The Recovering Farmer

Friday, January 29, 2016

We Talked

Here we are again. That time of year. Talk time. How time flies, at least for some of us. Others often watch the clock and wonder, when can I sleep again, when will it be dark again, when will I find some relief from the endless cycle of thoughts running through my mind. In a situation such as that, time does not fly. It seems to stand still. But wait a minute. I wanted the darkness to stay to protect from what is out there. Now the darkness is gone but I want it back. But no, I prefer light. With light there is hope. But with light there is reality. And far too often reality sucks.

So let’s talk about it. I met someone last week and, in the course of our conversation, I heard an interesting story. A story I was familiar with but, at the same time, was not. Many years ago, and based on simple math, 45 years ago, there was a death by suicide in our community. It was shocking, to say the least. And as I reflect on that I am deeply saddened. Always wondering why? What happened? What could the community have done? Perhaps if someone, anyone, would have talked about it, a considerable amount of heartache could have been avoided.

That was 45 years ago. And as I take note of the annual “let’s talk” initiative by Bell Canada I wonder. What has changed? Sure, we do talk about it. Yes, we understand that there is a stigma. But what has changed?

Back to who I met last week. I saw him approach. It had been a few years. The first thing he did was apologize to me. Apologize for not being the support he could have been, might have been, should have been, when I was experiencing dark times in my life. I was rather taken aback by that apology. Totally not warranted and not expected. How could he have known? I hid it well. I had a good conversation with him about what was, what could have been, and what really is. We laughed, we talked, and we were sad.

We talked about his brother. The brother he found dead 45 years ago. A brother who was trying to escape from inexplicable pain. The friend I was chatting with was 9 at the time, I would have been 11 and his brother would have been 13. A picture he will never, ever forget. I told him how I often thought of the events of that day 45 years ago. After all I passed their farm every time I left home. They were on the main route between me and the highways and byways. Perhaps my recollection was off but the story remains the same. We reminisced. It felt good. We caught up. It left a feeling of sadness.

It made me think. Here he was apologizing to me when so many years ago he went through something, god forbid, no one should go through. There is so much pain, for so many when a suicide happens. Most times the only one who escapes the pain is the one that died.

I was young back in the day when this person’s life ended. I was not young last year when I attended two funerals of people who had died by suicide. In those 45 years have things changed? Here is hoping. The world keeps turning. Life keeps happening. I know talking helps. It has helped me and keeps helping me. Has it helped enough? Can I do more? Do I sound frustrated? I think I am. Make it a good one.

“The more you hide your feelings, the more they show. The more you deny your feelings, the more they grow.”

Monday, January 25, 2016

Without Remedy

I have alluded to, in the past, about preparing a presentation for Agdays. Those that have not heard of that show it is an annual event held in Brandon. It is huge. Anyone that has ever been at the Keystone Center knows how big it is. And they use every available nook and cranny to host the 500 exhibitors they get. And there are another 80 on a waiting list. And that is what the 40,000 attendees get to see. So needless to say it is a show.

The night prior to my presentation I awoke at the friendly hour of 2 am. Kept thinking about what I was going to say. For some strange reason this presentation was bothering me. Not sure why. Perhaps because I had heard numerous presentations on my morning treadmill routine. Perhaps I had researched how to do effective presentations. Perhaps it was because there is fine line between to many and too few PowerPoint slides. Maybe I had too much information.

Needless to say, I did what I needed to do. And did not feel good about it. I had too much information. And when half way through I came to that realization I began skipping stuff. And then it became a challenge of syncing the PowerPoint with my notes with what I felt was important to say.

Part of the challenges I spoke about was the problem many of us have in getting hung up about the past. To the point of not even recognizing what is in the present and the opportunities for the future. I like the analogy of driving a car. Looking in the rear-view mirror, which is approximately 6 inches square, or through the windshield which is much larger. Obviously we have a much better view looking forward as compared to looking back. (Still working on the little message written on the mirror, “objects in mirror are closer than they appear”.)

It was Lady Macbeth that said “Things without all remedy should be without regard: what's done, is done”. Considering the fact that she was trying to placate her husband for his remorseful feelings for murdering others this may not be applicable. And yet, what is done is done. And for me there is no remedy. What can I do? I cannot undo what I did. What I can do is to reflect and grow from that. I know full well what I will do next time. Forget about second guessing my abilities, which some of you know I was doing, and learn from this experience.

There is a second part to this story. Late that evening, after having had a nap, I happened to go on Facebook. The timing was surreal. Just as I clicked on, my cousin posted a post about having heard me and how good it had been. I appreciated that. Made me think. Remember the Cuddle Hormone? Gave me a good dose of Oxytocin. When she said what she did I felt much better and had a better sleep after that. Thanks to her.

So I suppose that is what we do. We beat up on ourselves. We wish we could undo what we have done. And that is normal. All of us fail at times. We are human. But look at the good things in our lives. See your supports all around you. We can and we will make this journey. Lady Macbeth’s words maybe odd, coming from someone who co-conspired. However they hold a significant truth. There is no changing the past. What is done is done. Make it a good one.

Things without all remedy should be without regard: what's done, is done”.
Lady Macbeth

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Greater Expectations

As years go by we find ourselves with an increasing amount of choice. Life used to be simple but over time has become much more complicated. The increase in technology is mind boggling. I know I can’t keep up. Saw a cartoon today where a person is shopping for a cellphone and asks for one that does very little. Those are no longer available. What we get is these little hand held devices that do way more than one can imagine. So we need to choose. That is just the telephone. Just the other day I suggested to my wife that I needed a “smart” TV. What is wrong with the 40 some inch TV we have now? Not big enough and not smart enough? Remember the 12 inch black and white I used to have? And my kids were the remote control? Go figure. How about all the other toys, tools and necessities of life? Endless options.

As I prepare my presentation for Agdays and reflect on farming my head literally spins. The choices for farmers are endless. What technology do I want and/or need? What do I produce this year? Not only a choice of crop but what variety. Where and when do I sell? Do I forward price or go with the open market? Who will finance my needs? What equipment needs to be repaired or replaced? We seem to have this inherent need for choice. We have fooled ourselves into thinking that the more choice we have the more freedom we have. And perhaps we have more freedom. Often times that freedom comes with a price.

There is a proponent to choice that often passes us by. Back in the day when a “bag” phone or the Motorola brick were the only phones available we bought in. It was simple. And when that phone did not work the way we wanted, when a call was dropped because we were driving into a valley, when reception was not available because of the building we were in, we cursed the phone or the service. It was that simple.

Now we wonder if we made the right choice. Perhaps I should have gone with Rogers. Maybe the Samsung would be better than the Iphone. Then again the Blackberry always served me well. With choice comes a reflection on ourselves. If we make the wrong choice we kick ourselves. We get mad. Not at the phone or the service, but at ourselves. This takes a toll on our mental and emotional well-being.

I use the cellphone as a small, dare I say miniscule, example of what can happen. Whether we choose the right phone for the right reason becomes a minor point in life. However if we make choices that impact our bottom line, impact our life, impact our future, we become emotionally attached to the decision we made at any given time.

So we must tread gently. Yes, without a doubt, choice gives us freedom. With freedom comes success. Success that doesn’t come from making all the right decisions. Success that comes from learning from our mistakes. Success that comes from struggles we have as we navigate this thing called life. Everybody wants to have success but not everyone is willing to go through the tough decisions, the conversations, the consequences of making those decisions. So we need to adapt. Live with what we get. Enjoy our successes and learn from our failures. Make it a good one.

"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew." Saint Francis de Sales (1567 - 1622)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Does It Define You

Another year has come and gone. And as years go it seems like this one went just a little quicker than the one before which went just a little quicker than the one before it, that went a little quicker than the one before, etc, etc. Is this a sign of aging? Must be. How else can one explain the passage of time?

Imagine, if you will, sitting with a complete stranger and that person asking you about you. Who you are. What your year was all about. What would our answer be? In this time of welcoming a new year, I have heard various responses to that question. They range from thoughts of the old year to wishes for the new. I have been struck by how many refer back to a difficult experience. My father died. I went through significant health struggles. My child endured a difficult time. My spouse had this, my partner had that, my job was this, my kid had that. It seemed that most people identified the past with a problem they had experienced.

As I reflect on the year past I recognize certain points. I am saddened by how most, if not all, of those points were low points in my year. Experiences I wish I had never had but experiences nonetheless. As alluded to previously my mental health was not what it should have been. I experienced some work issues I wish I never had. There were certain relational issues that hurt. Experiences that have left scars. Experiences that still make me wonder why.

It is easy to dwell on those events. It comes rather naturally to lament about what might have been. But to what end? Is that what my identity is? Do I allow these experiences to define me? The answer apparently is, yes. That is what consumes me. That is who I seem to think I was.
When I reflect further I recognize many positive moments in 2015. New opportunities. Enhanced relationships. A golf game that ended on a positive note. An increased joy in family. I found myself not dreading winters as per usual. The winter solstice did not have the normal attention that it has had in the past. End of year happened without additional anxiety. There were so many positives that I could focus on.

That made me wonder why our natural response seems to be the negatives that we experienced over the year. Why is it that, in response to the question above, our response seems to be a description of negative events or things that might have been?

Imagine, if you will, responding to the question by talking about how great the year had been. Opportunities that came about. Successes you experienced. I know my response should that happen to me. I would question the person’s sanity. Wonder what they had been smoking. Wondering whether pot had been legalized and I missed it.

It seems that we have been wired to talk about negatives to the point of being defined by experiences we would like to forget and yet keep bringing up. Sounds like a conundrum to me. We talk about negatives as much as we try to be positive but don’t want others to think that we are actually happy with life because then they might get the wrong idea. There is something really wrong with this picture.

So here I go with the new me. Life is great. I think something bad happened last week but I can’t remember because everything else has been going so well since then. Okay. That really is a load of crap. But me thinks if I could think that way would really improve my life. I like the quote below. Don’t know who said it but am going with it. Happy New Years. Make it a good one.

“There are none so blind as those who believe their own nonsense.”