The Recovering Farmer

Friday, February 25, 2011

I Am Back, But Do I Want to Be?

You know, it is tough getting back to work after some time off. What is even worse is spending some time in nice warm temperatures and then getting back to this long drawn out, cold, snowy, windy season called winter. It struck me in the last few days that getting away for rest and relaxation is a good concept but seems counterproductive when it takes two days of traveling and one night in an airport to get back home. Well, that is what happens when you go on a low budget holiday. But then again, low budget is better than no holiday.

As I told you last time, I was the lucky recipient of a promotional deal that saw us head of south for a week. After having agreed to this promotion, knowing something was not quite right, I was informed that all we needed to do was attend a two hour presentation. Anybody that has ever taken part in a “timeshare” promotion presentation knows that visiting a dentist has the potential of being more fun. But for the sake of some warm sunshine I accepted. Still had some air miles, collected a number of years ago so looked like a cheap holiday.

The night in the Montreal airport was a low point in the whole excursion. After having had a wonderful evening in old Montreal with family we were dropped off at the airport to await our next flight. It started out all right. A nice quiet corner with soft seats. It looked promising. But then it started. Other people joined us in this quiet corner. What kept me from sleeping initially was someone talking on a cell phone. Really? Was it necessary? Apparently so. As it turns out someone talking on a phone might have been the better part of that night. It did not take long and someone else started snoring. Well, let me tell you. Not often have I heard such ungodly sounds coming from another human being. It was awful. And when he took a break someone else started. I think this was planned. Kept me awake. Gave me anxiety attacks. Had lots of time to lay there and figure out why snoring bothered me as much as it does. Goes back about thirty years when I was forced to work with an elderly gentleman in a remote northern community. Turns out we had to share a bedroom in some private residence. The snoring was atrocious. Thought I would never sleep. Not pleasant.

Getting back to the airport. Finally got up and went to have coffee. Well, wouldn’t you know it. The snorer (not sure if that is even a word) comes into the coffee shop and sits down at the table next to me. Needless to say I had some thoughts at that point which are best left unsaid. My wife heard some of those thoughts and suggested that I approach this gentleman and point out to him how I felt about him and his snoring issues. Not sure why she would have suggested that. Perhaps because I have been a proponent of open and honest communication. I reminded her of one of the 12 steps in AA which says we should make right with people who we have hurt unless to do so would create unnecessary pain for that party. That is the excuse I used. Worked for me.

Final word. I was able to fill my emotional gas tank on our holidays. It was restful. Hoped to make it home with a full tank, however did lose some in the airport. I will survive. Just need to ensure I find ways to keep the emotional gas tank from running dry. Now if only it could start warming up here. Oh well. Make it a good one.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Resiliency, What’s That???

Finally, a break in the weather. The sun is shining and the mercury is going in the right direction. Could this be the end of winter and beginning of spring? Is there a chance that the groundhog was right? Please let it be so. Okay, -30 might, and I stress might, be bearable if it wasn’t always so gosh darn windy. (notice I am choosing my words carefully) I am losing my resiliency. Webster Dictionary defines “resilience” as “the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation”. It then goes on to use the word in the following example. “Cold temperatures caused the material to lose resilience”. Ahhaaa. That’s the problem. Cold weather has caused me to lose resilience. Well, I am going to fix that.

Due to a special promotion, just for me, I was the recipient of a special deal in a place where temperatures are warmer than they are here. Honest, they said it was because I am special. I believe them. So I am going to go get my resilience back.

Webster’s Dictionary also defines “resilience” as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”. Now I understand better why, for years, we have referred to farmers as being resilient. I remember constantly having to adapt to misfortune or change. Many of the misfortunes farmers face are completely out of their control. Weather, interest rates, disease, government policies, dependence on foreign markets. The list is endless. So that is why farmers are said to be resilient.

I read another definition earlier this week. It came from a psychologist who works closely with farmers. It defined resilience as “having the ability to reinterpret negative meanings into positive ones”. The first example that popped into mind was the age old saying “there is always next year”. Hey, how often didn’t I use that one. In fact, in my life I often said, “well, there is always next week”. It often seemed that next week or next year was very elusive. And yet we keep striving to achieve and succeed. Sometimes we need to stop, reassess, and to find new tools that work.

I am looking forward to our Farmer to Farmer workshops starting March 2 where we will look at the 3Rs of stress management. Recognition, Resilience and Resources. It will be an opportunity to find new tools for the old tool box.

Oh, and I just realized an added benefit to my holiday next week. Remember when I said a professional had told me my emotional gas tank was empty and needed to be refilled? This will be an opportunity to do that, I hope. Better not screw it up. Hey, would that make this trip tax deductible? Gotta think about that. Talk soon. Make it a good one.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Learning From Others

Over the last month I have had the opportunity to attend a couple of major agricultural events in Manitoba. I, along with approximately 32,000 others, braved frigid, and I mean frigid, temperatures to attend Agdays. Anybody that did not get there well before the start time was forced to park quite a distance from the Keystone. I know from experience that that walk could well finish a person before they actually get to the show. Not sure what it is but I seem to have a very low tolerance for cold temps. Oh well, spring is right around the corner, right??? I also attended the Annual General Meeting of the Keystone Agricultural Producers. Needless to say producers have mixed emotions when they predict, project, wish for or plan for this year. There does, however, appear to be some cautious optimism.

An event such as Agdays provides an opportunity for farmers to escape from some of the realities at home. Days are short, temperatures are cold, worries and fears are setting in as snow banks get higher. It provides them the opportunity to chat with friends and neighbours, others who are experiencing similar anxieties. It helps knowing you are not alone. But there are also lots of ideas that are shared. Good ideas. Ideas that can increase efficiencies or profitability. And of, of course, the usual temptations. Shiny new equipment with the promise of increased yields. Not sure how that works but the sales pitch is there.

What I found most encouraging is the number of people I talked to who wanted to share stories of their own struggles with stress and depression. It is just over a year ago that I began to speak publically about my own experiences. I could never have guessed that so many others had or were experiencing many of the same struggles I have faced. And, like sharing production stories, sharing stories about stress and depression can also benefit in one’s ability to cope, to get better, to improve life. For me the journey continues. There are ups and downs. There are times when I can’t for the life of me figure out what’s wrong. But then I run into someone else who is on a similar journey and ideas are passed back and forth, new tricks to conquer the sadness, the depression, the darkness. So if you are struggling, talk about it. You will be surprised at the results. There is hope. There is relief. Make it a good one.