Real vs. Romanticized

On the surface, it was perfect.  The way the sunlight filtered through the willow trees.  The weathered wood barn with it’s matching John Deere tractor.  The robins chirping above the breeze and the sweeping views of the Ochoco Moutains.  It was exactly like I imagined.  No, more.  Because it was real.  Like stepping through the veil between reality and fantasy.  It was what I wanted a ranch to look like.

He (being the rancher) took us on a tour of the property.  We scaled the ladder in the hay barn and giggled at how insanely high up we were.  We learned the art of shit-kicking (an actual thing you do when you walk the land).  And we loaded into his old farm truck in search of the bison herd.

When we finally spotted a few of them among the juniper trees, we drove off-road, rolling slowly up to them.  Windows down, camera out.  The kids were just a tiny-bit nervous.  (Actually, they were about-to-poop-their-pants nervous.)  He warned us that when threatened, they’ll charge.  And reaching speeds of 30mph, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of their aggression.

Once the safari tour was over, we headed back to the farmhouse.  I sighed saying how peaceful and beautiful and idyllic it all was.  He laughed.  “Everyone says that.  They have this romanticized version of life on a ranch.  But, once you live it, you realize that it’s nothing like you imagined.  It’s hard work.  Extremely hard work.”  He paused.  “And it’s even harder to make a living from it.”

I can imagine that too.  Kind of.  This “simple life” means waking up at 4:30 AM.  Working in snow and sleet.  Manual labor and back-breaking work.  Isolation and loneliness.  It means little margins and lots of bills.  It’s not exactly the Hollywood-version of life on a ranch.

And what a good reminder.  You see, things are rarely what we imagine them to be.  Lately, I find myself thinking that married life would be SO much easier than single life.  I long for someone to share an inside joke with.  Or a road trip.  To share life and parenting and dessert with.  But, I’m glossing over the reality of marriage.  It’s hard work.  Extremely hard work.

Just last week, I met with a friend who is in the valley of her marriage.  She lamented over the distance between her and her husband.  How she wants out.  How he doesn’t understand/appreciate/get her.  How unhappy it all is.  And what a good reminder – that this desire I have is not the answer.  That happiness is not found once a ring is.  That the ideal life is exactly that: an ideal, “a conception of something in its perfection.”

I think it’s okay to long for something.  To wish and hope.  That simply means you’re human.  But, I don’t think it’s okay to put all your hope into that something.  Or someone.  Because once the concept becomes real, the sparkle rubs off.  The work becomes real.   

And then you realize, life is still life.

And life is still hard.

Married or single.  City or ranch.  Young or old.

It’s beautifully, exhaustingly hard.

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