Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane, co-author Rainy Day Thought, where they write about experiences, ideas, nature, creativity, and culture. The latter might appear at times political, but we will try to avoid partisanship to speak to the broader issues that impact a culture. This is just too important a time not to sometimes speak to problems that impact society. As she and I do, readers will find we often disagree and have for over 50 years-- still able to be close friends. You can do that if you can be agreeable that we share more than not despite the difference.

Diane posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome as it turns an article into a discussion, but must be in English, with no profanity, hate-filled comments, or links (unless pre-approved).

Fantasy, the painting by Diane Widler Wenzel, cropped a little to fit the needs of a banner.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Compartmentalizing life

It used to seem to me that the ideal of living a life would be that it all be integrated. One part of who we are would neatly flow into another. Probably on some level that happens, but I more often feel, at least for me, it's not how it is.  I compartmentalize, and there are likely reasons I learned to do that-- one protective and the other functional.

Now, it's not that I am a different person from one compartment to another; but rather it's different aspects of the same person, different roles, different masks. Masks aren't really pretense. They are more what we use to communicate with others, to connect and depict who we are but not all of who we are.

When people leave a compartment, they will be back to pick it up later. How successful this is will probably indicate how many activities can be ongoing at the apparent same time. Shifting into different modes, enables having more diversity than if struggling to hold onto a compartment that isn't fitting a new location.

I am wondering if I always knew how to do this or simply learned because of my lifestyle which is not only close to nature but with life and death with responsibility for livestock. It has been a lifestyle I have known almost all of my life where I grew up in the country at the edge of wilderness and with parents who also raised livestock. The life I lead today I chose because I had enjoyed it as a child and wanted it for my adult self. I well understood the struggles it would demand.

In our nation it's more unusual to live my lifestyle as most people have found something they prefer-- suburban living where it is a compartment that is more controlled. Your neighbor's home will look rather like yours, their yard will be maintained like yours, and they will likely be of about your economic level. This is not so true of those in the inner city nor those in the country. In those places, compartments are jumbled together. Since I know the most about country living, it's about what I will be writing.

Things go quickly wrong out here. It will all be going along swimmingly, and there is a predator attack changing the whole day or a sick animal. Sometimes those events can be life threatening for not only the animals but us-- and it's in an instant.

There is one other thing that can happen because we live just off a state highway, the kind of thing which I don't write about often because it only happens rarely; but when it does, it changes everything for that time-- it's the unexpected and unpredictable human encounter.

Our neighborhood had one of those last week when after we had gone to sleep we got a call from one of the three nearby homes, this the wife of a pastor. Her husband was not there (he'd just gotten his elk, was driving it home and then had to skin and cut it up); and she was scared because of a threatening incident that came into her driveway. It was the kind of event that was loud, frightening, and involves stranger to stranger. Her husband had told her if she was scared, to call Farm Boss. Which is what she had done.

At first we thought she was just letting us know about the incident for our information; and we started to go back to sleep; but then she called again asking if Farm Boss would come over. He quickly got dressed and drove there about the time the police arrived, who she had also called.

The person who had led to the scare had gone on but the scare remained for her. Scares have to be one of the harder things we face, wherever we live, and most difficult to put into a compartment and keep it locked away while we go on to a different realm. After Farm Boss was assured all was well, learned the details of what had happened, he returned home where I was reading a book until he got back. We talked about it for a bit before we went back to sleep.

It reminded me of many edgy events over the years we have lived in this farm just off the highway, events with strangers, which can come on so fast. Some concern over that, for me, has been alleviated by our having a driveway gate that keeps in the sheep and that house being built over there which now gets a lot of the stray traffic coming to their door not ours.

Yes, troublemakers could still come past our gate. Neighbors all know the code. The gate is not padlocked nor would it be hard to push open, but it is a visible barrier that doesn't make it look simple as it used to appear in the years where I used to even have nightmares about it happening.

One thing we learned from Farm Boss talking to the police-- we have even less protection out here at night than we had. They were out here this time so rapidly because they had had a call only seven miles off. At night, there are only two county officers to answer calls anywhere in our county-- and it's a big county, a mix of rural and town. To top it off, there is only one Oregon State Highway Patrolman for three counties. Basically you are on your own in dealing with a violent episode unless you get lucky with where the officers were when you made the call. I am pretty much okay with that as the price of living out so far; but it doesn't mean it can't get scary.

And then what happens afterward? The scare leaves when the event does? Not so much. If you can't compartmentalize, you keep it within, buried under a lot of daily minutia. Compartmentalizing lets you set it aside and pick it back up if the situation arises again or you must plan for how to change your response. Basically you figure out what you'd do the next time it arises, hoping it won't, but you then set it aside, not living and reliving what happened. That's the tricky part.

In some ways we are compartmentalized in more than our fear reactions. If we get all our news from like-minded sources, if those we talk to always think like we do, we can get to thinking it is the only way.  It's easy to do that these days with news especially where we can come to believe it's the same everywhere in the country at large.

Compartmentalizing even happened here with my blogs although it more evolved that way than I planned it as I more or less keep various topics separated. I do that mostly so readers won't go somewhere they have liked and find a hot button topic that upsets them. By compartmentalizing the blogs (art, politics, metaphysics, general), I can write freely without worrying I'll offend someone (who didn't know it could be coming) leaving me free to write whatever is on my mind.

So, to me compartments are tools but can prove to be limiting like a box where we cannot get out of it even when required.  The end result can be what is truth? How scared should I be? If I don't get out of my compartment is there any way to know, and yet if I do, it's not comfortable! We can stay with these like-minded groups, in our boxes, and it seems comfortable but it doesn't really tell us how the area over the hill is thinking or living. We just know how it is in our compartment.

Compartmentalizing can be both a limitation or a healthy tool. When we use it well, it enables us to find what is going on around us but without constantly dwelling on it. We simply cannot healthily stay in a rage or a fear all the time and not pay a physical price. For that reason some avoid knowing anything uncomfortable but who does that benefit? Working on our compartmentalizing skills can enable us to both be informed and lead a life without sinking into depression.

The photo on top was one of eight taken by a friend recently as he flew over this  farm on his way back from the Coast. The house is hidden in the oak trees at the bottom. The trailer above it is where my mother lived and we haven't yet figured out how to get if off the place (I have a compartment that frets over that). You can see the creek shining with the state highway just below it. The creek mostly cuts our farm off from that road but not from access as we also live on a road even though it is gravel. 

What looks like pick-up sticks are irrigation pipes.The dried looking grass at the top right of the photo is the newly leased land we have arranged for the cattle. What I like is how you can see the sheep and cattle grazing (taken before we got the lease land set up. If I'd known my friend was planning to do it, I'd have stepped out to wave ;)


Tabor said...

the lovely aerial photo belies the unease you have in the compartment where you live. I guess I thought retirement would keep my compartments fewer and more organized...but life goes on and sometimes shakes up a compartment or two.

Kay Dennison said...

Love the photo!!!

And yes, I tend to compartmentalize my so-called life.

Rubye Jack said...

This is a really interesting post Rain. I definitely tend to compartmentalize anything bad--like guilt and sad memories. I think we all wear masks either to fit in or to protect ourselves. I have a mask for when I talk with my neighbors who are very different from me in their thinking. Lately it seems the only place I talk freely anymore is in my blog or with my family or with old friends.

btw, I really like the way your hair looks in this photo.

Celia said...

I have a little compartments too although I think of my fears as being in my anxiety closet, thanks to Bloom County. Part of that is my grandkids living on a small farm between the old highway and a creek. You can see their nearest neighbor. The kids have instructions not to open the door and to screen the phone calls and not answer if its not family while their Dad is out haying or Mom makes a run for town. All are connected with cell phones. But as you know sometimes people just drive up, and wanting directions or to know if some of the critters are for sale, or just to look around as though this isn't someone's home. I worry. The older kids are also there but a couple of the younger ones have no "street smarts," that may sound funny but the same levels of awareness apply. But it is a farm with animals that can be cranky. The kids are pretty smart, but they are kids. Besides the two leggeds, there cougars, moose, and coyotes. All of which get into town on occasion. We are better protected police wise in town but once you get out of town including nearby Oregon you are kind of on your own. Some times I just have to close the door on my worries. They do have a giant Akbash dog who is not fond of strangers, especially in or near the house.

I, too have several conversational compartments, depending on who I'm talking too. Thank goodness for close friends.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

A very interestiung post, my dear Rain...I think what you say about compartmentalizing can be a "life-saver" in some respects---I'm not too good at doing this anymore--And I don't think I ever was good at it, but I see how it might have helped me in any number of situations in the past had I been better at it. On the other hand I feel that having so many creative outlets has helped me to deal with a lot of things without compartmentalizing them in the usual way---Art (Wriying, Painting, Composing, Singing, Acting, etc.) as Expression of Inner Feelings, whatever they may be---That is a "life-saver" too.

Lovely to see your Farm Property from the Air---It gives me such a nice feeling to picture how things look in terms of the terrain---the trees and such, and the fields for the dear animals---where you live....

Paul said...

It's good to know your neighbors...Waiting for Law Enforcement to arrive does take time when you live in the country...

Rain Trueax said...

I have written about this before but country people often know their neighbors better than those in the city. It was one of my surprises when we moved out here that people who might live miles from us would know who we were. It likely is due to the interdependency that can suddenly arise. Not to say everybody is friends but they know the basics of who people are, who can be trusted. I never saw anything like it during my town living years where we might've known the block on which we lived but not those a mile away as you would out here.

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

Your farm is nothing short of magnificent from the air. It is actually a mystical experience looking at it. That sounds like a scary story but glad Farm Boss was there for your neighbor's wife. I live in the city and know bad stuff lurks but I always think of rural areas as being so safe. Hmmm.

Anonymous said...

simply dropping by to say hey

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