Necessary Medicine
January 8, 2011

Cats are my heroes. Not everyone is a cat person and some folks, even enjoying cats, would wonder why I would make such a statement. To be sure, they have earned a place on the farm, thanks to their rodent control tendencies. We have several outdoor cats that keep our poultry and small animal barns nicely patrolled. But that's not what make them my heroes. Rather, it's the fact that they have found ways to work 4 hours a day, relax 20 hours a day, and be productive. Now THAT is accomplishing something.

Most of the folks we know, including us, work way too hard. It's not something restricted to farming although there's plenty of work-too-hard members in that profession. Every one we know, from any walk of life, in any job right now, works too hard. It's like there's an epidemic of Type A Personality. Part of that is the economic straits that we find ourselves in. While that's a whole separate kettle of fish to discuss, it does have everyone on edge. Those with jobs, are working hard to keep them. Those without jobs are working hard to find them. Thoughts of a nice relaxing vacation on a beach somewhere have evaporated for many who are trying to keep their homes warm, their kids fed and their bills paid right now. I don't doubt that any of that is necessary. I do fret that it's costing us something to exert that much sheer energy without a break.

This week, for instance, we learned that a) we lost a major form of income rather suddenly, b) we had a near-catastrophe with one of our livestock, and c) we had our normal heavier-than-it-should-be list of gotta-do's to wade through. And here we are at the end of the week, a short work-week at that, and we're exhausted. I was moving hay bales today and tweaked one of the muscles in my back which I had previously strained while wrestling with the cow earlier in the week. Not because my back muscles are weak. But because I hadn't taken a break to let them rest and recover from that exertion earlier. That's fairly standard. And it's going to put us all in early graves.

It's not just physical exertion. It's mental exertion and financial exertion and emotional exertion too. We drive ourselves too hard, particularly when times are tough like they are right now for so many of us. We don't think we can "afford" to take a few minutes here and there to rest up, heal up, find our happy place and mellow out. The real risk in all this is that we'll get so tired that we'll be unable to do those jobs we're hanging onto so hard, whatever they may be.

So I hereby propose that we all make like cats, for some small fraction of time in a day not too far in the future. Find a sunny window, and soak up the rays for a few minutes. Find a good book and a warm fire, and enjoy the company of both for awhile. Carve some personal time out of that superheated schedule. If we don't do that now, we'll end up blowing that schedule anyway when we get sick, or injured. Preventative treatment for stress related illness and injuries is just as valid as preventative medicine for other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer or carpal tunnel syndrome. Whether our profession is farming or teaching or doctoring or lawyering or whatever, find five minutes in the next 24 hours to simply Be Like A Cat. Find a comfortable spot, rest awhile, find a reason to purr. Then perhaps we can get back to work with renewed energy, a rejuvinated spirit, and quite an improved temper.

As an added bonus tonight I share with everyone a recipe that a friend gave me, to help relieve tired pulled muscles. She's a veterinary technician who knows the meaning of the phrase "physical labor". I heartily encourage you to try it out sometime:

Hot Relaxing Bath Recipe
-1/3 cup epsom salts
-1/3 cup sea salt
-1/3 cup baking soda
-whatever essential oil(s) you want.
Dump everything into a toasty warm tub of water, soak 20 minutes, then straight into bed, if only to read. Does WONDERS.

May we all find ways to not only churn through our to-do lists, but find some relaxation time along the way. It's not a question of whether we've earned it. It's a recognition that we need it. All of us. And on that note, I'm going to bed early.

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