The Recovering Farmer

Saturday, December 31, 2016

That’s All Folks

That sounds rather final. And it is, at least for this year. Another year has come and gone. It seems like this one went by even quicker than the last which went quicker than the year before that. Perhaps it is an age thing. Although when I think back to the outset of 2016 it feels like that is a lifetime ago. Here we are ensconced by another winter. At the end of November it appeared like the winter might be gentle. But alas, two snowfalls later we have significant snow accumulations and it appears there is more to come.

I have seen numerous mentions lately that 2016 was a horrible year. This seems a little puzzling. Why do people feel that way? Listening to the radio this morning shed some light on that. It appears that there were a significant number of well known, dare I say celebrities, that died. Interesting point. But not one that I had considered nor one that I am about to get hung up on.

What is it about famous people’s death that intrigues some? What about people that don’t have celebrity status? When I look around at family and friends that are struggling with health, passing of a loved one, dealing with loss of job, or numerous other issues I find it difficult to grieve because another celebrity died. Don’t get me wrong. It is said when anyone dies. But not anymore sad or tragic than when someone close is struggling or dying.

Sorry for the little rant. So New Years is upon us. The time when many become obsessed with making resolutions. I have said before and will say it again. I have tried and failed. I have given up. Very simply put when I wake up on January 1 life remains virtually the same. It is still winter. It is cold. We have just been through a snow storm with threats of another one on its way. The days are short. Why in the world would I want to quit anything that is helping me cope?

Here is a novel idea. We should change New Years from January 1 to July 1. Me thinks it would be so much easier to carry through with any resolution if it we did during summer rather than the dead of winter. Think about it. Eating less, drinking less, quitting smoking, quitting nicotine gum, getting in shape, all of these would be so much easier in the summer. In fact should I be prime minister that would be a policy or legislative change I would make. I bet you would all vote for me. Right?

Okay. I can only wish. So as we move into the new year I do need to make some changes. However, I refuse to call these resolutions. Rather I need to make some lifestyle changes. These are lifestyle changes I need to make so I am ready for summer when it gets here. Am I contradicting myself? Perhaps. So be it.

The good news is we get an extra second of sleep tonight. You see, the world clock has to be adjusted. Seems the earth rotation on its axis is slowing down. It has slowed down 26 seconds since 1972. Quite fascinating. What about before 1972. Nobody knows because nobody was keeping track. So there you have it. Enjoy that extra sleep. Happy New Years. Make it a good one.

“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” Theodore I. Rubin

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas 2016

Here I am a day late. Christmas day was yesterday and here I am posting my annual Christmas thoughts on boxing day. It is rather strange how Christmas snuck up on me this year. I have been quite busy with work and perhaps that is why. Normally I would be relieved because days are now getting longer. Hardly even thought about that this year. I would have a certain dread about all things Christmas. Did not have time to think about that. Year end is fast approaching which just means I need to get some work done so I don’t even find that troublesome.

So before I realized it friends and family had come and gone. It was great to spend time in building relationships. And, as seems to be the norm, Christmas seems to stretch into New Years so the poem I am using again, because I love it, still has significant meaning, even a day late. Make it a good one.

Put your problems on probation
Run your troubles off the track,
Throw your worries out the window
Get the monkeys off your back.
Silence all your inner critics
With your conscience make amends,
And allow yourself some happiness
It's Christmas time again!

Call a truce with those who bother you
Let all the fighting cease,
Give your differences a breather
And declare a time of peace,
Don't let angry feelings taint
The precious time you have to spend,
And allow yourself some happiness
It's Christmas time again!

Like some cool refreshing water
Or a gentle summer breeze,
Like a fresh bouquet of flowers
Or the smell of autumn leaves,
It's a banquet for the spirit
Filled with family, food and friends,
So allow yourself some happiness
It's Christmas time again!
Bob Lazzar-Atwood

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What I Am

There are days that I regret having been less than enthused about learning when I had the chance to. Don’t get me wrong. I still am learning and obviously need to keep learning. In fact I have learned so much from my mistakes I am thinking of making a few more. I am referring to school. I have some regrets for not having pursued post-secondary schooling. But what I regret even more is not being engaged in my high school education. I muddled my way through and managed to get my diploma.

I am particularly sorry about my lack of enthusiasm in English class. I think I am managing quite well without having too much math and science know how. After all we have calculators for any type of calculations I need to do in my life. Had I known in grade twelve that someday I would use a cell phone with a built in calculator I could have skipped that subject totally. And science? Who needs it.

English involved Shakespearean literature. Comedies and Tragedies. Some irony that I saw a quote earlier this week that resonated with me and a day later saw the following quote which originates on the Amazon website. "The English language owes a great debt to Shakespeare. He invented over 1700 of our common words by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and devising words wholly original." Quite fascinating actually if you consider that Shakespeare invented 1700 words. Perhaps his syntax was off, some stories were difficult to grasp, but at the end of the day some of his quotes hold so much truth. Some of the people that critique my writing would probably suggest I have invented a few words myself. Not sure if that would be considered a comedy or a tragedy.

So in the past I have been challenged to use positive self-talk. I have written about the imaginary parrot sitting on our shoulders. You know the one that repeats everything we say. So when we tell ourselves that we are “such an idiot” or “I am so stupid” or a host of other demeaning terms the parrot repeats that which simply confirms for us that we are actually an idiot or dumb or stupid. Not helpful at all. So when the question is asked, in Shakespeare’s King Richard lll, “what am I if I’m not what I tell myself I am” my first thought is that people suffered from negative self-talk way back when. Not something new but something that needs to be dealt with to avoid all kinds of consequences.

I would like to think that if I am not what I tell myself I am I am a good person. Having said that I know that others think much more highly of themselves than what they really are. Like in “do you know who I am?”. Perhaps not arrogant but certainly a certain level of abrasive self-confidence. However, I digress.

The point being that living with a low level of self-worth, low self-esteem, self-loathing, or continuous shame can be and is very detrimental to our well-being. It drives us into the depths of misery. It prevents us from enjoying a fulfilled life. A quote I have used in the past is “if we talked to others the way we talk to ourselves how many friends would we have?”. When these negative thoughts come our way we have to replace them with positive self-talk. We probably don’t talk to anyone else as much as we talk to ourselves. So be kind to yourself. Make it a good one.

Stop hating yourself for everything you aren’t. Start loving yourself for everything that you are.” unknown

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Am I Drowning

We are approaching that time of year again when many people that experience mental health issues find themselves in somewhat of a quandary. I know I do. It is a time of celebration, a time to renew relationships with family and friends, and a time to over eat. Unfortunately we get caught up in the commercialization and busyness of the season. No sooner do we have Halloween off the books and we become bombarded with the material side of the season. It always seems a contradiction to hear carols such as Silent Night as you literally fight your way through the masses in various stores trying desperately to buy that perfect gift for someone who already has everything.

It is also the time of year when daylight hours are at a minimum. Normally it can be the beginning of the coldest time of year. Sure. We had the warmest November since 1899. Wonder what that does to the global warming argument. Perhaps I won’t go there. The price we paid for this unusually warm weather is a total lack of sunshine. Not helpful at all for improving mental health. Even the hand full of Vitamin D each morning could not get me to fight my way through the gloom of another cloudy day.

But enough of me. A few weeks ago I presented to the local CMHA chapter in Melville, Saskatchewan. Earlier this year when I first chatted with one of the board members she shared a concern with me. As we talked about various experiences she mentioned that awareness of mental health issues was a good thing. She mentioned a family member that had suffered the debilitating effects of depression. She expressed gratitude about the way that resources had been available to help this particular person. But she also expressed concern that there seemed to be little mention of the people that were trying to be helpful to those that live with mental health challenges. She felt that these care givers were largely ignored in the big picture.

She makes a valid point. Far too often we forget about those that provide support and care, a support without any clear direction. There are no instructions written that cover the various challenges they face. Never knowing what the day may bring. Mental health issues are so unpredictable. It becomes an exhausting effort. It can have the potential to create another whole set of issues with far reaching implications.

That maybe why the following resonated with me. Sometimes you can get so busy trying to be everyone else’s anchor that you don’t even realize you are drowning. Isn’t that the truth. Whether through work, with family, friends, or community, we become so involved in wanting to be there, show leadership, make sure things happen, never miss a moment, that we lose sight of ourselves and the effect all of this can have on our own mental health. And then we wake up one morning and come face to face with the reality that our lives have changed. That we are now experiencing everything we were helping the other to overcome. Make sure you take the time to look after yourself. After all, without relationships, without community, without a healthy mental state, this time of year can be lonely and sad. We don’t want that and don’t need that. Make it a good one.

“Some people and events are difficult to deal with, but they can only stress us if we let them. Breathe in calm, breathe out chaos, and anchor yourself in peace.” Lori Deschene

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Try To Undertand

Conflict can be such a confusing issue to deal with. First we are told that it can be positive. But then again it can be negative. Addressed properly it can be constructive. Improperly it is destructive. Why is that? Maybe, just maybe, it is because we don’t listen well.

The recent election in the USA has shown us some classic examples of what conflict should not be. To a degree this was prevalent in the Canadian election a year ago. Let’s be clear. Obviously as democracies we hold elections because there are many and diverse ideas of what government policy should be about. In simple terms we have ideologies from right wing to left wing. People differ and that is not a bad thing. Political debates and conversations should be a means to discuss policies, share ideas and visions, issues that can improve the lot of citizens and ultimately the world. However, when the dialogue denigrates into personal accusations and insults we accomplish nothing except destructive conflict.

Even after the election, the insults, anger, and gnashing of teeth continues. A short scroll through Facebook proves the point. As someone suggested the other day they miss the day when someone would post instructions on pork chop recipes, or of a dog that was not feeling well, or of. . . . forget it. Might say something I may regret. And don’t even get me going on people that drag religion into the political arena. Never seen such sanctimonious and self-righteous venting as I have in the last year. Perhaps my forefathers were right when they suggested that church and state don’t mix. Their thoughts were that our only duty was to pray for our government. Isn’t that a novel idea.

Sorry. Back to conflict. As has been taught through the ages constructive conflict is important and beneficial. It helps us learn. It helps us develop new thought and ideas. Patrick Lencioni describes the usefulness of conflict in his book “Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. In essence he suggests that the basis of any team is trust and when trust is present team members can engage in conflict because it provides the safety to express ideas and thoughts even if they are bound to create significant feedback.

What is it that spirals our relationships into destructive conflict? Why is it that I have such a difficult time in admitting to being wrong? Why is it that I keep defending my position even when subconsciously I know I am wrong? I hate being wrong. The thought of being wrong is a blow to my self-esteem. In essence it makes me unacceptable to myself. That is why I tend to become defensive. I need to save face.

However, when I drill down to the cause of this defensiveness, when I take the third person approach, I gain an understanding of what is happening internally. I find that I have not listened to understand but rather to respond. I have not taken the time to check on what the other really is trying to achieve. I have not explored what I really need out of the conversation. So I argue vigorously to make my point. A point that becomes lost because quite frankly when two parties are in attack mode what really is the point.

I hate being wrong. What is even worse is admitting I am wrong. So I need to look inward. And answer a key question. Do I want to defend my beliefs at all costs or do I want to see the world as clearly as possible? I want to see the world as clearly as possible. And when I am intrigued rather than defensive I am well on my way to gaining a much clearer perspective and having what the Eagles sing about. “That peaceful, easy feeling.” Make it a good one.

“Be selective with your battles. Sometimes peace is better than being right.”

Monday, November 7, 2016

Much Ado About Nothing

It has been awhile. Did manage to put some thoughts together after our road trip this summer. Still love telling the story of 4 GPS’s, a map, and my wife. Not sure why my inspiration to write left me. Perhaps it was writer’s cramp. Quite frankly I don’t even know what that means. Perhaps I lost focus. Thoughts that could be passed on did not come to me. If they did I would forget before I had a chance to jot them down.

Changing the clocks this weekend seems to have reignited something. Twice a year the debate rages. All the dangers society faces when our bodies have to adjust for a one hour change. Statistics show that there are more accidents the Monday after we lose the one hour. Okay. Perhaps. Just not sure why. Its not that we all have a set time when we go to bed or wake up. So these changes happen in our bodies even if the clock doesn’t change. But to flog that debate again when we gain an hour of sleep is beyond me.

Here is the latest. So as mentioned, in Spring there are more accidents on Monday morning. Now the experts say that the fall change affects us more on Saturdays. Does that make sense? Me thinks that is much ado about nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. Sleep is important. I have been reminded of that again as I prepare for a stress management workshop in Saskatchewan. I have been reviewing the materials used in our Sleepless in Manitoba workshops from a few years ago. How well we perform during the day depends on the sleep we have had the night before. Lack of proper sleep increases the risk of accidents and injury. We become more susceptible to heart attacks, strokes, and other medical issues. There is an increased likelihood of depression and other mental health problems. There is an increase in substance abuse. Research has shown that decreased productivity from lack of sleep costs $25 billion in Canada.

So I get it. We need a good night’s sleep. It will provide for a better quality of life. But does a one hour change really impact that much? Quite frankly if I was in charge I would add another change. Hear me out. Should we not change to daylight saving time the sun would rise around 4:00 am during the time of the summer solstice. It would set at 9:00 pm. It would seem to me that we would spend too much time sleeping during daylight hours. What I would suggest is that right round the middle of May we spring ahead an additional hour. That would make for even longer daylight in the evenings. I like that. After all I am an avid golfer.

So if the one hour change twice a year wreaks havoc in our lives think of the chaos four time changes would create. Apocalyptic. Makes me shudder just thinking of it. In fact I think our current leaders should no longer allow travel outside of our time zones. Just imagine the danger we are when we travel east or west. And the further we travel the more dangerous we become. It should not happen. We need to stay put. Perhaps there is a reason I am not in charge.

There is my vent for the week. Aren’t you glad I was inspired to write about this? You too can now be more aware of the detrimental effects of a time change. Be vigilant. Be careful. But most of all just get some sleep. The good news is that in a mere six weeks the days start getting longer. That’s what I am waiting for. Make it a good one.

“At the end of the day I am thankful that my blessings are bigger than my problems.”

Thursday, August 4, 2016

GPS

Much has been said about GPS (Global Positioning System) in the last few years. Where I first began noticing the use of GPS was in agriculture. Farmers talked about it. They used it. It was amazing to see the straight lines made by tillage equipment. I remember when I used to drive tractors the lines were anything but straight. Now that is different. Must be boring me thinks.

For Father’s Day my kids gave me a Garmin watch. For those that have no clue what that is it simply is a watch that I wear when golfing. It, quite frankly, is amazing technology. It provides me with yardages from wherever I might be on the course. I switch it on when I start my round, pick the course I am on, it has the coordinates for 3000 courses, and the rest is automatic. As a matter of fact I can get a yardage distance to every green at Kingswood from in my office. Like I say, incredible technology.

Earlier this year we purchased a convertible. Something that had been on our bucket list for a while. A week ago my wife and I took it on a road trip. We traveled east to Ottawa, down to Niagara Falls and then back home. Over 5000 kilometers of beautiful scenery, busy highways, and interesting destinations. Each morning my wife would punch in the address of our destination for the day on the GPS in our car. Quite interesting to have someone other than my wife telling me where to go and how to get there. As we approached Ottawa my wife decided to overrule the GPS. After all she still had a map in her hands and felt she knew where would be better routes to take. Imagine my consternation when I heeded the directions from my wife and the GPS kept telling me to make a legal Uturn. Who to listen to? Actually a no brainer. I listened to my wife.

Found out in a hurry that GPS can also lead you astray. Good thing we had a backup. After the built in GPS took us to a residential area, we were looking for our Hotel, we switched that one off and pulled out the backup one. It took us to the other side of town to another residential area. At that point I was calling the voice from the GPS very bad names. We then each took out our Iphones and used the GPS on them. Even they showed different routes to our destination. 4 GPS’s and two hours later we found the Hotel. Turns out we were a mere few blocks from it when we first pulled into town. Interesting how often we still went wrong in spite of this wonderful technology.

I mulled over that for the rest of the trip. Except, of course, as we traveled past Toronto, or did we drive through the city. Not sure. With multiple lanes going every direction it was tough to really think about anything except survival. Check the speed limit, add 20 kmh plus 10% and there is a chance you will actually keep up to traffic. With conditions like that it is not surprising we missed a few turns. Except on those roads you don’t make turns. You veer right or left depending on what the wonderful female in GPS land is yelling at you. Sorry. I digress.

It seems that my brain’s built in GPS also, at times, takes me to destinations I don’t care to visit. Why is that? Perhaps I have programed it wrong. Used the wrong coordinates. Wrong street address. The lesson is not to despair. There are various means to finding your way back to a life that makes sense. A life filled with happiness, satisfaction, and contentment. And as our trip showed us it may take a while but eventually you will get there and when you do you will realize and understand that it was worth the trip. Make it a good one.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again” Thomas H. Palmer