The Recovering Farmer

Monday, October 29, 2018


In my preparations for different work engagements coming up I have been doing a lot of thinking about who I am. Perhaps you find that weird, I am thinking about who I am in preparation for workshops on stress and anxiety. It makes sense. Really. As I suggest in my promotional material my knowledge comes more from personal experiences than theory or book knowledge. So as my journey continues I constantly seek to understand who I am so as some small way I can help others.

The epiphany I have had lately is that I should be more accepting of who I am. In simple terms I need to quit wishing I was somebody else. Okay, maybe not somebody else but somebody different. Because if I am not who I am then who am I? That in itself just adds to the confusion. The point being that I am who I am and I have to accept that.

Continuously questioning who we are has significant negative effects on our mental health. It messes with relationships. It impacts our ability to work. It can become all consuming. And then what happens? It becomes our everything and we cannot experience anything. That reminds me of a quote that goes as follows. “Inside each successful person is a neurotic hoping to succeed before they are found out.” I can certainly relate to that.

Additionally we need to re-examine our expectations. I have discovered that unrealistic expectations often lead to future resentment and we know what resentment does. It throws us into that feedback loop from hell. Where we get down on ourselves for being a failure but then become upset because we didn’t want to get down on ourselves but then we did and now that just adds to our mental pain. Not helpful at all.

So we need to change our focus. We need to accept who we are and what we have. Reminds me of the serenity prayer; God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. . .”. As we do that we will experience an inner peace that will then help in building on the foundation of everything we are. If we find our minds wandering to what we think could be different think of the second line in the Serenity prayer. “courage to change the things I can. . . “. Know your limitations. Understand that some things are outside of our control or as the prayer goes, “wisdom to know the difference”. Trust me, when we are able to carry through with that we will truly be accepting of who we are. Life will be better.

In no way am I suggesting that there are not areas where we can grow and become better at who we are. I am merely saying that if we start from a base of acceptance we have a much better chance of attaining peace of mind and the ability to improve our mental health. As I have written about before we need to be intentional with ourselves. That simply means you are purposeful in word and action. It means you engage in life by making thoughtful and meaningful choices. It is worth the effort. Make it a good one.

“When you find no solution to a problem, it’s probably not a problem to be solved, but a truth to be accepted.” Unknown

Monday, October 22, 2018

Making it Work

Being in business with family can and will provide for a variety of challenges. Maintaining familial relationships while dealing with the vagaries of business are not easy and require skills many of us don’t come by naturally. Far too often this leads to an escalation of destructive conflict, and when that happens nobody wins.

For the most part life begins with a parent/child relationship. Typically this is a time when parents try to influence and mold kids in learning about life, how to survive and thrive. At times, particularly during the teenage years, the parent/child relationship goes through significant tensions where kids are seeking their own independence while parents are concerned and try to maintain control. It can become a juggling act to provide a child with roots but also wings.

As children mature into young adults, work with their parents, and ultimately become involved in the family business a significant paradigm shift must occur. There needs to be a shift from the parent/child relationship to a time of working together in harmony, as partners with a keen awareness and understanding of each other.

As I work with families in dealing with and understanding their differences I see a variety of approaches. Some feel they can fight their way to an understanding, not going to happen, while others are more proactive and begin the conversation at an early stage to ensure harmonious relationships to weather challenges as they arise.

Obviously there are various advantages and disadvantages to families working together in business. It is important to identify what they are in a clear, concise and honest conversation prior to formalizing the relationship as this allows for the establishment of policies which will address future conflicts in the most effective way.

Aside from personality differences, attitudes, perceptions, communication styles, and conflict management styles that there are in any business relationships, the family business relationship has added challenges that come into play. There are generational differences that create potential conflict. It is quite interesting to observe a difference of values and priorities between my generation (Baby Boomer) and that of my kids (Generation Y).

The previous example exemplifies the conflict that can occur. It’s not that one party is right and the other wrong, but rather differences that need to be addressed and talked about so that there is full understanding of how the business will operate in that culture of differences. . Tensions arise when people are not aware of these differences and conflict becomes destructive and destroys families and businesses. Having policies in place that address each person’s values provides for the opportunity to build on the strengths each person brings to table.

So how can we make it work? There are many families that have succeeded in accomplishing a family first/business first model. It requires awareness, effective communication strategies, and ongoing conversations. Most of all it requires a desire to build on relationships that worked at the parent/child level and now have evolved into partnerships. Perhaps easier said than done but doable nonetheless. Make it a good one.

“Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.” Don Miguel Ruiz

Monday, October 15, 2018

A Cry for Help

As I prepare for some presentations and workshops this fall/winter, I have spent some time thinking about people who are dealing with mental health issues but don’t seem to have the ability to seek help. For years there has been increased chatter about talking. Bell puts on a “let’s talk” campaign every February. I have written countless blogs on talking, listening, and seeking help. There have been discussions around breaking down the stigma. And just about when you think it is helping another acquaintance dies by suicide.

I am also being reminded how service providers, whether that is salesmen, lenders, grain buyers, and countless others, are often on the front lines and bear the brunt of a customer or client’s stress, manifested in frustrations and anger. In my conversations with them they have shared how they feel lost when these situations arise and are never sure how best to address them.

And there are those who live and are in business with those dealing with mental health issues. So often they are caught in the middle. They understand that there may be problems but don’t know to what extent nor the seriousness of what maybe going on. Perhaps it is something that they have become accustomed to or something new that will pass. And even when the realization hits that this may be more serious there is uncertainty with how to react.

Then there is the perspective of the one living in that crisis. It may be an ongoing problem or something new that has developed and uncertainty prevails. Perhaps it is the stigma attached to mental health, maybe it’s the feeling that it will pass, and maybe it is frustration at knowing that one is slipping, again, into a darkness that we recognize and would like to avoid.

Earlier this summer I read an article about the inability to see when a person may be drowning. To a degree we visualize what we have seen on TV, a person crying for help, waving their arms in desperation, or various other signs of struggling. The article explained that when a person is drowning they are physiologically unable to cry for help as they are too busy trying to breath. As for flagging down help, the victim is utilizing their arms to try to stay afloat and so flagging for help goes beyond instinct and seldom happens. In essence a drowning person cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements to attract attention.

As I read that I could not help but draw a parallel to people living with mental health issues. There are those who are in so deep they are totally incapable of crying for help. For them it is a struggle just to “stay above water”. Those that are crying for help are often perceived to be ones in waist deep water, continuously talk about their state of mind, and their feelings are often diminished. They are not taken seriously.

In keeping with the drowning analogy, the question for many is how can we help a drowning person when we are not a lifeguard. Perhaps in our own minds we struggle with swimming and so rescuing a drowning person is out of the question.

Perhaps we don’t have the expertise to help someone who is overwhelmed with stress, someone in crisis, or someone that is living with depression or anxiety. Perhaps we struggle ourselves to cope, to deal with mental health challenges. At times like this we can be a support. We can validate and normalize what the other is telling us. And most of all we can point that person in the right direction. Help them find the life guard. There is hope and there is relief. Make it a good one.

“People don’t always need advice. Sometimes all they really need is a hand to hold, an ear to listen, and a heart to understand them.” Unknown

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Comparing Stories

The story is told of a doctor that met with a group of his peers that met regularly to discuss challenges they faced with their patients. On this particular evening the doctor presented a story of one of his patients that had died due to a strange illness that he had not been able to diagnose and all methods of trying to find solutions had failed. His peers were quite helpful in discussing various ideas that could have worked to save the patient. Suddenly the doctor got up to leave. When asked where he was going he informed them that the patient was still alive and due to the discussion he now knew what was needed.

As you all know by now I am an avid golfer and as such tend to read lots of articles pertaining to this sport. I am often intrigued when a player is interviewed and they talk about some of their struggles and the way they have the ability to fix those little idiosyncrasies that tend to mess with their game. They spend a lot of time practicing and will often share tips with their fellow golfers. Always found that rather ironic because helping a fellow competitor means they will improve and lessen your own chances of winning. But clearly that is a way to learn.

In the past, when I have written about talking and listening, I have done it in the context of mental health. I know how valuable that has been for me and for others. This go around I am approaching this from a different angle. I am affiliated with a company that promotes the concept of peer groups, similar to the group that the doctor attended. Groups where participants can compare stories, talk about what went right, what went wrong, what works and what doesn’t work. This becomes an important learning tool as farmers need all things available to survive and succeed.

This is just a small example of how “talking about it” can be helpful. We have a tendency to withdraw and isolate ourselves when we face challenges in life. That in itself is quite counterproductive. The more we open up to others the more we find small nuggets of helpful information. From innovative ideas on farming to helpful tips on managing conflict or stress, talking and sharing will improve your outlook on your business, your relationships, and your life. It is rather interesting how we learn from each other. So take the time to share with others. What you take home from that conversation could be a life changer.

This year brought another round of challenges. Last fall had been dry, not much snow in the winter, record breaking heat and drought this summer, and then an early thrust into what should be fall but feels more like early winter. The best made plans did not work out. So as this year draws to a close we wonder what might have been, what would have worked better. Our inner critic likes to remind us of where we went amiss, where we came up short. We have a tendency to look at others, who by all outward appearances seemed to fare better than us. But did they? Have a conversation.

Whether its work related or going on a holiday, we can always use input from others. Their experiences may well help us in doing better. Perhaps I will need to take this to heart myself. I have actually admitted to some that I seem to be addicted to golf which may create some issues when the season comes to an end. I may need a support group. Perhaps therapy. A story best left for another day. In the meantime I need to find some help with my putting. Perhaps I can gain some tips from others that play the game. Who knows, I may shoot par yet. Then again, there is always next year. Make it a good one.

“Sometimes the most valuable lessons come from people who didn’t intend to give them.” Unknown

Saturday, October 6, 2018

A Naturopath?

Here we go again. I just checked and it is now going on 5 months since I last posted something on the Recovering Farmer blogpost. When this project began in 2010 I was quite faithful in making sure I wrote something on a weekly basis. That lasted till early 2015 when the writing became more sporadic. I rededicated myself to writing in late 2015 but never seemed to get in the groove. Quite frankly I have missed these weekly musings but never found the intestinal fortitude to really get back at it, in spite of trying on more than one occasion.

Over the years I have had my struggles with finding motivation, whether to work, play, and at times, even to live. I have often slipped into old ways, found ways to make my life much more difficult than it need be. Sure, I have sought the help of professionals, but never seemed to find what I was looking for. And so, as often happens, I would simply keep muddling along, surviving as best I could.

Earlier this year my wife and kids noticed that I was not in a good place and challenged me to seek help. Perhaps their frustrations had got to the point where mine were, convinced that there had to be something out there that could help. In my state of feeling guilt at having put them through this again, I promised I would try. I had tried a psychiatrist, a few psychologists, community mental health workers, a therapist, and even a counsellor. Nothing seemed to work for me. (Note. Not a criticism of these professionals but rather a commentary that different things work for different people or circumstances.)

So in an effort to placate them, as I had literally given up, I agreed to an appointment with a naturopath. As I journeyed to the appointment I just felt that this was another effort in futility. I suspected I would have a chat with the doctor, get some supplements, and be told to eat less of what I was eating and eat more of everything I really did not care for. I even prepared my answers to some questions I just knew the doctor would ask.

I was rather surprised at how the appointment went, not at all like I had envisioned. I call it a game changer. For the first time ever someone connected the dots for me, made sense of everything that had never made sense to me in the past. In the weeks to come I will write more about some of the things we chatted about that resonated with me and helped me connect dots.

I have come to the understanding that I may never be what I would like to be. Perhaps my expectations are too high. I have come to understand that having high expectations can lead to future resentment. Perhaps I have to be more accepting of who I am. Perhaps I am somewhat different than who I think I am or who I would like to be. I have come to understand what truly is going on in my brain. Perhaps I need to focus on working with that understanding. Be more willing to accept who I am.

For years I would attempt to make changes, fool myself into thinking I have overcome, and then slip back into a mindset that never worked in the past. What I have learned is that I must be intentional, intentional in taking care of my body and mind, intentional in how I approach change, intentional in how I address challenges that arise. I want to strive to be intentional in writing because I know that helps me and, in some small way, it may help others. Make it a good one.

“When you find no solution to a problem, it’s probably not a problem to be solved, but a truth to be accepted.” Unknown