This is our farm column from farmer Casey O’Neill. O’Neill is the owner operator of HappyDay Farms north of Laytonville, and a long time advocate for the cannabis community in Mendocino Co; more of his writing can be found here. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor feel free to write to [email protected].
August is the hardest month of the year, smoke in the air and anxiety in the mind. This is when the big plans of spring come home to roost, and I pay for their fruition with a sacrifice of the work-life balance. It is the time of dodging the feelings of overwhelm to continue putting one foot in front of the other.
It’s easy to find myself being snappy and reacting to situations without the necessary moment of breath that allows for a more measured and appropriate response. In the heat of heavy effort I become sharp and short with my words, directing an intensity of energy that can be difficult for others to accommodate. I try to be aware of this and to control it, but I am not always successful.
This is a time of year when it’s important to hold compassion for each other in our interactions. There is often poor sleep or worry in the background of the psyche, or water problems and concern for the drought. There are many reasons to be gentle with each other, to be quick to apologize and to forgive sharp words or actions.
Being in a position of leadership on the farm means that I am responsible for the energy with which we go about the work. If I’m in a funk, everyone feels it and it makes the effort more difficult without the lightness of humor and joy that helps us to thrive. When I am conscious of this energy, I am much more careful with it, holding my responsibility as a signpost, a beacon of how I want to lead.
It can be hard to bring my best and highest self to the work when I feel stress, but the more I’m able to focus on the moment at hand the easier it is to plug in to the joy of shared effort in a cause that we love. Working with plants and animals is calming and centering when I accept the moment for what it is, letting go of my attachment to outcomes.
So often I define my day and my life around the set of goals that I am working to accomplish on the farm. I check off the boxes and feel the dopamine hit for the effort completed. This cycle of “project, prepare, accomplish” is one of the central driving forces of my life, but it can be an unforgiving Spirit. If things don’t go how I think they will, the frustration that I experience can throw me into a funk.
I’m learning to budget for contingencies, but it is a slow process. I tend to be unrealistic in how long I think jobs will take, which opens the door to disappointment when things don’t move along as fast as the unrealistic expectations I set forth. Instead of being happy about a job being done, I feel behind and stressed because of my own mental creation.
I think often of Milton; “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven”. I have the ability to make the same action seem joyful and light or tiresome and drudging, but I have to first recognize that I have this tool or life becomes the luck of the draw in how I react.
Someone once said to me that the difference between reacting and responding is the breath in between. A reaction is automatic, without thought, but if I can pause for a downbeat my response is closer to an actuation of my best and highest self. When I fall short and react with negativity, the quicker I can recognize this and apologize, the more I foster the behavior that I want to see from myself.
We form bonds of family, friendship and community based on our interactions, each day an opportunity for steps towards strong, healthy communications and relationships. I can make amends for the past and set intentions for the future, but I act today and I have the choice and agency of free will.
I find that if I let people know when I’m struggling or not feeling up to par, then it creates space for them to offer compassion. When I bottle up my emotions I often react in ways that don’t make sense to others because they aren’t aware of my mindstate. By the same token, when I assume that the people I meet may have had a rough morning, I offer love and support in ways that I might not if I take people for granted.
Beneath the chatter of the monkey mind is the gentle babble of my true stream of consciousness. I tap into the wellspring of compassion and love that lives in my soul, and I approach life with the best that I can bring. I set this as affirmation for the day, and now I head out to do the morning chores. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!
Casey O’Neill owns and runs HappyDay Farms, a small vegetable and cannabis farm north of Laytonville. He is a long time cannabis policy advocate, and was born and raised in the Bell Springs area. The preceding has been an editorial column. The Mendocino Voice has not necessarily fact-checked or copyedited this work, and it should be interpreted as the words of the author, not necessarily reflecting the opinions of The Mendocino Voice.