The Recovering Farmer

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Something to Carry Me Through

I sit here on a reasonably nice day towards the end of October. I have the opportunity to reflect on what has been and what may be. As we know the Farmer’s Almanac is calling for a brutal winter. I need something to help me through that. Normally I think, dare I say dream, of golf. It has provided me with my happy place. Not so much this year. The last round I played over a week ago was probably the worst round I have played in a long time. That does happen but does not leave lasting memories. Not something I can go to for my happy place.

So how do I rectify that? It would seem that a round or two this week might help that. So I snuck away this morning by myself. As I finished one golf course employee asked how it had been. Good walk or good score. I gave him a thumbs up. It was a good walk. Score not bad either.

The positive? I ended with the same ball I started with. That is really positive. For a few reasons. Number one is that I have a difficulty seeing balls in flight. So if I don’t see it and it goes off course, no pun intended, I am lost. Don’t know where to begin looking. Secondly, with all the leaves on the ground, it can be difficult finding a ball even if you are in the fairway. So the end result made me quite happy.

I didn’t break any records with my score but it went okay. I could provide some excuses, such as the greens have been aerated, but won’t. I have something to carry me through the winter. The problem now is will I try this again. The course is closing this next weekend. I don’t have any work lined up for tomorrow. The forecast sounds awesome. I probably should. I probably will. My song may change. We will wait and see.

So I did not go the next day. I chose not to because of the windy conditions. Thought that was only opening the door for a challenging round which would erase the pleasant memories from earlier in the week. Don’t want to jeopardize that. That first round has already helped in settling my thoughts and anxiety during my awake time at night.

The forecast does look reasonable for the end of the week and weekend. That may provide an opportunity to put another good game, at least a good walk, into the memory bank. I know most of you are thinking that that leaves me with slim pickings for the long winter we seem destined for. Similar to a bank account. It only lasts so and so long without continued deposits.

Thinking about it that way me thinks I may need to find other positives to deposit in my memory bank. And, quite frankly, that is easy to do when you make the effort to. Rather than dwell on negatives I need to focus on positives. I read earlier this week that one should write down five things you are thankful for before you go to bed each day. I know that would help. I need to try that. And now that golf season is over I also need to focus on daily exercise. I know that can work as well. Perhaps that can wait to see whether there is another golf game possible. I think that is a good excuse.

At a meeting on Thursday one participant mentioned that it was a mere 2 months and 2 days till Christmas. Not sure that anyone else in the room really wanted to think about that. Not sure that the person that said it really was looking at that as a positive. It rather appeared that all of us were trying to figure out how we would make it through. I keep going back to my last golf game. I look at the positives in my life. I seek out things I can be thankful for. I will survive. I think. Make it a good one.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Difference of Opinion

Some time ago I quit watching news. I had had enough. Kind of like supper this last weekend. And what a supper it was. I walked in feeling very hungry. I had a delicious meal set in front of me. I ate. It was awesome. The only disappointment was that I did not have room for more. Back to the news. Wait a minute. Another thanksgiving meal before I get to the point. Now I need to diet. Or exercise. Or both.

Why is it that I have become more aware of the difference of opinions? Perhaps it is the Municipal elections happening. Then again we only see coverage of the mayoral race in Winnipeg. Why is it that I am not aware of my own municipality, the area I live in? I suppose it boils down to media coverage. I get what I read.

We were not meant to agree. In fact, sometime ago, I was involved in a discussion on a particular verse in the Bible. And before you quit reading because you really are questioning what a recovering farmer really knows about anything biblical, rest assured, I don’t. However from the earliest memories I have anything biblical was quite important. That just happened to be the home I grew up in. I also fully understand that when it comes to biblical matters there are numerous and diverse translations and interpretations. And quite frankly I find myself agreeing with the following quote. “A dangerous book the Bible is. It can be made to say anything, its meaning in the eye of the beholder.”

I used the story of the tower of Babel to make my point. Long story short it pertains to the world a long time ago. A world where everyone seemed to agree. In their zest to achieve a deeper understanding of God the people decided to build a tower. A tower that would reach, dare I say penetrate, heaven. When God saw what was happening he put a quick halt to that. Suddenly people could not agree anymore. There was a difference of opinions. Even their language changed to the point that they could not understand each other. God did not see fit that people would be of one opinion, one language, or a common goal.

For some strange reason that story gives me some comfort in the fact that we do have a variety of opinions. There are two sides to every story. In fact, in my mediation work, I sometimes hear about three or four sides to a story. Sometimes our recollection changes. Sometimes our story changes. Is that bad? Me thinks not. We need to gain a better understanding of other people’s opinions. At times we even need to adjust our own thought patterns. Through understanding comes a deeper appreciation for others.

In that same vein many of us have a certain passion in life. Whether that is climate change, mental health issues, environmental issues, gender equality, or strife in different parts of the world. It can become frustrating when others don’t sign on. We find it difficult when others don’t “get it”.

What is my point? I have no idea. I once said that I wished for world peace. And I do. However, I fully understand that my work comes from people who do not agree. So I need to deal with it. I also fully understand that conflict will happen. At home, in the community, and in the world. However, we can all do a better job of being tolerant, respect each other, and gain a better understanding. We don’t need to agree. But we can still be friends. I think. Make it a good one.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Those Sleepless Nights

I have alluded to the fact that my anxiety levels have been somewhat over the top in the last number of weeks. At the same time I have also suggested reasons for that. The good news is that things are improving. In the last few nights I have been able to sleep better. What has changed? A less hectic life perhaps. Then again when that happens I get stressed out because I am not busy enough. Can’t seem to win in this game called life.

Let me tell you a story. For a number of weeks I have been awake for two hours a night. Happens after I have slept well for approximately four hours, give or take five minutes. Honestly. When my eyes open, and quite frankly they don’t just open they pop open, I can tell what time it is because that is the usual pattern. As a matter of fact, when I go to sleep I know exactly what time I will awake and I know exactly how long I will be awake. Weird situation, to say the least.

Last week, as I was reaching the end of my two hour lying awake worrying about life, I heard a phone ring. Really. It took me awhile to establish whether that actually had happened. Then I heard it again. At least I thought I did. Because I was awake I thought I would go check. My wife must have been monitoring the situation because as I got up she asked me where I was going. That came as a surprise because I could have sworn she was snoring. I told her I had heard the phone ring and exited quickly before she could question my sanity. Notice how I made that decision without realizing that at some point I would be going back to bed and knowing that I would have to answer for what I had just said?

I did get a phone call at 2:18 that morning. I did have a voice mail. I listened and realized the caller was not in jeopardy. He was awake, just like me. I took some comfort in that. Not sure why. However I realized, again, that there are others that experience the same type of issues that I do. That gave me a sense of comfort. I was not alone.

What is it that makes us feel better when we hear of others that are facing challenges? I certainly do not wish sleepless nights on anyone. They really are no fun. Perhaps it is that when anxiety, worries, dare I say melancholy, hits us we feel we are alone. We lose the ability to see, to recognize, and to understand that our problems are no more or no less than what many others are experiencing. We feel lost in the quagmire of shame, self-pity, anger, resentment, or, perhaps, self-righteous indignation that can hit us at any time, day or night.

I did not respond to the voice mail that night. After all it was time for me to get my beauty sleep. I know, that ship has sailed. When I did crawl back into bed that night my wife asked whether there had actually been a phone call or whether the ringing was in my head. Notice how she is right on side with my issues? She had not heard the ringing telephone. However, it was there, I heard it, and I felt a level of comfort knowing someone else was passing the time. Hoping for a better tomorrow.

That is what we do. We hope for a better tomorrow. And sometimes tomorrow is better. Other times not so much. In the meantime know you are not alone. There are countless others that are looking for answers. Looking for that restful sleep. But also realize and understand that there is hope. Work at it. Don’t give up. And by the way, I did return the phone call. Just not that night. Make it a good one.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Being Real

I had the opportunity to meet with an amazing group of people today. Some who I have known for a while, some who were my mediation trainers’ way back when, and some total strangers. All we had in common was the work we do. Conflict resolution.

A significant amount of time was spent in discussing vulnerability. How should we show vulnerability? How do we show vulnerability? Does it have a place in the work we do? Part of the morning included a video on Ted Talks. My son downloaded that app on my IPhone shortly after I got it. He enjoyed many of those, dare I say, podcasts. He felt they were worthwhile. Me being of little faith, and questioning the soundness of mind and body, had never taken advantage of that. Today I realized I must pursue those Ted Talks more often.

The one we watched was by Brene Brown. It covered vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. A lot of information to ingest and digest in twenty minutes. I felt myself agreeing with her on so many points. When she spoke about having revealed her own struggles in life, particularly as it concerns vulnerability, I had an ahha moment. I recalled when I started talking about personal issues. Talking about experiences I had. Opening myself to the shame that was sure to follow.

As I started down this path of openly sharing many of my challenges I realized, again and again, my shame was only a perception. What actually happened was that people, many who I had known for years, came forward and talked of their own experiences. Experiences that included anxiety, depression, and various other mental health challenges we experience. It literally opened a floodgate. So as much as I initially felt shame, I quickly came to an understanding of challenges many of us have. I came to the realization that I did not need to feel shame. I was not alone. It gave me a sense of comfort.

As we debriefed the video this morning I shared the struggles I have with the whole question of vulnerability. Do I share with clients that I have had, and continue to have, significant challenges? Do I share with a colleague when I feel uncomfortable or vulnerable? Can my vulnerability actually help others or should I leave it be?

Just in the last week or two a friend and colleague shared with me that they would like a better understanding of the way I opened up and talked about my vulnerabilities. I chuckled when I first read that email. It was a nervous chuckle. Why? Because I continuously feel that I am living a lie. I am out there trying to help people overcome conflict, interpersonal or intrapersonal. At the same time I am dealing with my own conflicts.

This morning, in a small group, one participant suggested “being real”. That resonated with me. When I do my job I need to be real. I have had many life experiences that help me in the work I do. I recall more than one person expressing the thought that had I not experienced my own journey I could not do the work I am doing. That means that I have stories to share. That means I can better understand. That means that I can have empathy for the people I deal with. I continue to experience life. I continue to deal with a variety of challenges. And channeled in the right way I can use those experiences, those challenges, to better help others. Be real. It helps me. It helps you. It helps others. Make it a good one.