoon Jack the vet was here seeing to a pregnant ewe who’s lambs had sadly died. Jack worked hard to get the lambs out in order to save the ewe as I leaned against (held onto) a cattle barrier while going into a depleted energy overdraft. I wanted to know the outcome. In this moment the sheep meant something to me. Jack achieved the goal but the ewe was worse for wear and she sadly died late the next day. I was starting to see a small improvement in my own health and I, probably stupidly, decided that I wanted to be the one to take the sheep to the end of the farm track on the day after she died, to be collected by the people who collect the dead.
So there I was, scooping the sheep onto the telehandler bucket and taking her on her final journey down the quarter of a mile track. My energy counter ticked away as I felt the cab shake when I hit a pothole and as my body drained with vibrations of the engine. I went straight to bed as my energy was depleted and I stayed there for a while. The death of things.
Yesterday I had a twitter interaction with Carly from Southampton after I lamented the loss I felt from no longer being able to go to gigs or play music with others. Carly shared that she used to be in a band which played gigs most weekends, and that now she struggles to listen for more than 10 minutes. If you’ve played music in a band with others, you’ll know that there is a synchronicity and synergy that resonates something deep within us, especially when you end up going somewhere you hadn’t planned musically and everyone’s together. Good times! Like Carly, I miss those moments.
When you live with ME you have to journey through lots of little and some big deaths. Friendships, work environments, sports, music and other leisure and faith activities. Sometimes you have to grieve the loss of family, even though they haven’t died. Processing these deaths isn’t easy and if you’re anything like me you’ll wrestle with these losses and go down kicking and screaming.
Thankfully my parents returned from Australia and I resigned my proxy overseer role on the spot! The good news is that our lambing time went really well and the weather has been good. No other sheep or lambs died and we had a number of triplets who have thrived. Since that ewe died on a dull and muddy day in early March, spring has truly sprung on the farm. There seem to be lambs and calves everywhere, blossom is in the trees and everything is turning green at an incredible rate. New life springs where death was found.
Living with ME is soul destroying. It eats away at our identity. It seems hard to know who we are at times. What I’m finding is that I have to look for tiny shoots of life within my limited ability. I’ve found a new joy of reading, especially nonfiction. I never really read nonfiction before. My mind was too full of work reports and panel meetings and case conferences and policy and legislation and health and safety and data protection and reviews and HR staffing issues and… Now I enjoy learning and reading for reading’s sake, even if my brainfog can’t withhold much of what I’ve read.
I truly hope that you can find little shoots of newness this spring in the rubble of a lost life.