The Recovering Farmer

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Met Mei es et Nuscht

Come on, say it with me. “Met mei es et nuscht”. Know what it means? I know spell check doesn’t like it. Direct translation: “with me it is nothing”. I find that many times the Low German language has sayings that, no matter how hard you try, cannot be translated into English while maintaining the original message. The above phrase simply is an acknowledgement of personal low value, a lack of self-esteem. Now, I suspect, the original author of this saying probably was not talking about self-esteem but rather was inferring that we should be without pride. Seems to be a self-defeating statement. Obviously that statement was front and foremost in the Mennonite heritage that I came from. Perhaps, I suspect, those of you that know me now have a better understanding of some of the words and grammar I use, both in my writing and in my speaking. There is a reason I sometimes ask people to “de-mennonitize” my writings. I challenge you to find that word in a dictionary.

A lack of self-esteem is a prevalent issue with people who experience depression. Very often when I find myself feeling down I experience a lot of questions on my self-worth. Why am I here? What good am I to other people? Why do I bother trying? It is during these times that I seek validation for what I do. I question my abilities as a husband, a father, a friend, a professional. I question whether I have the ability to perform my work. And as these negative thoughts swirl around my head I become less and less motivated. I force myself to do what needs to be done. Sound familiar? I am reminded of the quote “Inside each self-assured man is a neurotic hoping to succeed before he is found out”. Describes me to a tee.

So the question becomes, how can I improve and build on my self-esteem? Feeling validated is huge. Believing in yourself is integral to your self-esteem. You need to feel important. You need to feel that you are making a difference. Make an effort to compliment someone in your day. That will help your own self-esteem in the short term and long term, will probably see you being complimented more often. That will make you feel good and when you feel good you won’t question your own inabilities. Feeling good? Sounds good. And it is within reach. Make it a good one.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Using Your Imagination

It so happens that I have one brother who is the pastor of a church. Go figure. Now, pastoring a church is probably something my father would have wished all his sons would aspire to. Alas, did not turn out that way. Good thing the oldest one went that direction. Carry on the legacy, and all that. It would appear the other two sons had inherited the passion of “evangelism” but channelled it in other directions. It is with that kind of passion I find myself again involved in a project that has been initiated to work with farmers that are feeling overwhelming stress and depression.

My “pastor” brother emailed me a sermon he preached recently entitled “Imagine”. I read the sermon with some interest as I felt many of the thoughts he was putting forward could be utilized by people experiencing stress, anxiety and depression. Now, before you exit this blog thinking this will be a “sermon” of some sort, hear me out.
I have mentioned before that mindfulness is an excellent tool to be used in dealing with stress and depression. One aspect of mindfulness teaches us that we cannot force thoughts out of our mind. However, we can create thoughts that will replace unpleasant thoughts. Try an experiment. Think of something that really stresses you out. Now, for a full minute force yourself not to think about that. Virtually impossible, right? Next, conjure up in your mind a pleasant thought. Find your happy place. Use your imagination. Now, for a minute think about those pleasant thoughts. No problem, right? It works. The idea being to push out unpleasant, anxiety causing thoughts with pleasant thoughts.

As many of you know by now, I am an avid golfer. Back in the days when I was suffering from anxiety and depression I would often wake up during the night and be hit by the most mind numbing anxiety. And if I allowed it, this anxiety would keep me awake for hours. What I did though was think about golf and literally play different golf courses in my mind. I can honestly say that I never finished my fantasy round because I would fall asleep. I had created my own method of mindfulness. If only I could have realized what a novel concept I was using I could have written a book. Made millions. Oops. My imagination is getting away from me.

So, here is a simple tool you can use to overcome many of the negative, harmful thoughts that keep you awake at nights. Thoughts that keep you from getting the rest you need. Use your imagination. And the more you use your imagination the more your body and mind will have the ability to heal and move forward to a brighter and better world. Try it. Make it a good one.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Emotional Gas Tank

I know. Sounds weird. What exactly is an emotional gas tank? I have mentioned it before. Just like your car needs fuel your emotions need fuel. How about your body? What happens if you don’t eat or don’t eat properly? You get physically tired. You become run down. Your immunity goes down. You are more susceptible to sickness. So, too, your emotional health is directly linked to keeping gas in the tank. When the emotional gas tank runs dry you will find yourself becoming irritable, angry, low patience, no desire to socialize, lack of motivation, always feeling tired, among others. So the challenge is to find ways to keep, at the very least, some “gas in the tank”.

I had mentioned before Christmas that I was going to seek the help of a professional. Practice what I preach. So I had my first appointment in December. Leading up to the appointment I spent considerable time and effort in analyzing what I thought might be going on inside my brain. I read material on mindfulness. I did an inventory of what was creating my blue feelings. I made excuses. It was the time of year when I always seemed to struggle with my mood. I dreaded the thought of going back on medication. I thought I had done it all and expressed a frustration to the psychologist that nothing seemed to work. He suggested to me that it sounded like my emotional gas tank had run dry. He asked me when the last time was that I had done something for myself. He asked me what type of activities I enjoyed. Facetiously I suggested to him that I needed him to contact my wife and suggest to her that I needed to go south for the next two months to golf. Remember, I love golf.

I left that appointment with a great amount of relief. Obviously I had over complicated the issues. Now the challenge was to find some way to fill the tank. About the only sport I like is golf. Tough to golf in the snow. Especially when it snows every single $&^%(# day. Oops. Got side tracked for a second. Then I remembered that Brandon has an indoor golf center in the winter. In fact it is only two blocks from my office. So after New Year’s I brought my clubs to Brandon (you know how you look like an idiot walking down the sidewalk in Brandon carrying your golf clubs) and now make an effort to spend some time there every day. I think it is working. Not the same as a golf course with nice warm sunshine but, hey, spring is right around the corner, right? Make it a good one.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Modern Technology Part 2

Remember when I wrote a piece on farmers and modern technology? Well, I am revisiting this one. You see, as consumers we are constantly bombarded by new technology. Our kids gave us a new microwave for Christmas. Our old one was only 24 years old. So now I have to figure out all these new settings. It becomes a major event to simply warm up a cup of coffee. At my age it is difficult enough to remember how something works from one day to the next. Throw in something new and what can I say. Arrrgh.

So if a new microwave isn’t enough (kids, I am not complaining) the gods saw fit to blow up my computer. Well, okay, somewhat overstated. It crashed. It was only six years old, although anybody with computer knowledge will say it lasted longer than most laptops do. So here goes. A new laptop. Beautiful machine. It looks so shiny. It smells new. Looks good. Now I just have to learn how to use the darn thing. I open the cover. Wow. Now what. I switch it on and voila, the screen comes to life. Hey, this does not look right. What now. Help.

Thank goodness there are computer techies out there that can help. It only took 2 hours to set up my email accounts. Perfect. Now I can email. Catch up. It’s been two days. Wait a minute. Where is my address book. Oh %$*#%. It’s in the old lap top. Okay. It should be simple to transfer this right? Guess again. Going home. Will try again tomorrow.

Found out something interesting. Just like the New Year not being much different than the old year, a new day does not do much for computer knowledge. Spent the morning trying to figure this one out. I know. I am going to go hit some golf balls. One of my resolutions was to spend time at Brandon’s indoor golf center. It’s fun. I can forget about life’s worries for just awhile. Unfortunately I need to get back to work. I have to figure out how to use this technology. I know that somewhere along the line I will enjoy this new computer. I hope that day comes sooner rather than later.

So there it is. Technology is part of the here and now. Without it we would be lost. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. I will learn. Might take a while. Hey, it’s the weekend. Maybe I will go hit some more balls. Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow? That reminds me. I need to do a radio interview. Perfect. I get to talk. So much easier than working with the computer. Make it a good one.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

Here we are. Remember the resolutions you made for the New Year? They are easy to make. And, for the most part, we are serious when we make them. I made one. Remember? I was going to control my life, rather than letting my life control me. So I made it in a weak moment. I felt I was out of control. I needed some relief. I was having a negative influence on others. I was, generally speaking, not in control. There were actually a few other resolutions I made that now, it being January 1 and all, don’t seem quite as appealing or important as they did a few weeks or months ago.

Perhaps our expectations are too high. We expect some sort of new beginnings. We feel we have an opportunity to start afresh. Out with the old, in with the new. But guess what. You wake up on January 1 and it’s the same old face looking back at you from the mirror. Really, the only difference there is from yesterday or, in this case, last year is that we are a day older. So how can we make changes? How do we start afresh? How do we find some sort of rejuvenation?

I now realize that I should have prepared myself for this new beginning. New Year resolutions are easy to make but just as easy to break. Whether I need to make changes to my physical health, mental health or spiritual health I need a plan. And I need to ensure that I stick to that plan or I will slip back into that old me. If I slip, I will feel like a failure and then I will become discouraged and then I will feel its hopeless and then I will revert back to old habits that are so “last year”.

I need to remind myself of the importance of living one day at a time. If I start fretting about tomorrow or next week or next month I will become discouraged. What is important is to live in the moment. Enjoy today. And if I can carry through with my resolutions for one day I have accomplished a lot. Perhaps enough to encourage me to try again tomorrow. And without complicating life to much I want to be more mindful. Take note of life around me. Improve on relationships. Make life a little better for myself but also for others. Happy New Year to all of you. Make it a good one.