“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
― Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button screenplay
Last night, I harvested our first beautiful head of organic heirloom broccoli. We have never grown broccoli before this year, so it was a true first. I stood staring down at its perfection, and thought, “I grew this from a tiny seed.” Standing there, surrounded by the earth and her beauty, I was reminded of the Indian proverb that speaks of each of us being like a house with four rooms: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. We tend to spend a great deal of our time in one of those rooms, yet they are all equally important. Even if we just cross over into one of the other rooms to open the window and take in the fresh air, we are more complete.
I have always battled with anxiety in some form or another throughout my life. During our year in North Carolina and many of the months to follow, my suffering became chronic. I recently read a quote by Polly Toynbee that described my dilemma so well: “One in six people suffer depression or a chronic anxiety disorder. These are not the worried well but those in severe mental pain with conditions crippling enough to prevent them living normal lives.” There was a day, several years ago, that helped me understand that we all need different doses of courage to just be who we are. I found myself sitting in an emergency waiting room with my daughters, trying desperately to calm the next wave of panic that threatened to drown me. As I tried to explain to my daughters what was happening, a janitor overheard my predicament and literally saved me from a very expensive and stressful emergency room stay. I had forgotten my phone that day. He offered me a quiet office with a phone that allowed for my husband’s long distance area code, clear directions home, and a gentle smile that made me feel like everything was going to be ok.
As I look down at that miraculous broccoli plant, I feel all four of my windows wide open and I stand where all four of those rooms converge. I am reminded that my suffering has allowed me to see that we are not all created equal. Each time I judge another for being poor, uneducated, uncultured, too this or too that, I can choose to pause, and remind myself of the courage it sometimes takes to simply be alive.Those are the moments when the anxious farmer forgets to be anxious, and I am given all of the courage that is required to continue learning, growing and being who I want and need to be. I break with the agreements made before I knew who I was, and choose to consume less and share more; compare less and live more; judge less and love more and drink in these delicate and fleeting moments where it all seems pretty clear.