*I changed the names of the horses for sake of the barn’s privacy and my daughter’s privacy.
As a part of my soul homework, I was reading Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening the other morning. “I have discovered, again and again, that I usually know what I need to do but just deny it, and it’s this small hesitation, this small resistance to enter what is real, that makes life feel neutral or out of reach,” he says in it.
He’s essentially stating that we know what to do inherently, but we deny ourselves this throughout our lives.
Since the third grade, my youngest daughter has been riding horses. Her favorite horse is *Chief, an American Paint and Quarter Horse mix.
She has never had much of a say in the horse she rides; the instructor selects the horse for her each week. She’s aware of my daughter’s skill level and wants to ensure her safety and the safety of the horse.
My daughter did not start riding Chief right away.
But Chief is the one she’s done most of her riding on.
My daughter learned to ride a horse from Chief.
When she’d had a bad week at school, he was her soft place to land. When she went to horse camp for the first time in fourth grade, he was her home away from home.
Chief was her first love.
When I first started writing on this blog, I witnessed other bloggers achieve levels of success considerably larger than what I was achieving. Some were gaining many followers, receiving book deals, and getting invited to speak at conferences. I expected that all of those goals should be my next move, and when they weren’t, I felt like I was failing.
Was I looking for all of that for myself? Not at all. I was having a good time with my blog where it was. I was getting my fair share of paid opportunities, and I had a good relationship with my readers. But despite all of that, I felt like I was a failure because I was comparing my version of success to someone else’s version of success.
I kept denying myself happiness because of those comparisons.
My daughter felt the pressure as well. The next step from cantering was jumping, but Chief wasn’t a jumping horse. She would have to leave him behind in order to jump. She saw her peers progress and didn’t want to be left behind.
So she advanced.
Initially, she enjoyed the adrenaline rush of jumping. She could even pay Chief a visit at the barn occasionally, but it wasn’t the same. He wasn’t the same anymore.
Then the pandemic hit, and she couldn’t ride a horse for a long time.
There were many twists and turns between the pandemic and present day, much too many to tell without you losing interest.
A few months ago, my daughter said to me, “I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and I’d like to go back to cantering. I don’t want to be in a jumping class. I want to be on Chief again.”
We asked whether this was possible, and it was.
We asked if this was possible, and it was.
But Chief wasn’t himself. He’d been acting up for another girl who was riding him. The handlers at the barn were having difficulty with him. They were bringing in veterinarians to figure out what was wrong with Chief. It was out of character for him to act this way.
On a walk with my daughter one day, I said to her that maybe she could understood what it was like. She too, had been going through some difficulties. That we all go through difficult times, and she needs to keep that in mind when riding the horses who are “difficult.”
So Ellie inquired if she may ride Chief in the following lesson. She knew the other girl from her old school and could empathize with her. She understood how difficult it was to love a horse while not understanding why he wasn’t cooperating. She offered to let Ellie the opportunity to ride Chief in the next lesson.
It took my breath away to see my daughter on Chief again.
While she was riding, I observed her talking to him. I knew she was telling him things only they know as she murmured into his ear.
She was afraid at first since he is a horse, and even the finest horse riders are in awe of the horses who are beneath them. But it was beautiful again within the first 20 minutes. I feel like my daughter and Chief knew each other in another lifetime because when they are in the room together, everyone can feel the electricity.
For so long I was preoccupied in how much I was teaching in home school, how many extra-curricular activities she was participating in,and whether she is learning enough.
Then she asked to be held back for a cantering lesson so she could get the chance to ride a horse whom she felt a connection, and I knew in that moment that she would be alright.
Maybe she struggles with division. Maybe she doesn’t know everything about photosynthesis.
But she is able to ask for what she truly desires, even if it appears to others to be a step backwards.
However, it is far from a step backward.
She is light years ahead of the rest of us.