Over the last two years I have talked often about the importance of a support system for yourself. Someone you can talk to. Someone that will listen. Someone that cares. Often that will be someone you might least expect.
During the course of our Farmer to Farmer workshops this spring, I met a couple who epitomized the whole idea of a support system. I will, with their permission, tell you their story.
Ed and Jan (not their real names) farmed in the southwest region of Manitoba. Due to circumstances they had to wind down their farm in the late eighties. If you will recall the eighties saw very high interest rates and created issues for many farmers. Aside from the high interest rates Ed and Jan also experienced poor crops. As well, some of their expectations, regarding land purchases, were not met creating further hardship. They had a dream. They were young when they started, they were going to raise their kids on the farm, one of the kids would eventually take over the farm and they would retire with land sales funding a relaxed, comfortable retirement. However, that was not to be. Their dreams died. They could not carry on. They had to sell out. At a time when most folks start thinking retirement, Ed and Jan joined the workforce.
Let me jump ahead to 2011. In April, as part of the Farmer to Farmer project, I was invited to participate in a call in show put on by a local radio station. During the show I talked about the stress of farming, the stress of financial hardship, the effect of stress on relationships, as well as some stress management techniques. At the end of the program I invited listeners to a workshop that would be held in the following days. It happened that Ed and Jan were listening that day. I received a call from them asking whether they could attend. The rest, as they say, is history. They participated in the workshop. They took the opportunity to open up about many dark feelings they still harboured regarding the loss of their farm. Ed became emotional as he shared how listening to the radio show had finally given him the hope that he had found an avenue to begin the healing process of what had happened so many years ago.
After the completion of the workshops it was decided that we would hold regular support group sessions. Ed and Jan have been regular attendees. They have shared more and more of their struggles. We have laughed, we have cried. In our last meeting Ed shared another story that really hit home for me. He related how they had attended a family function and at the end of the evening he had hugged two of his nephews. On the way home Jan asked him about that. She found it strange that he had shown that much affection for someone. Ed answered by saying that having had the ability to talk and share about his struggles at our meetings had given him the opportunity to open his heart to others and show a side of him that had been hidden away under a cloud of anger and resentment. All of this because they found a support system. All this because they took the opportunity to open up and talk.
Talking helps. Often times talking is the first step to a new life. Take the time to seek out your supports. It may be a family member, a neighbour, a good friend, clergy, a doctor. Someone you can feel comfortable with. Someone you can feel safe with. You’re worth it. Your family, friends and community will benefit. Your business will benefit. And most of all your life will benefit. Make it a good one.