The Recovering Farmer

Saturday, November 26, 2011

That Time of Year

Noticed on Facebook that my brother had put up his Christmas tree. Right after Remembrance Day? Seems a little early, don’t you think? Maybe not. Commercials on TV have a distinct Christmas theme. Some radio stations are playing Christmas music. So, I suppose, I need to get with it. As I sit in my office on a Friday afternoon, the snow is falling. Actually looks kind of neat. Would be even neater if we were half way through winter rather than the beginning. Mind you, that would be wishing away time, would it not? Speaking of wishing away time, I realize that I am getting older and that time seems to be flying by. I am most acutely aware of this when I use the microwave. I stand and watch the timer count down and am always reminded of how my life is counting down as well. It scares me. Makes me want to avoid the microwave. I seem to be dreading this winter. I particularly seem to dread this time of year. The days are getting shorter, weather is turning cold, and yes, Christmas drawth nigh. (confused spell check with that one) However, I need to refocus on relationship building. It’s the time of year that get-togethers are being planned. Time with family and friends.

I am preparing a couple of presentations for next weekend in Toronto. One of them is a humorous, but serious, look at relationships. Perhaps I should say humorous with a serious message. Particularly as it relates to stress. I am speaking to the Canadian Farmers with Disabilities. People who have serious injuries from accidents. Trying to adapt to life with a physical impairment. Wow. Talk about stress.

Stress has a tremendous impact on our relationships with our spouses. I have always found it interesting how stress affects men and women differently. In a recent Macleans article the statement was made that “study after study show that men deal with stress through escapism and women deal with it by talking”. It is also a known fact that men are less likely to seek help. Far too often, and I speak from experience, men immerse themselves in their work thinking that the harder they work the sooner the issues and the pain will disappear. Men tend to fall into periods of irritability, higher expectations for themselves and others, substance abuse, and in general, become “emotionally unavailable”. Women, on the other hand, are more inclined to talk. A much healthier way of dealing with stress. It becomes a challenge for husbands and wives or partners to be able to understand each other when they are faced with over whelming stress.

So it’s all about relationships. On the humorous side I want to touch on the whole idea of men being waffles and women being spaghetti. Some of you may have read the book. I haven’t. My wife did. Just the title got me thinking about the difference between men and women. I used this analogy when I performed the marriage ceremony for my son and daughter-in-law. (That still has a strange ring to it. Daughter-in-law. Hmmm. Talk about getting older) They are still married. They are proud. They outlasted the Kardashians. What a debacle that was, or so I am told. I try to avoid that kind of reality TV. But I digress. Back to men and women. Ever notice how men function by having only one thought at a time in their head. Just like a waffle. Compartmentalized. Women, on the other hand, are like spaghetti. A tangled web. Each thought is linked to a myriad of other thoughts. I could say more, but that might give it away. Think about it. It makes sense.

So the goal, this year, is to work on relationships. Make it a happy time of year. Enjoy the season. And always remember. By Christmas the days start getting longer. Make it a good one.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Are You Listening?

No, this is not about the song, although the melody has been running through my head since I came up with the title. I have written and talked often about the importance of talking when you feel down, when you are feeling lonely, when you feel forgotten, when you feel that no one understands, when you feel pain, when you feel forsaken. It is easy to slip into a shell and hope that these feelings will eventually go away. Very often it is difficult to find someone that will listen.

There is another side to this story. What happens when someone wants to talk to me? How do I react? Do I know how to listen? Do I respond in such a way that the other person comes away from the conversation feeling better? It has been said that the best communicators listen more than they talk. Boy, do I have a lot to learn.
Dr. Ralph Roughten has written some good thoughts on listening. Let me share a few of his them.

“When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice
you have not done what I have asked.”

“When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me
why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on
my feelings.”

“When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to
do something to solve my problem you have failed me,
strange as that may seem.”

“When you do something for me that I can do for myself,
You contribute to my fear and inadequacy.”

“Listen! All I asked was that you listen – not talk or do.
Just hear me.”

Interesting how those thoughts reflect exactly my feelings when I feel the need to talk. Even more interesting is how I fail so miserably when others want to share with me. It is difficult not to jump in with advice or the age old “I know exactly how you feel”. Not so. I may understand how you feel. I may have had similar experiences but it is really difficult to “know” how someone feels. This is really hard when dealing with kids, your spouse or partner, or with good friends, someone close to you. Someone you think you know well. I know for myself, I always want to try to fix the problem. However, I need to stand back, listen and support. Be a source of strength. With that friend who has concerns and worries about some health issues. With the young couple, excited about being parents, losing the pregnancy in a miscarriage. The colleague who relates to my issues, hears me out, but is seldom given the opportunity to share her story. A long suffering spouse, who has to deal with a husband who is trying to find his way but spends far too much time immersed in negative thinking and rumination.
I often have dark thoughts. Try to make sense of who I am. Try to make sense of why I slip into these dark, sombre moods. I analyse. And the more I analyse the deeper I sink. Often wish I could express myself better. Never understanding why others don’t understand me. Dr. Roughten has a thought that I think relates to a lot of my frustrations.

“But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what
I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can quit trying to
convince you and get about the business of
understanding what’s behind this irrational feeling.
And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious
And I don’t need advice.”

So simple yet so difficult. Listen more, understand more, love more. Make it a good one.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

And The Sign Said. . .

Ever since I wrote the blog on Dreams Never Die, I have had that song going through my head. I think most of you can relate. Although I like this song it gets rather tedious if that’s all I can sing. My wife and son are getting somewhat irritated with me as well, because each evening when I sit down at the supper table I will recite the first line of that song, not once, but two or three times. I suppose it could be worse. You know how some commercials have really catchy tunes? The one that comes to mind is where the guy comes skipping out of his house in the morning singing “good morning, good morning we talked the whole night through”. The commercial is for some kind of medication. Not sure I want any of that if it means talking all night. I would rather sleep. Enough said.

So, I felt, it was time to introduce a new song to my brain. A song I have loved for years, a song that I can sing along with, in its entirety, is the song Signs. You know the one that starts with “And the sign says long haired freaky people need not apply. . . “? A good message in that song. Seems we live in a society where liability is becoming a larger issue. If you burn your tongue on coffee, if you catch your finger in a door, if you fall off a ladder, or any other number of things that happen to us, you have the ability to sue. As a result of that there are warnings and signs posted everywhere. “Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign”.

Whenever I think about signs I think of all the signs I see on highways. It is constant. “blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind”. With all the miles I put on, and this week was a bad one again, I see these signs. I see a lot of people breaking the rules. Complete and total disregard for law and order. Where are the cops when this happens? I know, they are lurking around the corner waiting for me to make some minor mistake. A telescope set up to ensure I am not talking on my cell phone. A red light camera. Guess what. That’s a tough one to get away with. Those tickets get sent out in the mail. Guess who picks up the mail at our house. Knock on wood, but it has been awhile since I was caught for any infraction.

As most of you know by now, most of my anxiety, most of my moodiness, a lot of my anger manifests itself in road rage. I am convinced that other drivers wait just for me so they can cut me off, drive just under the speed limit, stop for no apparent reason or a host of other things that tick me off. Not sure if I am the only one but traffic in Brandon gets me every time. Is it just me or are there traffic issues? All I know is it’s a real test of patience getting from point A to point B.

So, as I have said before, I need to relax and listen to more music. As a friend told me this morning, music is good for the soul. It helps calm the spirit. It helps in changing our “stinking thinking”. It eases anxiety. It keeps us centered. It keeps us in the moment. I like the last sentence of the last verse in the song Signs. “Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ‘bout me. I’m alive and doing fine. Wooo!” Hopefully that is the line going through my mind for a while. Make it a good one.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What Women Want

Who remembers the movie What Women Want starring Mel Gibson? In the movie Gibson, through a freak accident involving pantyhose and a hair dryer (don’t want to go there), has the ability to hear what women think. Now for most of us that is a scary thought. Usually I hear enough verbally that any more information would be detrimental to my well-being. Self-esteem is enough of an issue without more information. However, in the movie, it is rather humorous. The point of this dialogue is really not the movie at all. Rather, when I thought about what I wanted to write about, the name of the movie came to mind. Read on and you will understand why.

I started writing this blog some time ago. I have resisted posting it as I want to make sure that I am politically correct, as to state my case in any other way would result in. . . well, put it this way, I wouldn’t live it down. After all, in my counselling training, I learned that being able to think and communicate as a feminist is very important. Feminism, to me, had always been about women’s rights. I have found out different. Wikipedia defines feminism as a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. “As a feminist we want it all but we want it for everyone”.

Did you know that October 18 is the anniversary date of women getting the right to personhood? Quite astounding actually. Not that they got the right, but that they did not have it prior to that. What’s up with that? Based on the article women have had the right to vote since 1918. However, women were not considered “persons” under the British North American Act till 1929. The article goes on to say that women in Canada were considered “persons in matters of pains and penalties, but not persons in matters of rights and privileges”. This until a mere 82 years ago. Something that happened in my parents’ lifetime.

I have often wondered why women were at one time considered lesser than men. Just never quite made sense to me. I was raised in a church (that is a topic best left for another day) where there is still dialogue regarding women in leadership roles. Recently I heard a woman talk about the fact that it continues to be difficult, and in some cases, impossible for women to achieve equality in the workplace, particularly in wages and salaries. Definitely something wrong with this picture.

Going back to a previous discussion, I talked about the movie The Help. The movie depicts the exploitation of black women. Again, events that happened in my parent’s lifetime. I could cite many more instances where women, people of different color, various ethnic groups and people with disabilities get discriminated against. I know of someone that suggested that the problems of the world can be laid squarely at the feet of white males. As much as I hate the thought, perhaps there is more truth in that then I would like to admit.

So what next? There have been vast improvements but still so much that can be, and needs to be done. What can I do to make this world a better place? What can I do to ensure equality? It would seem to me that if we reach out, if we strive for equality, if we do what we can, this world will be a better place. Jimi Hendrix says it well, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power there will be peace”. Make it a good one.