It’s been a year.
A year without your dark wise eyes,
a year without hour long butt scratches.
It’s been a year without your kindness,
a year without your silent strength.
It’s been a year since you led the herd,
a year since you came to the fence,
gently asking for treats.
I whole year has gone by without you,
but not a day, without you in my heart.
It’s also been a year since you felt pain,
a year since you struggled to walk.
It’s been year since daily medication,
a year since you couldn’t get back up.
You beautiful, big souled Thoroughbred,
you deserved more.
Of all the gifts you brought to me,
the biggest gift I could give in return, was
to let you go.
~ In memory of Daiwik, July 10, 2009- July 10, 2019
I’ve been silent. In some ways I’ve gone on autopilot, doing what needs to be done in my daily life.
It’s all so big and I feel so small...
So small and so privileged.
Privileged to the point of not even being aware of all the ways I am privileged.
So where does one start…? How can I even begin to catch my feelings and thoughts well enough to put them on paper.
As a therapist and a somewhat decent human being, I have empathy. I do my best to understand the person in front of me. But I cannot, there is no way I could, know what it’s like to walk down the street as a person of color.
And in that, because of the freaking color of my skin, I am privileged.
I will never know what it’s like to be pulled over because of how I look, or have someone walk to the other side of the street rather than come face to face with me.
No one looks at me and feels fear, and that makes me privileged.
I am so sick of seeing people bitch about the riots and looting. Yes, I agree that stealing is wrong, but taking a t-shirt or an Apple laptop is a TINY wrong compared to the wrongs people of color have endured in the United States of America. Why have we not been pissed about that??
We are so broken. With no leadership to help guide us out of this mess.
I’m not surprised shit has hit the fan. Enough is enough.
I was born and raised in the whitest of white countries. I didn’t know about race inequality, it wasn’t a part of my upbringing.
That definitely makes me privileged.
When I moved to this country, I wasn’t looked down upon because of my immigrant status because I was white, I looked the part.
When one of my first US boyfriends told me he was nervous about going to visit my parents, I thought he was scared about meeting them. He had to explain to me that the color of his skin, his hispanic heritage was not welcomed where my parents lived. I was 18, I was young and had no idea what he was referring to. We went anyway. A few blocks from their house we were pulled over. The cop made sure I was ok. It still didn’t sink in.
My throat closes as I think about how ignorant I was then, and I’m sure I still am in many ways….
There is no way around it.
I was born white, therefor I am privileged.
Today, as I sit here, I am unsure of what to do with this.
Maybe this is a start. (A privileged start)
For all the ways that I have contributed to the systemic racism in this country, I am sorry.
From the deepest part of me I appologize for my silence and for all the things that I have missed or chosen not to see.
I am sure I’ll make more mistakes, not on purpose, or because a lack of care.
I welcome correction, and I realize that it’s not your job to educate me.
I can promise you that I will do my best to see life without my rose colored privileged lenses, and to speak up more.
Together we can. I have to believe that.
What a month... Or has it been a month? Time seems odd right now.
The REAL Equestrian was born out of a desire for people to get real, get honest and be vulnerable. As a psychotherapist I’ve just seen too many people repress their emotions and end up hard, shut down, angry and/or depressed. Trust me, I know how lifeless that place is, I have been there. Shutting down and pushing away was a tool I learned early on. A coping mechanism that served me then, but only damages me and my loved ones when it surfaces now.
Humans are messy. We feel a lot. But for some reason we think that we are supposed to have it more together. We hide our fear, we cry alone.
And now here we are. In a world wide crisis. Both physically and emotionally. Truly, they coexist.
In the past few weeks I’ve seen so much anger thrown around at people. Judgments quickly surface as someone does or says something you don’t agree with. And to be honest, I am not surprised. Because underneath anger lives fear and sadness.
We are scared. And now, sitting alone in our homes, connection, the kryptonite to fear, is harder to find.
We are sad. We are grieving. Grieving for others losses, for our children’s “new normal”, and for the loss of what we once took for granted.
I haven’t done any writing since all this unfolded, partly because I have been focused on the farm and getting our herd healthy and strong again. The barn is my sanctuary, it’s a place beyond time, (which my husband has learned and now rarely asks how long I’ll be).
The barn is quieter, but besides for that, it’s the same. Everyday I get to wake up to kitties jumping on me, snug my dog (who only tolerates it), then head out to the big boys. Nothing has changed for them. Jiji will still stand at the fence calling for me, or more accurately, calling for food. Lucas and Kidd will argue about who gets the stall next to Jiji even though they are both petrified of his teeth. Charlie hangs back to see where everyone else goes and then finds a spot along the fence. Sometimes he’s smart and goes around back where he can eat in peace.
Their normalcy… simpleness, allows me to settle. Not a day goes by that I don’t say a prayer of gratitude for what these guys give to me.
I know, I can feel, that the world is in a tremendous sympathetic nervous system response. The fight, flight freeze or fawn is triggered for the majority of the population. It comes with the territory of being afraid. And afraid we are. Life as we know it has been altered. Uncertainty is pulsating through our veins.
Lynn Lyons, one of my favorite Anxiety clinicians, says “Anxiety wants two things, certainty and comfort” Well, right now none of us have either. So how can we practice feeling “ok” in the middle of this mess?
One of the worst things for our immune system is stress. Yup, that’s right, reading all the stats and numbers on covid-19, spending hours on social media scrolling through endless fear messages, is putting you at risk.
FACT- Ongoing stress makes us susceptible to illness and disease because the brain sends defense signals to the endocrine system, which then releases an array of hormones that not only gets us ready for emergency situations but severely depresses our immunity at the same time. Some experts claim that stress is responsible for as much as 90% of all illnesses and diseases, including cancer and heart disease. The way it does this is by triggering chemical reactions and flooding the body with cortisol that, among other things, decreases inflammation, decreases white blood cells and NK cells (special cells that kill cancer), increases tumor development and growth, and increases the rate of infection and tissue damage.
So… I guess I am finally getting to the point of this ramble.
In this time of uncertainty and discomfort, where no one has the answer and hugs are sparse... how can you tell your nervous system to chill out, to settle?
Here are some suggestions, and somethings to pay attention to:
I won’t lie, this past week was a tough one. And not just a “oh it’s cold outside, the water froze, I forgot something at the store” kinda tough. This week was a punch in the gut, so hard that coming up for air, at times seemed impossible.
I know you’ve all had days, weeks, maybe months like this. For me it started with a text.
For those of you who don’t know me, I lost my sweet TB Daiwik to EPM last July. He fought hard, and I fought even harder. We tried everything, but in the end, his body was in too much pain. Letting him go was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. He was only 10, and we were supposed to have a long journey together. As I am writing this, tears well up... my heart hurts. I loved that big guy so much… still do.
So getting this text from my vet was… petrifying. I went into shock. My sympathetic nervous system took over and there was no flight or freeze, instead I put on my superhero cape and chose to FIGHT. To be real, that wasn’t necessarily a choice, it’s what I am wired to do. (I teach a lot about this in my training). Fight is about taking action, it’s about movement, and that I did. 1) Text back. Order meds. 2) online purchase- the herbs that seemed to offer Daiwik relief. 3) Research any new studies since I last went into this battle. 4) Start a GoFundME for all the horses in our herd that need EPM treatment which is four out of five.
I received the text around noon. I sat at my computer, without food or water, without taking care of any other needs, until 9pm. It got dark. My dog whined a few times. I kept going. I knew as soon as I stopped I would fall apart.
This may not have been the healthiest approach, I teach people to be in touch with their emotional world. To allow themselves to experience the full range of what it means to be a human. But just like all of you, I am far from perfect, and sometimes I .just. Can’t. Deal.
Afterwards though, when I had no more distractions, the reality hit me.
To say I am scared is an understatement.
To say that I am angry is less than the truth.
To say that I am sad is downplaying my feelings.
This is life. And even when it gets this bad, I’m in.
I was raised in an overachiever family. Both mom and dad were very driven and successful. I learned early on that hard work is valuable, and I developed a pretty intense need for perfection. It was never verbalized that attention and love came from achievements, but that is what I internalized.
I think what I carefully wrote on the cover of my first journal says it all- “I am the best at being the best”. Yeah… no pressure kiddo.
Here’s the thing, having goals, working hard, is fantastic, but not when it means that I feel less worthy or get upset when things don’t go as planned.
And boy, do things often take some interesting turns with horses.
I started The REAL Equestrian to help humans, but also to help horses. If you are a race car driver and you get upset about your performance, you can scream and yell, or internally freak the ef out, and your car doesn’t care. Your car doesn’t have his own emotional world.
They feel what we are feeling, they react to our emotions.
I’ll be honest. This is frustrating as hell to me.
I swear the only reason I am still married is because my husband stays grounded and sane when I spin off into emotional tornado land.
My horses though, they really can’t. Understandable as their reaction is based on survival.
Here’s where my perfectionism really messes up my riding. Perfectionism is linear- I work, I get better. I work harder, I get even better. I continue to go up the achievement ladder with my eyes on the goal of being perfect.
But… that’s not how life works, especially not life with horses.
For a perfectionist, when things don’t go as planned, the world falls apart and the unworthy hole opens up.
Now, just to be fair, I’ve done a good amount of work on this over the years. I am no longer the girl with the Eating Disorder, or the woman who would leave the table if she lost at cards. (Ok, at least not often)
But our core issues are called CORE for a reason. They are buried deep within our subconscious. They take a lifetime to disassemble, and it’s very possible that we will die with them still intact to some degree.
Ack… being human is HARD!! Being human and working with horses is even HARDER!!
But, the more we experince the darkness, the more we can acess the light. This stuff is actually only hard until we dive in. Then all of it, living, relationships, riding, gets easier.
I will say this. The more you become aware of your internal world and how you relate to others, the more you dig in and explore those yucky parts of yourself, the healthier your relationship will be with your horse (and others).
Get honest about what is happening for you. Find the people who will listen without judgement.
Make a choice to Get REAL. If you don’t know how, book a Get REAL clinic in your area. We’d love to help.
Oh and one last thing. When we are caught up in being perfect, we don't have fun!! Let go of the pressure, and join the laughter. We'll be over here waiting for you.
Sometimes we remember the losses more than the wins. Our brain is structured that way, it’s main function is to keep us alive.
But we do have a say in this. Neuroscience shows that we can restructure our brain. Just because we have a super highway to the “oh crap” part of this incredible machine, it doesn’t mean we have to keep reinforcing it.
Lots of interesting studies have been done on what kind of thoughts and actions create new neural pathways.
Thanks to the incredible World Wide Web, this information is at your fingertips.
But, if you are not a neuroscience geek like me, here are three ways you can change how traffic flows in your brain.
Here’s the thing, just like you won’t get stronger arms without weights or working in a barn, your brain won’t change without some consistent training.
Now- you cannot do a fake “ooo and ahhh”, and plaster a smile on your face, pretending to be all positive and shit, that does not work!!!
That smile on your face, needs to trickle into every cell of your being!!
That feeling of “holy freaking sunset set the sky on fire” must spread throughout your darkest interior landscape.
And just to be clear, I am NOT saying you have to be grateful and find awe in every moment. Absolutely not!!
We are complex feeling beings. It’s ok to feel sad, we are entitled to anger.
Let yourself feel all of it!! BUT- give yourself the gift, even in the middle of a shit storm, to notice, that holy freaking crap, despite all of it, you are alive.
Happiest day you love to all of you
If you’ve ever done a clinic with me, you’ll have heard me say that whatever I’m presenting on will get really big for me in my own life. So for example, if I’m doing a clinic on fear in the saddle, all of a sudden my fear will slap me so hard across the face I can’t turn away from it and I’ll have to deal with it. It’s turned into a freaking cosmic joke at this point. If I was a bit smarter maybe I’d start doing clinics on “how to be fabulous” or “riding is actually easy”, but...
(actually the “how to be fabulous” may need to happen)
If you read the blog I wrote at the beginning of the week, I talked about not damaging your relationship with your horse by taking your emotions out on him. (I pretty much only ride geldings so excuse my use of my him in all my blogs. You can replace it with her if you are crazy enough to ride mares)
Alright, so, on Tuesday night I find myself in a group lesson playing a loooong game of tugga war with the Ji Man. I’m pretty sure he started it but, let’s be honest, I know better than to play that game, and even though I spend many hours in the gym, I’ve got nothing on him. The game ends with me letting out a primordial scream which may have sounded a bit like a four letter word I’m too old to get away with using in a place like this. Too be clear though, there were only adults present! Ji did stop, not sure if it was my yelling or he just had enough, and one of the trainers rode over, with a smirk and maybe a slight look of disapproval. I honestly can’t remember because my whole world was tinted red.
If you’ve seen me ride, you’ve probably heard me make a noise. I’m vocal, and I definitely express myself in some odd ways. I make a weird whopping sound when I get a bit jumped out of the tack and I grunt fairly often.
This scream was a bit more... cause for concern.
She looks at me, and with a pretty straight face asks “what’s the problem?”
“HE’S THE PROBLEM!!”, comes out of me.
I know as soon as I say those words that I’m in deep. Ack...
She talks for a bit. I can’t remember what she says, but I know tears are welling up in my eyes.
I walk off. I trot a bit. I soften some.
I reflect on me. Not on him.
I notice the knot in my chest that was probably there before I mounted. I soften more and allow myself to feel this place. I’m sad. A bit scared. Nothing at all to do with my horse. I stop trying and just let him move.
I feel this big being under me. I try my best to not beat the crap out of myself for bringing my human struggle into our relationship. I pat him often as we go.
I wonder if it’s true that horses are very forgiving. I think it is. Maybe that’s one of the greatest gifts we can learn from them... To forgive more. Forgive others when they cause us harm, and to truly, in the deepest part of our scraggly human soul, forgive ourselves when we have those moments of acting like fools.
~ Have a great ride.
The Slow Down Process
1) Take a breath. Extend the exhale
2) Bring your awareness to your body
3) Stay in the first place you are drawn to
5) Make a choice (act, ask, or simply allow)
I’ve been putting off writing my first blog post for The R.E.A.L equestrian. Everyday I just kept telling myself that I’m not in the mood to write. Well, today I realized that it’s not that I’m not in the mood to write, it’s that I am in a bad mood.
In my mind, I wanted this first blog to be super inspiring, uplifting, freaking life altering for everyone who reads it. I imagined writing one of those blogs that will be quoted on GoodReads.com. But…. as I was showering, getting ready for a Year End’s banquet, with a choked up throat and heavy heart, it came to me. The R.E.A.L equestrian is about being real. My goal with this work is to shine light into our humanness, and let ourselves be seen!
On my website I talk about how most people walk around pretending to be ok. Maybe the mask comes off with our closest friends, but possibly not even then. Our social media is full of (edited) smiling pictures, blue ribbons, and all kinds of adventures. We all assume that everyone else is doing/feeling sooooo much better than us. Well, guess what, being human means having feelings. We all feel sad, angry, frustrated at times, and the more we hide those emotions, the more they build up!
Get REAL clinics and sessions are about honesty, and a deep exploration of what the heck is underneath the surface.
Why is this important??? Well, for one, once you let down your guard and allow yourself to be seen, you’ll feel tons better. Plus, when people know what’s going on, you can actually get support.
AND, you can’t actually lie to your horse. It drives me a bit nuts when people say, “leave your stuff at the barn door”. Well… that’s not actually possible. If you are sad, you can pretend all you want but your horse will know it. And you know what horses distrust more that anything?
Incongruence. Which means, your insides do not match your outside, like if you are smiling but you are actually super upset.
Here’s the thing. The more we practice noticing what we are feeling in our body (you can use the SDP- Slow Down Process for this) the more you are able to adjust and deal with what you are feeling.
The whole goal is authenticity!! Be who your are. Let people see you. Learn to experience and express your feelings in a healthy way.
Gah… this is the stuff that aught to be worked on in freaking kindergarten and then supported throughout our education.
Anyway, I digress.
The whole point of this blog was my own honesty and getting real about winter blues or whatever the heck is making me feel like I want to hibernate until something changes.
Yesterday, as I was tacking up my big weirdo, I noticed that my mood was off. Boom. First thing-notice.
I did a bit of a check in to see if there was something I needed or a reason for this dark/grumpy place I was in. Nothing revealed itself, and I decided to ride. Here’s the thing though, for a perfectionist like me (which probably played a part in me not wanting to write my first blog on how crappy I feel), I have to be very aware of my internal world as I handle and/or ride my horse. Hmm… make that, when I do life period. As a perfectionist, in (sort of) recovery, it’s really important that I don’t project my crap onto others/my horse. So, going into this ride, I was very clear that I would ask very little of my guy, and focus on rewards. That way my mind is going to the positive instead of finding everything that’s wrong with HIM!!
Good intention. It didn’t work. But here’s the thing. I knew it wasn’t working, and at this point in my life, I am somewhat good at stepping back, and adjusting. So I hopped off and traded horses with my trainer/friend.
Here’s the funny (but not funny) thing. I was getting frustrated over Ji’s lack of bend and my ability to move his shoulder. I get on this green horse, that yes, is willing, but has ABSOLUTELY no bend. I mean, it’s like she has a steel rod that starts at her dock and goes all the way into her poll. Now here’s the thing. I had NO emotional reaction to this. NONE!!!
Moral of that story. Your big emotions are rarely about the thing that triggers them.
Second moral of the story. Don’t ruin your relationship with your horse by taking your crap out on them. And, I’m not talking about physically, like cropping them too much, I’m talking emotionally!!
So, here I am. It’s almost time to head out the door to the awards banquet. We are actually taking home Year End Champion in the Beg/Nov division. (We may not have had any competition)
Now, 15 minutes ago when I started writing this I felt like shiiiiiiiiiit, and right now I am feeling rather good.
And that my dear readers is a HUGE part of this puzzle of life. Stop hiding. Be yourself. Let your messiness shine, and GET REAL!!!
Oh, and one more thing. Find the people you can trust with all of you. The ones that you can tell about your heavy heart and never-ending tears. The ones that know when to just listen and when you need a swift kick in your butt. Find your tribe.