To me the word “hindsight” smacks of regret, and worry, and wasted energy, but for this exercise I’ll lay aside my misgivings and share a brief examination of some things I wish I’d done, in hindsight, in 2014.
This year has been a time of tremendous growth and recovery on so many levels. In particular, after three years of adrenal fatigue malaise I’m finally feeling more robust and vital.
Perhaps I have a trip to Italy in early June to thank for that.
(Hindsight: how much sooner would my energy have improved had I gone to Italy for two weeks in June each of the previous three years? Hmmmm … )
For two glorious weeks we indulged in la dolce vita. We delighted in the exquisite flavours of non-GMO foods; basked under the unrelenting Tuscan sun; devoured daily doses of delectable gelato and, of course, took in all the marvellous sights and sounds that define this ancient nation.
We landed in beautiful Florence for a few days; spent a tranquil week at a magnificent villa in Tuscany, and revelled in the unique experience that is Venice. It was the vacation of a life time and, I believe, an important milestone on my healing path.
(Hindsight: more gelato would have been good … )
Then, in late June, I began a six-month course in Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning. By the end of it I was certified as a practitioner in this profound healing modality. A happy side effect was my own healing in ways I had not previously imagined.
This is another reason, I believe, the adrenal fatigue has become less chronic.
(Hindsight: if only I’d known about it sooner, I probably would have signed myself up ages ago … (sigh) … )
But this is my point about hindsight … to me life unfolds as it should. The best we can hope is to be, and make the most of, every moment.
I do my best not to hold grudges; not to make comebacks. Most people can’t help who they are ~ not that this gives them an excuse to be belligerent or rude or ignorant or insensitive ~ but to engage in their negative energy is, for me at least, a waste of my own valuable resources. As well, if I were to beat myself up for every little thing I wish I’d done but hadn’t had the presence of mind to do, there wouldn’t be much of me left. Quite frankly, I’ve spent far too much of my life doing that anyway.
If the adrenal fatigue has taught me anything it’s to release the need to stress unnecessarily and to save my energy for the things that make me feel good about myself and my contribution to the world.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that my life really started to change for the positive at the beginning of the year when I moved my horse, Shakespeare (Bear), to a new barn and began to work with a new coach. Notwithstanding the fact that I wear the badge of a woman-of-a-certain-age I feel like I’ve been given a second chance to learn and grow in my equestrian sport of choice ~ dressage.
There’s a long road ahead, but at least now I know that Bear and I are on a good one.
And so now, I thrive!
(Hindsight: it would have been a good idea to move my horse earlier, but I’ve already beaten myself up enough about that one. Where we are now is where we’re meant to be and the timing of December 31, 2013 was right. Prior to that I was too debilitated with adrenal fatigue symptoms to make such a decision or move. So, it’s all good … )
There is none,
I sit here, void, and
It’s writer’s block that
Bogs me down.
The channel closed;
My smile a frown.
I patiently await a sign,
A notion that
Might just be mine,
That from the Ether
And soon to Earth
Through me be penned.
But somehow it
A shift in
Must be wrought
So ’til that time I
Wait and wait and
Wait and wait and wait,
Til once again Muse
Can be free
With words and thus
I was 10 years old at the time and my form teacher at school had issued a challenge during an English lesson to write a poem for spring. It would have been this time of year, in fact.
I wrote it. Handed it in.
A few days later the teacher was distributing the marks and asking some of us to read our poems to the class.
On my paper he’d written “Very Good!” but in front of the class he asked me, “Are you sure you didn’t copy this from somewhere?”
I was a tender and insecure child being raised in a broken home and in the shadow of my mother’s operatic glory. To have the light shone on me at all was difficult enough but to be accused, perhaps even in jest, that the work I’d handed in was not my own totally mortified me. I defended myself, of course, and he seemed to accept it, but I have never forgotten how ill it made me feel to have someone question my integrity as a writer.
I know this poem by memory. To me it is one of my greatest early writing achievements. If I ever publish a proper book of my best poems this will have pride of place on the first page.
All other writing has sprung from this creative moment. It was the first time I saw myself as a writer and, ironically, the first time (and hopefully the last time) I was accused of plagiarism.
There was a huge gap of time before I was able to see myself as a writer in adulthood. Though I kept journals and occasionally wrote poetry I had disassociated when I was growing up so pursuing dreams and cultivating my talents was beyond my comprehension or ability.
It wasn’t until a kindly woman, my boss at the time, gave me a good, swift kick in the proverbial derriere (I was in my late 20s) that I began to awaken from my deep creative malaise and see myself as a writer, perhaps for the first time. I was working as her administrative assistant in the corporate relations department of a real estate association, and she saw something in me she thought needed cultivating. However, she had to threaten to fire me before I was able to wake up enough to see it myself.
This incredible woman waded through the muck of my unconsciousness to find something long hidden and almost lost, and gave me the opportunity to reclaim it. She taught me how to build an employee newsletter ~ research, write, edit, produce. It started at four pages and, as I got the hang of it, quickly grew to eight pages. Circulation about 150. I learned quickly and loved doing it. In time I was promoted to Editor of the association newsletter ~ a weekly publication circulated to more than 25,000 realtors in the Greater Toronto Area.
I suppose I share this to demonstrate the difference people can make in our lives, and to demonstrate that if we can only get out of our own way we might resurrect an important piece of our life puzzle.
Had my school teacher been more supportive and understood me and my life situation better he might not have been so free with his accusation and I might have had more confidence to pursue this obvious talent. There was no one at home to do this, so left to my own devices, confused and with nowhere to turn, my only alternative was to let it go. Even as a child it hurt too much to have my integrity questioned.
But, as I’ve learned, it takes just one person to see potential and show you what’s possible for you to start believing in yourself. And, as I am learning again in these middle years while pursuing a long-lost equestrian dream with a new coach, this can happen at any time in your life.
I didn’t understand it then, but I understand it now …
“I didn’t understand because I couldn’t understand, I wasn’t ready, Joe.” So said Magnolia as she gazed absently out the window trying to explain her life to me.
“For a time in our lives are eyes are not open wide enough to see what really matters. Our vision is narrowed by the prejudices and the illusions with which others, chiefly our family because they are the ones who first influence us, endow us. We learn to see the world their way, and for most of us the view is disconnected. They have a need to be validated through our eyes” She pauses. ” Still, if their ways are harmful, should we then perpetuate their dysfunctional view just to seek their approval?”
It’s a good question, purely rhetorical, but I answer anyway.
“What’s this got to do with me?” I respond, my ignorance laid bare. She doesn’t miss a beat.
“You are in danger of remaining a slave to the beliefs of those who have come before; of those who have patterned your life,” she says, convinced of her truth. “You are angry all the time, as displayed by your need to curse at the slightest provocation. You criticize where none is warranted. You are defensive to the point of being hostile. You hurt the people who matter most, including yourself, but don’t see it. You do not see it because you are not ready to understand there is another way.”
I suppose I could get defensive as I stand here in Magnolia’s glow. But I can’t, because that’s just it. She is glowing. She is so serene I feel something I don’t know I’ve ever felt before … a sense of peace.
Could she be right?
Could it be that my hostile way of dealing with life is due to an inability to see my Self beyond the programming of my forebears?
“It can be undone … to a degree,” she says, as if reading my mind. “But you must be willing to become self-aware; to explore the rooms of your soul that are darkest and frighten you the most. You must shed light in them, rummage through the crowded closets of negative thought and empty them of everything that clouds your ability to see your own truth. Everything that makes you unhappy.”
“But how will I know what I am looking for?” I ask, somewhat bewildered.
“You will know it when you feel it.” She says, again with a confidence that creates a longing in me for my own. “It’s really quite simple when you consider the thoughts, ideas, experiences, people, places and anything else that makes you unhappy, miserable, sad, angry, devalued, diminished, distraught and all other manner of negative emotion. These are the things that need to be explored; that need to be made peace with so you can release them and make room for something new and more life affirming.”
“Like what?” I ask.
She turns to me and smiles.
“Make peace with yourself and you make peace with the world. You promote peace around you, Joe. Everything that makes you truly happy; that brings you such joy you can’t wait to share it with everyone; that causes your heart to heal and overflow with love. When you no longer feel the desire to express yourself through expletives or defend yourself all the time; when there is no need for attention at any price. The price of your dignity; your self-worth; your Self.”
She ponders for a moment.
“Where there is hatred, Joe, there can never be peace. If it is not peace you feel inside, what is it? You must decide your fate ~ to deteriorate in the face of hatred or grow in the heart of peace.”
Perhaps it’s just where I am in my life right now but for some reason this is making sense. I am middle-aged and exhausted in the wake of my reactionary existence.
I see how my life has been misguided, and possibly sabotaged, by the belief systems of people who knew no better than to influence me with their own dysfunction.
I’m beginning to see that what there is, what I have experienced, is not all.
I did not understand this before, but I understand it now.
And when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
Hmmmm … interesting where the free writing process will take us.
This is written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words. It started as a free writing exercise, calling upon the memory of a dream I had a couple of weeks ago, an experience in a restaurant where you eat in the dark and years of therapy.
This is an excerpt from a novel I started writing many years ago. It’s been parked in a file folder on my computer for a while and when this challenge came up I thought I’d take another look at this scene and give it a re-write … without the ending, of course. it’s virtually a new piece. It could still use some work, but if I don’t post it now I’ll miss the challenge deadline … and perhaps never post it.
It’s the late afternoon of a mid-August day. A storm has broken inside of me I cannot quell. I am as a demon possessed, galloping my poor horse, Pandora, at breakneck speed up the country lane to our doom. Riding her too hard and too fast for the extraordinarily hot and humid conditions. Yet, I am unaware; irrational; lost to some evil spell.
When we reach Iron Will Hill I yank Pandora to a stop. The mare steps nervously as I raise a shaking hand and brush the sweat from my brow. It’s only then I am reminded of the throbbing ache in my sprained left ankle, an injury sustained much earlier in the day.
I shouldn’t be riding. Shouldn’t be out in this heat. Shouldn’t be pressing my mare beyond her endurance. But I can’t help myself. I’m at wit’s end.
Ignoring my ankle, I shelter my eyes from the sun disappearing in a blaze of glory behind thickening summer storm clouds. I survey the field. It takes an iron will to negotiate most of these jumps, but today I’m not even thinking about that. All I feel is this overwhelming impulse to over-correct.
I’ve had enough. Enough of coach’s lack of confidence in me; enough of the constant berating and verbal abuse; enough of the punishing hours of training in the mid-summer heat for a championship for which, frankly, I simply no longer give a damn. The joy of competition has been beaten out of me ~ mind, body and spirit.
The trouble is I can’t seem to let it go. My coach, Joanne, is the only person who doesn’t get me. Even though we’ve worked together for several years she still insists on treating me as a commodity in her perpetual narcissistic drama. There’s no warmth. No humanity.
This is something I’ve only recently realized, and with this the realization that I have to leave. And, I am going to get out of here. I am. Now that I understand what’s going on here, I have to. Still, I feel so betrayed.
I’ve given so much of my own time to her cause. The accolades were never about me, only about building her training profile and business. And I’m tired of it. I’m done. I can feel myself toppling over the edge of a precarious emotional cliff. A cliff upon which I’ve been teetering for some time.
I’m in free-fall.
And as I fall I am, for some inexplicable reason, even more determined to prove myself to that evil woman.
“I’ll bloody show you, Joanne Milthorpe, even if it kills me …” I yell to the winds as I see, in the distance, Joanne’s pick-up truck roaring toward us up the dusty lane. “Too little, too late, you bitch!!”
I force Pandora into a trot, on the look out for our first fence. There’s a thunderstorm rolling in from the southwest. It’ll be here soon, but we’ll be done before then. I’m no fool.
This cross-country course is a favourite spot to ride in the summer months. We do a lot of hill work up here. It’s so beautiful with its long views over rolling countryside.
The course was designed by an Olympic event rider Joanne spared no expense to employ. Each meticulously landscaped natural jump offers two degrees of difficulty, and every week, during the eventing season, landscapers come to mow grass, trim shrubs and plant flowers. It’s another one of Joanne’s expensive obsessions. Another reason she depends on me to drum up business by winning in the show ring.
Against the backdrop of a darkening sky, the field takes on an ethereal quality. My heart thumps loudly in my chest. A tympanic crash of distant thunder underscores the adrenalin pulsing wildly through my veins. Pandora prances restlessly beneath me. I can feel the swell of her body rise and fall in rhythm with her laboured breath; feel the heat from her sweaty steel grey body.
And then she screams. A piercing, penetrating scream that slices through the thick, pre-storm silence. A plea for the safety of the herd. And even though we are a good distance from the stable yard Jezebel, Pandora’s anxious paddock mate, trumpets a frantic response. Pandora rears.
“Stop it, you cow!” I wail, and dig my spurs into her quivering sides.
As we canter down the hill, I hear the storm rumbling ominously, getting closer. A crack of lightning flashes across the sickly green sky, punctuated by the desperate siren call of the approaching pick-up’s horn. But I’m in the zone. Nothing can change my mind or distract me from our run to the Log Jam.
“Three-two-one ~ jump!”
I always count the last three strides. Force of habit, I suppose. As I give Pandora a dig with my heels she thrusts herself into the air, tucking those well-practiced front legs under her chin in a leap that might have cleared a fence twice the size.
“Wh … hoo!”
Oh, god, that feels good.
We round a turn to the left and head toward a big, boxy, jump Joanne calls the Chicken Coop. Pandora stumbles. I set her right; we rebalance and keep going.
I’m already beginning to feel better. There’s nothing like a natural high to chase the blues away.
As we approach the Coop I yell in Pandora’s ear. She twitches it, confused.
“C’mon, girl, let’s get this thing. … Three-two-one ~ jump!”
Again, Pandora’s powerful hind legs push the ground away, easily clearing the coop. The warm breath of the breeze against my face is such a thrill. Finally, I can breathe again.
We could stop now, but the momentum has grabbed me and I want just one more jump.
As we canter further down the slope to Basil’s Brush, Pandora stumbles hard enough to give me a bit of whip lash. It’s a wake-up call. I realize we must stop, but no matter how hard I pull on the reins there’s no response. She has the bit between her teeth and now all I can do is go with it.
So I do.
“C’mon, mare, we’re almost there. … Three-two-one …!”
I feel push, but no propulsion. Pandora has given it all she’s got but it’s not enough. I can feel her stagger in the air, her front feet dropping. I hear the gut wrenching sound of a front hoof knocking the solid rail hidden just below the top of the brush. It’s not a hard knock, but it proves unbalancing for my already exhausted horse.
Instinctively I grab for Pandora’s mane to rebalance. But, it’s no use. My normally sure-footed, beautiful mare, with barely enough strength to right herself let alone compensate for my shifting load on her back, wavers and mis-steps as she touches down.