I’m sure our regular readers will agree with me when I say that our columnist Katherine O’Leary has been through a lot this year after being diagnosed with cancer. Katherine has always treated me – and everyone – with kindness, humour and honesty. As a newcomer to Irish dairying, her columns have taught me so much about calf care and the day-to-day running of a family farm.

To say I was happy to read her good news in this week’s edition of Irish Country Living is the understatement of the week. I am beyond thrilled she is able to put these past months behind her and focus on the good. Her willingness to share her lowest lows, as well as the small rays of light, with us each week during her time in treatment is a testament to her spirit and overall positive outlook. Despite everything, Katherine still takes the time to enjoy life – spending time with family, friends, the farm – the important things.

Katherine has always treated me – and everyone – with kindness, humour and honesty.

Another perspective on life and relationships struck a chord with me in this edition as well. This time, through an excerpt from Alice Taylor’s new book, Come Sit Awhile. Having spoken with Alice a few times, I am starting to believe she is a national treasure. Her words around the importance of family will resonate with anyone who has been affected by a “falling-out” – which is probably most of us. I was only a small child when my mother’s mother (my nanny) died from cancer; taken far too soon. I don’t remember much from that time, but I remember that this was the beginning of many disagreements and arguments between the siblings. Their mother was the glue which held the family together – without her, things started to crumble and there were some serious “fallings-out”. These things are more common than we probably want to believe, especially within the farming community.

I have a close family member who will never be happy. He always thinks “If I just get this job,” or “If I just buy a new house,” he will find happiness. He is very capable and always achieves the goals he sets for himself, but he is never as happy as he expects to be – so he is always setting a new goal. It is a vicious cycle. I have other family members who have lots of money, but struggle with grief and loneliness. Something I have learned over the years is that happiness is a choice. Being positive is a choice. You have to make that choice every day, over and over again. It’s not always easy and you don’t always choose happiness, but if you can do it 70% of the time you’re probably on the right track.

At our upcoming Women & Agriculture conference, we will be discussing the idea of relationships and the many ways they can break down within farming families. Just like in other areas of our lives, a balanced approach is needed in the case of a relationship problem or breakdown. You need to think about yourself – your needs, your wants, your happiness – but you also need to try to understand and empathise with the other person or people involved in the conflict.

Hopefully we can add some new tools to our problem-solving toolbox via our expert panel: agri-solicitor Aisling Meehan, psychotherapist Claire Lyons Forde, Clare O’Keeffe from Succession Ireland and IFA Farm Family chair Alice Doyle.

I still firmly believe, however, that at the end of the day you can’t force someone – even someone you love – to choose happiness. All you can really do is set a good example by living your own best life.

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