This morning I arose in a very cold house. It was 48 degrees in the warmest part of the living room. How cold is that? Well, I'll put it this way. I woke up to the sound of my dog drinking out of the toilet, strike that, cracking through a layer of ice to drink from the toilet! Now, that is something not everyone can claim they've experienced. And as awful as that may sound to some of you, know I could have avoided it. It was a choice. The farmhouse has two wood stoves, one in the back mudroom near the plumbing and one in the living room. Had I stoked both the fires and got up a little earlier it could have been a lot more comfortable than this, but since the temperature wasn't dropping below zero outside I chose to put my energy towards sleep instead of comfort.
And sleep I did! I got a solid eight hours under wool and sheepskins, Gibson the border collie curled up under the covers by my chest. Together we are a kindled fire and were warm as could be inside our little nest. I woke up smiling in the dark and watched the steam rise off my skin and swirl in the air around my curvy body. I laughed in absolute joy at this, because I'm not sure what could be more proof positive that I am alive and well in this windy world? Fire always win the battle over ice, and I am a goddamned furnace.
Now, I wanted to share what happened next because I think it may bring some of you out of a place of worry or despair and into one of joy and power. I started a fire. Hear me out.
When I laid in bed I knew I had the farm chores out in the biting air, some hunting to do in the icy forest, and a list of deadlines, bills, worries, and obligations. I knew I was behind in the mortgage, over my head in many ways. I am not waking up to a world of financial or physical comforts by any stretch, and that is because of the choices I made in my life. I could either sit in bed with wide eyes and fret about these things, let worries about money consume me, let the easy heat of the undercover realm keep me prisoner, and give up. Just roll over and pray to win the lottery...
Or I could get up and let my skin steam.
I headed over the that wood stove, naked and crouching, like something out of a National Geographic about primal man's first invention of fire. I opened the stove and saw all I needed to see. The keystone that changed my view on the entire day: hot coals. I opened the tightly-sealed woodstove and the first flash of oxygen lifted those coals from embers into sparks and a red light lit up my face in the darkness. A red light I created through a lineage of choices, from installing the stove years ago, to harvesting firewood, to stoking the fire last night, to opening it this morning to let that light shine on me. Next to the stove was a hatchet, some light pine, and paper. I had all the tools I needed to start a real fire, right there next to me! Another series of choices I put in place. And what do fires offer? Comfort, heat, warm water, energy! I chopped up some wood and within moments I had kindling. I placed it in a all tee pee around a red coal. It smoked and then erupted in flames and soon I had a proper fire. I added larger dry wood around that little triangle and soon a small dance of atoms was a true roaring stove blaster. Guys, fire was there all along, I just needed to bring it into being with the right tools, preparation and knowledge.
I got dressed, made coffee, let the dogs out, and started my day. The animals were fed, the farm is humming, and I already started a new logo project for a reader's farm and handed over a new comp sheet of logos to another college for their draft horse club. This was work I was trained to do and helps bring income to this farm. It's an act of creation, of skill, of light just like that fire. I avoided Facebook, Paypal, Reddit, Twitter... the whole damn Internet. I didn't want someone else's picture of their 10-point buck or engagement ring or new kitchen counters or Instagrams starting my day with any sense of lacking. Not because other people's joy makes me sad, but it's hard for anyone to see such things and not feel she is already starting the day needing to be something besides the naked, laughing, perfect rubenesque farm goddess she already is.
Nothing puts out an inner fire like self doubt. So I just did my work in this morning storm of creativity. See, when I was naked and cold in the dark all I saw was a hint of possibility: a red coal. But I knew with every piece of my being that dry wood, a little effort, and a hatchet would be the perfect combination of intention and violence to bring out flames. As I did the work no part of me doubted that the fire would come. It's just want happens next. It's proven fact, that this mixture of circumstances makes a fire. So no part of me doubted that within ten minutes I would be sipping hot coffee in a wool sweater. And no part of me doubted that fire would bring heat, and inspiration, and that washing wave of blessing for living this life on my own terms. It's a Wednesday morning and I am about to spend a day writing on my own farm! That was a fairytale through most of my twenties until I realized I was a furnace.
You are a furnace, too.
Here's what I want to share today: Don't focus on what you lack. Don't start your day with other people's accomplishments. Start your day knowing you are capable of making the life you desire. You need to see your own story as a pile of embers that just needs the work of kindling to explode into something wonderful. I live my life that way everyday. And when I am scared or anxious or worried about silly things -- I remember the certainty in which fire comes from hope and force. And as long as I am able to hold the coals of that metaphor close to my heart and ignite my own life's goals I can achieve anything. It requires being focused on the good of yourself, the good of others, and the bounty of this kind world. And it also means moving yourself out of a sense of victimhood and lacking and into one of power, a gift you can only give yourself. But once you start playing with fire, it's hard not to feel like anything is possible. The proof is here at this small farm and hundreds of others out there among you fine folks.
You never have to worry about me. This farm will always be okay and only grow to be stronger, healthier, wiser and better equipped to help others find the same happiness if they want it. And I think the best thing I can do to make my fire burn a little brighter is remind you that you also have a hot coal in there somewhere. So choose to be happy, and it is a choice. Smile when you are cold, naked, and scared. Light the Need Fire of your own story, and share that heat with the rest of us. We sure as hell need it when the toilet bowl freezes...