Monday, March 30, 2015

Getting back in the saddle

As I began to write this post, I wondered whether my tone would be any different than my posts since the first of the year.  It was immediately evident to me, as I wrote a sentence before deleting it and starting again, that my tone was going to start out exactly the same way.  As I hold my hands over the keyboard, take a deep breath and square my shoulders against the idea of having to “think” about why I haven’t been writing the past three months, my chest tightens, my jaw clenches and I notice that my eyes are blinking a bit too rapidly in what must be my body’s attempt to ward off the fear.

But the fear of what?

There are just too many fears to count these days.

When I was a kid, I used to hang out with my cousins on the other side of the valley and I loved the fact that they also lived on a farm but even better, they had horses.  We used to ride together and it was exhilarating to have control over such a large, strong, beautiful creature.  But if you’ve ever ridden, you know how quickly something so much bigger than you can completely turn things around.  I discovered this the hard way one particular day while I was enjoying an afternoon visit with my cousin; we were riding the horses out in the field together when there was just the slightest noise…my recollection is that it was nothing more than an owl hooting in a nearby tree.  But that noise was enough to turn the massively strong horse I was riding into a quivering scaredy-cat who wanted nothing more than to be away from the unknown hooter and in the safety of his own stable.
The fear this horse felt was instinctive and nothing I could control.  I was only along for the ride.

And it was one of the most frightening rides I’d ever been on.

I could have literally died that day, when I think about it.  The horse had only one thought in its mind and I was not going to stop it.  He headed directly back towards the stable and he would have raced into the stable with me on his back, where I would have very likely struck my head on the roofline just above the entry.  My saving grace was the fact that the horse had to take a hard right to enter into a small field just off the stable entry and when he did so, I was unable to hang on and I slipped off his back, hard on the ground and into a patch of stinging nettles.  This was unfortunate, especially since I also landed on the same arm that had only just recently had a cast removed after healing from a wrist fracture.

I felt real pain that day and I also felt real fear.  My fears were genuine and instinctive, because I really had no time to think of anything else than my personal safety.  When it was over, even though I was bruised, shaking and my skin was itching from the stinging nettles, I was relieved not to have been hurt any worse than I was.

And then came the day when it was time to consider getting back on a horse again.  Here’s where genuine and instinctive fears become misguided fears blinded by misperception…

Even if I were to ride a different horse, how was I to know it wouldn’t also easily spook?  What if the horse ran?  How would I stop it?  Would I be hurt again? 

These were all valid thoughts based on how scared I was at the time the horse ran on me but I was holding one terrifying experience against every single horse I came across and, of course, that’s not really fair to the horse, is it?

Just because we grow older, and wiser, it doesn’t necessarily make us more prone to understand the difference between our genuine fears and our misguided fears.  We just have to figure out how to realize when the limitations we have unconsciously set for ourselves are actually due to those misguided fears. 

But that’s easier said than done. 

I’m learning as I go and due to what I’ve been through the past few months, I’ll admit I’m not a quick learner because the fears I have, whether genuine or misguided, are always on the cusp of every thought I have.  It might seem a bit extreme but when your world has been shaken to the core, you tend to slowly rebuild what you lost very carefully, as you want to avoid any potential for future fractures. 

So how am I going to move forward in an attempt to push past the fears I have?

I’m going to remember what I did when I had to face that horse again.  When I looked that horse in the eyes and decided I had no choice but try to ride, or admit defeat to the fear of something that might never happen again.  I did get back in the saddle and, I’ll admit, I was extremely scared.  Not very smart when animals can sense your fear but the only way that horse wouldn’t smell my fear is if someone had knocked me unconscious before tying me to his back.  I won’t say that horse and I ever became the best of friends but I’m very proud of myself for having the guts to push aside my fears so that I could once again take part in something I enjoyed.

And that’s what I’m going to do today…I’m getting back in the saddle and regardless of everything else, I will do what I can to keep myself firmly planted and ready for the ride. 


  1. I could say all the right things: You go! You can do it! You've got this! But ultimately, your strength and determination are already apparent in the words you've just put out in the universe. This blog post says it all. Keep going, Paula. Thinking of you.

  2. Thank you so much, Nikki, for your kind words and for your support. I really appreciate it!