The Recovering Farmer

Thursday, July 31, 2014

What If

I often ponder what if. Perhaps it is my nature. To question why. To question what if. This becomes particularly important when I analyze my golf game. Just a few weeks ago I golfed with a colleague who was somewhat surprised that I could recall my shots after a round had ended. I told him that every night I could clearly recall every shot I had made that day. And keep doing that till my next round. Many of us have that same recall when we think back to many of life’s events.

That brings about a question in my mind. What would happen if we stopped and thought about a shot before we took it? What would happen if we took the time to think of all the various scenarios that could happen? I suspect we would change our approach. We would change our club selection. We would change the way we respond.

In years past I would reply to emails or phone messages at the earliest possible time. Is that not what we need to do? And how often when we do respond we realize later that that was a mistake. “By the way honey, so and so called and I invited them down for supper”. Yeah right. How did that work out for you? Quite often it can be beneficial to wait. Make sure you have thought through your response.

How often do we regret the way we respond to people around us? We get easily agitated. Irritated. We wonder how ignorant other people can be. And then when we stop to think our perspective changes.

How often when we drive down the road do we come close to having an accident? Why is that? The news these days mentions lots of incidences of distracted driving due to cellphone use. Quite frankly there are many things in life that become distracting.

We take so many things for granted. We say things on the spur of the moment without realizing the consequences. We act or react without realizing the consequences of our action. We do not stop to think.

People tell me, and I must agree, watching golf on TV can be very tedious. Why is that? Most of the time the player is assessing the shot. Which way is the wind blowing? What club should I use? Where is the best miss? What if? What if? What if? Happened to me last night. Approached the game with positive thoughts. Stood on the first tee box and envisioned a great game. Had my usual club in hand. The starter told us the yardage to my target. Did I listen? No. Did things go wrong? Yes. Found the ball today when I mowed my grass. That is the good news. You don’t want to hear the bad news.

I commiserated today that things could have gone better. If only I would have listened to the starter. If only I had reconsidered my club selection. If only I would have checked the wind direction. If only I would have stopped and thought about it.

So too is life. We run into scenarios where we act without thinking. We get caught up in the moment. We don’t take the time to think and plan. How many times do we look back with regret because we know things could have turned out differently if only we had planned better? I know I do.

Take the time to plan ahead. Are there any guarantees that life will always be fair, that things will always turn out well? No. But perhaps if we pause, if we take the time to think, if we plan ahead we may have fewer regrets. We may be more positive about the outcome of events in our lives. We may score better. I can only hope. Make it a good one.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

World Peace

For some strange reason the words World Peace came to mind. I am reminded, and not quite sure why, of beauty pageants where contestants talk about world peace. The desire to have world peace. Not that I watch beauty pageants. Perhaps I have heard it in another context. Not sure. For what I am about to say it really doesn’t matter.

Conflict has been and continues to play a significant role in life. In a global sense we watch as countries seek to find dominance in some way shape or form. We have the conflict involving Israel/Palestine. We have increased conflict in Iraq. Syria continues to make headlines. North Korea every so often raises its head. In Africa. In South America. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t learn of new conflict.

Closer to home we find conflict in how the flood is or isn’t being handled in the proper way. We hear of how people, not in power, criticize how issues are being dealt with. From the increase in provincial sales tax to the upkeep in streets. From municipal taxes for community centres to drainage regulations or the lack there of.

In our personal lives we see conflict happen with relationships. Parents running into problems with kids. Kids having problems with parents. Brothers and sisters fighting. Family members not getting along. Marriages breaking up. A debate over same sex relationships. Infighting in churches. Communities. The list becomes endless.

Even in moments of leisure we get involved in certain conflicts. GO BOMBERS. Will leave that one for the time being. Admit it. There are times when you watch hockey you find yourself hoping for a fight and when it happens you find yourself cheering. For one side or the other.

So I try to keep up with news. I like to know what is going on. However it seems that whichever news source I see there tends to be a certain political tilt to it. And I use the word tilt quite loosely. I check Facebook regularly and find people jumping on certain issues quite freely. They choose sides. I find that rather troublesome.

Perhaps it is my work. Trying to find solutions during the day and creating conflict at night. Oops. That is not what I meant, although my wife would be in full agreement with that sentence. Have you ever taken a moment to analyze what happens when you choose sides? Based on my experience one’s view becomes jaded. Obviously it would. In that moment of choosing sides we lose the ability to recognize, understand what the other side is all about. The natural response is to become consumed with all that is wrong. The injustices. It has the ability to blind us to the big picture. In fact, it can breed further hostilities.

So if you really want one side to win keep cheering for them. Extoll their virtues. (GO BOMBERS) But if we really want world peace, to stop the injustice, to stop the murder of innocent women, children and men, we need to take a different approach. Here is a novel idea. Instead of taking sides, instead of condemning the side we don’t agree with, take it upon yourself to embrace the side you love, agree with or are siding with. And in that embrace suggest to them that should they hold back, should they cease and desist, perhaps we can find an end to the conflict. Perhaps we can find peace. World peace. Make it a good one.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What’s That Sound

Mosquitos. Mosquitos have invaded Manitoba with a vengeance. Just last week I suggested to someone that it wasn’t too bad. That has changed. They are plentiful. They are big. They are vicious. A generous coating of Deep Woods Off lasts but a short while and then you have to spray yourself again. This is when stories are told of what the best way is to ward off this pesky insect. Some sound strange but I suppose I should not knock it till I’ve tried it.

I went golfing with my son last week. As we walked out the door my wife suggested to us that putting a Bounce dryer sheet in our pocket would do the trick. My son held up a small bottle of peppermint oil and stated that was all he needed. At the time I was not quite sure what he expected to do with it. Both ideas made me chuckle. Old wives tales perhaps? After all, I had my trusty can of Off in my golf bag.

Not long after we started the game I was hit by the aroma, and I use that term loosely as it was more of a stench, of peppermint oil. I noticed my son dabbing it on his arms. Seemed to work for him. Or for the mosquitos. Not sure. Made me think that perhaps I should try the Bounce dryer sheet. No harm in trying. Just make sure I have the spray can handy. You never know.

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop on Understanding Mental Illness. During that workshop there was significant discussion on how people have various levels of tolerance when it comes to stress in their lives. Sometimes the problems we hear about seem minor and yet they can have a devastating effect on the person’s life. Someone suggested that if we ever think that small things can’t drive us crazy we should try being locked up in a dark room with one mosquito. I get that. Have you ever found yourself lying in bed, in the dark, and you hear a mosquito? It is truly scary. Then you realize that hearing it is better than the alternative. Because when you don’t hear it, it means it has landed and is surely biting you. But where? It creates anxiety.

So it goes with real life issues as well. In many situations it is not one small issue that brings on anxiety or depression. Often times it is a culmination of events. However, a seemingly benign matter can push us over the edge. And then like the single mosquito in a dark room we begin to worry about what will happen. We become spooked. We lose our ability to cope. It gets to the point where we are afraid of being afraid. And as those fears, the anxiety sets in we become debilitated. We lose the ability to function. We lose hope.

There are times, and I speak from experience, where we need to step back. Reassess. Do an inventory. Come to a better understanding of what it is that is creating dysfunction. Deal with the stuff we are able to. I keep being reminded of the Serenity prayer. Need to have the wisdom to distinguish between what I can change and what I cannot do anything about. On top of all that be kind to yourself. Extend to yourself the same compassion you feel for others. And repeat after me; “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.)

As for the mosquitos? Avoid areas where they are at their worst. Do what you can to protect yourself whether that is peppermint oil, Bounce sheets, or spray. And then enjoy what is left of summer. Because as sure as day follows night winter is coming.(In stress management lingo that means one should avoid stressors as best possible, use available tools to cope with the stress that hangs around because we all know that life will throw more at us.) Make it a good one.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Practicing Mindfulness

Will it ever stop raining? This morning someone texted “it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, blah, blah, blah”. Based on my calculations I think that means a few more days of this. I hope not. A few months ago it was quite foggy. I remember telling some people that they could rest assured it would rain in 100 days from that foggy day. Quite frankly I had forgotten about that till a colleague reminded me about it. She had counted out the days and marked it on the calendar. The date happened to be June 28. I chuckled when I saw her earlier this week. She gave me “that” look. You see, June 28 was this last Saturday. Did it rain? Don’t answer that. That was a rhetorical question. It absolutely poured. Perhaps that lends some credence to what are commonly known as old wives tales.

I know in my selfish mind all I worry about is the fact that I can’t golf when the weather is this nasty. I suspect that there are many who would be happy if that was their only issue. The reports I have heard on rainfall amounts, the pictures I have seen of the damage done, is mind boggling. Not something seen in this part of the world on a normal basis.

First we had a record breaking winter. Cold, windy and lots of snow. It did not want to end. Then when it finally released its grip we end up with a summer that is anything but summer. Add to that all the rain we have had and you have a significant period of time where people simply have not had any reprieve from miserable weather. That has the potential to alter moods. Make people less friendly. Grumpy. Angry even.

Perhaps it is time to utilize some mindfulness techniques. I took a workshop last week that focused on mindfulness and the positive effect it can have on people who practice it. I even learned some new techniques. I know it can work. We all know that negative events, negative thoughts, resentment of past experiences, or worries of the future can have significant impacts on our mental health. The weather over the last number of months adds to that.

Studies have shown that at the very core of our well-being, physical and mental, we have the ability to regulate the body. This regulation assists in dealing with the over whelming stress we often feel and through that maintain a sense of balance. There are many benefits of mindfulness. It provides a self-awareness. It boosts the immune system and increases physical healing. It decreases time spent in rumination. It provides for a more positive emotional state. It improves relationships. It lessens anxiety and depression. It increases empathy. It decreases chronic pain. The list goes on. (Information taken from the training manual Mindfulness Counselling Strategies from the Crisis and Trauma Resource Institute)

When you see that list I am betting you see something in there that you wish for. Regardless of our level of pain, stress or anxiety, most of us, at some point in time, wish for relief. Wish for an improved life. A balance. Try mindfulness. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results. Through experience I know it works. The workshop provided further tools and applications that I can use in my life. Now if you find yourself passing by my place and you see me doing some weird physical exercise don’t laugh. Stop in and I will show you how this can be beneficial for your life. Trust me. It works. Make it a good one.