I hope that your family has taken time to celebrate Thanksgiving, as I know some farmers don’t cook a turkey until the last crop is in the bin. The words to my favourite song of gratitude are: “Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son” (lyrics by Don Moen).
The week before Thanksgiving is usually an adventure for me as a farm family coach because so many folks are stressed and strained with the tension of how the family dinner or supper is going to go down… and I don’t mean the turkey. I share my Christian world view because that is what grounds me for the work that I do to empower farm families to model forgiveness, extend grace and encouragement to one another, and choose to create solutions for the family team.
I also am going through transition on our farm with our successor son, and my manager husband, so I share your journey. We all need to “walk the talk” of letting go, trusting, mentoring, collaborating, and creating growth opportunities for each generation.
I am saddened as I write this reflecting on current conversations where there are few grateful hearts to be found on highly conflicted farms. The opportunity is to shift our mindset to one of gratitude, and count our blessings. Then the next step is to offer that learner approach of teaching others on the team to grow their skills and feel valued as part of the operation. One fella quipped that “he did not realize how negativity was impacting his family and the farm.” His spouse is working on documenting a gratitude journal on a daily basis to create a habit of being thankful and less critical.
I am thankful that in 1997 I networked with many of my mother’s friends to create a special 65th birthday for her as she did not make her 66th. I asked people to call her, send cards, or drop off gifts, as her illness did not allow a large gathering. At the end of the day when we chatted on the phone she said, “Did you let everyone in Manitoba know it was my birthday?” “No Mom, but your Women’s Institute friends really came through didn’t they?” She was touched, and delighted. Strong families celebrate.
On October 27, I will be on my farm hosting anyone who drops in to celebrate my 60th birthday as I enter my new decade. The Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara where I trained as a coach uses an age and task map to help families recognize the needs of each new decade. I am entering the “starting over” phase, and know this will be real in four years when our successor couple, our son and daughter-in-law move to the main yard in 2020. I also recognize that if my life mirrors my mom’s life, what would I do to create legacy in the next five years?
Reflective thinking is a great skill for conflict resolution and also helpful for charting the intentions of your life. I’m going to a house concert with a Kiwi artist next week in the middle of harvest after I deliver the meals to the field. If my hubby can come with me, he will. If not, I am OK to go it alone. Our doctor, the awesome Dr. Nell, has leaned toward us in his office as a couple with his index finger extended towards us saying, “Look you two, it is time to have some fun, you really only have 15 good years left! Things start to fall apart at 75!!”
Those of you reading this who are over 75 can send me your observations. The point is to be intentional about all aspects of your life: your self-care, your marriage, your family goals and dreams, your off-farm job, your farm, your friends and community.
I am grateful for a strong spiritual community, great friends across the country, and adult children who appreciate my encouragement in their life. My spouse respects and affirms my calling as a coach, which sometimes means he eats beans or peanut butter sandwiches when I am travelling. We don’t take each other for granted, and both work on being healthy. We took our doctor’s advice and travelled to my girlfriend’s wedding in New Zealand earlier this year.
Why I am sharing these things?
It’s been a tough week of listening to tales of woe where one spouse is aging, yet is not able to let go and share assets or equity with an “almost 40” couple. Another over 75 spouse complains that she has no assets at all in her name, and realizes she should have made some different decisions when she was 60 or earlier.
Letting go happens when we have something exciting or invigorating to move towards. I am looking forward to have less or no grass to cut (if we choose to live in a condo/apartment complex), but I will still create flower arrangements as gifts, so I will need access to a cut flower bed. I also look forward to having a spouse who can leave the work behind and choose to embrace work when he wishes to while protecting his mental and physical health. We will have an opportunity to continue to work hard, but also have outlets for play and recreation.
In our small town there are heaps of single women raising families who need encouragement and emotional support. I am also called to walk alongside them in practical ways, so I don’t see being in my 60s as retirement, but as a reinvention of roles. I plan to be available with a listening ear and resources for those who want to engage in friendship and courageous conversations.
Elder folks can be lifelong learners, and enjoy the thrill of learning new things. We currently have four semi-retired B.C. guys on our farm who together bought a 1975 coach (touring bus) to explore the Prairies and go to football games in the U.S. They marvel at technology here, and the diverse things a farmer needs to manage. It is great to have city folks share their perspectives on our culture of agriculture. It also is great to see 60-year-olds band their resources together to buy a bus to explore their world. They’ll meet their spouses later this week in Calgary.
Are you listening to podcasts? Are you reading? Are you still growing and learning? My goal is to keep my brain in good shape and practise the new things I learn.
The book Younger Next Year, is a popular read I suppose as many folks bemoan the aging process. I encourage you to be intentional with your many roles as you age, and reflect on how you can make each role fulfilling.
Thanks for your feedback to me over the 21 years of writing this column. Send me your insights and reflections of your journey in your new chapter of life.