Optimism, please.

This Soils and Streams column first appeared in the Sept. 10, 2018, issue of the Kearney Hub.

Simple things can turn around discouragement of daily life

Life ebbs and flows.

In some ways, there’s a rhythm, some predictability. School begins as the growing season comes to an end.

As kindergarteners in Bertrand, our oldest three kids learned a sweet rhyme, sung to the tune of “Where is Thumbkin?”

“It is autumn. It is autumn.

“Three whole months! Ninety days!

“In autumn farmers harvest so lack of food won’t starve us.

“Feed the world. Feed the world.”

Depending on crop and location, farmers harvest in all seasons, but around here, the rhyme is accurate because the big push is on.

Silage choppers are in the fields. Soybeans are changing colors and dropping leaves. Irrigators are turning off wells in advance of the combines.

It won’t be long before cows and calves will come off pasture — ready or not, here they come.

I recently read that the USDA predicts this will be the fourth year in a row that U.S. farmers may not make enough money to break even.

Whether this proves accurate or not, the ag sector is subject to factors that ebb and flow with little rhythm.

Weather conditions range from hot and dry to multiple hail storms. Commodities markets fluctuate on fact, rumor of fact, rumor of rumor, and blatant fiction.

Discouragement, too, ebbs and flows — for everyone, not just people in agriculture. In my mind, it is only half a step from discontent, which, like envy, poisons the rest of life.

My favorite blogger, Kristen at theFrugalGirl.com, wrote Aug. 29 about dispelling discouragement. Her family lives in the mid-Atlantic region.

The Frugal Girl readership community is friendly and diverse, so it made for good reading and food for thought.

Emotions are nebulous things. When the ebb and flow of life get you down, what do you do to turn discouragement on its ear? Here are a few ideas (and the first three are Kristen’s).

• Frame things as choices. One example from our life: While we anticipate the future, we choose to live our present in the small house that my husband’s great-grandparents lived in. We dream a lot, but if the next great thing never happens, that’s OK; we love this house.

• Stop comparing. Focus instead on owning your advantages — for us, these include the ability to mostly work on our own equipment, and the knowledge that the overhead is more or less bearable.

• Do self-care that doesn’t derail you. I rave about Kearney Public Library for good reason. The library’s One Author Kearney event Aug. 20 provided some self-care for me. I put a lot of time-without-kids eggs in the One Author basket, and thankfully, Craig Johnson presented a program that was well worth it. The physical cost was minimal — $10 in cash money and two 70-mile round trips to town. But lunch at an author workshop plus an evening with my husband (and a free beer apiece) at the World Theater were of immeasurable value.

• Invest effort in quick changes, even small ones. My new favorite tool is the reciprocating saw. With it, I can cut dead branches out of trees and into manageable pieces — even if I only have five minutes. Compared to checking the oil and pulling out the mower and containing the children long enough to get something done, the reciprocating saw allows a lot of bang for the buck.

• Engage in judicious distraction. “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” is my current go-to podcast for the rare times when folding laundry coincides with nap time. It’s easy to get in a rut where the same ideas come up over and over and over again. If what you have isn’t working, ask friends for book and podcast suggestions. New ideas enrich your thinking and diversify your outlook.

What’s your favorite strategy for turning around discouragement? What would you add?

Of note: Discouragement from daily life shouldn’t be confused with depression. If you need somebody, reach out. If you don’t have somebody, feel free to email me.

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