Friday, May 18, 2012
When The Mind Goes Blank
Since the start of this blogging project I occasionally run
into a time when I can think of little that seems interesting. Not sure what
that is a sign of. Does that mean that life is boring? Or does it mean that my
mental state is not where it should be? I really don’t think it is either one.
I have lots going on. Both with a house project and also work wise. So I should
be able to write something. But it just is not happening. On occasion I will
ask friends or colleagues for topic suggestions. Sometimes that works, other
times not so well. One of my faithful followers sent me an email yesterday
telling me that my blog needed to be updated. In other words, post a new one.
Something fresh. I responded by asking him for a topic. He gave me an idea.
Something I have pondered over the last few weeks.
Do you find yourself hurrying through life? Do you find your
main goal to be making money? Worrying about whether there will be enough for
retirement? Do you take time for yourself? For your family? What do you enjoy
about life? How do we establish what is important in life? How do we set
priorities? Good questions.
From young on we are programed to give our all. We look
forward eagerly to starting school. We want to turn sixteen so we can drive. We
anticipate graduation. We jump into college. We are taught that to be
successful we need to work hard. We strive to climb the ladder. To reach the
top. We have a family. We have to work harder to provide. Retirement is within
sight. Will we have enough money? We work a little harder. Earn more. Our
parents and siblings are getting older. But we don’t have time for them. We
have things to do. Maybe someday. And then we die.
I am reminded of the song Cat’s In The Cradle. A song made
famous in 1974. It’s a beautiful song. I have always enjoyed it. Take the time
to listen to the lyrics. Tells a sad story. It’s the story of a father who is too
busy to take the time to play with his son. To take part in family activities. And
as the boy grows up he models his life after his father’s. “I’m gonna be like him, yeah, you know I’m gonna be like
him”. Then the son leaves home, the father grows old and wants the son to come
for a visit. However, now he is too busy. A sad story indeed.
Ever notice that when people have life changing events
happen in their lives their perspective on life changes. I deal with people who
have been involved in traumatic car accidents. People who have faced and
experienced financial ruin. I have friends who have lost loved ones. Friends
who have and keep struggling through health challenges. What used to be
important no longer is. And what has become more important never was.
STOP. Take a moment to think. Is what you are consumed with
today going to matter tomorrow, next week, next year or when you are old? Take
a moment to visualize your life when you get to be seventy or eighty years old.
What do you think will be your biggest regret? Not enough time with family? I
could have left that work and enjoyed more golf? We should have taken that
trip? Why did we not spend money on that? Now live the rest of your life
accordingly. I refer, again, to my wall hanging that says, “The tragedy of life
is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it”. Make life
changes before life changes. Make it a good one.
Posted by therecoveringfarmer @ 07:46 | 1 Comments | | PermaLink
Friday, May 04, 2012
When Is Enough, Enough?
After a somewhat less then stressful day I sat back and
watched local news. I saw something that saddened me to no end. It shook me. A
story that began in the last year but seemingly does not end. The story of a
little boy, his sister, a family and tragedy. It made me wonder. When is enough,
enough? How much can one person, one couple, one family possibly bear?
The story began when a two year old boy was diagnosed with
leukemia. A thought that sends fear through all of us. How is that fair? How
can that happen? But, as we all know, it does happen. It started a battle. A
battle against an unknown enemy. A battle that can be won but far too often is
lost. The parents had the courage. They had the love. They were going to make
it happen. They pulled up their family and moved from Northwestern Manitoba to
live near the hospital in Winnipeg. They began the treatment that comes with
cancer. They had hope. The little guy fought hard. It appeared that they were
winning. Then right around Christmas they got the news they had hoped they
would not hear. Little Larsen had a relapse. Like a knockout punch it sent the
I spent some time in talking to the father in January. I had
just finished a presentation on stress management. Already I could tell that he
was utilizing many of the tools I had just presented on. But, I felt helpless.
How could I possibly help someone that had experienced so much. Much more then
I could possibly fathom. I felt inadequate. I let him talk. I listened. It was
obviously a difficult time for them. As we went our separate ways I commended
him for talking. I challenged him to keep talking, to find his supports. I
wished him well.
Tonight, as I watched the news, I saw another chapter in the
story unfold in this ongoing tale of sadness. Last week they found out that Larsen had relapsed,
again. Another devastating blow. When is enough, enough? So they packed up and
went back to Winnipeg. More time at the hospital. More tests. More pain. The
good news, his sister is a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant. His
sister is a few years older than him. Will she understand? What does she have
to go through to do this? More unknowns. More fear. More anxiety. How does one
ever explain this to kids so that it makes sense to them.
And if that is not enough. Shortly after their return trip
to Winnipeg, the family found out that their house had burnt. A house that they
had just built in four years ago. Destroyed. All their belongings gone. A few
pictures saved. When is enough, enough? On their Facebook page the mother says
they are so thankful that no one was hurt in the fire. That their priority is
to get Larsen cancer-free. In a press conference they talked about their
situation in a very calm manner. Amazing resilience. Puts things into perspective.
So at the outset I asked a question. When is enough, enough?
I didn’t answer the question because the more I try the more I am left to
wonder. Lives have been changed and continue changing. This family has
experienced so much. Makes me feel guilty for not feeling satisfied with life.
Makes me feel thankful for what I have. Here is wishing the family all the best
as their journey continues. Here is hoping that enough is enough. Here is
hoping that they find ways to cope, to survive, to face another day. To cope as
individuals, as parents, as a brother, as a sister. And most of all I hope for
a recovery for little Larsen.
Posted by therecoveringfarmer @ 08:33 | 0 Comments | | PermaLink
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Farming, as we
know it, has been around since the beginning of time. Over the ages it has
evolved to what we see today. From small backyard hobby farms to family farms
to corporations. From single, specialized operations to large diversified,
multi commodity enterprises. Many of these operations have been successful and
continue to thrive in today’s environment. Success, in many cases, has been
measured by the ability of farmers to adapt to all sorts of demands coming
forward from consumers, society and government. What farmers have had
difficulty adapting to have been circumstances outside of their control. BSE in
cattle, excessive moisture in consecutive years, collapse of livestock prices,
volatility of exchange rates, to name but a few. So, in spite of success
stories, stress has become a major part of a famer’s everyday life.
The World Health
Organization lists farming as one of the most stressful occupations and is
surpassed only by Mining in terms of suicide rates. In 2005 CASA (Canadian
Agricultural Safety Association) surveyed 1100 farmers. Of those surveyed, two
thirds described themselves as being “very stressed”. Commodity prices ranked
first in creating the most stress. Although finances came second there are a
host of other issues that cause stress. They include, but are not limited to,
input costs, government policies, weather, workload, relationships, and
I have always
struggled with adapting to new technology. Whether its cell phones, computers,
or ATMs, I tend to be one of the last to utilize technology that is actually
supposed to simplify my life. How often as farmers do we go through the same
fear and frustrations? Each year we are bombarded by offers of new technology.
Technology that will increase production, decrease input costs, increase growth
rates, decrease dockage, and the list goes on. The key is for all of us to try
and decide what will pay and what will not. As economic challenges come our way
we are left to make decisions that are difficult at best. Always second
guessing, always wondering. It is downright stressful. It used to be said that “anyone could farm,
that all that was necessary was a weak mind and a strong back, but nowadays to
be a successful farmer a person must have a good head and a wide education in
order to handle all the advice ladled out by city folk, government people and
others and to select for use that which will do them the least damage.”
becomes one of our worst enemies. Not only in making decisions about what to
buy, farmers daily make a host of other decisions. Marketing the commodity
grown on your farm has become very important as markets become more and more
volatile and margins tighter. Unless we hit the top of the market we also
second guess what we did. I remember when forward contracting became available
to hog producers. The first year I used the program I “locked in” some good
prices. Then foot and mouth hit the Taiwanese hog herd and my locked in prices
looked terrible. The following year I locked in my hog price and then barley
prices hit record highs. Got to the point where I was “spooked” and could not
make a right decision. It becomes very easy to forget the age old adage that
you never go broke locking in a profit. Never mind the fact that partners,
neighbors and even the banker are watching. Making a wrong decision can impact
relationships as the bottom line becomes ever more important.
relationships, stress can wreak havoc on any relationship, whether with
partners, family, businesses you deal with and even the community you are part
of. Maintaining relationships is a challenge when our minds are consumed with
weather, commodity prices, breakdowns and all the other “stuff” that hits us on
a daily basis. When stress hit me and I found myself in that “foggy middle” I
would ignore people around me. I would disappear to the barn and work. Imagine,
a hog barn becoming a refuge and yet that is exactly what happens. Why? No
phones, no creditors, no parental responsibilities, and the list goes on. And
the more I tried to immerse myself in work the more the relationships would
suffer. What a vicious circle. And yet relationships provide us with identity, purpose
How can we not
only maintain relationships but also improve relationships when we face the
stress of farming on a daily basis. We live and work in a world that is fast
paced and ever changing. We hear more and more about “burn out”. We give till
we have nothing left to give. Our emotional gas tanks are empty. And yet the
demands on us keep coming. How can we cope? How do we avoid slipping into that
dark abyss? How do we get out from the dark cloud hanging over us? How do we
find balance in a topsy turvy world?
Take the time to
play, to laugh, and most of all to talk. You know that kids laugh up to four
hundred times a day and when we become adults that drops to twelve laughs a
day. Something as simple as chatting with the person filling you gas tank or
the person bagging your groceries, will help in lifting your spirits. Look for
and discover your supports. They may be your partner, a neighbor, your clergy,
a friend, or may be your doctor. I recall a neighbor dropping by my barn when I
was going through a difficult time. When he asked how I was doing my initial response
was the usual “doing okay”. Then I realized I had an opportunity to talk so I
poured out my soul. It felt so enlightening to be able to verbalize a lot of
the stuff going on inside of me. He did not need to provide any advice or
answers. Rather he validated and normalized my feelings. Take advantage of your
supports. You may be surprised at the renewed energy you have, at least for one
challenges one day at a time is a good approach to stress management. Some time
ago I came across an article that challenged us to live one day at a time. It
challenged the reader to NOT worry about two days of the week. One of those being
yesterday, and the other tomorrow. It
went on to say that what had happened yesterday could not be undone and we
could not erase a single thing that had been said or done. The article also
stated tomorrow is outside of our control. We can only assume what may happen
and based on my experience I always assume the worst rather than the best. The
only sure thing about tomorrow is that the sun will rise and set. The article
suggested that “it is not the experiences of today that drive people mad – it
is the remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday and the dread
of what tomorrow will bring”.
I have mentioned
but a few of the stressors that you may feel or experience. And as the stress
mounts one stress can lead to and build on another. Stress management is key
for, not only survival, but for enhancement of life in general. Klinic
Community Health has some good ideas on a website at www.de-stress.ca . They refer to music,
nature, humor and others as tools to help one deal with the anxieties of life. There
are other resources available as well. Many areas have Stress lines or Crisis
lines. Avail yourself of the resources around you. I recall a picture my
daughter made for me when she was quite young. It simply said “The tragedy of
life is not that it ends so soon but that we wait so long to begin it”. Make it
a good one.
Posted by therecoveringfarmer @ 10:19 | 0 Comments | | PermaLink
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Make The Best Of It
As all of you know by now, the house we bought borders on a
golf course. Some people think we planned that. Or should I say I planned that.
We didn’t. It just happened that way. As part of the move I also closed my
Brandon office. We decided that I would work out of our home for the time
being. We developed the office on the main floor. Now when I look out my office
door I can see through our living room windows and see the golf course.
Needless to say it is a distraction. As an avid, some might say addicted, golfer
that is only natural. So it does happen that I will occasionally sneak out for
a game. At this time of the year the course is usually empty so it can happen
quickly. At, least that is how I justify it.
Of course, as soon as I start playing guilt hits. For some
strange reason that is when I remember what I needed to do. Just as strange,
that is when the cell phone starts ringing. Why? It didn’t ring all morning. I
know you are asking, why do I have it with me? Assuage the guilt? Can’t bear
the thought of being “out of touch”? So it does not take long and I can’t even
concentrate on the golf. As many of you know, if you can’t concentrate, your
game will go downhill real fast. Then it is no longer fun. The score suffers,
you get frustrated and the more frustrated you feel the more guilty you feel.
What a vicious circle. Slowly, but surely, the sun does not feel quite as warm.
The breeze a little cooler. Your legs a little more tired. You feel like quitting.
But you’re so far from home you can’t just quit. Never mind that there is no
easy way to get there. There is bush. There is a river. There are other homes.
It becomes a dilemma. So I hurry through the holes. Take short cuts. And when I
get back home I don’t really feel that great about my game.
How often do we treat life the same way? Too often, I say.
We get caught up in the busyness. We don’t take the time to enjoy. Always
feeling guilty that we should be working. We should be doing more. Always
concerned we might be missing something. Guess what? Many of us are missing out
on life. I saw a quote recently that went like this. “When you walk down the
fairway of life, you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round”.
(Ben Hogan, world renowned golfer said those words.) How true. We only do play
My golfing buddy, the one recovering from surgery, seems to
have a sixth sense when it comes to my golfing. He seems to know when I sneak
out there to “hit a few”. I tell him about my game via text messaging. When I
complained about a few shots last week he texted me and challenged me to enjoy
each shot, even the bad ones. I knew he would give anything to be out there.
His words resonated with me. And as I thought about that, thought about life,
thought about Ben Hogan’s quote, I realized that I needed to slow down and
enjoy. Not only my golf game but life as well. Sometimes we do hit bad shots.
But, like golf, we also hit some good ones. And the good ones are the ones that
keep us going. Get us looking forward to the next shot, the next day, the next
challenge. And here is hoping that I get to play all eighteen holes. Make it a
Posted by therecoveringfarmer @ 20:15 | 0 Comments | | PermaLink
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Why Write a Blog
It’s a project that started in June, 2010. Not sure why.
Started on a challenge. When the Recovering Farmer website was developed my
computer guy asked me how often I was going to post. He suggested that I ensure
that the posts would be regular. Otherwise I would lose my audience. He was thinking once a month. I was thinking
once a week. There were topics coming to mind that I knew I would have
inspiration to come for quite some time. I never realized that two years later
I would still be at it. There have been times when I just simply could not
think of things to write about. Many of those times I found a lack of
inspiration for almost anything. Work was tough. Keeping up with relationships
was difficult. Life, in general, was a drag. Very often I would wait till
Friday and then quickly write down some thoughts. Often I felt they were
disjointed. Never very confident in my writing.
Someone asked me lately why I did it. I explained that it
had started out as a challenge. In fact, if memory serves me right, the same
person asking the question was the one that threw out the challenge. I would
like to thank her for that. (you know who you are J) It has been something that
has brought back some semblance of sanity to my life. It has given me reason to
sit back and think about things that have happened in any given week. It has
made me take note of special moments. I have also noted moments that were not
particularly uplifting. It has given me reason to pause. It has provided a break.
That special time when I put pen to paper. I always feel better after having
written out my thoughts. It helps me overcome. It helps me practice what I
preach. Some people journal. I write a blog. Perhaps that is why I sometimes
feel that they only make sense to me.
Through the years I have also had many people tell me that
they read my ramblings. There have been a few that submitted comments. So often
when I have felt that perhaps it’s is time to call it a day, I hear from
someone that is being helped by the blog. That encourages me. It is like I have
always said. We help each other. Occasionally someone will suggest they have
had a chuckle over some of my thoughts. It is good to laugh. Others have
related to some of my experiences as they have similar ones on this journey we
call life. Experiences. That is what it’s about. I heard someone say that
“experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want’. I like that.
Although it makes me wonder whether I ever got what I wanted. I seem to have a
lot of experience. Perhaps that is a good thing. Read another quote that
suggested “life is the crap that happens while we wait for the moment that
never happens”. I think I prefer the first one.
I recall vividly the day I wrote the first one. So much has
changed in my life since then. Sometimes when I retrace my steps. When I read
what I wrote last week, last month or last year I can’t help but smile.
Sometimes I feel that the blogs are a cry for help. Whether it’s for life.
Whether it’s for my work. Or whether it’s for my golf game. Other times I
notice that my life seemed to be in balance. And perhaps that is what it is all
about. Noticing a change. A positive change. And that is what will keep me
going. At least one more week. Make it a good one.
Posted by therecoveringfarmer @ 08:55 | 0 Comments | | PermaLink
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