Ironwood Maine Web Update

“It always seems impossible until it is done.”

Nelson Mandela

            It isn’t the most exciting thing waking up to your alarm early in the morning. We (I) dread waking up before the sun rises. Even though some people find waking up in the morning a way to be productive and a practice of “the early bird gets the worm,” it’s hard to consistently keep to that schedule. It’s so easy to hit the snooze button and roll over for just a few more minutes. Why is it that when we do have those occasions (where we need to have an alarm wake us up so early) we actually do it? 

            That is the question that I ask myself every day at noon on the weeks that my chore is grain. Waking up early at 5:45 am is a hard thing to do, even when the normal wake up call for the Farmhouse is 6:00am. Those extra fifteen minutes, while it doesn’t seem like much, constantly remind me each early morning that it would be so nice to ignore the alarm. My chore this week happens to be grain. Even though it is hard in the waking up, I’m still amazed every morning at 7:00am when I’ve realized how much work I have done. My focus for this week is not only what it’s like to be on the chore grain, it’s also going to be on what drives and motivates our choice of the more difficult option.

            At the Farmhouse there’s a big change not only in the size of the animals, but also the amount of responsibility. At Frye the mini horses and donkeys seem like they require a lot of work. All animals are a lot of responsibility when needing to take care of them. The Farmhouse certainly makes it apparent to residents that they must take on the change. Level fours are given a lot of trust and responsibility, and one of their responsibilities is the chore grain. Being on grain is a big change because we are relied on to conduct our responsibilities at the times needed. It feels really nice knowing that the whole farmhouse gives us enough trust to be able to do it. Even though grain requires an early wake-up call, it allows the Farmhouse to function the way it was planned out. It is hard sometimes to muster up the courage to sit up and get out of bed fifteen minutes earlier than the rest of your peers. It is challenging walking out of the Farmhouse before the sun has risen, and battle the cold before fully opening your eyes. Without a doubt, it would be easier to just sleep in; but, I don’t. When my alarm rings, I get up, I go outside, and I do what’s needed because I am counted on. Early morning wake up calls, while not being enjoyable in the moment, have indeed taught me a lot. I do admit that there is something nice about being in the barn, oh so early in the morning. The horses barely are up when I walk into the barn. When the horses start eating their morning hay, the whole barn begins to warm up by a degree or two. I find the dark and crisp mornings a gift to myself because they allow me to orient myself with the day ahead. Even though at times it doesn’t seem like grain was much of a chore, it is really important to making the mornings go smoothly for the barn crew. I don’t think there has ever been a blue on grain that really gets recognized for all that they have to do. I also haven’t seen a blue feel like they need to be recognized for their work. Grain is something that I’m willing to do because I see the purpose behind it, and the impact something unseen has.

            I may not have a chance to be in a barn outside of Ironwood. I may not be faced with an early wake up call to feed the horses. I will more likely be faced with a decision to choose between the easy option and a more difficult one. Grain has allowed me to see my true motivations, and what I’m willing to do for the things I care about. I will have some experience in my life that I will need to muster up the courage to complete. For me it’s not the physical work that drives me to wake up. I wake up early when I’m on grain because the horses need my care, and it benefits others. I can use those principles I’ve learned this week in the future. Grain has made me more familiar with the principles that influence my decision to follow through with the harder decision. I am happy at 7:00 am, only an hour and fifteen minutes into the day, when I’ve fed seven horses and got the barn ready for the day. The sense of accomplishment when completing a difficult task, make waking up fifteen minutes early worthwhile.

            Even though the chore grain is one chore out of many, and only one person a week does it, there’s an important message behind it. The message of being on grain is that no matter how many easy options there are, the difficult option can yield a big benefit. It makes me curious about what benefit lies behind each task that may seem difficult in the moment. I know that all of us in some way in our life choose to not take the easy route at least once in our life. We often overlook reflecting on our decisions and understanding why we did what we did then. I think it’s important to be connected to our motivations because of the sense of purpose we get. I wanted to share my motivations, and the journey that I learned them through grain. I also hope that my story can serve as a seed for you to reflect on what influences our decisions; what motivates us. I hope that as the reader of this weeks’ update you enjoyed peering into one tiny facet of Ironwood. I hope it’s inspired you to ask yourself: “What motivates me to do what I do?”

* Many thanks for this week’s author, who’s recent growth, flexibility and open mindedness is truly amazing and inspiring for our residents, staff and hopefully family back home.  

Yesterday, we celebrated a graduation and this ex-resident is now reunited with family (in a much warmer climate!).  She apologized to me when we were saying our goodbyes, for asking to be sent further away to a Wilderness program in Utah, when we met for the very first time.  We had a good laugh about this memory and further discussed how she was going to reconcile her Ironwood journey.  She said that this experience was very difficult, but also rewarding.  She also shared how surprised she was in learning from other residents (at her graduation) how much she had inspired others.  Most importantly, she communicated how important it was for her to effectively communicate her hopes and dreams to those closest to her…hearing and respecting their influence, while also making it known what she needed from them in return.  I sat across the table from a young person who was clear headed, hopeful and confident…a much-improved presentation from 11 months prior. Look out world, here she comes!

Have a nice weekend and be safe.