Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ebb and Flow of Life

                                    by Laura Crum

            Lately I have had conversations with women, both on the internet and in real life, who are sad because they no longer have a passion to pursue their activity of choice, be it horses or aikido or writing or what have you. The reasons vary—some women have gone through a traumatic event and just never could get back into their former activity, sometimes due to fear, sometimes due to depression and grief. Others have had life changes that forced them to work hard at full time jobs and they are just too tired to put much energy or emotion into the pursuit that they used to love. Still others have recently had a baby and discovered, just as I discovered myself, that it is very hard to pursue a sport/activity while raising a nursing child, especially if one also has a job. Others have health issues that make it impossible for them to ride (or train) the way they used to. Whatever the reason, the prevalent emotion is often sadness and a feeling of letdown, sometimes frustration, often guilt. So today I thought I’d talk about this.
            I have been through these ebbing periods in my life with horses—several times, for different reasons. And I find myself, this fall, once again in this place. Unlike other times, when I was younger, and felt somewhat aghast, this time it feels natural. I don’t have resistance, more like acceptance. Because after six years of pretty much non-stop trail riding with my son, this lovely autumn we’re not drawn to head out on the horses.
            The reason? I dunno, to be honest. My son is thirteen and has other interests. My own desire to explore our local trails has sort of run its course. I rode (and mapped) every trail that we could access from our home; rode the main loops hundreds of times over a six year period. During this time houses were built and the access to some of these trails was closed—which was somewhat discouraging. But some of the loops are still open. The last time I rode our “usual” loop to the Lookout was this summer and I found myself with a slight “been there done that” emotion. I haven’t been back up on the ridge since then.
            Our horses are all getting older. Lately we have been exercising Sunny and Henry lightly in the riding ring here at home a couple of days a week. I’m riding Sunny bareback—just for fun and because I strained a muscle in my shoulder and lifting the heavy roping saddle onto the horse hurts. So I piddle around on my little gold horse, and my son helps his twenty-five year old Henry to stretch his legs…and that’s it. It feels good to be horseback in the fall sunshine. And yet both of us are not currently drawn to do more with our horses.
            The thing is, this isn’t a problem. It is only a problem if I think we “ought” to do more. And there is no ought. Maybe because I’m older and I’ve been through these cycles before, I can readily accept the fact that I’m not motivated to ride much right now. I still love my horses; my heart lifts every day as I walk down the hill to feed and see them watching me with pricked ears and eager neighs. There is no part of me that doesn’t want them in my life. Right now my oldest horse, Gunner, is going through a rough patch, and my big priority in my “horse time” is being with Gunner, letting him out to graze and just rubbing on him and telling him how much I love him. This is what I’m currently drawn to do—and I’m OK with that.
            So, for me, these “ebb” periods in my life with horses are both natural and not an issue. I may return to a more vigorous horse life…and I may not. Either way is OK. I’m pretty sure that my son and I will see a few more views like this between the ears.

            But at the moment, this is what we are doing on this same lovely beach (my son catching a wave on his boogie board).

            Both are good.

            And hanging out in the barnyard with Gunner is good, too.

            Right now I’m planning to build a garden pool. I’ve got a few writing projects on tap. I’m enjoying my bareback “pony rides” on Sunny. My son is engaging in new activities and I think that’s good. I’m accepting that my riding life is in an “ebb” period. And so, for me, this is not sad or frustrating or guilt creating. It just is.


Mindy said...

I know what you mean, Laura - I find myself feeling the same way. In my younger days, I had an 8-year-old half Arab/half Welsh pony (Gypsy) Between trail guiding (how I worked off my board)and trail riding, I'd sometimes be in the saddle off and on for 8-10 hours a day three or four days a week. When Gypsy died and I got Cricket, I noticed that riding for a couple of hours at a time was plenty for me. We'd go to the occasional gaited horse show, but between getting ready for the show, getting to the show, then getting Cricket bathed, fed and the trailer unloaded, it was such a long day! I turned 61 this year and Lily has been with me for a little over two years. I board her at a farm on 7 acres, and tooling around the property is enough for me now. My friend trailers us to one of the forest preserves occasionally but again, while the ride is most enjoyable, it's the before/after work that's exhausting for me. I much prefer a short ride, giving her a good grooming and maybe a bath, and just hanging out, hand-grazing her. She's so much fun to be with and seems to enjoy our "hanging out" time as much as the riding time. Thanks for a great blog - I really enjoy reading them!

Laura Crum said...

Thank you, Mindy. I'm glad you enjoy my posts. I feel a lot like you do about horse time.

Val said...

There have only been a couple times in my life when I couldn't ride at least once per week: student teaching, which included a long commute and two night classes and now, since I am nursing my baby. That is my current hobby and my horse is waiting in the wings. I miss him, but I am dedicated to my baby the way I have been dedicated to him for six years. We will be together again.

Laura Crum said...

Val--I felt much the same as you when my child was a baby. And you know, we had many good years of riding together on my horse when he was between two and five, then a couple of years of him learning to ride on his pony, and most recently six straight years of trail riding together. That's a lot of horse time to look forward to with your little girl.

Anonymous said...

I've never looked on this as an ebb and flow, Laura, but you're dead right right. Whenever I've been on an "ebb" I've tended to beat myself up because I haven't been riding, but I guess it's better to accept it when I just can't ride and make the most of it when I can.
That said, there are times when all it takes is a little push and I'm off on a rising tide again...

Laura Crum said...

Martine--So true. I can be at an ebbing sort of place for months, and then one day, for no discernible reason, I am motivated to ride many miles...and this can go on for months and years. I have just come off of six years of pretty much non-stop trail riding--after maybe five years of riding very little. It's a mystery. But I do find acceptance, rather than guilt and beating oneself up, is, if not the better path, at least the more pleasant path.

Bonnie said...

Ha-ha! What a find! I stumbled upon Equestrian Ink and began to skim through and read a few of your blog-stories, Laura. So much seems to ring true with my own interests and desires, though the feeling is an unusual one - it is not often I hear women beyond 20 speak as I would. To read such thoughts from a woman older than myself who has experienced things similar to what I wish for is a special privilege. The horses, the plants - even an author! I hope to find one of your books soon.

When I was little I was introduced to horses, and later developed something of an obsession with them. But I moved house many times, and countries twice, and so horse-riding lessons were simply a sweet, short blessing. Soon I became a teenager, leaving my childhood desires for that endless anxiety that comes with wishing you were different, the pressure that comes with stereotypes and high-school cliques and plunging self-esteem. So I put my Horse&Pony encyclopoaedia away, and packed my figurines into boxes, and I forgot. I forgot my love for horses.
But there are moments when a scent catches the breeze, when a herd is glimpsed in a field, when an overheard conversation sparks longing in the heart. I could not really forget - there was never any chance of escape.

Years passed, lives changed, and I found myself married, dependent and increasingly frustrated at my own apathy. My husband did not understand why I was not motivated to do anything, and my laziness was repulsive to him. I felt his disgust, and I despaired at my hopelessness, my deepening lack of self-confidence. I fell into depression, away from the nature I loved, the unique language my brother provided, and any reason to excel. For five to eight weeks, my work standards fell dramatically. I didn't know what I was living for.
Finally, with two weeks of the school term to go, I perked up and scraped assignments, courage and smiles together in order to save SOME credit. The holidays came, and for a week I slept, ate, and slept some more. In that week it came to me. Stop LOOKING for a job - your whole life you have tried to be what everyone else expected you to be. Now is the time to advertise what YOU are; only this way will you find someone who wants what you can offer. And so I did. And when my question to the world of horsey-people was answered, that was the end of my biggest "ebb tide".

I now have begun work as a sort of novice stablehand, and it seems crazy that I had not started this earlier. The smell of horse, their snufflings as they inspect the wheelbarrow; the way the feed rattles into their buckets and the rustle of the hay; the hot buzzing of insects in the grass and the sweaty, rhythmic task of mucking out the paddocks. Even the simple freedom of the country, away from the concrete and steel. Here is home.
And then of course, their is the sweetest, friendliest horse I have ever met, and such a colour! A colour I had dreamed of... ruby, copper, gorgeous red bay. I can't wait to brush him, see his coat shine. So, I wait for next weekend.

This is my rising tide.

Laura Crum said...

Good for you, Bonnie. I took several jobs working for horse trainers in my 20's and they taught me so much. I wish you much joy in your future life with horses. And its lovely to be on a rising tide. Your comment made me smile (!) So glad you've enjoyed my posts.