The Recovering Farmer

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

That Was Fun

As is somewhat normal, I think, people like a review of the year that just passed. I can do that. Twas a year. Where to start? Do I bring up all the negatives? Based on the latest self-help book, that would not be a good thing. So I need to focus on the positive. I will try.

Wait a minute. I have no idea what happened a year ago. Seeing it was January, it was probably cold. Actually my first week of the year was not cold. Spent it in Arizona playing golf with friends. That was awesome. Good food, good company, good golf. In reality I could complain about the golf. Or, at least, my scores. However me thinks no one would listen. Why? Because I had fun.

The week following was spent touring Manitoba facilitating workshops on how to sleep better. That was fun. Aside, of course, from the flea bitten motel we stayed in one night. During the day we talked to people about stress management and sleeping better. In the evenings we compared stories and shared a laugh or two. Again, that was fun.

Can’t believe this. I was not sure that anything positive happened this last year. Let me think. I know. The golf season started later than usual. I recall watching out the window. Hoping for the snow to melt. Hoping that the grass would start turning green. You know that saying, Spring is sprung the grass is riz, I wonder where them birdies is. Seemed to take forever. But we did get out there. And actually I got out there quite often. Lots of fun.

Work went well. Was busy most of the time. Seems that when one area slowed down a different one would pick up. Did not have a lot of time to wonder whether I should be concerned. That seems positive. Fun? Perhaps not fun. After all dealing with people in conflict can be challenging. But it is worth it when clients have an ah ha moment. And that did happen. That was fun.

I enjoyed watching my grandson grow and learn in his first year. I enjoyed having our kids close. There were golf games. There were meals enjoyed together. There was laughter. Lots of time enjoying the deck. The sun. That was fun.
There seems to be a general theme here. It would appear that I had fun. Yet I just shared with a good friend yesterday that the year had been more challenging than I cared to remember. But when I think back I had fun. Lots of it.

As humans we have this tendency to think negative. My first title for this piece was Cold, Dark and Lonely. That reflected my feelings. It is the time of year when days are short, temperatures can be frigid, and Christmas brings about a sense of loneliness for many. But when I started reflecting back I began to recognize so many times when life was filled with happiness, peace and comfort. To the point where I went back and changed the title. Sure. Let’s not kid anybody. Bad things happen. Always have, always will. It is how we deal with these situations that define who we are. And when push came to shove I had fun.

Good lesson to be learned here. Focus on the good things in life. Learn from the negatives but embrace the positives. As the saying goes; “good things come to those who believe, better things come to those who wait and the best things come to those who don’t give up.” So here is to 2014. Happy New Years. Make it a good one.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

May It Be A Good One

Tis the time of year when the temperatures are cold, days are short, and for some strange reason we are to be jolly, filled with laughter and good cheer. This has been a difficult connection for me to make for most of my life. I recall in my earlier years that Christmas brought with it a certain emotion. I think it was joy. Perhaps happiness. Who knows.

Then something happened. Over time this season began being a dark, lonesome time. Never sure I have ever identified what brought it on. Was it the fact that this time of year brings with it the least amount of sunlight? That is when the sun is actually peeking through the clouds. Or was it because this time of year is the beginning of the coldest part of the winter? Or is it because this time of year brings out the loneliness like no other time?

Here I sit a few days short of Christmas trying to figure out what my emotions really are. I get the dark part. At 11:11 Saturday we hit the winter solstice. That means that Saturday was our shortest day of the year. We are also trapped in a cold spell. As the headline stated, we are colder than the north pole. It is lonely. Why is that? So much hustle and bustle. So much activity. And yet we feel lonely. Strange but true.

Here is wishing you all a Merry Christmas. Whatever your situation may be I am hoping that you find it inside yourself to take a moment and enjoy what this time of year brings. Peace, joy and happiness. May the following poem bring you a sense of what this time of year is all about. Make it a good one.

Put your problems on probation
Run your troubles off the track,
Throw your worries out the window
Get the monkeys off your back.
Silence all your inner critics
With your conscience make amends,
And allow yourself some happiness
It's Christmas time again!

Call a truce with those who bother you
Let all the fighting cease,
Give your differences a breather
And declare a time of peace,
Don't let angry feelings taint
The precious time you have to spend,
And allow yourself some happiness
It's Christmas time again!

Like some cool refreshing water
Or a gentle summer breeze,
Like a fresh bouquet of flowers
Or the smell of autumn leaves,
It's a banquet for the spirit
Filled with family, food and friends,
So allow yourself some happiness
It's Christmas time again!
Bob Lazzar-Atwood

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Growing Older

Here is the question. Am I getting older or growing older? Not sure it matters although at my age I have to make sure. One sounds like a negative. “Getting” sounds like it is happening without any specific reason. Look it up. The Encarta dictionary defines it as “to enter or leave a particular state or condition”. So that would mean I am entering a condition. Sounds nasty to me. “Growing” sounds more positive. When we envision growth we envision something positive. At least I do. Perhaps I am only fooling myself, but that’s okay too.

My approaching birthday seemed to create a certain excitement in my wife. She kept mentioning it. I wanted to ignore it. Forget it was happening. She would not allow it. I suppose I am partly to blame. You see, I married an older woman. And, as you can well imagine, I don’t let her forget that. She really isn’t much older but older nonetheless. For 4 months and 1 day I get to give her a rough time about her being older. So she senses a certain relief when I finally catch up to her.

My birthday wishes started rolling in the night before. With modern communication methods there are no secrets. Facebook tells all, and in some cases too much. So with Facebook, emails, text messages and phone messages I have received many well wishes. It is actually heartwarming. Let me clarify. Most of them are heartwarming. Others are snide remarks, well wishes with not so hidden messages about age. However, again, I am probably deserving of those as well.

At 5:30 on the morning of the big day I checked emails. My son had sent me a picture where he had super imposed my face on the picture of a dog. Cute dog actually. It made me laugh. And anyone that knows me knows it is not an easy task to make me laugh that early in the morning. Particularly before I have had my coffee. By now, I suspect, that picture will be posted on Facebook for all to see. The good news is I do have lots of hair in that picture. I actually received birthday wishes from three dogs. Go figure. Even that warmed the cockles of my heart.

I don’t need birthdays to let me know I am getting older. Looking in the mirror is usually the first clue. Between the hair, or lack thereof, not being my original color, wrinkles appearing in far too many places, parts of my body sagging, the aches and pains I have when I get out of bed every morning, and a completely different set of aches and pains when I go to bed at night, watching what I eat and drink for all the right reasons, and needing my beauty sleep (that ship has sailed) are just a few of the clues that I am getting older. Some of my other dilemmas are best left unsaid. Perhaps this answers my first question. Sounds like a condition to me.

But as one well-wisher said, it is better than the alternative. Things could be worse. They sure could be. I am thankful for the people in my life. I am thankful for the life I can live. For the opportunities. Here is a heartfelt thank you to all who wished me a happy birthday. Whether on Facebook, by text message, email or telephone. It was appreciated. For those who forgot, and I am sure you have good reasons, there is always next year. At least I hope there is. Make it a good one.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Great Debate

I am in the mood for a debate. Not sure why that is. My wife would suggest that it is my genetics. She thinks that my siblings and I like to goad each other on till a debate breaks out. Then things tend to get somewhat loud. Gives her a headache.

Perhaps it is my line of work. When I mediate I need to keep my opinions to myself. As one mediator once told me I need to keep my feelings on the shelf. All though that was my brother that said that and he is the first to bait someone into a debate. So not sure I can trust his advice.

My wife will even suggest that I start debates at home just so I have something to mediate. Seems to me that would be a good thing. The mediating part, that is. After all mediators are peacemakers, right? Okay. I admit it. Not always.

So what should we debate? Or are you not joining me? Perhaps I will debate with myself. That actually happens a lot. Particularly when I am in the car by myself. Usually not pleasant conversations. Those tend to become noisy as well. And the language leaves something to be desired.

Let’s see. Christmas is coming. I could jump into the age old debate about the need to be politically correct. Wish people a Happy Holiday rather than a Merry Christmas. I wrote about that a few years ago. So that ship has sailed. Been there, bought the t-shirt. Although I must say that there seems to be an increasing sentiment out there that follows my view. A shift from a few years ago. Wish me anything you want, positive of course, and I will accept that good wish and wish you a Merry Christmas.

How about snow tires? Want to talk about them? We have had some interesting debates in our house regarding the use of snow tires. My wife is a strong advocate. Me? Not so much. Although I need to analyze my viewpoint. Is it because I am male and feel I need to prove something? Is it because I feel it is an unnecessary expense and that people should drive based on the conditions and if they do that there will not be a problem? I feel paranoid about stating my opinion too assertively because sure as I am sitting here I will end up paying for my comments. Another “told you so” experience. Those wreak havoc with my pride and self-esteem.

So what else is there? We could debate politics. Enough happening in that arena to talk about for many days, weeks and years to come. I don’t want to go there. I suspect I will run into some of those discussions as we get together with family and friends over the holidays. (I know. I said holidays rather than Christmas.) I am always puzzled why a certain segment (read political leaning) of our population insists on being insulting when they hear political viewpoints other than their own. So, again, I try and stay away from those debates.

What does that leave? Perhaps it is like the radio host said who, by the way, is one of those that like to present their political views by being rude and insulting. “For God’s sake, can we not just be nice for the few short weeks around the Christmas season.” I am going with that and perhaps we can bring ourselves to be that way year round. Isn’t that a novel idea? That would really lend credence to our words around Christmas. The words that are said so often. “Peace and good tidings to all.” Make it a good one.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Feeling Better

We are immersed in a frigid artic air mass. Seems to be frozen in place (pardon the pun). Saw a headline in the paper this morning. “Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.” The article referred to the weather for today and the foreseeable future. Last week was snow. In my travels it seemed that based on other drivers we were experiencing the first snowfall of the year. Based on some drivers it seemed that they were driving in snow for the first time in their life. 10 kms per hour on Pembina? In the left hand lane? Really? 60 kms per hour on a highway? Why? Because of a little blowing snow? Really? Come-on folks. This is Manitoba. I know. I need to relax. But it is difficult.

By the way. Did you hear about the six year old boy in Colorado? He was suspended from school because he kissed a girl on the cheek. They are calling it sexual harassment. The school authorities felt he needed to learn a lesson. Really?

Sorry. I got side tracked. A few weeks ago I alluded to my medical appointment I had. During that appointment I asked the doctor about anti-depressants. As I have suggested for a while my mood, my emotions, my mental health had not been where I wanted it to be. We chatted about it. He did not have a definitive opinion. He did suggest that if I had some thoughts on other ways of coping, of healing I should try that first. So I went home and began using many of the tools I talk about often enough. I made an appointment with a friend/colleague/counselor. After that appointment I began using the treadmill on a daily basis. I started journaling. I listen to music. I pulled out my guitar and try to play it on a regular basis. I felt a significant improvement.

So a leading politician wishes viewers a Merry Christmas. In an attempt to be politically correct he includes infidel atheists in his greeting. Really? And then he. . . I better leave that one alone.

Oops. Did it again. On top of all the tools I was utilizing I still felt something missing. One night I found a book my brother had sent me earlier this fall. He thought it might help. A book called “Feeling Good” by David Burns. I thought there would be no harm in, at a minimum, see what it’s about. I often find that self-help books start out okay but then have a tendency to become tedious and far too technical for my simple brain. I was in for a surprise. This book is engaging. It is helpful. And it is interesting. Seems that each chapter is written specifically for me. The main theme of the book is dealing with depression through cognitive behavioral therapy rather than medication. I have read 1/3 of the book and have found numerous tools that have benefited me in many of the areas that I struggle with.

As I often admit, I lose patience very quickly when I travel the highways and byways of Manitoba. Some might call it road rage. Who am I to argue? I become irritated when I see certain news stories. Particularly ones that leave me befuddled with the human spirit, or should I say, the lack there of.

The book I just alluded to has a specific chapter on anger. It refers to your IQ. Not how smart you are. I would fail that one I am sure. It means your Irritability Quotient and refers to the amount of anger you absorb and harbor on a daily basis. It provides a test the reader can do called the Novaco Anger Scale. What I found out about myself is not positive. Something I need to change if I want to move beyond a continuous struggle with my emotional state. The good news is the author provides simple yet effective tools to overcome chronic issues with anger or irritability.

Now all I need to do is practice what I have learned. I have had positive results with some of the author’s other ideas. It should work with anger as well. Get to the point where other drivers don’t bug me. Not worry about the snow and the cold. Not be bothered with some of the idiotic things people do. Understand my triggers. Understand and build on the positive. Hey. The sun is shining. The house is warm. And to think, in a few short days the days start getting longer. Always something to look forward to. Make it a good one.