‘You can’t do it on your own’ – advice from the front


By Toni Williams

‘You can’t go from mountain to the next mountain without going in the valley,” says farmer and author Doug Avery.

Mr Avery was guest speaker, along with Paul (Pup) Chamberlain and Struan Duthie at a Rural Support Mid Canterbury session at the Mt Somers Rugby Clubrooms.

They spoke as Mid Canterbury battles with outbreaks of M. bovis.

Rural Mid Cantabrians were encouraged to “take a break” with the trio, as they spoke of their life experiences – the ups, and the downs.

From front-line policing during the 1981 Springbok Tour, reaching rock bottom farming in drought stricken Marlborough, to cracking open emotions; they shared it all.

All three spoke of the importance of having a mentor; or a support network of people to help when times were tough.

The message from all was the same: no-one can do it on their own.

Former Ashburton policeman Pup Chamberlain spoke of his experiences within the police force and dealing with work issues.

To protect his family, he did not talk about those issues at home.

But it had the opposite effect, and they were in the dark about reasons for some of his behaviour.

“The only one I was fooling was myself. I seek help now for my wellness,” he said.

People had different methods for dealing with stress, but they needed to work and be safe for all concerned – especially loved ones, he said.

“Life isn’t a straight road…when you’re in the valley it’s hard to see the way out, but there is, and (eventually) there’s another hill.”

It was a sentiment shared by Doug Avery, Marlborough farmer and author of The Resilient Farmer and Struan Duthie, a counsellor.

Mr Avery followed in the footsteps of his father: when things got hard, you worked harder.

Farming in Marlborough during drought was tough.

Mr Avery took on more and more and then he crashed.

The human fear of failure was responsible; he retreated.

“It was too big, and I broke,” he said.

In his recovery he learned to “let go of stuff”and focus on what he could control.

Mr Avery used the flying formation of geese to support his analogy to “never fly alone”.

Geese fly in a V formation. One goose takes the lead, but those behind are constantly honking, he said.

When the lead goose needs a break, another goose takes over at the front.

Mr Avery said those at the front needed support and encouragement.

“Never fly alone. Fly the V formation all the time and know who’s in that V,” he said.

He encouraged people to take a helicopter view of those they had a relationship with when times were good, and those they could call when times were bad. If this was left until things got hard, it was too late.

“Build up resilience in good times because when stuff goes wrong, you need to know who’s going to be there,” he said.

Life had peaks and valleys. It was a normal part of life.

The valley was the most important part of life as it was a great opportunity to start planning the next peak, he said.

“You can’t go from mountain to the next mountain without going in the valley.”

Mr Avery said it was more dangerous when people gave up.

Those who noticed others facing difficulty should get alongside them, and help them create their next story – don’t comment on the story now, he said.

“You win, or you learn. You only lose if you don’t learn,” he said.

Mr Duthie agreed. He said soft knowledge (emotions) and dealing with emotion was just as important as hard knowledge or facts.

“Everyone needs someone to talk to, to be human is to be vulnerable.”

A lot of people did not deal with their emotional side, but would benefit greatly if they did.

He also encouraged people to reach out and make contact with others to talk to.

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