Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I must explain myself

I realize as I review recent posts that I owe my readers a bit more background story from this past fall and winter for you to understand why I went from "oh, underground burrows and dirt are so worth it with happy buns!" to "this is a pain in the butt and my needs matter too!".

I wrestled with whether or not to keep 'on topic' with this blog, or let folks know what external influences have been shaping my views lately. I think external forces are important to acknowledge, as we all have them and deal with them, and this urban farm experiment is not happening in isolation, but in conjunction with the chaos of modern life. The point is that you can do all of this stuff wherever you are, in modern life, with all that it throws at you. Sort of.

In November, my mom let us know that she was ill, and when we flew into town to check on her (she lived out of state) it became apparent that she needed 24/7 nursing care, and it had to be us girls. My 2 sisters and I took shifts living with her and doing what we could to tend to her daily needs and her personal affairs. We overlapped, taking 10-14 day shifts each, for 2 months. I barely saw my kids, and had to disengage from the farm during this intense time. She passed away early January. I returned to a dying cat, whom I proceeded to nurse for a month before accepting that she needed to be put down for her own good- I was injecting her with subcutaneous fluids and was administering 5 meds daily to fight off progressing kidney failure. It was insane. Towards the end of Foot Cat's life, I found the injured kits, whom I also nursed for over a week (as we put the cat down) before returning to help conduct my mother's memorial service for her friends and extended family. When I returned we had to put down a kit every other day due to the infections reoccurring while we were away for 2 days.

I tended to many beings intensively for three months, with varying degrees of emotional investment, the biggest being my mom, of course. I remember talking to a family friend and saying "This might sound selfish, but I really need to be done nursing sick and dying things right now. Like, no more."  He totally understood, and said, "when I was growing up in Kansas, I had family who had farms and ranches. Their approach to animals was very different than mine in Kansas City, where we only had pets. You have to decide if your rabbits are pets, or commodities. Are you going to shell out $200 to save a kit that you will eat a few months later in one meal? That's an expensive meal." He said it kindly, and non-judgmentally. And it really made me stop and think.

I tend to always put others first, to a fault. It's good to let compassion guide our judgement and actions, and to keep others' needs in mind for when you can accommodate them. However, when tending to someone comes at the personal expense of not being able to keep your balance, your perspective, then it's time to step back. Of course I would move heaven and earth for my mom. And of course I was going to invest in fighting for my pet cat so long as she wasn't suffering, and there seemed to be a chance for recovery. But at a certain point, that ceases to be the case. And at a certain point, we have to let go. For their sake. And also for our sake.

My rabbits, while I wish them greater happiness than industrial animals, I cannot make them into tyrants, nor treat their young as I would my own. They do have a better life. My breeders have space, interesting foods, a safe zone, they get to go exploring in the yard, they get petted. Their babies get all the food and water and company from each other and their mothers that they want their whole lives. They get quick, respectful deaths, and nothing goes to waste.

If I have to compromise on the dirt-vs-cage thing, for my own sanity, and also learn to even cull badly injured kits up front, that is animal husbandry on the tough side. I don't want $200 meals, nor rabbits that take extra hours of each day to try to nurse back to health. Is this selfish? Gosh, I'm sure some would say it is. But this winter, Mom really drove home the point that we have to cherish ourselves enough to actually follow through on taking better care of our own hearts and our needs. So in honor of the woman who advocated for me the most, I will learn to be my own advocate.

That means simplifying processes to free up time to spend with my family, and also on other soul-filling projects of my own- like sculpting, music, reading, exercise.

That's why my tone of voice changes some. There's been much afoot of late, and it's been life-altering.

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