I stared at the buckets and felt a giant wave of anger wash over me. I could NOT believe that I was going to fill buckets of water up and carry them over to fill up the big stock tanks my horses use. I mentally calculated that at two buckets a load, I was going to need to make at least ten trips to fill the tanks up. And then, I was going to have to do it all again in the evening. All I could think about was how archaic this system was and how messed up my back felt. I despised the buckets, despised the water situation, and most of all, I despised the inability to do anything about it.
If you’re wondering why I’m carting buckets of water to my horses instead of using a hose, it’s because with temperatures in the low teens a few weeks ago, the hoses all froze. As it turns out you can’t leave a hose outside in the winter and expect it to work. So, we were stuck with the buckets. The first day I carried buckets of water all I could do was think about how unproductive it was. The second day, all I could think about was optimizing things. How could I make this quicker? Faster? More efficient? The intellectual side of me loves to think about increasing productivity. If I can just do everything quicker than it will be done. That way I can move on to something else. These efficiencies usually leave me exhausted and overworked.
My ideas for water optimization included: bigger buckets (too heavy), driving the buckets in the back of my ATV (too messy AND too muddy to drive in), creating some sort of tanks system on the back of my ATV that could fill the buckets up (only works if when you can drive in the fields which I couldn’t because of mud), buying a heated hose (great idea but was more than $500 for the length I needed). On and on these ideas bounced around in my head. Bigger and bigger my resentment to this bucket situation grew.
On the third day of hauling water, all I felt was anger. In fact, I was so annoyed and crabby about it that the lady who helps take care of our horses told me to leave the water. In fact, she said: “You’re not allowed to do water anymore.” I didn’t ask but I’m pretty sure this was because my attitude about the water situation was completely apparent to anyone within a few hundred feet. I just couldn’t see past my righteousness about how ridiculous this was, and I couldn’t accept that there was just no other way.
“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
I’d like to say that I made peace with the buckets by the fourth day. But I did not. Nor by the fifth day. Nor even the sixth. All I felt was resentment. I did the job, but I did it grudgingly. And then, just as suddenly as it had blown in, the frigid weather blew out. We were able to bring out the hose again. But my reaction to the buckets lingered on in my head.
Why had it bothered me so much? Why was I so angry about it? Why did it affect my usually cheerful outlook so drastically? I’m grateful that I kept coming back to this. I guess my reaction to it must have really shaken something around in my head. Because the answer to all of my questions was CONTROL. I was angry that I couldn’t control Mother Nature. I was angry that I couldn’t control the hose manufacturers. I was angry that I couldn’t control the weight of those heavy buckets that hurt my back. I was even angry that I couldn’t control how much the horses dared to drink every day. Looking at all of this makes me sound like a crazy person. And I think that’s maybe an apt description. A lot of us get a bit crazy when we feel like we aren’t in control of things. My two addictions are control and efficiency. I want everything to happen on my timeline and in my way. The farm is teaching me that there’s a much greater force than me out there. I’m also learning that things take the time they take. And that there may even be some peace in that.
I’m going to get another chance to carry buckets this winter. It’s only February here in the Midwest, so the nice respite we’ve been having is sure to end soon. I’m strangely anticipating the buckets though. This interlude between bad weather situations has been a great place for me to explore some of my resistance to carrying buckets. Instead of fighting with the buckets, I think they may be here too teach me. And isn’t that the funniest thing. If you’re willing to wonder why you’re feeling a certain way about something, that thing will almost certainly become your teacher.
Susan McCusker and Beth Killough are the co-founders of The Circle Up Experience. They work with horses to help humans reclaim personal leadership and transform their own herds. You can read more about their work here, or find them on Facebook.