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You know this old saying, right?
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make her drink.”
Last week Pepper very ably demonstrated it for us.
One moment she was eating her grain, like always.
There were no changes.
Exact same grain.
No rain or wind or horse antics to distract her.
Same as every other day.
But on this particular evening something happened.
She clamped her mouth shut, raised her head and refused to take another bite.
And most disturbing to us, she was making an odd gurgling sound in her throat.
We freaked out, thinking she could be heading toward colic – which for a horse is a very bad thing.
Rick put his ear to her neck and listened. He stroked her beautiful neck and then decided maybe she needed a drink of water.
He haltered her up and led her to water.
Where she stood motionless, lips clamped tight.
No way was she taking a drink of that water.
We coaxed, cajoled, encouraged, and begged, but soon realized it was futile.
We tried to walk her a little, but eventually gave up on that as well and let her back into the pasture.
And then we watched.
After a few moments, she and Chickadee walked away from the gate, and Pepper put her head into the grass and began to nibble the fresh green shoots.
Big sigh from us.
And the next day she was totally fine. Back to eating.
No gurgling neck noises either.
For me this was a striking reminder that I know exactly what I need.
No one else can decide for me, even when they may make quite a convincing argument. Or love me a lot.
I must be in charge of me, because no one else knows me as well.
Here’s Pepper’s nugget of wisdom:
Only drink the water if you know it’s right for you.
Those of you reading this blog for a while know my reasons for starting it. But for my new readers, let me take a moment to summarize.
I wanted to explore my own aging through the lens of life in the pasture with our two old horses, Bud and Pepper. And for almost three years, I’ve done that until last February when Bud died. His death threw all of us into turmoil for a few weeks. Nothing was the same.
That’s what grief does.
In the back of my mind I kept thinking I’d have to change the name of the blog since I no longer have two old horses.
I didn’t do that.
I carried on telling stories about the Herd of Oldsters, Miss Pepper and sharing assorted observations about nature and my life. But in the dark of night when I couldn’t fall asleep I thought about it.
Recently I was at a professional training in Santa Fe. As I got to know some of the participants, I told them about my blog and my concern about how the name Two Old Horses and Me was no longer accurate. (We therapist types have these kinds of conversations!)
On the last day, a very wise man came up to me and said he’d been thinking about what I’d told him. “Keep the name,” he said. “You have two horses in your heart, and that’s what really matters.”
Wow! This from a relative stranger. I teared up at his words, and then thanked him. He was spot on.
Sometimes I worry about things that honestly need no worrying.
Do you ever do that?
Interestingly, Chickadee has stepped in to fill the void left by Bud. She and Pepper have become fast friends. We’ve dubbed them “The Golden Girls.” Two old mares keeping each other company. Of course, Rick and I have unofficially adopted her.
So here we are back at two old horses.
Isn’t that how the world works, when we get out of our own way and allow whatever is going to happen, happen?
Trust. Believe. Receive.
Simple but not always so easy.
“What we appreciate, appreciates.”
The Daily Good website
A new year filled with promise. What will it bring?
I’m reminded of my mother’s annual comment as she removed ornaments from the Christmas tree and packed them away. “I wonder what will happen before we get these decorations out again and put them on another tree.”
If I am learning anything from this beautiful and sometimes challenging life, it is that I do have choices about how my life goes.
I can choose what I think.
I can choose how I interpret the actions of others.
I can make a course correction if my life seems to be veering into dangerous waters.
Not always easy, but possible.
And so, for this first post of 2012, I want to shine the spotlight on what’s going well.
I offer a list of some of the gifts I’ve received from two old horses.
- There is great power in establishing and maintaining routines. When someone counts on you, it’s important to come through for them.
- Spend some amount of time every day in nature. Allow yourself to feel cold, hot, windblown, or wet – whatever Mother Nature brings. Notice the sense of aliveness that you feel, and do what you can to increase the feeling. So much opens up to us when we step out of our climate-controlled life into the wild.
- Pay attention to the small details. Remember that we live in a beautiful world. Sometimes we have to look to find it, but beauty is always there.
- It’s good to make new friends, but never forget your herd. They are your source of strength, comfort and safety. Loyalty counts!
- Learn to forgive. Not a one of us is perfect. At one time or another, we all screw up, make a bad decision, don’t follow through, say something hurtful, or blunder our way through one thing or another. We are perfectly imperfect.
- Set healthy boundaries. Don’t let others push you around. Stand up for what you believe.
- Trust your instincts.
- Tune in to your needs. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re thirsty, drink. If you want to nap in the sun, by all means do it.
- Give your heart freely. Love others with enthusiasm and openness.
- Kick up your heels now and then.
There’s an old saying that goes something like this:
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Other than the fact that I don’t like shaming anyone, especially myself, this aphorism has been quite apropos of late.
It seems Pepper is in a holiday mood.
She’s having fun spilling the bucket of hay cubes and giving me a chance to pick them up.
It’s a horse version of the good old-fashioned Easter egg hunt.
Here’s where the learning opportunity for me comes in.
I know she’s fixated on those darned cubes. Doesn’t want to finish her grain when that bucket of yummy snacks is in plain sight.
Some days I’ve taken to hiding it in the back seat of the car.
Out of sight, out of mind. (I seem to be on a roll with clichés today!)
But, and this is a key point, NOT every day.
And on the days I don’t listen to my wiser self, I get to participate in the hay cube hunt.
You see Pepper waits until I’m busy putting Bud back in the pasture.
My hands are full.
My attention is occupied.
Then stealthy as a ninja, she walks away from the car to the fence post where I’ve foolishly set the bucket of cubes.
One innocent nudge from a mare’s nose and the hay cube hunt is in full swing.
She’s nibbling them up as fast as she can. And I’m bent over picking them up and piling them back in the bucket, as fast as I can.
You may wonder, “Couldn’t you keep the bucket on the ground?”
It’s a good question. And yes, I could.
In my defense, some days I do keep the bucket on the ground. Just not every day.
You may also be thinking that I’m a darned slow learner.
I’m not sure what that’s about.
Stubborn is the best word I can come up with, but I’m not sure it exactly fits.
Do you sometimes find yourself doing the same thing time and time again, even when you know the consequences are not something you want?
Like eating that third or fourth or even fifth piece of fudge.
What keeps us making poor choices when we know better?
Please tell me you can relate.
Misery loves company!
P.S. The first person to comment below and name all the cliché’s I used in this post gets the satisfaction of becoming a card-carrying member of the word police.
Maybe it comes from teaching preschool for so many years.
With three-year-olds, it helps to think things through and be ahead of the game. Seriously, preschoolers are great life coaches.
But lately I’ve realized that I don’t want to be in charge.
More to the point, I’m not in charge of anything or anyone other than myself. Truth be told, that’s always been the case.
I just didn’t recognize it.
Or want to acknowledge it.
There is a false headiness that comes with thinking that maybe you’re in charge of everything.
And there is also a ton of pressure.
Pressure that I don’t want anymore.
Events in the pasture this summer have elegantly illustrated this for me.
You may recall that Pepper was taken away from the Herd of Oldsters when Beau/Fred cut her out to be in his harem.
It made me mad. Really mad.
I worried about Pepper.
I worried about Bud.
I didn’t like Beau/Fred at all.
And off and on for most of the summer I was stirred up.
Because I couldn’t change this. Oh, I briefly considered moving our animals to another boarding facility. But I knew it wouldn’t be in their best interests. This is their home and their friends. It was nothing more than a random thought.
I knew better. Honestly I did!
Fast forward to the middle of October.
Pepper isn’t so interested in Fred, and he is definitely not as interested in her.
The big drama is gone.
Miss P. is back hanging out with her homeboys much of the time.
When we pull up to the gate to feed, the five Oldsters greet us.
Just like old times.
My takeaway lesson? I have several:
- It’s perfectly all right to not be in charge. In fact it feels good to let go.
- Animals (and people) will work things out when you let them.
- The only life I can really change is my own.
So there you have it – my big “aha moment.” Seems like I’ve been down this road before. Life has this sneaky way of giving us opportunities to learn the things we need to learn.
Here’s hoping I’ve finally got this one!
How about you? Any big aha moments lately?