The Recovering Farmer

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

See You Next Year

A lot of people take time between Christmas and New Years to think back to the year that was. So I will do the same. Or maybe not. See where this goes.

I suppose I could write about the roller coaster ride I have had. My daughter got married, my mother died, my son and daughter-in-law gave birth to a baby girl, we had Christmas, blah, blah, blah, blah. I could write about new opportunities but they are best left unsaid till I find out whether they actually are new opportunities. I could write about new found relationships over the Christmas season but really need to find out whether they are. I could reflect on a golf season that was, and it was.

Then when I actually think about it I wonder why. Why am I thinking of the past year? Just recently I was involved in a situation where I challenged the participants to look forward. I used the analogy of a car mirror. I went on to suggest that if we would view our world through the windshield rather than the rear view mirror we should be happier. With emphasis on we should be. Does not always happen that way.

Work with me. The rear view mirror on a car is small. 4 inches by 6 inches. (in metrics that is about the size of your hand.) We keep looking at it. See what is behind us. To the point where we miss what is current and what is ahead. If we remain fixated on the rear view mirror we may have a mishap. Actually, probably, almost guaranteed, we will have a mishap.

So that leaves us with this gigantic windshield in front of us. Enjoy the view. There are so many positives out there that we should be on the lookout for. Wait a minute. Literally and figuratively my windshield has some cracks. I have been told often enough that I should get it replaced. I always wonder why because as sure as night follows day as soon as I do that I will get another stone chip.

Perhaps that best describes my life. Resistant to change because it will all end up the same. Knowing full well what it takes to make things better but not doing it. Then again it is the end of the year. You think a fresh start will help?

Last night, as I lay awake for countless hours, I began to formulate a plan. When it is time to sleep I am wide awake. When I should be wide awake I feel like sleeping. When I should feel anxious I don’t. When I have no reason to be anxious I am. When I should eat I don’t feel hungry. When I am trying to sleep I feel hungry. I need a lobotomy. My brain is out of whack, to say the least.

Then it hit me. Just like my windshield, I need to make some changes. Out with the old. In with the new. Get rid of the cracks and the stone chips. Get something I can actually see through. Sure, I will get new stone chips, particularly on that gravel road between here and Oak Bluff where people have no concept of what it means to drive responsibly. . . . Oops. Sorry. Got carried away there. And as sure as I will get stone chips on my windshield life will throw some challenges at me. But I can do this. I need to quit looking in the rear view mirror. Tomorrow is a new beginning. I want to take advantage of that. I know what works. Been there before. Now to implement it. Take care and see you next year. Happy New Year. Make it a good one.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

I feel like I am in a vacuum. I am sitting here on Christmas Eve thinking I need to take down the tree. Unplug the lights. Get back to work. No. Not because I am a Grinch, although some might argue that point. It is because we had our kids down this last weekend to celebrate the season. To celebrate family. So now they have left and it feels like Christmas is over.

Because we have kids that do shift work it was difficult to coordinate a get together. However our social convener, that being the minister of the interior, that being my better half, and the kid’s mother was able to establish that the weekend before Christmas would work for everyone. Our son’s girlfriend almost messed that up. You see she is an avid Curler and it so happened that zone playoffs were scheduled for the weekend. There too, we got lucky. Happened that the playoffs were in our hometown, a mere mile from our house. So we hardly missed a beat. The bonus was that she won.

As we reflected on the weekend that was my wife and I both felt good about what had all happened. You hear about the commercialization of Christmas. You hear about people spending far too much money. Not enough time spent building relationships. Our son-in-law’s father is out for Christmas. He came for the weekend. My sister joined us for part of the weekend. My niece and her husband came by for our Christmas dinner on Saturday. Our son’s girlfriend’s father dropped in for lunch on Sunday. It was a beehive of activity but so much fun. Thank goodness my wife loves cooking. There was lots of food, whenever food was needed.

Just saw a commercial done by Ikea (no, this is not an endorsement) that supposedly did an experiment with kids. Now understand, Ikea is a Swedish company. In Sweden kids write letters to the Three Kings rather than Santa Clause (that opens a whole new can of worms). In the commercial the kids are asked to write to the Three Kings. Each and every one made requests for toys. Then they were asked to send a letter to their parents. Those requests were significantly different. Those requests were much more in tune with what Christmas is about. The main request? “Please spend more time with me.” The irony was that when asked which letter they most wanted to happen the majority suggested the letter to their parents. (Truth be told I saw this on Facebook. No idea if it is true. Doesn’t really matter. The message is real.)

Here is wishing you a Merry Christmas. Hopefully, whether the week before, the day of, or the week following, you will have the opportunity to renew friendships and build on relationships. That is obviously what this time of year is for. Worked for me. Merry Christmas. Make it a good one.

P.S. Posting my favorite Christmas poem, again, because it really epitomizes how I feel.

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

Monday, December 22, 2014

To Be or Not to Be

Just in time for the holidays I have been walloped by a cold. Now I could suggest that it is the mother of all colds, worse than ever, but my wife likes to remind me that I always say that when I get sick. I probably do. Perhaps it’s my age. After all that clock reared its head this week again. Apparently, based on someone’s wisdom, I am now closer to the next decade than the last decade. Make sense? Doesn’t matter. I am older.

I had a grandiose plan on Thursday. Had one meeting booked for the morning and another one for the afternoon. Between the meetings I was going to go grocery shopping. Get ready for the party at our house on the weekend. By the time my first meeting ended I decided that my plans would change. I was hacking, coughing, and sneezing. I felt miserable. So I decided to call in sick. Cancel the rest of my plans. Went home and crashed. Didn’t even feel guilty about it.

So I crashed on the couch. Switched on the TV. Was going to watch some golf. That always helps. Almost as effective as Tylenol or Advil. However it is the time of year when even professional golfers take a break. But I did get to watch an interesting story. A story of a person who made it through a life altering, to say the least, accident.

Mike Labrie was a mere toddler when he was involved in a horrific incident. A water heater blew up near where he was playing. An incident that forever changed his life. He suffered extensive burns to his entire body. He lost fingers. His face was severely burned. He went through 74 surgeries to get to where he is today. He has one layer of skin where most of us have seven. What struck me is the way that Mike adapted to ensure that he would enjoy life to the best of his abilities. Where many would have given up he persevered. He has not allowed his physical handicaps to get in the way of life. He plays piano, remember he lost some fingers. He plays golf, how does he grip that club? He has an unorthodox swing. But it works. He is a 9 handicapper. Something I strive for. (you can see his whole story if you go to the golf channel website)

His story got me thinking. How often do I allow negative events in life to control my future? I look back rather than forward. I become so wrapped up in negativity that even positive moments pass me by. I don’t notice. I am too busy commiserating the bad stuff in life. Life is not fair. That person has more money than I do. His car is nicer than mine. She can go on extended holidays. I would rather have their job. I don’t like my boss. Why is he a better golfer after all I try harder? Why is all of this for naught?

Towards the end of the show the host made an interesting comment. Something along the lines of the fact that our obstinateness holds us back. (I still think it is obstinance but the dictionary disagrees.) Really? So what he is saying is that my stubbornness, my refusal to change or adapt is getting in my way? So if I do adapt things may never be the same. Based on that story I am better off if things are not the same. The same has not worked. I need to adapt to the new me. It may change everything. That may be difficult. Wait a minute. Mike Labrie did and look at the life he has in spite of his handicaps. I need to get on that. For my own sake. Make it a good one.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Focus On The Positive

Noticed an article this morning where the Steinbach RCMP are on the lookout at stop signs. But instead of handing our tickets to drivers who don’t stop they will be handing out coupons to drivers who do. Focusing on the positive. Hoping that the positive will prevent the negative. I like the concept, as I will explain, but wonder about this particular method of delivery.

I had the privilege of co-facilitating a leadership/mediation workshop this week. Okay. That may be overstating it. Not sure I really added much to the mix except I did pick up the facilitator and delivered him to the workshop in one piece and on time. Surely that is worth something.

The workshop involved a group of people involved in a highly intensive environment. Situations where the best of us would snap under pressure. I mean really. I snap under pressure at home. Never mind in a situation with colleagues who all have a job to do in a time sensitive workplace. I was amazed at the resilience shown by these folks in spite of the pressure they are under.

As we debriefed the session on our way home I mentioned to my colleague that I felt the approach to the workshop had been excellent. What we did for the first hour or two was focus on all the positives the team had. And there were many. It was interesting to see, as the discussion evolved, how more and more participants became involved. I suspect that most participants had expected a session to deal with the negatives of that particular group. After all, that is what needed some work.

As we transitioned to the challenges, the negative stuff, participants approached it with a completely different mindset. There appeared to be a shift in attitude, a shift in perception. There came to be a realization that this in fact was a team. A team that was quite successful in spite of the pressure they were under. There appeared to be a better understanding of why there were particular flashpoints. The focus shifted from wanting to vent and lash out to one of cooperation and collaboration. It was incredible to watch. It provided another valuable life lesson for me.

In much of the literature I read there is a reference to “all or nothing” thinking. That simply means that when something negative happens in our life we are prone to having that event control our thoughts. We get wrapped up in the negativity. We lose focus of everything else. We become immersed in the negative and lose sight of the positive.

There needs to be a paradigm shift. Next time something bad happens, next time you feel overwhelmed on what life is throwing at you, next time you are convinced that life is unfair, take a moment to look at the positives in your life. Take it from someone who seems to thrive on focusing on the negative, there are positives. It may require some effort to shift our thinking. As one colleague likes to say, “quit your stinking thinking”. Preface your frustration, your anger, and your negativity with some positive thinking.

And for those of you that are wondering, I did manage to get my colleague home as well. I learned a lot that day. Now I am off to Steinbach to get myself a coupon. Might help with my Christmas shopping. Hope I don’t speed on the way. Then again, they might have an extra special reward for that. Make it a good one.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Do You Talk To Yourself?

I have come through a period of a certain amount of self-doubt and self-recrimination. This happens on a regular basis and I am convinced that this time of year makes it worse. So I talk to myself. May be when I lay awake at night. May come about me as I have my morning coffee. Can become a real issue when I spend too much time in the car. Usually the times when I reflect on who I am and what my life is all about.

Heard an interesting radio interview this week where the person talked about the self-talk many of us do. She questioned how we would feel if someone else talked to us in the same way we talk to ourselves. Think about it. I know for myself it would be traumatizing. It would be insulting. It would push me over the edge. I would be angry. I would want to lash back. Stand up for myself.

Two lessons I learned through this. The first is the fact that self-talk, self-recrimination can have a devastating effect on our persona. It can have the same effect on our mental health as trauma would. I found that rather troublesome. Only because I came to a quick realization that what I took as a normal course of action for myself, could have the detrimental effect of trauma.

The second lesson learned was more of a reminder of things I have learned in the past. Not only learned but also written about. Perhaps like many other life lessons I need reminders. Remember the saying; “experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want”? That means I am experienced. That means I have had many life lessons. Unfortunately I often forget what I have learned through my experience.

Self-compassion. The theory is quite simple. Do you know that as humans we have an innate desire to be understood by others particularly during periods of distress? We never outgrow that. Our pain and anxiety reduces the more others understand and care. Our physical health improves when others show they care, when they show they understand, when they reach out to help. Using that same principle on ourselves is just as important. Beating up on ourselves is not healthy. Giving ourselves a tongue lashing over events in our lives is self-defeating. This is where self-compassion is so important. We need to better understand ourselves. We need to be kinder to “me”. We need to be able to reach out and help “me”.

It goes without saying that we make mistakes. So does everyone else. That is part of being human. We are not perfect. So when we err against someone else we want them to understand, to forgive, and to forget. Do the same for yourself. When you have screwed up accept that as being normal. When you are able, accept the lesson you have learned and move on. If we spend too much time in beating ourselves up the world will pass us by. And as the world turns we will get lost in a cauldron of shame, self-remorse, and low self-esteem. Not something anyone needs. So be kind to yourself. Give yourself a compliment. Pat yourself on the back. And most of all forgive yourself. All of us are making positive contributions to an imperfect world. We all try. And quite frankly that is all that matters. And quit talking to yourself except if it is positive reinforcement. Make it a good one.