I check the farmer’s blog obsessively for any updates, which takes a lot of energy partially because he never writes on it but mostly because I have to work really hard at all the mental gymnastics I use to justify to myself what I’m even doing on there in the first place.

But now I know. I was looking for evidence that he thinks about me as much as I think about him. I wonder all the time—does he miss me when he’s sorting pigs for market? I did that with him. And I miss doing that with him.

Maybe that’s asking for too much, because I was always letting a slightly-too-small pig get through the gate. But what about living inside the blue and red and yellow walls? The colors I picked to paint inside the house are so cozy. Do they make him think of me?

The answer is no. Because he got married in December. I’ve watched the video 50 times. His family is so, so happy in the video. They were never that happy around me.

The farmer is happy, too. Happier in the video than I’ve ever seen him. Maybe it’s that he’s getting to be the center of attention—he loves that.

Maybe you’re thinking that he could never be the center of attention with me around. But, actually, being the center of attention is hard for me. Which is why I hid at my first wedding and then there were only five people at my second wedding. I’m generally happy to go along with whatever someone else wants. That’s why dating him was so easy.

But once we were together it became clear that my kids are the center of my attention. His family is like most farm families—all the attention goes to the land. I don’t think he could have ever imagined how much time, energy, and resources I’d give to my kids.

The farmer was honest from the start that he loved the land more than he loved me. People told me that’s how farmers are and I loved him, so I thought it was OK.

Until I saw this video, I didn’t realize that maybe he was excited to be with me because he had never been loved more than the land. But I loved my kids more than I loved him. So he was still second.

The woman he married seems nice—I think I can tell that from the video. So I am not surprised that he’s so happy. I am surprised that he crawled under her dress and pulled her garter down with his teeth.

To say I would never do that is the only way I can think to talk about it. Because the only thing that matters is that he loved doing it. He did a victory dance afterwards, garter in mouth, fists pumping in the air. And she is laughing with joy.

I don’t think I will be reading the farmer’s blog anymore. I think I was reading it to try to understand who I am now and how I got here. Because there is no way to get where I want to be if I can’t tell the story about where I’ve been.

People tell me I don’t charge enough to rewrite resumés. I used to worry those people were right, but now I don’t.

I charge less than most people to rewrite a resumé because it’s a privilege to help someone find the story of where they’ve been. The story you tell about your past determines where you can go in the future. If you never get a story that feels right to you, you get stuck there—this is just as true in your professional life as it is in your personal life. Stories are what we use to make sense of our world. And every time I help someone rewrite theirs I’m practicing for the next time I’ll need to rewrite my own.

46 replies
  1. Maria Miccoli
    Maria Miccoli says:

    Look up Narcissist Personalities. There’s Facebook groups about it. I think the Farmer was a Narcissist. What kind of man says I love the land more than I love you? What kind of man competes with kids for attention? A Narcissist. That’s who.

    Just like he abused you, he will be abusing her…eventually.

    I have a saying “I may not always win, but I don’t always lose.”

    It’s a blessing in disguise even if it doesn’t feel good. You were psychologically set free by seeing his marriage video.

    You grieving the loss of a relationship is harder when there isn’t an obvious replacement. That’s why some people are in serial relationships afraid of being alone.

    As for the agriculture lifestyle…you can do that for yourself. You had a taste of it and you enjoyed it. Perhaps a hobby farm is in your future.

    *hugs*

    Reply
    • celestial
      celestial says:

      Don’t diagnose what you don’t know. “What kind of man loves the land more than his wife?” is the most ridiculous statement ever. Look into history and see how many many many families and men struggled to keep their bit of land to support their families. When you work 18 hour days at hard physical labor trying to extract a living with what Nature gives you, year after year, decade after decade…yes, you are putting your very soul into that land, your blood, your sweat, your joints, everything. I wouldn’t call that love, but it is something big. Just as P. put her children before the farmer, the farmer put his farm before her. Second marriages have many problems with this; the new spouse doesn’t have the connection to children brought into a new marriage. Farms take even more time and attention than children do, except that farms don’t ever grow up and become self-sustaining.

      We only know about the farmer through what P. has written for us. Remember that Penelope left the farmer and moved east, not vice versa. Would you be as supportive if he had left her? I am not taking sides; I am just trying to look at this objectively.

      Reply
      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        There is a lot of truth to this. It takes a very, very special person to treat step children as their own. And people who don’t have their own children, only step children, don’t really even know what the difference is.

        And, by the same token, it’s very hard to treat some other family’s land the same way you’d treat it if you grew up on it.

        It’s so hard to see ourselves in other peoples shoes. But these are fundamental problems with both farm families and step families.

        Penelope

        Reply
  2. Carol
    Carol says:

    You’ll get over the farmer.
    You need a replacement thrill.
    I still go to past boyfriends’ Facebook pages, etc. But in the midst of the envy, I also see that I dodged some bullets.

    Reply
  3. Don
    Don says:

    Stories

    The stories we choose to believe tell us who we think we are.

    When I was a therapist I was amazed by how many people embraced beliefs which resulted in extreme emotional pain. Beliefs which not only made them miserable but equally important were simply untrue.. I don’t mean the “facts” of the stories which often can not be determined, but rather the interpretations made and conclusions drawn. Interpreations and conclusions which are completely opposite to how others saw them.

    I suppose I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was since I have my own internal negative beliefs which I know by objective measures (i.e. not mine) are untrue.

    As cliché as it is, it usually goes to parents, our childhood, and is pretty well in place by adolescence.

    It is possible to change these internal identities, but many people choose not to. Changing to see ourselves the way other people see us, which arguably is a more valid assessment (assuming we are being honest and open) often feels “not me.” And we get pulled back and to a degree reassured that our negativity is and always was appropriate.

    I use the collective pronoun, because while I’m better than I was, I still feel pain from holding on to stories (interpretations) which I know are false by objective measures.

    I guess I feel some slight comfort knowing that such beliefs are changeable, even though at core, I stay with what feels like the “real me.”

    Narcissists think of those who are actively enhancing their ego. Those who are not, are not on their mind.

    The farmer’s new wife likely is very nice; that’s who narcissists seek. I hope I’m wrong, but I am concerned for her. Any relationship with–much less marriage to– a narcissist is filled with pain.

    History, as my college history professor announced the first day of class is important for us to know where we’ve been, how we got here. He left out the part about its value in offering at least the hope that we don’t repeat our more painful life mistakes. Still a work in process for me.

    I guess my main point is to be mindful of the lessons you infer from the stories you choose.

    And with that advice this “doctor” is off to heal himself. :P

    Reply
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I really liked this comment. Thank you. You make me look at stories I’m telling myself in a wide range of topics that have a negative bent. It’s interesting to me that we can choose to have negative stories or we can choose to change our vision. I need to think of this process as house cleaning for my head.

      Penelope

      Reply
    • Tim
      Tim says:

      If you approach the problem from an epistemological point of view, it’s easy to see that people can’t really know anything. All our beliefs are crap, both negative and positive. So, why not deliberately embrace positive, constructive beliefs?

      Reply
    • Cheryl Morris
      Cheryl Morris says:

      Hi, Thanks for posting this. I had a very painful childhood. Since then I’ve worked hard on “getting the garbage out of my head” by using outpatient therapy, techniques from Dr. Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journal method, etc. One of my therapists said to me, “Most people don’t grow up–and this is why I’ll never run out of patients.”

      Reply
  4. Nicole P.
    Nicole P. says:

    Hey Penelope,
    I have read your posts for a while. I am not really a career woman at this point in my life. I find your rawness to be refreshing. About the farmer, you would think someone that was with another person and had children with them would grieve the other person somewhat. That is called being human. You put a lot of your heart and real true inner thoughts out there. I do not read your blog for your career advice. I hope you find happiness wherever you find it whether single or with someone who appreciates and loves you for the unique person you are. May God Bless and Keep you and yours! Prayerfully, Nicole P.

    Reply
  5. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    You are the winner in this. Hard to think of it that way but true.
    You will find a new way for sure even if it takes a bit of time to work through goals and the like.

    Reply
  6. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    I had a re-thought about you last night mostly because of the other post on your blog.
    You don’t need a farmer. You are the Farmer. When you Google your farm you don’t just zoom into a small patch of land somewhere in Milwaukee. Nope. You just view the complete Globe. :)
    You are a mega-Farmer throughout the world (your Farm) by means of your blog (seed) and other social constructions (animals) taken up (sow+harvest) by an international audience (fertile land).
    The seed for this Farm is innate to you. You know and can command all the other resources required to farm successfully.
    This is YOUR thing that YOU were meant to do. Others may try to simulate you but you will do it better than anyone else. …and you’ll probably laugh in their faces. :)
    Take your stale farmer and like a little piglet put him in a pen outside in the yard. There you can speak to him whenever, about whatever etc. as long as you leave him in the pen. Never mind how cute this little piglet it’s still just a pig. :) Later just give the little piggy away.
    Please edit my nonsense, preferably don’t post my nonsense and always keep in mind I’m hitting on you. x

    Reply
  7. harris497
    harris497 says:

    Penny,
    The men I know – me included – love whatever makes us feel useful, important and needed. We want to be needed, but don’t want to have to be needed, if that makes sense.
    Mytwocentsworth.

    Reply
  8. J.E.
    J.E. says:

    Beware of overly romanticizing the past. You two were ultimately not a good match and brought out the worst traits in each other. Don’t dump on me for saying this, but in a way I’m glad he got married so that you can move forward. You can grieve for what was, but it’s important to remember what was versus what never was any time you feel yourself get too fixated on him.

    Reply
  9. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    If you don’t want to read the farmer’s blog anymore, then don’t read it. If you do, then go ahead. The impression I get from reading this post is it served a benefit to you to understand your relationship with him and your stay on the farm. What I think will happen is you’ll read a few more posts from time to time without feeling the need to check on a regular basis.
    I think we’ll continue to read about him or the farm to some extent. I would be surprised if we didn’t. You and your sons knew him and experienced farm life for about 10 years. The tagline for this blog is – “Advice at the intersection of work and life”. So I can envision where you’ll think about the farm or something about careers and then relate it back to your experience on the farm. This blog is not just about your present and future thoughts, ideas, and experiences.
    Which brings me to this sentence – “I charge less than most people to rewrite a resume because it’s a privilege to help someone find the story of where they’ve been.” – and the rest of the last paragraph. I believe every word. Also, I believe it’s a way to show appreciation and express gratitude. There are few people that I can think of that would be able to recognize and admit to benefits derived from working with their clients expressed this way. Beautiful.

    Reply
  10. me
    me says:

    The last paragraph is perfection.

    Thank you for reminding me that life is made up of the stories – the good, the bad, the ugly – that we tell ourselves.

    (p.s. I gasped when I got to the part that the farmer got married….ugh, so sorry.)

    Reply
  11. Ron
    Ron says:

    What a touching, personal story with an inspirational twist. I completely agree with you about embracing your story. You need to know who you are, how you got here, and what your priorities are to make sure you’re on the right path. It sounds like you’re on the right path, Penelope!

    Reply
  12. JML
    JML says:

    This is devastating. I’m sorry.

    Of course his parents are happy. He chose a conventional life. And because his parents are happy, he’s happy. He just didn’t know how to be unconventional, even if he thought he wanted to be.

    Reply
  13. Sinead
    Sinead says:

    Time to psychologically move on, Penelope. I really do understand how hard it is, but how do you want to spend your moments? Putting them into the one arm bandit of the past, or living in the present and looking towards the future? Easy for me to type these words, much harder to do. Good luck.

    Reply
    • Sinead
      Sinead says:

      I also think it’s time to update your “About me” page. You don’t live on a farm in Wisconsin anymore, and haven’t for a very long time. Time to remove the farmer and his big photo. Fix that this week. I’m being direct, because this is long overdue.

      And find another page you love. There are plenty to choose from your blog posts, so this, “Another page I love is the story of how I fell in love with the farmer. It reminds me of how crazy I felt at the beginning. Thinking I could ever date a farmer” needs to go too.

      You can’t be an authority, if your workspace is littered with redundancies. I know you’ll take this advice in the spirit I mean it. Onwards …

      Reply
      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        The “about me” page and other sections of the blog do need updating as you say. However, I don’t think it’s a priority at this time. I say that especially after reading her most recent Mailbag post. She says she is similar to a chicken with its head cut off.
        Penelope has a Patreon page where donations are welcome. She’s in phase two where she says – “I’ll be able to also pay for someone to fix my website. I haven’t had someone helping me with technical things for three years. It’s not good.” So she’s working on it. I just don’t think it will be done this week.

        Reply
  14. Saira
    Saira says:

    Hi Penelope

    A husband and wife have to be together first, everything else comes later.

    The unity and love created by a marriage that comes first nurtures everything, the land, kids, whatever.

    It’s important for kids not to come first actually because it puts a lot of pressure on them to “take care” of their parent by living up to all that focus. You know that poem, “Your children are not your children. They are life’s longing to become itself.” By Khalil Gibran.

    You have a lot of capacity for wisdom and I enjoy your writings.

    Reply
  15. Alice Joan
    Alice Joan says:

    Hi Penelope. Over the past several years we did several phone sessions together. I was in a shit relationship and you called it 10 minutes in our first convo, but it took another year or two for it settle in and root, but that time was what I needed to establish my value system and deconstruct self limiting beliefs and construct a belief system based on my preferences. Our most recent call sometime last year you said you’d want to marry me after you prompted some reflection of how I want to feel, what I wanted my home to be like (as an person sorted to ENFP) this got me prioritiezing my guy, my heart and mind coherence. Interacting with you was pivitol in recreating negative thought patterns and negative self talk to something else. Your advise was to run fast from my no where relationship and find the biggest company and snatch up an INTJ executive who was good at making money, but not good at living life with it. You said I was exciting enough and I didn’t need to validate that with another unhealthy ENFP. Anyway I did a lot of other work too. I left my shit relationship, and am reaching this date myself place right now so I can attract what is healthy. Anyway keep on keeping on. I see myself taking one of your writing courses in time. Love you!

    Reply
  16. Adrian
    Adrian says:

    Honestly dear Penelope,

    I never understood a lot of your opinions. It’s easy to tell others how to do their stuff. It’s easy from my perspective to tell you to get more flexible in thinking when I read a lot of your old posts in the last years and even today. But that is not the point. As someone who disagrees with you and who is still intrigued by your blog I wish you all the best from the far Europe. I wish you luck and love. I hope you will find happiness no matter how this looks for you. I do not intend to comment on the farmer as I do not know him and do not want to be a judge of character on someone I do not know.
    Just take it from here – I wish you all the best. You are a strong woman and a great mother to your children. All the best

    Reply
  17. Deanna Gurrola
    Deanna Gurrola says:

    I have been looking for one of your articles where the comments weren’t closed! You’re writing has sucked me in. So much so that I’m even reading articles I wouldn’t normally read. I appreciate all you do and can definitely relate to the post above. I searched my ex and his new gf and then found out from a pic on the internet they were married. However, when I texted to say congratulations, (unbeknownst to me until a couple months later) his marriage was hitting the rocks and I found out later he divorced. Recently I found out that he’s married again. While the divorce was painful, I wouldn’t be the person I am today (even starting my own blog!) without that experience. And I’m sure you’ve also grown stronger doing you. :-)

    Reply

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