The Recovering Farmer

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Year That Was

I was going through my usual morning routine, part of which is checking the headlines in the Winnipeg Free Press. Saw an article entitled “Farming, Family Meant Everything”. Obviously it piqued my curiosity. I was shocked by what I read. The story of a young farmer killed in a tragic farm accident. Any farm accident hits me hard because I often think of what might have been. Particularly shocking was that the article referred to a man I have had the opportunity to meet many times. Often saw him wearing a cowboy hat. That was because he was a cowboy. He had a passion. A passion for agriculture. A passion for the cattle industry. A passion for family. He was an industry leader. I met him through Keystone Agricultural Producers. He was the cattle representative, I was the hog representative. We shared many similar passions. Enjoyed the debates. I had moved on, no longer involved in farming. He was looking forward to his life as a Manitoba family farmer. Now there is family left with a massive hole in their lives. It seems so unfair.

Today’s Winnipeg Free Press poll of the day asked the question, “If the world ended at the close of 2012, how would you feel?” I was unsure as to the intent of the question till I realized that the Mayan calendar calls for the world to end in 2012. Potential answers ranged from, content to mostly satisfied to a bit bummed to woebegone. I experienced some anxiety when I read that question. (one reason for the anxiety is an experience I had one New Year’s eve, a story best left for another day) Number 1, no one wants to think about the world ending. Secondly, I seem to focus on regrets when I look back. I should be focusing on positives. There were lots of those. These thoughts of woulda, coulda and shoulda are much to self-defeating. I suspect that everyone would make changes if they could turn back the clock. I said, somewhat facetiously, to someone the other day that if I would have known thirty or forty years ago what I know today I would have had a lot more fun. Perhaps. But life is good. We need to focus on the future.

We are saying goodbye to 2011. Ushering in a New Year. What will it bring? I seem to have missed making any New Year resolutions. Perhaps it is intentional. New Year resolutions are a lot of work. You know how it is. You wake up January 1 and nothing really changes. Nothing looks different. Nothing feels different. So why not go with what you got? Keep working at what you have been working on for the last year. Resolve to work at it harder. That way when you fail it is easier to get up, dust yourself off and carry on.

I am looking ahead. Saw an interesting commercial on TV. The quote at the end said “If good deeds were more common they would not stand out as much”. Perhaps that is what we can strive for in 2012. Forget about the world ending. Forget about any regrets. Make it a goal to do more good deeds. You might be surprised at the positive impact this has on your life and the lives of others. In the meantime I will again remind you of a picture that hangs in my office. It simply says that “It’s not that life ends so soon but that we wait so long to begin it”. How true. So here’s to 2012. Bring it on. Make it a good one.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wishing You a Merry Christmas

It is that time of year. Where has the year gone? It feels like only yesterday I was sitting at my computer writing a Christmas blog. Here it is again. As I said a few weeks ago, I have the Christmas spirit. Still not sure what that means other than that I am looking forward to spending time with friends and family. I have already survived two family gatherings. Awesome. Now further rest and relaxation and food. Not going anywhere, just looking forward to kids coming home.

Over the course of the last number of years all things surrounding the traditional Christmas have been pushed aside. What I mean is this. For years many of us have been making an effort to be politically correct. I hear of schools canceling Christmas programs because it might offend people who are not of the Christian faith. We put up “holiday trees”. I recall many years ago when someone first wished me a ``happy holiday`` rather than the traditional ``Merry Christmas``. I found that rather odd. Did not understand. And then I did. I thought, okay, it offends people when I wish them a Merry Christmas. So I decided to change. Go with the flow. I could do that. So I did.

A couple of weeks ago a colleague and I visited the flood recovery office to get a better handle on the stress these workers were experiencing. As we walked out the door I turned back towards the staff and wished them a Merry Christmas. Thought nothing of it till my colleague suggested that I had not been politically correct. Of course, I responded with my usual gruff self, suggesting that I could wish people whatever I wanted to. But it got me thinking. It created confusion. It left me with mixed feelings. I want to now respond to that issue. Note I said respond, not answer. My thought being that when I respond I leave the door open for further dialogue. Hear me out.

December 25 is Christmas day. It matters not what one believes, the calendar marks the 25th as Christmas day. No different than Remembrance day, Canada day, Hanukah, or Eid. We celebrate Labor Day weekends, Thanksgiving, and Boxing day. I was in Japan, a number of years ago, just before Christmas. All the stores had put up Christmas decorations. I asked our host about this. He told me that, although Japanese people do not consider themselves “Christian”, they do celebrate the Christmas season. It’s a time for family. It’s a time for giving. And for me that is the essence of Christmas. Taking time with family and friends. Taking time to reflect. Taking time to give.
There is another point I would like to make. When I wish someone a Merry Christmas I am in no way, shape or form pushing my beliefs in their face. I would like it if people would wish me a Happy Hanukah, wish me a Blessed Eid (not sure that is the correct greeting that Muslims would use), or any other greeting that signifies that person’s traditions or beliefs. It would give me a better world view. It would help me better understand others. It would give me a greater respect for the beliefs of others. And quite honestly, if someone chooses to wish me Happy Holidays, so be it, unless they are doing so only to be politically correct. Because in that case it has a very hollow ring to it.

So there you have it. My wish for you is that you have a Merry Christmas. May this time fill you with renewed love. May it fill you with contentment. May you have the opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle and appreciate all we have. Make it a good one.

Friday, December 16, 2011

When Your Life Changes

Just recently a colleague and I facilitated stress management workshops for people working with flood victims. Part and parcel of that workshop entailed discussion on the stages of crisis. I realize I have talked about this before but I need to talk about it again. Obviously when Mother Nature throws us a curve ball the consequences can and are disastrous. Property is destroyed. Lives are changed, in some cases, forever. After a while people can and do adapt. However, that can take time. What has really been heavy on my mind is when people are faced with circumstances beyond their control. When people are involved in accidents, when health issues become a concern, when lives are changed forever. How does one cope? Where can people turn to? Who can help?

When we do our workshops we talk about the first stage of crisis being when an individual is hit by the storm. The point where they come face to face with the realization that life has changed. Often they have feelings of shock, disbelief, rage and panic. There is a sense of loss. People are in a place where often times they turn to unhealthy ways of coping.

The second stage considers people being in the foggy middle. A period of empty, confused feelings. Life seems chaotic. Some days they feel hopeful the next hopeless. Nothing seems to make sense. When in this stage one needs to find ways to cope. This can be a long and uncomfortable journey. Based on experience, the only way to move on is to find some clarity. To find the missing pieces. To realize that life will go on. To establish new coping mechanisms. And to develop solutions.

The third stage is known as the recovery stage. Being on solid ground. People start to adjust and adapt to changed surroundings. Depending on the individual, people return to a pre-crisis level of functioning. Often times that level of functioning may not be what it used to be. Much depends on the outcome of the crisis. It also depends on a person’s internal and external supports.

Why am I talking about this again? I have talked to a number of people this week who are in different stages of crisis. I marvel at the strength many of them have. I can’t imagine myself in their shoes. That friend whose health issues have turned into a fight against cancer. The accident victim who cannot get back to a normal life. That particular friend who had his hopes set on a job only to find out he didn’t get it. The family member who is struggling with work and looking at making significant changes. The friend who would like to talk about issues in life but finds it difficult to find the right listening ear. The individual who talks about frustrating relational issues. The one who is losing the farm and all he has worked for. Far too often life just does not seem to be fair. Sometimes life just simply sucks.

But we need to move on. Find ways to cope. Find ways to develop solutions. Seek that higher ground. Take the time to reflect. Take the time to move on. One of the people I just mentioned told me that he had spent time in reflecting. Realized mistakes he had made. Understood his own mortality. And was going to move forward in a different way. The idea is to make positive changes. But sometimes that is so difficult. My friend ended an email by saying that he felt he could cope with the help of family, friends and God. Find your supports. They are there. They are ready to help. They are ready to listen. Make it a good one.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Here Comes Santa Claus

I have a problem. A serious problem. Something that I remember happening in the past. But that was years ago. I don’t know how it happened now. I don’t know how to deal with it. My life has changed. I need to work my way through this. I may need professional help. I always challenge people to seek help when they are struggling. To seek their supports. I am not sure that I can share this with anyone. It is truly traumatic. Just putting these thoughts into words is upsetting. How will people react? What will my kids think? My poor wife?

Speaking about my wife. We celebrated our 3oth wedding anniversary this week. Okay, I admit, we did not celebrate. It was more of an acknowledgement. 30 years. That’s an awfully long time. I have been married, to the same woman, for over half my life. Not that being married to the same woman is surprising, but rather that she has stuck with me. But there was one reason to celebrate. I bought flowers. When I mentioned to my colleagues during the day that it was our anniversary, flowers seemed to be a common theme. Of course my colleagues are women so what else would I hear, right? I am not the mushy type. Never been much of a romantic. Never sensed that my wife really appreciated flowers. However, on my way out of Brandon, I made the decision. I would step outside of the norm. I would buy flowers. The challenge then became what to buy. The woman at the flower shop gave me a real strange look when I said I needed to buy flowers for our anniversary but I had no idea what I wanted. Only knew I didn’t want to spend too much. Bottom line? I bought flowers, they look awesome, (a dozen white roses) and my wife liked them.

Back to my real problem. I need to talk about it. So here goes. But wait. You need to promise you won’t laugh. This is embarrassing. Could come back to haunt me. Perhaps if I try to ignore it for a day or two it will go away. Actually I have tried that and it didn’t work. Okay, here it is. I have the Christmas spirit. You heard right. The Christmas spirit. No idea where it came from. No idea what it wants. No idea how to handle this. I have this urge to listen to Christmas songs. I actually have walked through a few stores and thought about what kind of gifts to buy. Made up my mind I was going to buy my wife a gift. Now before you go thinking I that I have been a scrooge in the past, my wife and I always buy something together. It has always been the easy way out for me. But not this year. I want to surprise her. I am looking forward to having the kids at home. Spend time together. Play some games (only ones I can cheat at, of course). Eat too much food. Listen to music. Sing. (I suspect when my wife reads this she will put a freeze on the bank account) Even switched to the Country Music channel last night to watch a Christmas special.

So there you have it. The Christmas spirit. Who would have thought it. It is scary but I am going to deal with it. Having talked about it helps. Here is hoping you get a taste of it as well. It feels good. Oh, and by the way, speaking of half my life, I have a birthday happening between now and Christmas. Let me know if you need an address to send the gifts to. Make it a good one.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Your Flight Is Delayed

I dread hearing those words. But here I am sitting in the center of the universe and I just heard those words. Okay, so it may not be the center of the universe, although it is Toronto. I just want to get home. Finding out why the flight is delayed scares me even more. It’s because of the weather in Winnipeg. Ouch. When I left Thursday afternoon it was plus 9. It was beautiful. I had thoughts of golf on my mind. Two days later it is winter. I just checked the forecast for Winnipeg. Freezing rain, snow, sixty kilometer an hour winds. When I get to Winnipeg I need to walk quite a distance to my vehicle. Guess what my coat is in the vehicle. Smart move. I also know that I will have a low tire. It’s had a slow leak for a while. Oh well. Take care of it when I get there.

But I shouldn’t complain. I met many folks this week who would love to be able to get on a plane, fly from point A to point B. Get off the plane and walk to their vehicles. Would love to be able to change a tire. Would love a normal life and lifestyle. I spent the last day and a half with the Canadian Farmers with Disabilities. Talk about gaining a new perspective on life. It is truly amazing to see how these folks have adapted. They are living with their disability and doing a fine job of it. They have an incredible sense of humour. We laughed when one gentleman, confined to a wheel chair because of a horrific accident, related his experience of trying to get on the toilet. There wasn’t enough room so he had to go “side saddle”. He warned the rest of us that that position can be quite uncomfortable. He told us how he had a real issue when he realized the toilet paper was behind him and he couldn’t reach it. There were other stories. Some sad, some funny. I spoke to the group on stress management. They appreciated the humour I incorporate into my presentations. We laughed, we cried. It was an awesome experience.

It was also rewarding talking one on one with many of them. Listening to their stories. Hearing about their misfortunes. Hearing them talk about coping. They do cope. They have adapted. I never gave much thought about many of the difficulties they face. We had dinner together. One person’s meat was rather tough. Can you imagine trying to cut meat using only one arm? A simple task of splitting a bun and putting butter on it becomes a major undertaking. They are not afraid to ask for help. I chatted with one of them about the irony of a person with a physical impairment feeling free to ask for help and yet people, such as myself, with mental health issues refusing to seek help when we need it. I learned a lot.

Outside of the meeting room was a display board. There were two messages on the board. “Farmers with disabilities are there for the injured after a farming accident” and they “Support other farm families after severe injuries”. Isn’t that awesome? Supporting each other. We talked about how we could better reach out to farmers in need. Regardless of issues. Be they financial, relational, physical or mental. Supporting each other helps.

Well, its time to get ready for my flight. Hopefully it will be a good one. And when I get back to Manitoba I hope I am prepared for what the weather is going to throw at me. I also hope I remember some of the life lessons I have learned over the last few days. Make it a good one.