The Recovering Farmer

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What Do I See

As happens so often, I had the opportunity to meet a person this week who has and is dealing with significant challenges in his life. During the course of our conversation I learned a lot about myself. How I face hurdles. How I react to “bad” things happening in my life. How others react and what I can learn from that.

As all of you know, and may be sick of hearing about, I am an avid golfer. I have experienced challenges regarding my eye sight. And I deal with certain mental health challenges. I have alluded to the fact that I have noticed my vision decreasing. It became quite concerning when I realized I had difficulties seeing my golf ball after I hit it. Finally I made an appointment. I was afraid of what I might hear.

The day before the appointment I met the person I just mentioned. He walked into the meeting room, sat down and proceeded to inform me that he was visually impaired. As he told me his story a host of emotions raced through me. I was amazed at his positive approach to life. I liked his sense of humour. I was intrigued with the eye issues he was describing. In my twisted way of thinking I was also convinced that this was an omen of things to come for me.

As he talked I became convinced that he had been dealing with this for most of his life. I found out different. A mere year and a half ago, in a matter of six weeks, he went from having good vision to being virtually blind. He was a 4 handicap in golf. For all you non golfers that means he was pretty darn good. A goal that I strive for but have been unable to achieve. He was happily married with two young kids. He had an up and coming career. Moving ahead in life. Then the unthinkable. A loss of sight. He has adapted and continues to adapt. By his own admission he has a much better view of what is important in life.

We talked about approaching life with a positive attitude. In spite of our inner most fears and concerns we could put on a happy face. We talked about faking it. Even when the inner emotions clouded our thinking it was important to show positive energy. The comment was made that even faking it sometimes helped in actually giving us a more positive outlook.

So what do I see? Physically I see less than would be ideal. However the good news is that it will take a simple laser procedure to fix that. It is a matter of getting the appointment sooner rather than later. Oh, and my son says, bad omens can &%*& themselves. Perhaps he has a point.

Emotionally my vision also needs an adjustment. How I react to various challenges defines who I am as a person. I have choices. It is important to keep things in perspective. I know. It is easier for some then for others. But there are ways and means of working our way through the challenges we face. Often times we cannot do it alone. That is why I am thankful that I met this person. He is helping me “see” better.

Some of my favorite quotes come to mind. “The important things in life are not things.” “Make life changes before life changes.” “The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon but that we wait so long to begin it.” Make it a good one.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I Know Enough

I have learned so much over the years. Not that long ago a friend told me that I was self-aware. I think that means that I have gained an understanding of what drives me, what triggers my emotions, what upsets me and what provides some sort of happiness. Having said that I still am often bewildered by emotions that come out of nowhere and create uncomfortable feelings.

Perhaps it is like I heard someone say at a meeting this week. “I know enough to know that I know nothing.” I chuckled when I heard that. In fact got out my blackberry and sent myself an email with that quote. Ended up getting a tongue lashing from the chairman as he felt I was “playing” with my cell phone rather than participating in the discussion. Little did he know that I had heard something that made so much sense in my personal journey.

Perhaps it becomes a matter of recognition. Although having said that, I know full well that I recognize the feelings that wash over me in certain experiences. And then I spend time analyzing those, trying to figure out where they came from. And the more I analyze the deeper I slide into a state that leaves me depressed, angry and not willing to participate in life.

Perhaps I need to get over it. Build that bridge. Quit over analyzing everything that happens. Quit trying to figure out why people just don’t seem to understand. At one point this week I was frustrated with my wife and kids. They thought I was down. They were wondering what was wrong. I got frustrated. Did they not understand? It wasn’t me. It was them. The more I tried to push it the angrier I got. As I lay in bed that night trying to make sense of it all I concluded that I was probably wallowing in self pity. Although, god forbid, I would never want to admit that out loud. Surely those around me should recognize that it was their fault, not mine.

I came to the realization, the following morning, that I felt better. That was strange. After all, if my funk the night before was everybody else’s fault then why was I feeling better? Yes, I became more self-aware. I realized, came to an understanding that there were certain experiences in life that had been dragging me down the day before. I realized that my emotions had gotten the most of me. I realized that because of my unwanted thoughts and feelings my expectations of others were unrealistic. I realized that I had been unfair. I, in some bizarre way, was trying to punish those closest to me for what I was going through.

So what now? Surely at my age I should know better. Surely I should be able to control and contain those feelings that I KNOW are wreaking havoc on relationships. Now you know why that quote meant so much to me. “I know enough to know I know nothing.” I must do better. The irony is I know enough to know that if I can control those feelings of emptiness, regrets, resentment and, yes, self-pity, I am a happier person. That is a good start. But I need to learn even more. Make it a good one.

Friday, May 10, 2013

How Old Am I

Finally, May 4, the golf course opened. Many people had waited a long time for that. It was exciting to see people milling about the first tee box. Eagerly awaiting that first shot. The sun felt warm. A gentle breeze. Birds singing in the trees. What could possibly go wrong? Well, all the visions of grandeur, the dreams of the golf ball taking off in flight, disappeared quickly when many of us realized that muscle memory had gone the way of the dodo bird.

Not that I am complaining but there was something else missing that day. I quickly realized that not having used the treadmill all winter could create a problem. My first clue should probably have been the fact that doing up my pants had become more difficult. Then again, what is there to do in a long drawn out winter? Snow, wind and cold temperatures. Watch TV and snack , of course.

By the end of the second hole I was not entirely convinced that I would make it. My legs felt wobbly. I was having a difficult time breathing. I started coughing. Perhaps I should have treated myself to a cart this first round. But I knew that at some point I would have to face reality and realize the only way to fix this problem was to keep at it. Long story short, I made it. When I stumbled into the house after the round I literally threw myself on the couch. My wife took one look at me and started laughing. No sympathy there. I wonder why.

I did it again the following day. Not sure what I was trying to prove. Perhaps trying to fool myself into thinking I am still young. The fact that my grandson was over for night should have been enough to help me understand that I am not young. I am a grandpa. Perhaps that in itself should have provided me all the reasons in the world to ride rather than walk.

This getting older sucks. There are increasing limitations. Everything hurts a little longer. I wonder how much of feeling your age is mental. Read an interesting question this morning. “How old would you be if you didn’t know hold you are”? That got me thinking. Perhaps I need to change my perspective. Perhaps the fact that my muscles hurt, my legs ache, my back is stiff, and I get short of breath just using a key board, is just a figment of my imagination.

Who am I kidding? I am getting older. And getting older means I need to change things. I need to be cognizant of what I eat. I need to make sure I get physical exercise. I need to make sure I get mental exercise. I need to get with it. We have all heard of the golden years. Not sure when that is and whether I have arrived. I remember a short poem that addresses that and have added it at the bottom. Based on that I may have arrived. But then again I am going to change my thinking and everything else should fall into place. I hope. Make it a good one.

The golden years have come at last
I cannot see, I cannot pee
I cannot chew, I cannot s****
My memory shrinks, my hearing stinks,
My bodies drooping, got trouble pooping.
The golden years have come at last,
The Golden Years can kiss my a**!
(author unknown)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

What Now

For months farmers have been planning their year. Planning what crops to grow. Planning and purchasing their inputs. And as happens far too often, mother nature has thrown us a curve ball. Here we are at the end of April, looking out the window and still seeing snow. Obviously we look back to last year when the situation was much different. We hear what “normals” should be for this time of year. We become uncertain as to what normal really is.

There are times I still wonder whether people realize where their food supplies come from. I am reminded of the billboard that stood near Brandon for years. It simply stated that Farming Feeds Us All. The Manitoba Farm and Rural Support Services have Tshirts that say Farmers Feed Cities. In a Free Press article this week some farm leaders were commiserating the late spring and the possibilities of further delays due to flooding. In the comment section under the article one reader wrote, and this is so bizarre I will quote verbatim, “this flood is probably caused by all the fertilizing chemicals they put in the rivers and oceans”. Not sure whether to laugh or cry.

So as we assess what this year might bring, adjustments have to be made. We suspect, but don’t know, that the growing season will be shorter. We think, but don’t know, that we need to change cropping plans. We think, but don’t know, that cash projections will be wrong. We think, but don’t know, that this year may be a write off. A million different scenarios are haunting us 24/7.
All this thinking, all the second guessing can become tiring. We dig down. We search for that resilience that farmers are known for. Sometimes we find it and sometimes we don’t. The unknown and the second guessing can also be incredibly stressful. Farmers feel it. Businesses feel it. The entire community feels it.

Stress management is an integral part of a farmer’s “toolbox”. Recognizing stress for what it is and the damage it can cause is important. Having the ability to deal proactively with that stress is key to survival. It is the key to work/life balance. The key to success.

The good news is that there are many resources available to farmers and the rest of the rural community. The Manitoba Farm and Rural Support Services provide numerous services to help people who are experiencing overwhelming stress. They can provide a listening ear, both over the phone or online. They can provide resources. They are there to help. Confidential and free, the MFRSS is a service for farmers delivered by farmers.

Find someone to talk to. I can tell you from personal experience that talking helps. Verbalizing our inner most fears and anxieties helps to ease the burden. Through talking we find support and, without realizing it, support others. Make it a good one.