On Spreadin’ It

On Spreadin’ It — life is as it is. Getting mad gets you nowhere, and nothing changes. Appreciating the political in the natural makes sense.

The Costa Rica Update

rainbowWhat do you mean, we can’t leave until the 18th???

So, if you’re a FaceBook friend, you already know that we discovered we’d unknowingly (no excuse… I just missed it…) overstayed our visa. I got quite worried, ended up with a headache, etc. and re-booked our tickets. Now, instead of leaving Costa Rica January 26, we’re leaving the 18th. We’re glad to be getting home and working on our new, Open Palm Solutions approach to our work, but we certainly will miss Costa Rica! Thanks to my amigo Carlos for helping us with some of the exit “rough edges!”

spreadin it
Some years ago I had a second office in Port Elgin, Ontario. My drive took me north from Mennonite country, through other farming communities, to Lake Huron. It was a lovely 2‑hour drive.

I remember one drive up that was certainly a treat. The farm implements were everywhere and it was clearly time to prepare the fields for next year. In other words, as in many farm communities world wide, it was time to spread it.

And spreading it they were.

So, have you ever watched a manure spreader trundling through a field, scattering manure in a 20 foot arc? Have you seen wagons filled with manure, heading for the fields, their contents to be dumped into the spreader? Or, I learned, if your manure of choice is pig manure (strong stuff!) you actually don’t spread manure — you mix it with water and spray “manure tea.”

Even the skunks pack their bags and leave town.

I’m amazed at how “put out” non small town folk can get when it’s spreadin’ time. My mom, 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 used to say, “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 simply goes on without my noticing. Darbella and I took a night time nature walk a few weeks back. We’d be walking along, using flashlights, and the guide would shift his light, and poof! — an animal or a tarantula. Never noticed, even with a flashlight!

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. Example: 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 nothing but manure spreaders, (like my mom did) 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 — and the manure is spread anyway.

Which is sort of like office politics games. 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 this blog 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 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.

spreadin itflickr

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. The “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, 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.” (I think I actually knew this “farmer…” 😉 )

A guy I knew worked for a world-class bozo. The boss was a racist, misogynist, and a misery to be around. 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 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, the guy could leave and easily find another job. If the guy got into the “this isn’t fair, this isn’t right” stuff, nothing would change, he’d be miserable and his department would tank. So, I asked the guy, “How many times in a row will your boss say no?” This is a political question.

The guy 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. The guy 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. This guy 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 agendas 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 — 1) with those we are “simpatico” with, 2) and with those who seem to oppose us. When we act with the first group, our direction is already set, we are pulling in the same 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, 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.

spreadin itTurn your world on its head!

As you look at what is happening, we understood that the political task “task” is to creatively find ways to fulfill our mandate, despite any knee-jerk reactions from those around us. In the end, we seek a way around each obstacle. If we focus in on “spreading manure,” and get caught feeling sorry for ourselves, we get nowhere.

Our choice, like the farmer, is to accept 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 itself is political, because we are continually required to choose. We can choose in a knee jerk way, fighting, whining, blaming, judging. Or, we can choose to gently accept the reality of each situation and find a way to accomplish our goals, while maintaining our integrity.

The Zen approach is this: when I smell manure on the breeze, I remember the corn on the cob that springs from it. Delicious!

Make Contact!

So, how does this week’s article sit with you? What questions do you have? Leave a comment or question!

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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