The Recovering Farmer

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tis the Season to be Jolly . . . . .

Remember how I mentioned last week that my mood was not how I would like it to be? In talking to other people I realize there are many out there that find this time of year to be stressful, discouraging, depressing and lonely. Why is that? Every where we go we are bombarded by subtle and not so subtle messages about this joyous and festive season we are approaching. Christmas parties have begun. Christmas shopping is well under way. Christmas music is being played everywhere and all the time. Christmas gatherings are being planned. Shopping lists are being put together. Some people are planning and booking holidays. Sounds like fun, right? It probably should be, but for some reason it is not for many of us.

I have come to the conclusion that I need to change my focus this Christmas season. I recall when I was still farming that this time of year brought with it all kinds of pressures that left me feeling anxious, discouraged and lonely. December brings with it the shortest day of the year. Often it can be the coldest time of year. Having farm year end the same as the calendar year left me dealing with farm financial issues when I should be focusing on the festive time of year. I often felt inadequate as I saw others spend lavish money on gifts and holidays. Having livestock meant that there was no break from the daily grind of farm work. And so it went. Now, I find, that this time of year can still bring with it many of the same feelings I always had, leaving me just not feeling right.

“I wonder if gratefulness is the bridge from sorrow to joy, spanning the
chasm of our anxious striving. Freed from the burden of unbridled
desires, we can enjoy what we have, celebrate what we've attained, and
appreciate the familiar. For if we can't be happy now, we'll likely not be
happy when.”

Seems to me that the author of that quote is on to something. Gratefulness. How novel. For years I have ruminated about all things that I was not and could not be thankful for. This time of year seemed to bring that out even more. I know that I have many things to be grateful for. Now it is time to focus in on those things, remembering that much of the negative “stuff” in our lives is completely out of our control. May you all have the strength and courage to let go of the old and embrace the new. May this time of year bring joy and peace never before experienced. Make it a good one.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Winter, Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Well, here it is again. Were we not just here? Where did the summer go? And to think. It is not even cold yet. Hey, just think. Only five more months of shivering. Never knowing whether you will ever warm up again. Leaving home while it is dark and not getting home till after dark. Who really knows what the outside of our home looks like. Then again, who cares. It’s white and it’s cold. The good news is that in just over a month the days start getting longer. What an event to look forward to.

As with the seasons my mood seems to have changed as well. Happiness seems to be eluding me. I have difficulties concentrating on work. I have a lack of motivation. My emotional tank is empty. More darkness than light. Somewhat like the days during this time of year.

But why? I thought I had this licked. Things were looking up. So what does this mean? Meds again? Hope not. For awhile I thought I could work my way out of this. But that is not happening. Seems to be getting worse. I feel irritable. I am easily angered. My wife says I am always aggravated. Felt like I have a vice slowly squeezing the life out of my brain. The more I think about it the worse it gets. I knew I would have to be proactive about it. Practice what I preach. After all, I know what resources are available.

Finally, with encouragement from a friend and colleague, I called a professional and set up an appointment. The strangest thing. I began to feel better right away. Almost tempted to cancel the appointment. However, I am curious what kind of advice I can get for future reference. Also bought a book on Mindfulness. Not finished it yet but based on what I have read seems they are writing about me. Hmmmm. That tells me there are others feeling the same way. That means I am not alone. That means there is help.

I tell people that talking helps. Understanding yourself also helps. Hopefully I can get this beast turned around so that time with family and friends at Christmas will be a happy time. Reinforces my message. There is help and there is hope. Check out for helpful tips on mindfulness. Make it a good one.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Understanding Others

When I look around I am frequently reminded of how our world has become so much bigger than it used to be. Now, I realize this may age me just a wee bit, but remember when your circle of friends was made up of local kids. Now with ever changing ways of communicating we have friends from all over the world. I need to note here that many forms of communication do not enhance relationships but we will leave that for another day. As we spend more and more time communicating we need to also become more aware of our communication methods. Even something as simple as buying a new product can become an exercise in futility if something goes wrong.

I am trying to help my daughter deal with a situation that requires time and a whole lot of patience. It would seem to be a no-brainer that when you buy a phone and it does not work that you would get a new phone. Not so. Buyer beware. Inventories are low. Here is a refurbished replacement. Excuse me. I bought a new phone and now have to settle for a slightly used, refurbished one? So guess what? Father can fix this. Well, after numerous phone calls I am becoming quite frustrated myself. My mediation skills have left me. Anger and frustration have set in. What now?

Take a deep breath. Think about the quote you saw last week. Remind me. Okay, here it is. “We should always assume that each person is doing the best they can do at the moment. Regardless how stupidly, inadequately, ineptly, stubbornly, and defensively the other person is behaving. They may be lacking skill or defending themselves.” All right. I need to refocus. Change my tactics. Move from judgment to curiosity. I need to remember that the best communicators listen more than they talk. I will change my approach. Hopefully I can get something done about this because I need to move on and deal with another crisis. Again, something that seems so simple to me. This situation involves a lawyer. Hmmmm. This could be fun. I will end this with the same prayer I finished off with last week.“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can and Wisdom to know the difference.” Make it a good one.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Know Thyself ?????

I have had the opportunity to present to a couple of groups lately on the topic of conflict management. Part of the presentation focused on how we, as individuals, need to be mindful, first and foremost, of how we manage conflict. It is always so easy to blame deteriorating conversations on the other person. Each time I prepare and present I am reminded, again and again, on how I fall short in my abilities to manage conflict in my own life. I would like to think that by the time you reach the half century point in your life that there might be less and less need to manage conflict. But, unfortunately, that is not the case. I suppose conflict will be part of any relationship we have, so how we manage conflict becomes so much more important.

Met a close friend this week and was, again, amazed at the kind and gentle spirit he has. Made me envious. In spite of being bombarded by topics of religion, politics and taxes his emotions stayed on an even keel. Me, on the other hand, jumped in with both feet. To what end? Nothing was gained and nothing was won.

When I am approached by others my defenses always seem to be at the forefront. When I try to communicate effectively I have a tough time trying to express my feelings in such a way that others are not hurt by my words. When I disagree with someone I have a difficult time with the tone in my voice.I become agitated. And as most people that know me can attest to, I can become quite animated and vocal when I communicate, particularly when the topic is religion, politics or taxes. An interesting fact. Communication consists of 7% verbal, 35% tone and 58% body language. Trust me. I am very transparent in my communication. Sometimes to a fault.

What is it in us that wants to win at all costs, go for the throat, land the last blow. I know that for me I need to constantly be retooling my conflict management style. If only it came a little easier. If only I could present in such away that other people would engage and not become defensive. Effective communication is key to maintaining and building relationships. I need to be more mindful of the saying “effective communicators listen more than they talk”. And most of all I need to be more mindful of the serenity prayer. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can and Wisdom to know the difference.” Make it a good one.