Sometimes the gap between what I think I’m going to accomplish and what I can actually accomplish gets too wide to span.
The military euphemism for someone overwhelmed with more than they can effectively handle is Overcome By Events. I often heard it as a slight from more senior officers about junior officers: “Yeah, he was OBE,” the field grades would say with that knowing, wolfish grin.
OBE is exactly what you want to do to your enemy—to throw so much at him that he can’t react to all of it, leaving himself vulnerable somewhere.
But OBE happens without an opponent. I don’t have any opponents here—just life’s circumstance: Hazel fell and broke her arm last month. There went that Friday. The fuel pump went out in Sarah’s car the next week. The water pump started going out on the RAV the week after that. (I accept these larger repairs since we drive vehicles with well over 100,000 miles on them, but I’d prefer the breakdowns with a little more space in between them). It’s been raining all summer and now fall, so I’m moving pigs more than I had planned so I can keep them out of the mud. Rain has set me back more times than I can count. A seventy-eight foot tall Bur Oak fell across my planned fence path in the woods. Other standing oaks prevent me from going around it easily so I’ve been chainsawing for the past two days. Unhandy.
It’s ok for a plan to OBE—circumstance sometimes outpace plans. You just don’t want to be OBE yourself. To avoid mental OBE at these times, I drop into a “critical functions” work mode. I think of it as only two parts, but there’s an attitude that you need to have even to start, so let’s make it three parts.
Step one: Accept that these things happen. I can’t control the weather or a lot of other circumstances. I’m not OBE, my plans are. Stercus Accidit, the ancient Romans said.
Step two: Decide what you can blow off for a while. Here’s just the top of my list: Putting unused tools and small engines on Craigslist, organizing the tool room in the barn, digging potatoes (because it’s more like “potato mining” when it’s this wet), fixing a couple sliding stall doors, storing the tomato towers, and a whole collection of non-critical small repairs. There’s a nice little weight off the shoulders when we realize that a lot of what we think we “have” to do is actually elective. I like my work world to be neat and organized. I’m more efficient and happier that way, but I can’t get to all of that right now. I just temporarily lowered my expectations instead. Ah, that’s better.
Step three: Focus on the high-payoff tasks. We still need to eat and the kids still need to get to school. Beyond that, the rest of my work for the next two months comes down to feeding and selling hogs. Once they find homes in freezers across Southern Wisconsin, I can take a break and get back to organizing things around here.
Something else will come up along the way. It always does. I’ll deal with whatever pops up. Plans will changes, but I won’t be OBE.
Former Marine Infantry Officer. Iraq Vet. Interested in Regenerative Agriculture at any scale.
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