Resources for Conscious Living - Spreading It
Driving up to Port Elgin this fine Fall morning was certainly a treat. The farm implements were everywhere and dare I say, it's time to prepare the fields for next year. Thus, in this region as in many farm communities world wide, it's time to spread it. And spread it they were.
So, have you ever watched a manure spreader trundling through a field, scattering manure in a 20 foot arc? Or seen wagons filled with manure, heading for the fields to be dumped into the spreader? Or, if the farmer uses pig manure (the worst!), they don't spread manure — they spray "manure tea." Even the skunks pack their bags and leave town.
I was driving along, watching all of this spreading, and I thought two things:
1) how much like life, all this spreading is,
2) I'll bet I can come up with an article about this.
And given the conversation I had the day before, with a friend, about office politics, this is actually going to be laughably easy.
I'm amazed at how "put out" non small town folk can get when it's spreadin' time. My late mom, god bless her, used to get right indignant when she'd come upon the fragrance — which of course hangs in the air like brown fog, and sometimes has enough punch to clear up your sinuses from your last cold. She'd say, "Why do they (the infamous "they") have to be doing this now? Don't they know how bad it smells?"
I'd look at her and shake my head in wonderment. It was clear that mom was really asking,
"Why are they doing this to me? Surely they should have known I'd be driving along this road and that I would offend myself."
I'm sure, at her most self-involved, she figured it was actually a plot. "Psst. Erma's coming. Spread it thick and pass the word."
Well, maybe not. As my therapist Gloria Taylor says, "Shit happens." (You knew I was going to have to say that, right?) Not much that is happening in life is aimed directly "at" me. Indeed, most of life is going on without my noticing.
Which is another way of saying that the things that are significant in my life are the things I notice.
And vice versa.
Added to that is the interpretation I put on the few things I choose to notice.
If I'm looking to make myself miserable, I'll look for things I judge prove that I'm hard done by. If I'm looking for examples of poor treatment, I'll be an expert in ignoring anything else.
I can look at the manure spreaders and see just the manure spreaders, or I can miss them entirely. I can be like a farmer and think, "Good! The crops will grow next year!" Or I can be put out, wrinkle my nose and curse all farmers and the heavens for their inconsiderate behaviour. A lot of people pick the latter behaviour — and the manure is spread anyway.
Which is sort of like the office politics games I mentioned earlier. I'm amazed at how many people think a goal in business circles is to eliminate game playing, politics and manipulating situations, because they judge that such situations "stink." – "If things were "right," this wouldn't be necessary" kind of thinking.
Well, get over it. All of life, at some level, is political.
I write to get you to look at your life and how you are playing it, and I often do that by revealing my experiences to you. I'm not doing this to amuse myself. I'm doing this to have an impact and to facilitate change. In myself, of course. But emphatically for you, too. Is this political? Of course.
It's political because I'm promoting an agenda, a world view, in all that I write and all that I do. I'm also (or I would be a hypocrite) LIVING my agenda, my politics, my world view. Ideally, I want to be connected with people who are on the same page as me. My "agenda," such as it is, is to have other people to talk to. Now, from my perspective, I'm doing this (and counselling) for noble reasons. But at the end of the day, all I can say is that I am doing what I am doing solely for MY reasons.
Farmers spread manure for a political reason. They want a good crop, in order to make more money than they spend. I don't suspect many of them are sitting out there, hour after hour, on their tractors, dragging around manure spreaders because they think this is a great way to spend a Wednesday morning. The manure, to them, is a means to an end. This "end" is measured on their bottom line. (Yes, I get the puns.)
I'm sure more than a few yahoos yell and swear at them, shoot them the bird, etc. as they drive by. They likely grin and don't take it personally, like the yahoos do.
I doubt there are many farmer's meetings going on, with concerned farmers debating the relative merits of manure spreading. I mean, picture it:
"Well, Luke, what do you think? Maybe we should change our manure spreading habits. Sixty people got mad at me today."
"Well, Rufus, I was thinking the same thing. Here we are, imposing our manure on those poor drivers and the only reason we're doing it is to pay our mortgage. How could we be so selfish?"
"Yeah, guys," replies Ted, a tear trickling down his cheek, "It's my parenting. My parents were farmers and they spread their manure everywhere, and it all landed on me. I'm a helpless victim of my genes. I'm a manure spreader — I'll always be a manure spreader. In fact, compared to you guys, you guys are saints. I'm the worst manure spreader on the planet."
My best buddy used to work for a world-class bozo. The boss was a racist, a misogynist, and a misery to be around. he was also the president of the company. My buddy was head of a major department and needed stuff to do his job. He'd go and ask, and his boss would yell and swear and my buddy would leave empty handed. After a month of this, my friend showed up on my doorstep and wanted to talk with me. After hearing the above story, we looked for a resolution.
Now, I wasn't interested in the boss, nor in his belief system. I reasoned that if he was too offensive, my friend, who is great at what he does, could leave and easily find another job. If he got into the "this isn't fair, this isn't right" stuff, nothing would change, everyone would be miserable and his department would tank. So, I asked my buddy, "How many times in a row will your boss say no?" This is a political question.
My friend was nonplussed. He had no idea. I suggested he go and find out, by making a list of things he needed. Now, he'd told me that the most he'd ever asked for was two things, and was refused both, and loudly. So, I suggested he put two items he actually didn't want on the top of the list and start the real list at item three.
He did. His boss, predictably, refused the first two requests, loudly. My buddy asked for item three, the first one he really wanted. He got it. Emboldened, he asked for one more. Got that one, too. This became his pattern. Ask for 2 he didn't want, get 3 & 4. My buddy actually outlasted the boss, who sold the business.
Now, was this manipulative, or political? Maybe to the first, definitely to the second.
I'm suggesting that all of us go into situations, relationships, work environments with an agenda. Often, that agenda doesn't match with the agenda of others. If we are unwise, we resort to moaning and complaining and sneaking around, trying to get others lined up, trying to make things happen, frustrating ourselves trying to tilt against the politics of the people who, seemingly, oppose us.
Almost always, there are two streams of interaction — with those we are "simpatico" with, and with those who seem to oppose us. When we act within the first group, or, say, within an intimate relationship, our direction is easy, as we are pulling in a similar direction and have similar world views. Communication is direct, and there is a decided lack of "one-upmanship."
With those who seem to oppose us, there are cross-purposes at work. We can easily get sucked into a power play. Someone, or both of us, may be trying to be proven "right." When this happens, we have to do some real, creative thinking.
In my friend's case, as we looked at what was happening, we understood that the requests he was making were for the benefit of the company, his department and the bottom line. His "task" was to creatively find ways to fulfill his mandate, despite the knee-jerk reaction of his boss. In the end, he found a way around the obstacle. And of course, this is why he was hired in the first place. Had he simply focused in on the "spreading manure" and gotten caught in feeling sorry for himself, he'd have gotten nowhere.
His choice, like the farmer, is to accept the manure spreading as a part of the environment and to work with it — as opposed to fighting it. This is not giving in to it or swimming in it. It's accepting it as one, and only one, feature of the situation. From this place of gentle understanding, elegant approaches emerge.
In the end, life is political, in that we are continually required to choose. We can choose in a knee jerk way, fighting, whining, blaming, judging. Or, we can choose to accept the reality of each situation and find a way to accomplish our goals, while maintaining our integrity.
For now, my approach is this: when I smell manure on the breeze, I remember the corn on the cob that springs from it. Delicious!