The Short Story of A Long Year

☆ June 6, 2013

The last twelve months have been really hard. Which is not to be confused with ‘bad’ – a lot of spectacular things have happened, but there has been a lot of time spent in hospitals and talking people off of ledges (both literal and figurative) and witnessing things I deeply care about getting eaten by the nothing. Which is why this blog has kind of fallen off its tracks. I kind of fell off my own tracks.

By spring, I was no longer managing my stress very well – I was walking around with my shoulders up around my ears and something as minor as stubbing my toe would set me off on a hysterical crying jag – release I wasn’t allowing myself or even realized I needed until I started noticing the pattern. Then Fiona had her calf and I wrote this in my notebook:

When Fiona’s calf was born, before it had even gotten up, Sir Baby came over to check it out. Well, he was just walking by, but then changed his course to come see Fifi and the baby – he is the grandfather, after all (he’s shown zero interest in the other calves that have been born around him). I didn’t want him too close, not until the calf had gotten up and nursed, so I picked up a long, straight branch and held it horizontally between Baby and me, eye level to Baby. He stopped his advance. The branch looked like a fence pole. Then I took a few steps toward Baby, still holding the branch horizontally between us, and he started backing up. An interesting experiment in psychology. Sir Baby had the strength and power to bash through me and my flimsy stick, or he could have simply walked around the end of it, but he believed it was a fence and that he was powerless against it – that he had to surrender to it. It made me wonder if the barriers we see as indomitable in our own lives are nothing more than sticks held at eye level.

I decided to test this concept. I wrote a list of things I was upset about (the first step is always identification). And one by one, these things that seemed so huge, so solid, so impenetrable, that had been governing me emotionally and physically, just….. evaporated. Like I was able to find the floating end of the stick and walk around it, one at a time, one after another. It’s an ongoing practice.

Related: Man On Wire. If you need a hit of faith and wonder, check out this documentary, streaming on Netflix. It is exquisite.


51 Responses to “The Short Story of A Long Year”

  1. hello haha harf
    June 6th, 2013 @ 8:05 am

    sir baby is so special. then again, so are you.
    i love that you are so in tune with yourself and the animals in your care. it thrills me that you were able to find the ends of your floating sticks. best wishes.

  2. Debbie lee
    June 6th, 2013 @ 8:08 am

    Sorry you have felt sad Shreve, but so happy you have found a way to combat this, love following your news and life. Thinking of you, keep strong xx

  3. Ginny
    June 6th, 2013 @ 8:16 am

    I so needed to read this. Thank-you.

  4. Marg
    June 6th, 2013 @ 8:17 am

    You are better than Oprah for your “aha moments”!! We all put up barriers for various reasons, some for safety some to give us time to face what we need to. The bad part is when we start slapping them up at every turn and end up in prison … protected … but devoid of life. Glad you found a hammer to knock those walls down. A nice milk bath at midnight should finish it off perfectly.

  5. pam
    June 6th, 2013 @ 8:25 am

    oh, Shreve, I was so sorry to read this BUT happy that you have found a way to manage your stress. I am going to start my own list now.
    I am determined to finally get Charlie’s & your bday present in the mail today or tomorrow. better late than never…I’ve had them for a while.
    Thanks for sharing your solution for stress.

  6. Vickie
    June 6th, 2013 @ 8:36 am

    It’s no fun going through difficult times, but the awakening is always so cleansing. It’s amazing how intertwined different situations in life can be…if we allow ourselves to see it. Sometimes that answer is just so simple. Good for you, Shreve! You and Sir Baby are part of one smart farmily!

  7. Janet
    June 6th, 2013 @ 8:37 am

    I was reminded of August Wilson’s “Fences”, some are to keep others out and some are to keep us in. It’s okay to be affected by life as long as it doesn’t swallow you up. It’s okay to slow down or stop, as needed. Hang in there girl.

  8. Gemma
    June 6th, 2013 @ 8:42 am

    I’m so glad that you were able to analyze what was happening around you and see a way through it.

    Sometimes, however, we need more than just a change of perspective. I mention this because stress sometimes is overpowering and we need serious support. I hope that everyone reading this who is dealing with overpowering stress and anxiety will take time to find a way out of it, whether it’s seeing life with a new perspective or getting medical and/or emotional help. No one has to live like that.

  9. Janet
    June 6th, 2013 @ 8:46 am

    After I wrote a comment I found this piece about invisible monsters and it seemed to fit.

  10. Christine Valle
    June 6th, 2013 @ 8:48 am

    The stars must have been mis-aligned. My marriage of 22 years disolved into a horrible mess. Some women still like to steal other people’s husbands; some husbands are stupid enough to fall for it.

    My kids are in counseling as am I.

    But then, I thought, What do I gain?

    Turns out I gain ALOT. Hubster is turning into a ‘get off my lawn’ kind of senior, which is the opposite of me.

    I will be fine and FREE for the first time in years. I can travel; I can decorate the new home like I want; foster some dogs which I have wanted to do for evah; and have time for friends which hubster didn’t do much of.

    So yes, making a list helps us get around the stick!!!

    I truly believe that. I was happy to see your post not because you were having a hard time, but that you put it in its place; a temporary thing that our minds tend to blow out of proportion.

    PS Need more calf pix. Thanks

  11. Peggy Townsend
    June 6th, 2013 @ 8:57 am

    Thanks for making me think about the stick/fenceposts in my own life. Such an open and thoughtful piece.

  12. Amy in AMA
    June 6th, 2013 @ 9:17 am

    Good girl.

  13. Margi
    June 6th, 2013 @ 9:30 am

    Welcome back, Shreve. I think most people can relate to what you’ve said here, even if we don’t have Sir Baby to bring our attention to it. This post may have served as someone else’s Sir Baby, so thank you for sharing.

  14. Nancy
    June 6th, 2013 @ 9:53 am

    Am agreeing with what everyone said–this helps me so much this morning and I absolutely relate to the stick and fencepost barriers that, come to think of it, are just in my mind. Carry on and thanks.

  15. carol zeni
    June 6th, 2013 @ 10:56 am

    You are unique…you are a bull-stick detector!
    Carry on grasshoppa!

  16. Shannon
    June 6th, 2013 @ 11:21 am

    I needed this today. Thank you!

  17. mara
    June 6th, 2013 @ 11:33 am

    Hi Shreve, this is my first post, but I have enjoyed your stories(and photos) of Charlie and your family very much over the years. Your recent post about how ones beliefs can create barriers…(ones that in fact, may not actually be there), immediately brought to mind the amazing work of Byron Katie. She is a woman who is dedicated to helping people find ways to end the suffering in their lives–whatever that may be–by examining their thoughts, and therefor their belief systems, that are causing these ‘stresses and distresses’. She has written several books, and she can be checked out ‘live’ on the net under Byron Katie, The Work. I found such truth in her sharing, and thought it was so fitting here.

  18. Donald
    June 6th, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

    Having been on the stress rollercoaster for more decades than I care to count, I can relate. And remembering your comments introducing the “best laugh” contest, I offer you this:

  19. Yvonne
    June 6th, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

    I can very much relate to your feelings. I have had them for going on over a year. I had a good conversation with a friend and she helped me see a different perspective too. As we move from one stage to another in life, these moments help us move up to be our highest and best selves. Nice post.

  20. Dogmom
    June 6th, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

    You know, Shreve, having been visiting you on this blog almost since the beginning, I knew that something was going on, but since I don’t really know you, I didn’t assume, or presume, anything beyond that. When you wrote what you did today, the first thing that popped into my mind was PTSD — from all that happened with the stalker. Just a thought, not an educated guess or anything approaching that, just a gut reaction to what you said.
    You are a strong and courageous woman and I very much admire what I know about you, or think I know from what you’ve revealed here, and your stick/fence analogy is apt and brilliant. Keep backing that crap off! –Debbie

  21. Ailsa
    June 6th, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

    You are human, after all ;c) albeit living in an otherworldly type of place (to many of us readers).
    Perhaps the Vespa needs dusting off.

  22. Kristan
    June 6th, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

    What an interesting anecdote and brilliant analogy. I’m glad you were able to step back and see some of the sticks in your life for what they really are (i.e., not a fence). I’m going to consider some of the sticks in my life now… Thanks for sharing!

  23. Scotty
    June 6th, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

    some time ago you said that ‘fever fatale’ was a symbol of making sure that the bad stuff was going to stop in its tracks and not continue past you. although sir baby probably had no bad intention i see that you had to make sure because we know that many bad things can happen from good intentions. what i see from your words is that you realize that saying no, can be a very very good choice.

  24. Dana
    June 6th, 2013 @ 3:24 pm

    Your post came to me at a time of great need. I have been overly stressed and depressed as of late. I have been seeing the bad in everything and everyone instead of the good. I need this. Tonight, I am going to sit and look at my fence barriers and find the ends. Thank you Shreve….

  25. Carrie
    June 6th, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

    Perfect timing for me to read this. Thaaaaank You!

  26. Bumblebee
    June 6th, 2013 @ 6:22 pm

    Awww HUGS to you sweetie!! What a wonderful thing to share.. It benefits all of us following your site out here. Good for you!! Lots of love… always. :)

  27. Cindy
    June 6th, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

    Hmmm, I just assumed Sir Baby trusted you. Another type of barrier breaking.

  28. Donna H
    June 6th, 2013 @ 10:40 pm

    Your post reminded me of this quote: “A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind” Elly Roselle

    Thank you for being so open with us. Your insight is always refreshing.

    BTW loved The Never Ending Story.

    Hugs to all the farmily.
    D in FL :D

  29. Hawk
    June 7th, 2013 @ 10:14 am

    Hugs to you Shreve. I know exactly how the Nothing can eat everything you care about…

    Sending good thoughts your way.

  30. montanarose
    June 7th, 2013 @ 11:54 am

    “Getting around the stick” . . . what a powerful image. Thanks for sharing your lesson/gift with us. I am one of many who can and should use it; I hope I will be brave enough to do so.

    I don’t know if this will have any resonance for you or not, but one of the more powerful quotes I’ve encountered recently is this one by Jim Harrison, and (at least to me) it somehow synchs with your stick story:

    “When I was a kid I used to have nightmares about the electric chair. I told my granddad who . . . said if you’re going to spend your life worrying about the electric chair you’ve already been electrocuted.”

  31. Maryanne
    June 7th, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how we sometimes create our own barriers. It would be great if we could control this tendency, or at least realized that we were doing it sooner…

    Thank you for posting your thoughts. I’m sorry you’ve been down lately, but hope you will feel better soon. I’m going to take a look at some fences in my life and hopefully discover (and find a way around) the ones I’ve made for myself.

  32. sybil
    June 7th, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

    Do I know the shoulders-to-the-ears state? I wish I didn’t. Hang tough. Celebrate every single touch of grace.

  33. rose
    June 7th, 2013 @ 9:11 pm

    <3 love this. Thank you for writing!

  34. mlaiuppa
    June 8th, 2013 @ 2:17 am

    The secret, which is no secret, is to find what works for you.

    The hardest part is to identify the problem.

    Here is a little something for you. It is an orphan foal named Breeze and his big teddy.

    I’m not much of a horse person, mostly due to lack of exposure, but this so touched me. I love looking at little breeze cuddled in the lap of his teddy Buttons.

  35. Claudia
    June 8th, 2013 @ 4:44 am

    You really are an inspiration. Don’t even think you realize it.
    Thank you.

  36. Julie
    June 8th, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

    Thank you, Shreve, for so honestly sharing your struggles and your growths.

    You are an inspiration, dear.

    <3 Julie

  37. Deborah
    June 8th, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

    Philippe Petit has long served as an inspiration in my life. “If you are not always prepared to die, then you are not really living.” He said this to me in a dream long ago.
    Thanks for sharing how YOU deal with the daily stresses of life. I know no one who is without!
    Let’s press on…

  38. Veronica
    June 9th, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

    Thank You for sharing Shreve. Its funny, the past four months have been rough on me. Nameless anxiety had been my companion for months, family drama has been running rampant, and things came to a bit of a head in the beginning of march. I had a similar “Ah Ha” moment, were I realized that the people in my family that were making me crazy could only do so if I let them.
    It’s a lesson I need to remind myself of, but one so worth learning. Thank you again for sharing, Sometimes we can be reminded of our own accomplishments when we see the accomplishments of others

  39. LJ
    June 10th, 2013 @ 7:30 am

    Life wouldn’t be beautiful if there were no difficulties to face. That being said, certainly does not make it any easier. So happy to hear you have figured out a plan through these hard times – sometimes adding your own theme song to your days can help a little too – at the moment Carry On by Fun works for me.
    “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
    ― Mahatma Gandhi
    Will YOU most cerrtainly have, Shreve.

  40. Claire
    June 10th, 2013 @ 6:08 pm

    Shreve, thanks for sharing. You brought up some good points which it was nice to be reminded of. I’ve learned over the (many) years that at times I was ready to take on more responsibility and did but after a few years sometimes that extra weight was overwhelming. I never backed off and found I was praying more and more. I did learn I was stronger than anyone thought. Love your updates. Look forward to small paragraphs – anything you’ll post.

  41. Katbalu
    June 11th, 2013 @ 10:42 am

    What a wonderful lesson in self-examination. Thank you Shreve and Sir Baby.

  42. LisaAR
    June 13th, 2013 @ 4:36 pm

    What a powerful metaphor. Thanks for it.

  43. Lynne
    June 14th, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

    i don’t remember a time when i have lived without stress. it is my forever companion.
    thank you for another perspective; i’ll name my fears and step around the sticks, gates and walls i’ve created.
    you’re an amazing woman, Shreve….most importantly, your very soul is the embodiment of an artist.
    and we know that “this, too, shall pass”.
    good blessings, always.

  44. Donna
    June 17th, 2013 @ 8:01 am

    You are ALLOWED down time. Give to yourself as much as you give to the universe.

  45. Sherri
    June 17th, 2013 @ 11:48 am

    I HEAR you. I appreciate your writing, as I needed to see this.
    Thank you thank you thank you for being here and sharing your life with soooo many. You truly are a gift, even if some days you don’t believe that.
    :) xo

  46. JC
    June 20th, 2013 @ 4:02 pm

    sounds familiar–sometimes so much stress seems over time to dull everything– thanks for all the pictures and insight- they help so much– often it is just cherishing the beauty and details of nature that bring back the brightness– happy you are feeling better– and thanks for lifting us in these time too by the ever animated Charlie and company– your pictures transcend their still frame– I feel the warmth of the moment and so much movement too– these brighten the day!

  47. Janine
    June 23rd, 2013 @ 8:04 am

    Making lists/drawing diagrams, etc. is a great way to expel stress, I’ve found. I’ve been struggling a lot since losing my apartment and cats to a fire last summer and I discovered an exercise that helps a lot – I make an outline of a brain (“my” brain) and then map out sections of what’s taking up the most space in it. I do this about once a week and it helps me track what’s fogging up my thoughts and hogging my head space, but it also helps me move past things and see the progress I’m making.

  48. Janet in NYC
    June 27th, 2013 @ 7:08 am

    Catching up on one of my favorite blogs, I found this post on managing stress. Just what I needed to help me focus on achieving some important goals rather than resigning myself to the difficulties of naming the obstacles and figuring out how to get around them. Thank you, Shreve, for sharing your life experiences with us. I love Honey Rock Dawn and The Daily Coyote!

  49. Holly
    June 28th, 2013 @ 7:45 am

    I am sad that you have felt so out of sorts. It must be so difficult to manage the animals, who give you so much comfort and love, and the farm, and trying to keep The Daily Coyote and Honey Rock Dawn up all the time..There are times when we all need to sit back, take stock, and then go on. Life can truly be overwhelming at times. Thank you so much for all that you give to us, your “flock” as it were, and all the love and care that you give to your farmily. I read or go into this site every day, just because I love Charlie, and all the rest of the gang. Take care of yourself Shreve, like you do to everything, and everyone that you touch. Whether by words, pictures, or deeds.
    Maybe a wee holiday up in the mountains would be a good thing.

  50. Pat D.
    July 3rd, 2013 @ 8:13 am

    I’m glad I found this post today. I’ve been stressed by various upheavals at work (including three people who have left or are going soon), as well as money troubles, and just general annoyances. I hadn’t even visited either of your blogs in ages, though I used to do so on a daily basis.

    Your parable of the bull who makes a stick into a fence pole is amazing. Definitely something I need to think about and apply to my own life.

    Thank you (and Sir Baby, too!)

  51. heather
    July 18th, 2013 @ 10:32 am

    i like the inverse of what you took away from the stick metaphor too, that what we want to keep at bay, what we want to shield ourselves from, can maybe be done in as simple a way as holding up a mere representative of the boundary we desire, just hold up a stick to protect ourselves from harm.

    i just discovered this blog! i loved your book, daily coyote. thanks…..

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