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Is socialization pooping you out?

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

This is Spooky Chicken. He's one of our steers who always wants to be alone. Bill fixed the yard fence today and Spooky Chicken left the rest of the herd to go check it out.

I remember when I lived in the Cities and being busy was an understatement. Monday through Friday work days were a nauseating flurry of hurry. I was launched out of bed by a piercing alarm after a fitful night's sleep, raced to shower and dress, shoveled in some breakfast, packed lunches, then drove outside the speed limit to get to work with time to do a few things before my students arrived. Then I raced through more work in a day than feasibly possible, skipped lunch most of the time, maybe ate it on the way home while stuck in traffic, picked up the kiddo, prepared supper, helped with homework and got in a walk. After all of that, I would sit down for the rest of the night to work on lesson plans for the following day. I never felt like I could breathe, I only felt moments of happiness between bouts of extreme stress, anxiety and exhaustion.

Of course, the weekends were something to look forward to. I loved those mornings when I could linger over coffee and only shower once I felt I had the morning chores tended to. I loved being able to take the day at a pace that worked for me. Sadly, by Saturday night or Sunday morning depression would set in as my brain shifted to the next work week. The only time I really felt that time was mine was Friday evening and most of Saturday. It was a brutal existence, and unfortunately, this is the way of life for most of us.

When I bought the Driftless Dirt Farm as I call it, I sensed a shift. There was something about the quiet, the beauty and absence of visual noise that held the stressors at bay. In the Cities during the week, I looked forward to being here for the weekends; I looked forward to being out of the city. This place gave me a new purpose, and a new way to be. As soon as I bought this farm, I never wanted to leave. For a few years I spent weekends on the farm then traveled back to the city for the work week. Those late Sunday drives (sometimes even early Monday mornings) were sad for me. Heading back into that environment of work left me feeling devastated, frustrated and frankly, pretty angry. I spent years with pent up rage that I just didn't understand. I now know that the city lifestyle and culture of work was not a good fit for me, for my humanity or for my health.

I made the transition out of city life and now am on the farm full-time. I am also self employed so time is mine to manage (mostly). This transition was actually not easy as so many aspects of city life were deeply ingrained in my belief system. I've suffered surprising culture shock in adjusting, and I've also lost some of my ability to code switch back into city mode. I'm also adapting to the farm clock which makes it very difficult to schedule anything as work always happens and go-with-the-flow or curve balls replace a schedule and deadlines!

The outcome of my adopting this lifestyle has involved a sizable downshift in social interactions. I remember some weekends in the city just wanting to do nothing and be alone, but worried I would be judged. You know how that Monday morning conversation with coworkers all checking in and sharing stories of their fun-filled weekend goes? When they ask you how you spent your weekend and you reply,"I didn't do anything..." Crickets. End of discussion. Oh pity you. In the city, not only are you supposed to be busy all week, but all weekend as well!

The farm was my escape to quiet and away from the city assumption that people want to be social and gather. In making this transition to the quiet country lifestyle, I now believe that part of the stress of city life is directly connected to these implicit assumptions that people should gather and spend time in the company of others. In fact, I think most of human stress is a direct result of our social expectations and interactions. Think about all the times you worried you said the wrong thing, didn't include someone in a conversation, or didn't make time for lunch with a coworker. Many people spend all of their time thinking about other people! Might it be true that humans actually need less, not more social interaction than we think? This idea really hit home for me during the COVID lockdown when I became keenly aware of the relief I felt of having no social obligations. In fact, to my surprise, I never felt so stress-free in my life!

Since the restrictions for social interaction have lifted, I continue down the path of seeking solitude as I recognize how nourishing it is. Sure, you might say that my need for quiet is because I was raised primarily as an only-child, but I don't think it's that. I actually think that unless social interaction is curative, fulfills and nourishes our minds and spirits, it is actually stress inducing. I like talking about ideas and things that matter. While I can certainly report information about the neighbors down the road, judgmental or hurtful gossip isn't my thing. I want to run when I hear it. I'm also not a big fan of standing around the water cooler listening to one person critique or criticize another, and I just get plain tired during surface-level conversations. I have become quite good at making an exit. Unless I am engaged in a meaningful or nurturing activity or discussion with others, I am only good for a few minutes of chatting!

And, I am wasting your time writing all of this, because I wonder if perhaps what I am feeling might just be true for everyone. Maybe humans aren't really the social creatures we proclaim, and perhaps we don't actually need the extent of social interaction that consumes our lives at present. Perhaps what we need instead is more time to calm our racing minds, more time to hear ourselves think, and more time to listen to the world. Certainly, we all need more quiet and alone time between social interactions to recharge our batteries. It is in these moments that we find ourselves, get creative and heal.

Oh, my soapbox! If you've made it this far, thank you for indulging my random thoughts!

What's in the store?

Oh, for the love of sourdough bread, homemade soups, my favorite CRANBERRY CABERNET JAM and all sorts of other delicious and farmy treats. We're open daily 9-5 until sometime in December weather permitting.

Take some quiet time to yourself this week.

Sending love from the farm,


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2 comentarios

26 oct 2023

Thank you Sarah for your personal observations and reflections, and your fun reads. They stop my whirl while I read, and they help me restore my balance. I have been reading your newsletter since you started publishing. I so look forward to you every week. ……Marsi

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Sarah Brenner
Sarah Brenner
26 oct 2023
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Marsi, Thanks for following along!

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