Its universal, isn’t it? No-one wants to be the slowest, the weakest, the worst at something… As a species, we have a hard time loving our weaknesses. We all wanna be “harder, better, faster, stronger” as the Daft Punk tune says.
Since Rachel and I started here at the farm a couple of months back, this theme has been coming up regularly amongst the group. I think that happens whenever you have a group, or a community – we compare ourselves, we rank ourselves, and we compete with each other, naturally.
Some of this is really useful, and some of it just seems to create pain and hurt. A lot of the time, we do it to ourselves. We punish ourselves for being slower, or weaker than someone else. Its like we expect to be good at everything, when realistically, we must know this is impossible. How did we get so intolerant of our limitations?
Well, I’m not proposing to answer these questions here. I just wanna talk about it coz its been happening in our group, and I know it happens in all groups (including families) out there.
Of course, this is up for us, because we are complete L-platers at this farming shenanigans. Every day, we are learning, learning, learning. And when you are constantly in that learner mode, especially when you are surrounded by others who are ‘masters‘ – highly trained, highly experienced and also highly gifted at what they do – it can be difficult to keep loving the learner. You want to emulate those around you. You want to be better. You want to give it your all. And more than anything, I think, you want out of the discomfort of learning. Coz, doesn’t it just feel that much better when you are the fast one, the strong one, the smart one..
Its coming up for us in slightly different ways. For me, well I have been picking up most things pretty quickly on the farm, which is normal for me. I always seem to have picked up most things quickly. But ‘picking it up quickly’ is nowhere near the same as being a master at something. There is a great deal of learning, time and experience before anyone can reach a stage of mastery. And there is also a kind of pressure that happens when those people who are ‘masters’ can see your potential, and want to encourage it. There is a lot of expectation that comes with that – and that of course creates pressure, which actually makes you fumble and go slower. You make mistakes – and its through this process of fumbling, learning, getting it, losing it again – that over time, you probably can become really good at something. Its a slow process. And you gotta give yourself a lot of love along the way.
Sometimes the challenge in this role, is that you can get overlooked. People can think you are more capable than you are, and turn their attention to other things. And in this role, you can want to think you are more capable than you are. It’s more comfortable than being a boring learner after all. But, its really important to call that attention back to yourself, and get the support you need. Otherwise you never get to shine. When everyone is busy, it can feel hard to call that attention back to you and your fumbling. There is a delicate balance between being given the autonomy to go out there and find your own way, and knowing the support is right there when you need it.
Another challenge in this role, is that your support team is able to hold onto the belief in your potential without turning it into a demand, a pressure, or an expectation. I hope I am making sense. If your teachers only see your mistakes, only see how you are not rising to meet their expectations, then the pressure becomes too great. The learner needs to be loved, otherwise the ‘gifted one’ just becomes a burden. Its a long term project.
What has really helped me, has been having open conversations with Rod and Tania about what they need and expect of me. In return I have had to say to them, “Don’t expect too much yet, as that creates a pressure – remember I am a learner. Don’t leave me on my own too much yet. Download all your knowledge to me. Drip feed me!” Its great to hear they feel positive about my potential on the farm and I love having their trust and being left to be independent. But I also need them to know when to stay with me, and teach me. It’s essential that they do not assume that I am fine and just leave me to it. I won’t learn that way.
Rach has had quite a different process and I’m sure she will talk more about this in her own words, so I won’t say to much here. But I want to share what she has been going through in her role, because its a familiar role that I am sure many have experienced. Now, Rach and I are different in many ways, and one way is that I am naturally fast and she is naturally slow. That’s not a criticism – just a fact. Some of us walk, talk and move fast. Others walk, talk and move slower. Ironically, Rachel is the really sharp and fast thinker and I am slower with this.
All of this is my way of loving the slow one amongst us. Especially because that person is my partner and I love her. Rach moves more slowly through the world. She is also slow at farming, as I am, because she is learning. But even when she knows it back to front, she will still do it slower. Rod and Tania are the same. Tania is fast at everything. Rod plods. The only difference at this point, is that Rod is much more comfy with his plodding nature than Rach is yet. But she has a great role model.
I think this has all been that much harder because naturally Rach has been comparing herself to me – and to everyone else on the farm. And that just doesn’t help. We are all different. And the only happy path through this is to love our different capacities – our strengths and our weaknesses.
Another factor which has contributed to this all, is that life circumstances have meant that Rach has kind of been in this learner role for more than 18 months now – before the farm she had studied art, having never done any art, so she was a learner there. So this process for her started long before we got to the farm. And I guess what it says to me is that, for most of us, we have a higher tolerance to be slower at something if we are shining somewhere else in our lives. But when we have no opportunity to share our gifts, it all starts to get a bit overwhelming.
One blessing I can see unfolding, is that Rachel has the opportunity here at the farm to really shine. She is starting to find those roles which naturally fit with her talents and gifts. I know that is really going to help her learn to love her slower approach to the field work. She doesn’t have to be the fastest in the field – because she has so many other gifts to offer this place. Let those who are naturally stronger and faster get on with that.
I think that’s such a valuable thing – to be able to identify your strengths and to have a place where you can express and be loved for those strengths. I think that when we have that, community feels safe, community feels supportive, and community feels like a place where you can stretch your wings and fly! Equally important, is to have a place where your limitations are loved and acknowledged. It’s not cool if you feel ashamed of them, or if the culture of your community is “Sorry, we only want winners here.” I reckon there’s a lot of that in our communities. Perhaps we can encourage our quirkiness instead. And love the learner in us all, in all its variations.