The Recovering Farmer

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Talk To Me

Just recently someone told me they did not own a cellphone. I found that hard to believe. After some thought I found myself being somewhat envious of that person. Think about it. The freedom. And, ironically, the inconvenience. It would take some getting used to. Communication plays a key role in our everyday lives. In fact our means of communication have changed and expanded greatly over the years. Some of it is good, others not so good. In my last post I vented about Facebook. Many other means of communication have become an important part of our lives.

Imagine if everyone in your life would forgo communication through email, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, to name a few, and would only communicate through actual conversations. Due to all this technology, communication has probably increased but, I would argue, it is not all for the common good. Imagine if a friend came to you and showed you pictures of what they had for dinner, pictures of pets pooping on the floor, messages of extreme political views, everything that frustrated them, wishful thinking, personal updates on hygiene, underwear that was purchased, angry thoughts about their boss, stupidity of colleagues, and more. Sounds ludicrous, right? It happens on Facebook.

How about emails. It has become the norm to communicate with emails, for work and socially. It has become far too easy to send messages by email. Often messages that would not be conveyed would they be done in person. Often times there are no sober second thoughts given before the send button gets hit. I have sometimes wished I could run after the message and pull it back. But when that email is sent, it is as good as “said”. And how often do we tend to read emotion into an email? Emotion that may or may not be there. Most often what we read into an email is dictated by our own thoughts and emotion.

In my work communication plays a major role in more ways than one. Communication often causes conflict. Frequently it’s not what was said but the way it was said. It has been suggested that 10% of conflict is created by a difference of opinion while 90% is created by the wrong tone of voice. Research has shown that 7% of communication is verbal, 38% is tone and 55% is body language.

Communication is also key to resolving conflict. A lack of understanding frequently drives the conflict. I often tell my clients that it is not about being right or wrong but rather to gain understanding. Understanding is the first step to resolving conflict. For that to happen involves both talking and listening. Being able to clearly articulate your needs and wants but also listening to the other’s needs and wants. Often times we listen to reply rather than to understand. The Dalai Lama once said that “when you talk you are only repeating what you already know; but when you listen you may learn something new”
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I have talked before about vulnerability. To become vulnerable opens the door to an increased ability to communicate. To share and to listen. But we also need empathy. Empathy gives us the ability to identify with others. To understand what struggles, difficulties, or feelings they may be experiencing. As Alfred Adler puts it, “empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.” For me the challenge is to become a better communicator because we know that the best communicators listen more than they talk. Make it a good one.

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."
Winston Churchill

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

As It Happens

As much as I have been trying to avoid this I no longer can. Social media has caught up to me, or vice versa, and I can’t take it anymore. Facebook used to be a good forum to keep in touch. See what others were doing. It even became a way to reconnect with friends and relatives. A lot of whom I had not connected with in a long time. Then FB morphed into something different. It has become a challenge to seek out information on friends that is actually interesting and uplifting.

We just survived the federal election. It was a long, drawn out affair. Facebook was rife with opinion and rhetoric. I did not see many postings on any worthwhile policy issues. Politics no longer offers discourse or conversation. It has become a blame game. One side attacking the other. Right versus left and some up the middle. Some of the rhetoric was maddening. Some was disturbing. Some was ludicrous to the point of being funny, in a sad sort of way. I had to keep reminding myself that each person had their right to an opinion. And just because they voiced something that I did not agree with did not make them any less of a person. After all I am a mediator. I did make an effort to understand.

So like I said, I did survive. Then when the election was over and the Liberals won quite handily the rhetoric took on a whole new life. What caused me the most concern, dare I say consternation, was the ideas thrown out by the Christian right. If I were to believe what was said we had lost God and were being governed by Satan. Supposedly Trudeau had said that Christians were Canada’s biggest plague, and based on some comments I saw, that could well be accurate. Where all this came from I have no idea. Throw in some comments made by the president of Israel, add in the anti-Muslim sentiments, and comments by the GOP presidential candidates down south, I kept seeing stuff that was quite disturbing.

Then when things have settled down to some degree Paris experiences some horrific attacks by ISIS. And again the rhetoric starts. Suddenly, in some people’s view, all Muslims should now be categorized as terrorists. Granted the terrorists do their evil deeds under the guise of Islam, but as many Muslims are quick to point out these terrorists use selected portions of Islam to justify their mission. Hey, I know some Christians like that as well. Always liked the quote, “A dangerous book the Bible is. It can be made to say anything, its meaning in the eye of the beholder”. I suspect that could probably be said about most any religious “seminal” book.

So that was enough to take care of that. Instead of responding, and running the risk of upsetting people, I unfriended some friends. The choice was simple. Fight or flight. I decided to run. Avoid the potential of conflict. Classic example of what I suggest people don’t do. I was also troubled by the fact that I did not seek to understand. Show some curiosity. But I couldn’t. It was to upsetting for me.

Perhaps I am a bleeding heart Liberal. Maybe a Christian outside of mainstream Christianity. Some may suggest not a Christian at all. Just recently I heard someone suggest that religion, and I believe this fits for politics as well, has gone from a point of faith and curiosity to one of certainty. “I am right, you are wrong, shut up.” We have lost our ability to show kindness and compassion to others. We have lost the ability to be kind and compassionate to ourselves. We seek to blame as a means to rid ourselves of pain and discomfort. For me it is time to hit the reset button. Do what I can to make this world a better place. The quote below is insightful. Give it some thought. Make it a good one.

“The emptiness and the silence is so great. I look and do not see.”
Mother Theresa

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Coming Out of the Closet

Interesting title for the Recovering Farmer. Perhaps, at least at the outset, got you thinking about what you would read in the words to come. Obviously the term “coming out of the closet’ has, at least traditionally, been associated with gay or lesbian people. I want to take you down another path and give you another perspective of “coming out”. Some ideas that resonated with me from a podcast by Ash Beckham.

Often in the past I have facetiously admitted to being in the closet about various things going on in my life. I was a closet smoker because smoking was a sin and a big no-no in the home I grew up in. I was a closet drinker for years. Again a big no-no for more than solely religious reasons. When it became more of a crutch I did not want people to know how much I drank. I was in the closet with my mental health issues because of the stigma attached to it.

As I heard a new perspective about being in the closet I came to a better understanding of who I am, who I have been, and how this fits into a lot of the work I do. Beckham suggested that all of us have closets we hide in. And by her definition being in the closet simply means that a hard conversation needs to happen. Perhaps it is being gay or lesbian. Perhaps it is smoking or drinking or drugs. Perhaps it is mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Perhaps it is a financial issue. A relational issue. A physical health issue. It can be one or it can be more than one.

Being confined in a closet is not a pleasant thought. Use your imagination. Normally closets are dark and lonely places. It has the potential to fill us with fear, shame, embarrassment, and guilt. Regardless of the issue we are loath to talk about we visualize the response from others and the backlash it might create. We are so consumed by the issue (s) we compare ourselves to others and wish we could trade places. Because surely their life is better than ours. Their problems less than mine because nothing can be as bad as what I am experiencing. We differentiate between closets and make judgement on others. Often thinking no one understands. No one else is hurting so why would they care. Forgetting that “hard” is subjective. It is relevant. Forgetting that the ones we wish to trade with are experiencing fear and pain just like us. It is difficult and a hard conversation to have.

So we need to be real. We need to have these hard conversations. They will provide relief and a better life. But how? Beckham listed 3 things we need to do. First of all be authentic. Knock down the walls. Show vulnerability (there is that word again). Secondly be direct. Just say what it is. Don’t say I may be depressed/gay/sick/have a drinking problem/etc. That just leads to false hope and expectations, for you and for others. And thirdly don’t be apologetic. It is what it is.

So come out of the closet. Free yourself from the darkness around you. If it is a lifestyle choice let it be known. Be proud of who you are and who you want to be. There are those that will “get it” and be supportive. People will understand. If they don’t so be it. That then becomes their problem, not yours. If you are dealing with issues that you need help with talk about them. Find the support and help you need to overcome and to heal. Start living life the way it was meant to be lived. Be who you were meant to be. Make it a good one.

“The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon but that we wait so long to begin it.”
W.M. Lewis

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

To Be Connected

Do you know that walking for 20 minutes a day and eating a handful of cashews a day is more effective than taking anti-depressants? For the record to make sure I eat two handfuls of cashews a day. Regular walking during the golf off season has been a ritual for me for a number of years. Last winter I slacked off and paid for it mentally and physically. So I am back at it. Actually my doctor suggested I exercise to regain elasticity in my lungs. There is another story there. Over the years I have tried watching TV or listening to music to overcome the monotony of exercise. This year I am trying something different. I am listening to podcasts. So my physical exercise, which also helps my mental health, is now also helping me learn. Wow, the benefits are almost overwhelming. I can hardly imagine the person I will be come spring. Fit, happy, and smarter. I might be dangerous.

So a week in and I have already learned some interesting stuff. Two podcasts I listened to, one by Brene Brown dealing with vulnerability and one by Johann Hari on addiction, put forward a common theme. They both talked about the importance of being connected. NO, I am not talking about Facebook, twitter, emails or cellphones. It is probably important to sometimes disconnect from those. I am talking about having a connection with the world around us.

What is one of the first things that happens when we feel shame, low self-esteem, not worthy? We withdraw. We isolate ourselves. We can’t face other people. We don’t enjoy nature. Feel they will be judgemental. Just don’t feel good about ourselves. Live a life of regret and self-doubt.
However if we make an effort, and at times it takes a Herculean effort, to get together with others, to participate, to be involved, and to get out, our lives will improve. I often talk about golf helping me mentally. That is for a few reasons. First of all I am outdoors enjoying all that nature has to offer. I get exercise. And I socialize with others. I feel rejuvenated after each round. At times that is hampered by shoddy golf but that is easy enough to get over. Just go again.

Often times a disconnected life will lead to other problems. As we withdraw and isolate ourselves we turn to medication or vices to numb our feelings of shame and unworthiness, our emotional pain. Although these negative feelings arise from perception and not reality they hamper us in being who we really are. There have been times in my life that I have withdrawn from life. But through support and encouragement I have been able to get back to being the real me. Each time I found it interesting how many of my family, friends and colleagues commented on how good it was to have me back. The decline into this “hibernation” from reality can be a slow and insidious slide and we often don’t realize or understand what is happening. The road to recovery and connection can be much quicker and more fulfilling.

Inherently we search for ways to get rid of our emotional pain. This emotional pain, often accompanied by addiction, arises from feelings of low self-esteem, low self-worth, and shame. In general, a poor relationship with ourselves. Through connection we lose the desire to numb those emotions because our emotions become less painful. Through vulnerability, an ability to identify and express feelings, we can find connection with others. We can relate to others and others can relate to us. Through that comes an awakening, a healing, an ability to build relationships, and most of all, to make life a positive and fulfilling journey. A spiritual rebirth, if you will. Make it a good one.

“Make life changes before life changes”