Have you ever watched someone do something with their horse and thought, “That will never be me.” Or, even worse, had a trainer, experienced horse person or complete stranger (as they say in Texas “Bless their heart.”) tell you, in so many words, the same thing?
After the last blog, I got some feedback (more like a personal attack on a Facebook thread) from a stranger that felt like I’d been gut-punched. It made public a very private fear that we all carry, horses or not. “I’m a fraud.”
I can handle differences of opinion. Criticism even. But in a few sentences, this person crossed that line and made it personal.
I know it got under my skin because when I thought about writing this month’s blog, I felt as though I’d swallowed a bowling ball. I’m familiar with that weight since I used to carry it around like an expensive handbag because of a horse accident that left me hospitalized.
However, I also belong to an amazing writer’s group. I’ve never met most of them, but we all know what it’s like to write either publicly or privately. We all know the swallowed-a-bowling ball-I’m-a-fraud fear.
When I went to them with the feedback I’d received, looking for ways to stand back up after the punch in the gut, in return I got an outpouring of support. And humor. By the end of the day, I was laughing about it. My husband (who is also a writer) reassured and stood up for me. I went back and read all the comments I get from people who enjoy the blog. I re-read my writer’s group comments. I spent the next days only focusing on what was working and felt good, especially when that shady ol’ devil voice showed up inside my head and said: “You’re a fraud, and now everyone knows it.”
After several days, that voice had gotten almost non-existent. And yet, I was relieved that it was another month before I would sit down and write again. Here we are, a month later, my handbag of fear clutched beside me. What better way to exorcise this demon than writing anyway, about the very thing that the small, rolled up in a hole part of me wishes to keep silent about.
When it comes to anything we feel passion for (horses, climbing trees, baking, etc), when we share it we hope to share that passion for it too. Doing anything in front of people is nerve wracking because we know what it’s like to be human. As well as amazing kindness and goodness, we also have the capacity to be unkind, thoughtless, critical and mean.
Sharing your talent and your passion is an act of courage and extreme optimism. We are saying we won’t bow before criticism (bless its heart), we won’t yield to another’s judgment (or sometimes even our own), and we certainly won’t stop what we are doing and crawl back into our little hole.
So if you see another horse and rider, and you feel the need to say “That will never be me,” celebrate that. Because it won’t ever be you. YOU can be you, and your expression of horsemanship is uniquely between you and your horse. You know yourself, and your horse best. You know what feels right and good, and what doesn’t. I think where a lot of us get hung up is trusting ourselves. At some point, there comes a time when trusting who we are is the only choice we’ve got.
When and if the thought “That will never be me,” arises, try this. If you hear or think something that stings, find five more things that don’t. (Or conversely, remember my favorite bumper sticker: “Don’t believe everything you think.”) Talk to your friends – I bet they have a lot of ways to move beyond hurt feelings. Look at your horse’s soft and kind eye; there isn’t anything there but an appreciation of who you are. Every time that shady devil shows up to whisper in your ear, go back to the good stuff. Go back to your horse.
“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde