The Recovering Farmer

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Looking Back

 Do you know that 2022 is pronounced 2020 too? I bet you read that twice. Thinking of the New Year in that way feels somewhat ominous. But, quite frankly, as 2021 ends and the pandemic seems to be surging, I find myself having flashbacks to when it all started in 2020.

So, as per usual, we reflect on the past year and look ahead to the next. I found 2021 to be hopeful at times and other times not so much. Clearly most of our thoughts tend to be focused on the pandemic. By all appearances it controls our lives, regardless of which side of the debate we are on. There were numerous events that happened over the last year which are somewhat muted because of the focus on the pandemic.

Speaking of sides to the debate, perhaps I may have shown a slight bias but, trust me, I have managed to keep my opinions to myself. Through feedback I have been asked whether I have an opinion. Oh, I do. And each day I become a little more opinionated and each day I want to put it out there, but I don’t. Common sense has clearly left the building. See what I did there?

Sorry, I digress. Is it possible to reflect on the last year without referencing the pandemic? I tried but failed. By all appearances my life was controlled by all things pandemic. And as such I think can be classified as the good, the bad and the ugly. So here goes. I will start with the ugly first. That way I can end on a happy note.

It would be easy to say that the pandemic was the ugly but allow me to be more specific. The dynamics of the virus has created all kinds of relational divide, it has caused concern for the health and well being of many, it has caused consternation as people are feeling forced to do one thing or the other, it has brought out conspiracy theories and a host of other issues. Perhaps it has shown us who we really are. And some of that is really ugly.

Furthermore, it has messed with our mental health. There were times, during the year, that I felt hopeless, questioning what the purpose in life was. Due to various unknowns it added to my anxiety levels. At times my mood felt overcast, other times the sun did come out, but I couldn’t feel the warmth. Some of those feelings were quite ugly.

As much as working from home has its benefits, and I will get to that, working from home also comes with its own challenges. So I will refer to those as being bad. I truly miss the connection I had with the people I work with. I miss being able to meet with my clients. Yes, modern technology has at least given us the ability to meet virtually so there is that. But we have lost a certain ability for human connection.

So what could possibly be good after all that? Considering that I have a compromised lung issue I am happy that I have avoided the virus. Because I work from home, I spent less time driving to and fro and spent more time on the golf course. Being an introvert meant that being forced to stay home I didn’t have to attend certain get togethers or meetings that often make me feel uncomfortable. So there is some good there.

There you have it. As I have clearly shown it is impossible to look back without referencing the pandemic. That just simply is our reality. But what I also know is that there are positives. Some, like me, have a tendency to focus on the negative. But its interesting. Just going through this exercise has put just a small smile on my face. I found that, in spite of the pandemic, or should that say because of the pandemic, there were good things that did happen. And I know that can be my reality for 2022 as well. Make it a good one.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Peace on Earth? Maybe

 I suspect that as we approach this holiday season, emotions are scattered all over. For some that is quite natural this time of year. Its dark, its cold, its lonely. For others who find enthusiasm for the upcoming festivities, the emotions are marred by the ongoing pandemic. Not only the continuous pressures of public health orders, the unknown of when this might end but also the divisiveness this has created. Everyone has an opinion and there are those who feel the constant need to voice their opinion regardless of how others feel about it.

So many, at least those who still care, wonder what conversations will be like when friends and family get together. That creates a whole new layer of angst. After all, what purpose is there in getting together to celebrate peace on earth when all that will be created is anything but.

(Mediation Services has launched a webinar on how to have conversations when people are so polarized by a difference of opinion. Not to support one side or the other, but rather how to maintain relationships in spite of the significant differences in opinions. Here is a link if you should be interested. Clicking on this link will give you a brief synopsis of the content. )

Lest you all are thinking I have it figured out, I do not. I find that the deeper we get into this pandemic, the closer we get to Christmas, and the more stuff I see on social media, the more I find myself being triggered. It makes me want to lash out. (I used the word “stuff” because the words I am really thinking are not appropriate) Yesterday I suggested to my son I needed to watch the Mediation Services webinar mentioned above. He suggested I might be a lost cause. He’s probably right.

As I spent time reflecting on that, I quickly came to the understanding that life at this point is not easy. Aside from the normal stressors in life, aside from never having enjoyed this time of year, we have the added debacle called a pandemic wreaking havoc with our relationships.

Clearly it will take a concerted effort to make the best of a bad situation. The good news is we have it in us to do just that. I like to post the following poem on Christmas day but felt it might be appropriate to post it a few days early so all of us, but particularly me, can read it and reflect on it in preparation of making this time of family, just that. Make it a good one.

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 6, 2021

A Random Act of Kindness

 Its that time of year again. Sure, there are those who started their shopping before the tree came down last year, but many are now feeling the pressure to do their Christmas shopping. It becomes a difficult task to buy things last minute, for someone who probably doesn’t need for much at a time when malls are overrun with people just like you. Doesn’t do much for the holiday spirit.

As I thought about this and my own “bah humbug” attitude, I remembered something that happened in 2010. For that particular Christmas my sister had suggested that in lieu of gifts each of us was to do a random act of kindness and then report on that at our get together. Sounded like a novel idea.

Just prior to that Christmas, my wife and I were in Brandon. Her nephew was playing in a hockey tournament and so that gave us an opportunity to go watch and also spend time with her brother and his wife. Although it was enjoyable, I was not having a good day. And perhaps it was just normal, this time of year does that to me. It was a cold, dreary day and the clouds in my head were just as dark as the clouds in the sky.

On our way home we needed to stop at Sobeys to pick up a few groceries. The line ups were long, and patience was running thin. As the customer in front of us was having her groceries wrung up, I suggested to my wife that we offer to pay for that woman’s groceries. I was hoping she would make the offer but she stepped aside and let me walk through first so I could make the offer. I stepped forward bravely but then lost my nerve. It would create a scene. It could be embarrassing. She would probably think I was some sort of nut case. But then courage took hold, and I made the offer.

Well, to be sure, the reaction was interesting. The cashier had a nervous chuckle and the customer gave me a very weird look. I assured them both that I was quite serious. The woman was flustered and wanted to know why. I suggested that we wanted to do this for her and wished her a Merry Christmas. She made the comment that it was good to see that there were still nice people around. And as she left, she wished us a Merry Christmas as well.

That random act of kindness gave a pleasant surprise to some stranger that evening. What was even more fulfilling was the warm sense of community I felt. It was interesting how long that feeling stayed with me. It helped, at least temporarily, in removing that dark cloud that had been hanging over my head for far too long. And for some strange reason, I think I rediscovered what Christmas was meant to be. And all it cost me was $36.70.

I shared that story with my colleagues. A few days after sharing that one of them said there was an article in the Brandon Sun about what I had done. I just thought I had misunderstood her and didn’t think about it again but then a few days later decided I would see if there was something to what she had said. It turned out to be a letter to the editor that had been published the same day I posted about this on my blogsite. Talk about random. The letter read as follows.

A quick trip to the grocery store late in the afternoon on Saturday, Dec. 4 turned into quite a heartwarming experience for me. I was at Sobeys and was just about to pay for my groceries, when the man who was in line behind me said to the cashier "add that onto mine, please."

Shocked, I turned around and looked at the man with a puzzled look on my face. The cashier and I looked at each other, and then we both looked at the fellow who had just offered to pay for my groceries. I immediately said to him "What? Why would you want to do that? We don't even know each other." Which was true, we were complete strangers.

The man then said to me, with a friendly smile, "I want to, I insist. Merry Christmas!" All I could say was, "Are you serious?" And he said, "Sure I am!" Of course, I politely declined his offer, and told him that it was very kind of him, but not necessary. He wouldn't take no for an answer. He seemed so genuine and sincere and kind, it brought tears to my eyes.

I told him, "There really are some wonderful people in this world." I thanked him from the bottom of my heart, and wished him a very Merry Christmas.

I left the store with a big smile, tears in my eyes, and a warm heart. As soon as I got into my vehicle, I phoned my husband to tell him what had just happened to me! It was an incredibly kind gesture for one stranger to do for another.

After I left the store, I felt guilty. I thought to myself, maybe I should have stuck around to speak to him a little longer, I wish I would have asked him his name. I circled the parking lot, hoping to see him again, but didn't. I don't know why he chose me to be the recipient of his generosity, but it has affected me greatly. I appreciate what he did, although I wish that he would have chosen someone who needed it more than me.

That is why I have decided that I must pay it forward ... and I will. I hope that the man who was in line behind me at Sobeys on Saturday reads this. I haven't stopped thinking about him, or what he did, or why he even did it for that matter. I want to apologize for not asking him his name or waiting for him so we could speak to one another a little longer.

I do want to thank him yet again, and I want him to know how wonderful I think he is, and how his kindness has affected me. I would also like to once again wish him a very Merry Christmas! Without knowing it, a complete stranger has made this Christmas one that I will never forget. Think about how we could all be that person in someone else's Christmas memories.

After the difficulties of the last almost two years and as we plan for whatever this Christmas may bring, we need to find ways of bringing some semblance of sanity to a crazy world. Perhaps it isn’t about spending copious dollars on gifts. Perhaps it’s an effort to bring joy to someone else’s life. Random acts of kindness will do that. Not just for others but for yourself as well. Make it a good one.