The Recovering Farmer

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Talk, Talk, Talk, Talk, Talk

Perhaps I have been ignoring it. Perhaps the media coverage is not what it used to be. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Any excuse will do. When I look back at what I have written over the years I sometimes feel like I am flogging a dead horse. Now there is a picture I need to forget sooner rather than later. In fact the image of that just made me laugh. That is a good thing.

It is the annual Bell Let’s Talk time. And we all need to be reminded. I find it interesting when I discover how many people have been touched by mental health issues. Just check Facebook. There is a relative whose son has suffered from depression. There is a friend and colleague that knows all about it. There is a complete stranger that acknowledges the devastation of mental health problems. You turn on the radio. Even a talk show host, who I have very little respect for, has guests that talk about the ongoing issues of depression and anxiety.

I have preached it from the pulpit. Okay, that really is an overstatement. My parents could only wish it was from a pulpit. But in presentations, in media interviews, in one on one conversations, and in my weekly ramblings, I talk about “talking” about it. I am a strong believer. It helped me. It helped me lots. It continues to help me.

Sometimes I wonder how tired people must be about hearing this ongoing issue of mental health and talking. I get really tired of it myself. To the point of getting quite angry. Why the hell can’t we just be happy? Why do we need to continuously remind people to talk? And then I sit back, look at my own life, look at my own struggles and I understand. I get it.

Over the years I have talked on many occasions. I have come to the realization that there are so many out there that listen. So many people that do understand. So many that welcome the opportunity to help. From the neighbor who took the time to ask when I was in my darkest moment. From the friend who listened without judgement. From a wife and partner who never gave up on me. From kids who did care even when I thought I was protecting them from the demons of my inner self. To the countless people who approached me when they realized that I, too, was experiencing what they had felt for years.

There is a certain camaraderie out there. As long as we hide behind a fa├žade of happiness, of contentment, of peace, we never find it. But it is there. And it is so helpful. Thank you to all those that have taken the time to listen to me in the past. Thank you to all who have encouraged without judgement. Thank you to all those that stuck with me even when I stumbled and fell. Thank you to all who continue to care. You have no idea how helpful you have been in my journey. A journey that continues and will continue to the day I die.

So, again, the challenge is to talk about it. Although many people experience mental health issues there are many who do not. For those people I can only throw out one challenge. Take the time to listen. The beauty of that is you don’t need to provide any answers. All you need to do is show some interest, be curious, normalize and validate. To understand in whatever way you can. That is all many of us need. That is all we ask for. And the more we are able to talk, the more we can be on that road to recovery. A road filled with a true peace and contentment. A road that can provide for a better tomorrow.

Again, thank you to all who have listened to me in the past. Thank you to all who have shared with me. Together we can find a new enjoyment in life. A life we were meant to live. Make it a good one.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sometimes We Win

My wife and I seem to have a disagreement these days. Not that that is anything new. She claims that I watch a lot of golf. Go figure. Me watch golf? Okay. Maybe I do. But I don’t watch any other sports. Not hockey. Not football. I used to watch football before the Bombers self-destructed a few years ago. I seem to be a fair weather fan. The other day I thought I should watch the Jets play. After all they have a new coach and had won the first two games of his tenure. I switched on the TV, five minutes left in the third period. The Jets should win. No sooner had I switched on the TV and Edmonton scored making it a tie game. I walked away. Just figured that is par for the course. (Notice how everything reverts back to golf?) (As in, no pun intended?) The Jets did end up winning in overtime. There is hope.

Okay. I admit it. This last Sunday I did watch quite a lot of golf. You see. We had our grandson over for night. And as can be expected there was a significant lack of sleep. Not only was there a lack of sleep. I got hurt. Seems that my brain and my eyes were not computing the right information. After putting the little guy down at some ghastly unknown hour I headed for bed. Unfortunately there was a wall in the way. Not sure how it got there. Never been there before. I hit it. Not gently. My wife swears the whole house shook. It hurt. I will get over it. Not sure she will. She is still laughing. She swears she only started laughing after she was sure I would live. Perhaps.

So needless to say, because of a lack of a lack of sleep, some physical pain and a lack of motivation to do anything else, I vegged in front of the TV. First off there was some European golf. Over in Abu Dhabi. Phil Mickelson and Rory Mcilroy, among others, were playing there. I happened to catch Phil, who I call the other left hander because of my left handed golf friend, caught underneath a tree. Hey. Been there. He tried to hit it out right handed but happened to double hit the ball and not make it out. Long story short he ended up with a triple bogie. Not good considering he was on the leader board, in good shape to win it all. He lost. By one stroke. I suspect that will haunt him for weeks to come.

Then I watched some golf down in California. I have to admit my heart was yearning. I needed some warm sunshine. Green grass. Birds singing. Looking out the window I knew that was not about to happen. Checked the papers. Another Arctic Vortex enroute. So I watched golf. The day before I had briefly watched an interview with a player that had shot some great golf over the course of three days. (For those keeping track I watched an interview, NOT the whole telecast) Regardless, I knew that the last day of the tourney could be interesting. And it was. It was bizarre to watch someone in complete control start losing ground because of nerves. Body parts moving when they should not be. Shots going where they should not go. I could virtually feel the quake of the knees. However, with a seven stroke lead he should be okay, right? Turned out he pulled it off. Good for him.

How much is that like life. We have some good days, think we got it beat and then disaster. It becomes a matter of keeping our focus. I find it interesting when we talk about feeling better. In the book I am now reading, Feeling Good, the author mentions the fact that feeling better is good. But we also have to “get” better. That should be our goal. So like a pressure filled golf game, a pressure filled life, we have to understand that bad things come our way. How we handle them becomes the challenge. Do we buckle under pressure? Do we hold our heads high? Are we on our way to feeling better? Are we on course for a win? Sometimes we win. Sometimes we don’t. That is the reality. Make it a good one.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Only In Manitoba

So all of us, I believe, have been griping about the weather in Manitoba. And, as we all know, it has been brutal. They call it an Arctic Vortex. As I have said before I have no idea what that means. If it means it is cold, windy, snowy and miserable then they are absolutely right.

This morning, driving into Winnipeg listening to my morning radio, I found myself chuckling. Really. Yesterday morning the commute was painfully slow. The day before it was even worse. There were ice ridges on the streets. Even at the glacial (very slow) movement of traffic I found the car making interesting moves due to ice and the ridges. This morning? I needed windshield washer fluid. The streets were wet and slushy. How quickly things can change.

The radio station host wanted to talk about positive things in our lives. Obviously the weather , or should I say, change in weather had given him a new outlook on life. He said he wanted to hear from listeners. Tell him what we were doing with this change in weather. Honestly. Had I not known or been aware of the country we live in I would have been convinced that I had gone through a time warp and ended up in some other country. The host went as far as to enquire whether anyone had been out on the deck the night before. On the deck? Come on. Get real.

So we had a shift in weather. So it was about time. But on the deck? It is still winter in Manitoba. Interesting how quickly our attitudes can shift. In spite of it still being the middle of January, in spite of the fact that we know the cold will continue, in spite of the fact that the days are getting longer, we are still immersed in a Manitoba winter. Folks, it is not warmer out there. It is less cold. Big difference.

Perhaps that is my problem in life as well. I look at things, events, and issues in a realistic way. Never commit to the positive. Never trusting what is around the corner. Distrustful of people, events, and, of course, the weather. Can you imagine if we could have the same “turn around” in emotions as we do with temperatures?

This morning, doing my regular treadmill workout, I listened to a Leonard Cohen song. Now I have heard, never experienced it myself, that Mr. Cohen has the ability to make his audience weak kneed when he croons his songs. Perhaps I need to experience that. I love his song Closing Time. One particular line in his song addresses everything I feel. “So we struggle and we stagger down the snakes and up the ladders.” I played Snakes and Ladders as a kid. Whether our work, our relationships, the weather. With all of life we go up and we go down. Sometimes we gain and sometimes we lose.

So the ups and downs are normal. The idea is to embrace the positive moments in our lives. Interestingly enough that can be easy to do. It is a matter of putting in the effort. And change can happen quickly. When the right tools are utilized it does not take long to make positive changes. Change where “being on the deck”, feeling the “warmth of the sun”, being at peace and having a positive outlook are within reach. Change where life takes on a positive rather than a negative.

As I am finishing this, which I started a few days ago, the weather has taken a turn for the worse again. Very windy. Lots of snow. Cold wind chills. Based on radar it will get worse before it gets better. And there is a thunderstorm forecast for this afternoon. Really? Only in Manitoba. The good news is we know it will get better. After all, we are a resilient bunch. Make it a good one.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

At Least There Are No Mosquitos

Call me desperate. Looking for a positive. This weather is enough to push anyone over the edge. But, as per usual, it is all in perception. Yesterday I joined some banter on Facebook. I know. I know better. My niece had posted about having another day off from her work at school due to the cold. My son commented on that suggesting that we need to be safe. Not put our lives at risk. I think his tongue was firmly planted in his cheek because he also had the day off. I scoffed at that. Made the comment that just living in this province was putting one’s life at risk. Another niece, who works in Bethlehem, questioned my comment because we, in this province, have no clue about putting our lives at risk compared to so many other places in the world. She knows all too well.

As I looked out the window this morning, questioning my existence, I noticed the sun reflecting off the houses across the street. I was rudely brought back to reality by the sound of a horn. A car horn. Actually, make that a bus horn. I knew, without looking, that it was 7:45. Happens every day. For some reason the kids living next door get the benefit of a horn if they are not at the road when the bus shows up. Wow. How things have changed. I never got that chance. If we were not at the road, ready to go, there was hell to pay. Not only that. We were told that we had to smile AND say good morning to the driver. If we missed the bus?? Don’t want to talk about it.

What else can I say? Here we are at the beginning/middle of January. Stuck in an Artic Vortex. What is that? I have no idea. But it is cold. Darn cold. Trying to figure out what is actually important for anybody at this time of year. Not sure anybody cares. All looking forward to Friday. Forecasted high of -3. Is that really all we have to look forward too? Probably, but I hope not.

As I was saying. When I saw the sun come up this morning, reflecting off the houses on our street, I was reminded of spring. I was reminded of those early mornings, dragging my butt out of bed, and envisioning the first tee box. Envisioning a round of golf like never before. I sense my body feeling prepared. My muscles rippling, just waiting to get out there. I know I can do this. Visions of making millions on the PGA tour. Wait a minute. I am too old for that. In yesteryears I sometimes thought that the senior tour might work. Okay. I didn’t really think that. It was more of a fantasy.

However. It is obvious that the angle of the sun’s rays is changing. The days are getting longer. There is hope. I often say that there are certain benchmarks that help me make it through winter. First there is December 21. The first day of winter. The day that we have the least amount of sunlight. If, in fact, the sun is shining. After that I need to make it to the end of January. That is when the normal highs hit their lowest temperature. I get it. Suggesting anything “normal” about this weather is anything but normal. Let’s just say that under usual circumstances temperatures should begin a return to something almost bearable.

Here I am ranting again. I just mentioned to someone the other day that we need to become more positive. In our refection of the past there are good things that happened. We must not allow ourselves to become lost in the sea of regrets, resentment or negativity. There are always pleasant memories we can focus on. And as this winter drags on we know that spring awaits. It won’t be long before we understand, again, why we live where we live. In the meantime there are no mosquitos. Make it a good one.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Just the Dreamer

In the past I wrote a piece about dreams never dying. In fact, called it Dreams Never Die. Was going to use that title but found out quick enough that I had been there. Perhaps that in itself is a clue of what goes on in my life. A clue to the dreams I have. Dreams that are enough to befuddle most dream experts. Although, truth be told, I never have checked. Call it a gut instinct. Although if I go back to my Sunday school days I recall the story of Joseph and how he got his butt out of a lot of trouble by interpreting dreams. Makes me wonder. Is there a Joseph type around? Then again, not sure I want to know what most of my dreams really mean.

Yesterday morning I woke from a good night’s sleep feeling particularly anxious. I vividly recalled a dream I had just had. That in itself is a good sign. I have been told that if you dream AND remember your dreams means you are not depressed. Perfect. I don’t want to be depressed. The anxiety was a concern. If I recall correctly a doctor once prescribed anti-depressants because I was having anxiety issues. So how is it that I am feeling anxious but because I remember my dream I am not depressed but the dream causes anxiety and therefore I need anti-depressants? Sounds like a conundrum to me.

The last dream of the night was one where we had to buy back the farm because the people that had bought it changed their mind and did not want it anymore. In the mean time I needed to load pigs to market them as I was depopulating the barn but my brother had taken the truck so I couldn’t hook up the trailer. And I knew that the pigs were to light and would not garner the kind of money I needed. In the meantime I was showing the farm to another interested party but at the same time I had to load turkeys which had been injured when they were chased over a barb wire fence which was discovered when the people interested in buying the farm wanted to see the valley behind the barns. Are you surprised I felt anxious? Actually my kids interpreted that dream for me. They said that was exactly what always happened at the farm. Is it that simple? You should hear about the dream I had the following night.

Here we are beginning a new year. What has changed? On the news last night they reported that only 16% of respondents to their survey had made New Year’s resolutions. I thought that was the best news I had heard in a long time. I remember making New Year’s resolutions. I remember most of them failing within the first day or two. Why is that? We begin a new year but that is about all that is new. The rest is the same old, same old. So it is tough to let go of old habits. Particularly when you need those habits just to survive this time of year.

Okay. I may be overstating the depths of misery that this time of year can bring. But really. Look out the window. Sure, for one day we are having a reprieve from the arctic air mass that has hovered over us for approximately as (insert bad word (s)) long as I can remember. With that we are getting snow and wind. And then back to the deep freeze. Our December was the second coldest December on record. What ever happened to global warming? Oh. I know. The scientists studying it got caught in an ice jam. So much for global warming. Whatever.

My wife tells me I need to let go of the farm. That way I might quit dreaming about it. Let go? I thought I did that a long time ago. Perhaps I also need to “let go” of this miserable winter weather. Then when I let go of everything that seems to bother me my life will be full of sunshine, warmth and rainbows. Sounds appealing. I will work on that. Make it a good one.