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Reflections in Gray
The journey so far
I don’t know much about astrology, and I’m not convinced about Mercury retrograde, but I do know there really are times when the universe wants you to slow down and reflect. As I’ve been writing this blog for about a year now, this feels like one of those times.
I had come back to riding horses because I was looking for a path to heal. I was recovering from multiple injuries, multiple surgeries, and the specter of breast cancer. I’d been so unhappy that I almost welcomed the cancer diagnosis. Yes, as awful as it sounds, I was hoping to die.
But I didn’t. The universe, it seems, had other plans for me.
My cancer was caught at a very early stage, requiring a minor surgery and minimal treatment. So here I was with my life back. Now what?
I made a conscious decision not just to exist, but to reclaim my life and make it what I wanted it to be. I needed to heal. I needed to find things in life that brought me joy. But where?
I remembered when I was a kid, things at home were frequently difficult and tumultuous. Being with horses made me happy and the barn was my refuge. It somehow made sense to seek that out again.
There I was, an older woman who had not ridden for decades, now out of shape and overweight and unsure what to expect as I searched for a place to take riding lessons. The first trainer I took a lesson with did not hide her disdain. In contrast, her horse was great.
For a horse, honesty exists in the moment. Where you’ve been, what you’ve done, doesn’t matter. It’s about who you are right now. The horse was not the problem.
I moved on. The next trainer was tough but welcoming. She gave me a chance and she pushed me to do more than I thought I could. I’ll forever be grateful to her.
Once I started riding, pounds dropped, and spurred on by a wish for more stamina and less weight for a horse to bear, I added other forms of exercise. Regaining my physical fitness was hard work, but the emotional healing was even harder. Overcoming trauma means allowing yourself to feel the pain so you can move through it to ultimately release it and let it go.
You have to make room for joy.
Just as I made room for Trudy. A horse who in her own way was searching for stability and healing. That mare and I have a lot in common, not the least of which is our resilience.
I see myself as always learning. Trudy sees herself as a school master. The only thing she’s missing is the ruler to whack you with. If you are going to work with her in the arena, she demands you do it correctly. She challenges your assumption that you are in charge and insists you prove yourself. If you want her to have good dressage form and be supple and round, you’d better know your inside leg from your outside rein and what to do with them.
Mind you, for a horse who only learned about this stuff herself a few months ago, she is awfully bossy.
It occurred to me at some point that perhaps I should write about my relationship with this gray mare and all that I was learning from her. I set up a blog account, but months went by and I wrote nothing. After all, who would be interested? I was just a woman with a bossy horse named Trudy, a beautiful German Shepherd named Lutz, and the three of us were just happily getting on with it.
But then I remembered something I’ve learned: connection is everything. Our journeys may be different, our struggles our own, but when we recognize ourselves in someone else’s story, it reminds us that we are not alone. I’d found my way back to happiness. Perhaps writing about my journey could help someone who was struggling. I mustered up my courage and began to write.
And then came the day that I lost Lutz. The dog I called my “best boyfriend ever” was gone. My house was suddenly achingly empty, and I cried every day for a very long time. I deeply felt the pain of his loss and grieved for the love that was gone.
Grief is the price we pay for loving and being loved, but it is worth it. The sorrow I was feeling for his loss was preferable to the misery I felt in a life that seemed so bereft of love I was willing to give it up.
I wrote about my grief. As I wrote it, I felt it, and that helped me move through it. When others shared their empathy and stories, I found solace in their kindness and support. I was not alone.
Because, let me say it again, connection is everything.
As a person I have so much more to learn. As a horse, Trudy pretty much knows it all, just ask her. Even so, as a dressage horse, Trudy may not be able to get me to where I’d like to go. I needed a second partner, one who specialized in dressage and could teach me more. That realization resulted in the gentle and gorgeous Thymen (“Ty”) coming into our lives.
And so, a new chapter begins.
Recently I had another surgery, nothing serious but weeks of rest and recuperation away from the barn were required. I couldn’t wait to see my horses and friends again.
On my first visit back, Trudy spotted me coming down the barn aisle and immediately started talking to me, telling me about everything I missed, her opinion on all of it, and letting me know how many treats she didn’t get while I was gone. We shared a hug and a much overdue cookie.
I found Ty in a turnout and as I approached he stared at me, perhaps taking a moment to decide if it was me. When I was close enough that he could smell me, he dropped his head low and stepped into my embrace.
And yes, I cried.
Once the doctor had cleared me to ride with a promise to “take it easy”, I had a lesson on each horse. Ty was gentle with me while Trudy was, well, Trudy. Trudy’s mission in life seems to be to build my backbone back up. She forces me to stand my ground. Ty approaches things differently with a gentleness that bolsters my confidence. Trudy challenges me while Ty makes sure I feel safe so I can push myself to do more. They are my equine yin and yang, balancing me out.
So here we are at Mercury Retrograde or Gatorade or whatever you want to call it and I am at peace. Sometimes it is much easier to find a clear way forward when you take a moment to look back and see just how far you’ve come.
We’ve all been on a journey in the last year. If you’re feeling reflective, feel free to write about it in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you.
Image created from original paintings “Thymen” and “Trudy” by Pamela Wangenheim-Hawkins.
See more of her work at http://www.spiritguidedcreations.com
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