The Recovering Farmer

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I Don’t Look Too Good

That probably doesn’t come as much surprise to anyone. Perhaps the only surprise is that I have never admitted that previously. Anyone that watched the Grey Cup half time show or has had any discussions with anyone that did watch or has read any newspapers, has, by now, heard about the fact that Justin Bieber was booed during his performance. Personally I didn’t notice nor do I care. I am much more concerned about the song sung by the infamous Gordon Lightfoot. Wow. Talk about old. Perhaps my problem is that some mornings when I look in the mirror I think I resemble Mr. Lightfoot. That is why I say, I don’t look too good.

Actually I am not referring to my physical looks. It is my eyes. Seems I have some issues. Again. I don’t look too good. At least out of one eye. I am reminded of going to bed one night and as my wife took off her glasses I made the comment that without her glasses she looked just like that beautiful, young girl I married 30 years ago. Wait a minute. Tomorrow is our anniversary. It is actually 31 years ago. Another story for another day. After I made the comment to her she looked at me and said that without her glasses on I didn’t look too bad either.

Back to my eyes. As some of you know my issues began a few years ago with a diagnosis of cataracts. Got that surgery done. Then I had a detached retina. Took three surgeries and a few laser procedures to fix that problem. Even after the surgeries I never got good vision back in that eye. When I was able to return to the golf course I realized very quickly that lining up putts with only one eye does not work. Then I came to the realization that something was happening in my other eye. Turns out my cataract lens was fogging up. Got to the point where I probably should not have been driving. A simple laser procedure fixed that. A further laser surgery on both eyes got me to where my vision was quite good. Now this.

I am told that I have Glaucoma. Sounds serious. Somewhat scary as sight is something most of us take for granted. I have been told that Glaucoma cannot be reversed but it can be stopped. Will probably mean using eye drops for the rest of my life. I got lots of practice using eye drops during my detached retina debacle. So that should not be a problem. Only one side effect. It makes eye lashes grow long and thick. I will be the envy of many. Mostly women. But that is okay. I have been told I should use the drops in both eyes. I thought it was as a prevention of getting glaucoma in the other eye. Now I am beginning to think it is so I will have some balance to my eye lashes. Me thinks this could make me look somewhat weird. Then I won’t look so good. Again.

So here is my thinking. If the eye drops help in growing eye lashes perhaps they could also help in replenishing the hair on top of my head. Might be on to something. So if you see me and I am applying eye drops to my head don’t laugh. This just might work. In the meantime, here is hoping that the glaucoma can be stopped. After all, the golf season is right around the corner. Right? Make it a good one.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Feeling Good About Me

Ever stop to think about the meaning of self-pity? Look it up in the dictionary. Even better, keep reading. I will give you a definition. The Encarta Dictionary defines self-pity as “the self-indulgent belief that your life is harder and sadder than everyone else's”. That says it all. Does not sound like something one would really want to get too immersed in. So why is it so easy to fall into that miserable state of mind where these feelings exist? Why do I actually sometimes enjoy that state of mind? With today’s ways of communicating, knowing what is going on in all four corners of the world, you know that there are so many people worse off than you. (That statement right there is proof that the world is flat. A round object does not have corners.)

I mentioned recently that I was learning a new concept regarding one’s feelings for self. Self-compassion. Ah ha. The dictionary does not have that one. What is the definition of compassion? According to the Dictionary it means to have “sympathy for the suffering of others, often including a desire to help”. We know that caring for others, wanting to help, is a good thing. It feels good. And we all know when others care about us, when they want to help us, it feels good.

The theory is quite simple. Do you know that as humans we have an innate desire to be understood by others particularly during periods of distress? We never outgrow that. Our pain and anxiety reduces the more others understand and care. Our physical health improves when others show they care, when they show they understand, when they reach out to help. Using that same principle on ourselves is just as important. You know me. I keep beating up on myself. Question my self worth. Remember Imposter Syndrome? This is where self-compassion is so important. We need to better understand ourselves. We need to be kinder to “me”. We need to be able to reach out and help “me”.

Easier said than done, right? I just came from a meeting which included a number of people involved in mediation work. It was an informal meeting, one where ideas were shared. Participants were asked to share about what works and what doesn’t. There were more degrees in that room than people, and I don’t mean the temperature. There were lawyers, professional mediators, executives, people with abrasive self-confidence (arrogance). I felt intimidated. Who was I to be involved in that meeting? I went with the thought that it is better to keep my mouth closed and appear to be a fool rather than to open it and erase all doubt. When I got home I sat back and thought, I can’t do this. I am nothing. I don’t rate. Felt like curling up in some corner in the fetal position.

And then I took a minute to reflect. To reflect on who I am. I thought about what had been said. I realized that many of the “novel” ideas that were shared I was already practicing. I came to understand that I was good at my job. I softened my view of myself. I opened my heart and my mind. And in the same way I would have responded if someone else had told me that, I started feeling better about myself. I felt validated. I felt worthy. Worthy of the kindness and respect I was showing myself. The kindness and respect I deserve.

Mindfulness is a great tool to use to become self-compassionate. Bring ourselves back to the present. Build on our natural ability to meld mind and body. Take some time, on a regular basis, to sit back, become aware of the present by focusing on your breathing. And as you contemplate the present say the following words. “May my heart be filled with loving kindness. May I be safe. May I be healthy in mind and body. May I be happy, truly happy. May I live my life with ease.” (Taken from Klinic’s brochure on self-compassion.) With practice this exercise will come naturally. And as you do this exercise your life will become more fulfilled. You will feel better about “me”. Make it a good one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lest We Forget

Someone suggested to me that they were opposed to the concept of wearing poppies. That particular person felt that it was a symbolic gesture that had lost its significance. And, perhaps, for many people it has. The further we are removed from something the tougher it is to take note, to remember. I would suggest that is a sad commentary on society. We have so much to be thankful for, particularly as it concerns our freedom from dictators, tyranny, and civil unrest. Perhaps we take too much for granted. It was also suggested that wearing a poppy was a cop out. Meaning that we put one on, for this one day of the year, just because it is expected of us. We show the world we are “with it”. But are we really?

Some years ago, shortly after the war in Afghanistan began, I put a magnetic decal on my car. You know the one that says `support our troops”? I got quite the tongue lashing from one individual who accused me of supporting the Conservative government, supporting everything that the Conservative government stood for. I stopped him. I could have argued with him that it was actually the Liberals that sent our troops to Afghanistan but I refrained. I said he was being somewhat hasty in his judgement of me. I suggested to him that supporting our troops did not mean that I was supporting what they were doing. Did not mean that I was in agreement with the conflict happening in Afghanistan nor what had perpetuated that particular conflict. As I heard yesterday, the soldier’s duty is not to reason why, it is to do or die. I was making a point of being cognizant of the dangers our troops were facing. The decal on my car was a daily reminder of what was happening in other parts of the world.

I read an interesting article this weekend where the author informed his readers that he was a pacifist but still wore a poppy. In his words, “I wear (a poppy) as a sign of respect for the many men and women who sacrificed years, youth and their lives during this country’s wars”. And we need to respect those that fought for our freedoms. Our rights.

This should not be a debate about whether wars should be fought. About the “what ifs” had there had not been the efforts to stop Hitler. Not about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Not about the many other excuses there have been to defend our rights. Some valid, some not so much. As a mediator I have a firm belief that conflict can be solved without violence. (I am trying to imagine what it would have been like to mediate between Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt) Some may call me na├»ve.

Rather it is a time to reflect on what we enjoy today. Reflect on the price that was paid. The young lives that were sacrificed. The hardships created by war. Reflect on many of the conflicts that are still happening today. Soldiers that have been deployed. Perhaps there are better ways to resolve conflict, to find peaceful solutions. It is our duty to remember . And ultimately do our part for peace. We must wear poppies, lest we forget. Make it a good one.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


It was with a heavy heart that I set out for Wawanesa earlier this week. Although “going home” should have a certain excitement to it, this trip did not. You see, I was going to a funeral. A funeral for a good friend of mine. He lost his battle with cancer. A fight that had carried on for many years. One that left him scarred, weary and worn.

We did not start out in life as friends. He was somewhat older than me. His kids were friends of mine. Spent many hours with them. I suppose back then he was concerned about the trouble we might get into. I recall my parents forcing me to call him uncle. Not that he was my uncle. However, in our house when people were older, particularly men, they were referred to as uncle. In later years he and I often joked about this. I would, on occasion, still call him uncle. My parents were firm believers that calling someone uncle was respectful. And I did respect him. As we became friends and peers, as I got to know him better, my respect for him grew.He knew what he believed. He knew what he wanted. And most of all, he was prepared to fight for his beliefs.

He owned a chicken farm. A mere two miles from our farm. My first recollection of the beginning of our friendship was helping him load chickens. Not the best job I have ever done. But interesting how an evening like that could turn into an evening of laughter and camaraderie. Soon thereafter we spent countless days drinking coffee, going out for lunch, enjoying visits at each other’s homes. Initially our coffee dates took us to the local gas station. When that closed we would gather at our farm. We had a place where we spent hours discussing agriculture, politics and religion. It was a hoot.

Some irony in the fact that he died on Halloween. When I heard the news and reflected on some of my memories I remembered a certain Halloween that we sat at my barn and visited. It was in the days when local kids liked wreaking havoc at my place. Never figured that one out. I was vigilant. When I saw a vehicle, with the lights out, headed to my barn I hopped in my vehicle in hot pursuit. There he was. Laughing. Getting a kick out of having me chasing him around to find out what was going on. Ended up visiting.

He had some significant challenges in life. Some years ago he lost a son. Devastating to say the least. Heartbreaking for a parent. Something nobody wants to experience. Our kids are supposed to outlive us. We spent a lot of time talking about that. Lots of questions. Seemingly, few answers. He faced financial ruin on his farm. A victim of high interest rates. He recovered from that, farmed successfully for many years, was able to turn the farm over to family and was able to retire in comfort. He exemplified resilience.

He was a tremendous help to me. Whether it was struggles on the farm, learning to be an agricultural leader, facing financial stress, going through mental health issues, or questioning my existence in this world, he provided a listening ear. He was there for me. He was a mentor. For that I will always be thankful. I will not forget.

Unfortunately, and I regret this, when we moved I lost touch. I feel like I failed him as he struggled with his health. I know he is in a better place. The cares and worries of the world are gone. RIP Erwin. My thoughts and prayers are with the family as they adjust to a world without a husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. Cherish the memories.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Build A Bridge

How many times have you heard the phrase “get over it”? Certainly if you have had anything to do with kids, whether your own or someone else’s, you will have heard that. Often times, I am sure, you have felt like using it yourself. And, I am sure, there are times when you did use it. As many of you know by now, I often slip into a state of rumination. I stew about things. I have, on occasion, wallowed in self-pity. Some time ago I was worked up about something. Can’t remember what anymore. Perhaps that in itself is a sign that it happens to often. My wife finally had enough and told me to get over it.

I deal with many people who are in crisis. Some real, some perceived. And, like me, many of these people feel they are alone. They feel like they are being picked on. Taken advantage of. Sometimes I feel like telling them to get over it. Sure, it hurts initially. Sometimes, temporarily, it puts us deeper into that cauldron of self-pity. Thinking everyone else is on easy street. I am the only one hurting. And the age old line, nobody cares and nobody understands. (Heard a new term today. Self-compassion. I want to learn more about that. It sounds like a much healthier emotion than self-pity.)

Just recently one of my kids said to one of their siblings, “get over it”. In the background I heard someone else say; “build a bridge”. Excuse me. Build a bridge? Sure they explained. When you are told to get over it what do you need? You need a bridge. That simple.

You know me. I started applying the concept to life. Instead of muddling our way through, fighting everything we are trying to avoid, we need to build a bridge. In my mind I conjured up this picture of a crisis being like a river. A river with a swift and turbulent current. As you start across the river the water gets deeper. Mud is sucking at your feet. The current is throwing you off balance. The water gets colder. Then when the water gets too deep for walking you start swimming. The current takes you down stream and you end up in places you had not wanted to go. In a worst case scenario you can drown.

Now picture crossing that same river on a bridge. Sure, having to build a bridge will take some time and some effort. But when it is built it becomes a way to circumvent a lot of problems. You stay dry. You stay on course. You stay safe. Now you can observe the river from above. There are no threats to life or limb. And once that bridge has been built it can be used time and time again.

So next time someone says “get over it”, build a bridge. Don’t take it personally. Take it as a challenge. Understand that there is a better way than the way you are dealing with an issue. Instead of mucking through an issue, utilize tools to get over it. The tools are available. And the best part of this is you don’t need to do this on your own. Find your supports. Friends, family, neighbors, professionals. They are all prepared to be on your “construction” crew. They are your supports. Remember. “When it hurts to look back and you are worried about the future look beside you and you will find your friends.” Make it a good one.