Pictured is a roller coaster. The last four years have felt like riding an emotional roller coaster.
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The Rollercoaster of Emotions…Holding Two Things at Once

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I don’t think I truly understood the meaning of holding two emotions at once until I was pregnant with our first child. Hindsight tells me it was my first realization that anxious and eager could co-exist. It wasn’t just being pregnant for the first time during COVID. It was being pregnant for the first time with a work-from-home order and a husband who started a new job which required him to be gone five or six days each week. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, working from home while pregnant was a complete blessing. I didn’t know what tired meant until I was pregnant; it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. So, besides the lunchtime naps, working from home also showed me I was able to take walks while talking to colleagues or constituents and I learned how to deliver information to people differently than I had been doing for the previous eight years. I was eager to meet baby and also push myself to meet constituent needs during the pandemic.

I was also weirdly anxious about being alone. I say weirdly because I like being alone and yet, going from co-workers and a very conversational husband around me every day to no one was…weird. Eventually, that lead to anxiousness. When my director said I could return to work a couple days a week I was grateful. Grateful for my time at home to work quietly and grateful to also see people and interact. Turns out, even introverts need connection. Eagerness and anxiousness continued to be the emotions of the summer of 2020 and when baby arrived six weeks early those feelings just ramped up. Eager to share our tiny little bundle. Anxious because we couldn’t even hold her ourselves. Eager to take her home. Anxious to take her home. Eager (eventually) to return to work. Anxious to return to work. 

COVID rolled into drought in 2021, followed by highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), blizzards and floods all at the same time in various parts of the state in 2022. Add in the winter of 2023, one more baby, anthrax outbreaks, and the passing of both personal and professional family and…well, I’m tired. 

Having experienced a nice winter in 2024 and some decent downtime from disasters to process things has given me to the opportunity to see and appreciate my emotions along the way. For the rest of my life, the noise of geese in the spring and fall will bring me both anticipation (I’m a sucker for a season change) and uncertainty (will our commercial poultry producers be okay?). While the grief of losing family and friends is almost overwhelming at times, the joy of having known them, and learned from them, is greater. I will always desire to help our constituents with everything from composting mortalities to nutrient management plans but the longing to pick my kids up at the end of the day will also always co-exist with the desire to help. 

I’m not sure if it’s age, stage of life, or experience, but the last four years have taught me something that many of you who have lived more life than me already know and those just starting out won’t learn for a few years. It’s okay to hold two things at once. If your emotions have you feeling out of sorts this spring, please reach out to North Dakota First Link ( or call 2-1-1 anytime. 

Mary Keena
Extension Specialist, Livestock Environmental Management