The Recovering Farmer

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Subtle Art

*Warning. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your perspective of course, the following contains language that some may find offensive. To the best of my ability I will not spell the potentially offensive words in full but rather use some symbols because that naturally makes them less offensive, right??

Some time ago I dealt with a client who was quite perturbed, a grossly understated description, about his predicament. He was involved in a situation that was, from all outward appearances, a life altering event. And as life altering events go life can become a challenge with its twists and turns and frustrations. As he described in vivid detail what was going on for him he was quite liberal in using the “F” word. Half way through his diatribe he apologised to me for his language. I looked at him, smiled, and said I was quite used to that language. After all I am an avid golfer.

Recently my sons challenged me to read a book with an interesting title. You have seen in my other dithering’s how book titles seem to catch my fancy. This one was no different. I know. You are not to judge a book by its cover. But I have before and will again. The book is called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. (written by Mark Manson) I bet that caught your eye as well.

There was a reason my sons wanted me to read the book. As I have mused about previously I easily get caught up in the negative aspects of life. They control my mood and my thoughts. They are often filled with regrets. Far too often I look back and wish I would have done things differently. I preach the benefits of positive thinking. I challenge myself and others to rid ourselves of negativity through positive thinking which is good and well as long as we don’t stew about those negative experiences. But stew I do. I need to change that. Quite frankly I find that at times I have these delusional expectations for myself and for others. Just reading one quote by the author on the inside cover got me keenly interested in what he had to say.

“F*ck positivity. Let’s be honest, sometimes things are f*cked up and we have to live with that.” So there is more to living an enriched life than positive thinking. The argument he makes, academically researched I might add, is not about changing every negative into a positive but rather accepting the fact that we will encounter negative events in our life and we need to live with that. Nobody is perfect and we need to understand and accept the fact that we all have limitations regardless of our expectations.

One particular part of the book speaks about the “feedback loop from hell”. That piqued my curiosity. I have this uncontrollable way of letting my mind run rampant with negative and morbid thoughts. And because I know better than to allow those thoughts I start bemoaning the fact that I have these negative thoughts and that I am such an idiot for thinking them and such a loser for thinking that I am an idiot and because I am an idiot there is no wonder I am useless at this thing called life. Notice how quickly I can get myself in trouble? As the author states; “we feel bad about feeling bad. We feel guilty for feeling guilty. We get angry about getting angry. We get anxious about feeling anxious”.

What is my point? There is a way to short circuit that feedback loop. You guessed it. Don’t give a f*ck. You see, when we understand that we are not destined to live a trouble free life, always having positivity in our thoughts, we will have the ability to live a more fulfilled life. We will accept our shortcomings. We will be more content. It is a subtle art. Make it a good one.

“Wanting positive experience is a negative experience, accepting negative experience is a positive experience.” Mark Manson

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Is That Helpful

Back in January I wrote a few pieces regarding talking which came with some interesting feedback from some of my readers. That was encouraging in a few ways. First of all it has reminded me that I need to talk more. Perhaps that is not stating it correctly as there are those that probably wish I would talk less. I need to be more open regarding the various struggles I have and have had because that helps me keep on the path I like to be on. Secondly it motivates me to think about things and write them down.

One of the calls I received was from someone I got to know a number of years ago, and have always appreciated her wit and wisdom, concerning a family member that was dealing with significant addiction issues. As she talked I listened. I must admit that I felt somewhat overwhelmed by the conversation. Because of my own addiction experiences many of the things she shared resonated with me. It reminded me of what I have put loved ones through. It reminded me of the struggles I have had in overcoming addictions.

My initial reaction was that I would listen, normalize, and validate. What else could I do? When mental health issues meet addictions, or the other way around, the problems are significant. First of all for the addict. As much as one tries different means and tricks to overcome, the allure of a “high” is always present. Knowing that in some small way it will help in overcoming the inadequacies the addict feels. The problem is that when the high goes away the inadequacies come back with a vengeance. A slippery slope indeed. So what does one fight first, the addiction or the mental illness? Or is it possible to do both?

Secondly the people who love the addict and want something better have a struggle. They try their utmost to support and help. Some days there is hope only to have the hope dissipate the next. Sometimes they feel like they have gotten through only to have the addict lash back and continue on the path of destruction. It becomes a harsh and difficult journey for them, trying desperately to understand and to help and far too often feeling guilt for not providing a solution that can help.

It has become clear to me through my own journey and the journeys of others that there is a fine line between being supportive and actually being an enabler. Sound confusing? It can be. When a person is in the depth of their addiction they need support. They need help. But what should that support look like? If the wrong kind of support is provided the addict finds that as a way to continue with their addictive behaviors. Sometimes to be truly helpful one must draw a line in the sand. There must be a deeper understanding that as much as we want to see change, change will only happen when the addict understands that that change must be made because they have a problem, not others. Only that way will the addict truly come to an understanding that change needs to happen.

At the end of our conversation I suggested to my friend that she write a letter to her brother. I shared with her that in my darkest days I had received some notes from my kids that had been and still are helpful. It is quite easy, and often convenient, to forget difficult conversations. It is also easier and more beneficial to write down your thoughts as you can take the time to ensure the message is clear and concise.

A few days later I received an update. The letter had been written and her brother was going to seek treatment for his illness. I was relieved that the suggestion I had provided had been helpful because, quite frankly, I felt helpless as she shared her story. As you find yourself struggling with relationships, for whatever reason, put pen to paper. It will help you to clarify your own thoughts and send a clear message to the recipient. Make it a good one.

“Don’t tell someone to get over it. Help them get through it.” Sue Fitzmaurice

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Making My Bed

There is a certain job in life that I have never been able to get my head wrapped around. It seems like so much work that I avoid it, never sure why. Lately I have been hearing some snide remarks from a certain someone that I live with but shall remain nameless. Subtle hints, text messages from siblings relating stories of their screwing up on the job, a colleague I work with, who also shall remain nameless, who lets me know, quite frequently, that he does that job every day. I did try one day this winter and got it done but decided it really wasn’t necessary. So I slipped back into denial.

As I walked through the Minneapolis airport earlier this week I stopped in a bookstore because the title of a book caught my eye. First though, let me explain what I was doing in that airport. During the last winter I spent copious time with a former colleague in completing a project that involved significant travel in Northern Manitoba. As we traveled those highways and byways we commiserated about not having time for a winter vacation. We are both avid golfers and chatted frequently about the upcoming summer and the golf we would enjoy. We even, somewhat tongue in cheek, talked about taking some time to watch a PGA tournament. On a whim we did go and had an enjoyable time watching big name golfers play a premier golf course in Florida.

So let me explain the dreaded job I referred to above. I HATE MAKING THE BED. Aside from the fact that I am not very good at it, although I suspect I would get better if I actually did it, it seems quite redundant. Really. You get up in the morning, you leave the bedroom, and don’t return till the evening when you just jump back in. So why bother. Because someone might see an unmade bed? First of all, why is anyone looking into my bedroom? Secondly, close the door. Way simpler than making the bed. Sorry, I digress.

So the title of the book was Make Your Bed written by Admiral William H. McRaven. Seeing I was in a strange airport and no one would recognize me I grabbed the book just to pique my curiosity. In retrospect I must have been feeling some guilt to even be curious. Below the title was a short sentence that said, “Little things that can change your life. . . and maybe the world. That really caught my eye. Making the bed has the potential to change the world? I read the first paragraph and that was all I needed.

As a self-employed person working out of a home office I sometimes find it difficult to focus on the work I need to get done. If I have a meeting to go to it is simple. You get up, get ready, and go. However if I spend time at home, read office, it can be challenging to focus on a certain task and to finish that or any task. It is quite easy to get distracted by other, more mundane things that need to be done. So the concept outlined in the first sentence of the first paragraph made sense. “If you want to change the world…start off by making your bed.” Simply put, if you start the day by completing that task the rest of the day will follow suit.

So here I am on day 2 of making my bed. It actually feels good. The interesting part of this story is that when that certain person I live with came home from work and went into the bedroom to change she didn’t even notice. It doesn’t matter. For now I will make the bed in the mornings because I do want to change my life and, if possible, the world. Make it a good one.

“Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tiptoe if you must, but take a step.” Naeem Callaway