“Every horse is a therapy horse, some of them are just freelancing”.
The last two weeks, the only contact that I have had with my horses has been to feed and muck out in the most efficient time possible. I have paused briefly to fling my arms around Dee’s big, brown neck and inhale deeply, to thank him and feel grateful for his steady presence but aside from that, my focus has been elsewhere.
Despite their brevity, those moments have been healing and yearned for. The outside world seems particularly sensual right now. Anyone who has spent a block of time inside a hospital ward feels this I’m sure. As you walk out, the first thing to hit you is the air. The need to inhale deeply becomes a compulsion. You wonder how you have missed this before, how you could be so flippant and dismissive of something so glorious, so enlivening as fresh air. It feels so encompassing you almost believe you could collapse into its support.
The colours of the trees, grass seems luminous. The way the world bustles on despite the fact that yours has stopped is simultaneously jarring yet comforting. How can they? You think, and “thanks goodness”, you sigh.
This has been my experience the last two weeks, and it’s one I have decided to share not for the experience in and of itself, which is neither appropriate nor called for, but to extend a loving hand to those in a similar position and say, it’s ok. You can do hard things. And this is how I have chosen to find my way back- to return from a trauma and throw the stones ahead of me on the path so that I may step on them.
Some days back, I had a phone call that makes your heart drop out of your chest. Since then, my world (and the world of many others) has revolved around hospitals and doctors and assuring the well-being of some very important little people was tended to. It’s been traumatic, consuming and confronting, and at times, beautiful, and in order to give it the attention it needed, everything else has stopped.
And now, I find myself needing to reenter the fold, to re-begin, and I’ve been grappling for a start point. I can see the other side- the place I need and want to be- but to leap to that place without an acknowledgement of what has come and been seems wrong and disrespectful. My rocket has been orbiting and I was unsure how to re-enter the atmosphere.
So how do you do that? How do you find a start point when the vortex of life spins you so fast you don’t know where to start?
Taking care of what needs to be taken care of
A lot of stress is created by the things that need to be taken care of not being taken care of. When you are pulled into an emergency or trauma, the cloud of worry about the basics of life- looking after your family, work, horses, tending to the basic needs of life- can be overwhelming and stressful. Once the space arises to start to get some order back (or to create some in the midst of total disorder) prioritizing the essentials is the place to begin. What has been neglected and requires your attention? Who can you delegate tasks to?
Sometimes, the feeling that you need to do everything will stop you doing anything. Pick one thing and start from there. I felt a desperate pull to fling myself back into work but I knew that my head nor my heart were ready to do so in a way that meant I could give it my full attention and operate with the kind of integrity that’s important to me.
So I stopped, hugged my kids, my husband and my horses and allowed myself a couple of days to process, ensuring that the absolute basics were covered; I was truthful about my circumstances to those I had commitments to, cut myself some slack, and reminded myself that I would make up for this time just as soon as I was able.
You can’t do everything but you can do something. What’s the one thing you can do right now that would be the most helpful for you?
What do you need to feel good?
A tendency I have (which I know is a tendency I share with many) is to overextend myself and attempt to pour from an empty cup. In an emergency, sometimes it’s what’s needed. We do have to extend ourselves beyond what we would recognize as our comfortable capacity and all of us are willing to do so. What’s important to recognize, however, is that this modus operandi is neither sustainable nor helpful in the medium to long term. Understanding what you need to feel good- and seeking it out- is the kindest thing you can do for yourself and for those around you. If you are going to be there for the long haul, you need to make sure that you advocate for yourself as much as you do for others.
With that in mind, what do you need to stay resourceful and to feel that you can sustain this situation? Do you need time out, even for a few minutes? Do you need to grab your boots and go for a ride (how to re-start your horsing life is going to be the topic of my next blog!)?
Give yourself permission to look after yourself. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity. And the responsibility lies with you to make sure you are taken care of.
Trust in the flow
I’m not going to mince words; sometimes life is really tough. It can seem hard and unfair and not right and baffling and cruel and beautiful all at once. What you focus on and where you place your attention is a choice that sometimes you will be called to make not only every day, but every minute. Find your anchor point.
If there’s one thing I know about emotions it’s that they are cyclic. Nothing is fixed or constant. The feelings will shift and move and you will find yourself in a different place sooner or later, even if your heart is bruised and battered in the process.
Fighting against what you feel will only add another layer of suffering to a situation that is already largely out of your control. Sitting in the discomfort and allowing it to move through you is an act of bravery and allows the necessary emotional alchemy to occur.
You can do hard things. Stay with it. See it through to the other side. And don’t be afraid.