Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Tuesday with Tucker

So my birthday was yesterday.  Which turned what would have been an ordinary Tuesday (make the bed, feed the cats, sit in traffic, go to work, be annoyed by everything, sit in traffic, ride the horse, pour the wine) into a Tuesday that stuck me with the sort of melancholy that only comes with an occasion that forces you to reflect on your past year and take stock of your life and count your chickens every other dangerous metaphor you want to throw in there (New Years can also do this.  Be forewarned).  As Anne Lamott says, "The worst part about celebrating another birthday is the shock that you're only as well as you are."

I don't particularly like my birthday, because let's face it, adult birthdays are let downs.  If you're not a four-year-old in a party dress waiting for the ponies to arrive, it's kind of inevitably disappointing. It's what I've come to recognize as my birthday malaise.  I think forcing myself to be happy and chipper and in a good mood all day because people are wishing you happy birthday so that's how you're supposed to react kind of zaps all my energy, and leaves me longing to climb back under the covers and wait for the day to pass.  Compound that with certain people who made sure that I felt as unspecial as possible yesterday and I was feeling pretty down.  I wanted to tell them that I already felt pretty unspecial, so they really needn't bother, but I didn't.  (Side note.  It amazes me that adult women can be as mean as middle-schoolers.  I can't be the only one who still encounters this as I get older.)

Birthdays, like Valentine's Day and all other holidays, create this expectation that you're supposed to have special plans and have a really fun day planned and get treated like someone who's really important.  But when that's not the case, when your day is just an ordinary Tuesday, those well-meaning comments can feel like digs. Even though they're not.  Even though people are just saying exactly what they've been conditioned to say when they say, "so, any special plans this evening?"

But it made me feel like snapping at people.  I wanted to remind them that I'm single and I live alone and I've had kind of a crappy year, so of course I don't have special plans.  Yes, as I said in my last post, I'm figuring out how to be happy and grateful and content with my new life, and in honest moments (as opposed to morbid, self-pitying moments) I have zero desire for marriage or a family and I love my quiet little cottage.  But yesterday... although externally I was humming right along, liking all the facebook posts and cheerfully answering texts and eating my birthday cupcake, inside I was throwing a major pity party for myself.  Despite the 100+ people saying nice things to me via text and social media, I was barely holding it together.

These flowers prompted many remarks.
All of which were met with a grumpy "no they're not from a boy."
But then I got to the barn, and my friends were waiting with wine and flowers, and I shared a carrot cake cupcake with Tucker and Goose.  And I had my first genuine laughs of the day, without even a hint of awkward fake laughter that's barely covering up the sheer existential dread. What would we do without horses?  And horse girls!

Carrot cake is delicious
The frosting not so much
But - and this is important.  Do not go feeling bad for me. I did plenty of feeling bad enough for myself yesterday to cover all of us.  And for my facebook friends, don't regret wishing me a happy birthday or telling me to have fun or any of the other lovely things you said.  I loved them.  They made the day palatable.  They reminded me not to be so glum.  You all reminded me that I have no reason not to be happy about my life-stock and the number of my chickens.

I love this photo
Remember Eeyore's birthday party?  When Eeyore is all gloomy because he can't sing and dance on his birthday, and then Pooh and Piglet give him an empty honey jar and a popped balloon and he's happy again?  It was basically that, only slightly less adorable.  And ended with an empty wine bottle, rather than an empty honey pot.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My Summer

I know, I've been away just about all summer.  Allow me to explain.

I deliberately put competing and training (and sometimes even horses in general) on the back burner, for possibly the first time in my life.  I needed a pressure release valve, and that was it (since I can't exactly not work all summer, or not pay bills all summer, or not move to a new town, or avoid any of my usual sources of stress). I needed something that was easy to take off my plate, something that wouldn't really have any consequences if I just didn't do it.  Since Tucker had a little time off for his aforementioned injecting-all-the-things situation, and since we are right smack in the middle of First and Second levels in terms of our skills, this was a pretty easy choice.  

Not the least bit worried about his summer curriculum
It gave me the freedom not to feel guilty if I had a few days in a row where I didn't make it to the barn, or if I had social, non-horse plans on the weekend, and to go on a week's vacation to the beach. I needed it.  Things I did instead of showing:

Hung out with my nieces 
Took beach selfies
Saw lots of pretty sunsets
Went camping in the rain
Went swimming with baby dogs
Of course, it also meant that I didn't have much material for blogging, but I kind of figured that would happen.  The good news is that I'm still a crazy horse girl and even though I told myself I was under no obligation to do so, I still wanted to ride and work on our goals and spend as much time as humanly possible with this guy.  

I mean, look at him.
So, I did.  And even though we weren't really chasing goals, he has continued to thrive, and we have made tiny incremental progress toward the skills we need for Second Level.  Shoulder-in is coming right along.  I'm figuring out what a collected trot should feel like.  His counter-canter is getting better and better.  I'm struggling a little bit less with sitting his trot (but barely).

We've been working on canter-walk-canter transitions. Progress is very, very slow.  A month ago, if I practiced them two days in a row, Tucker either threatened to rear or threw his head in the air and took off like a terrified camel.  This past weekend, we did them Sunday and Monday, and Monday's transitions were better than Sunday's.  So, he's slowly figuring it out.  The next step is convincing him that after a canter-walk-canter transition, he can go forward again.  Since the test will require him to do three in a row and then do a medium canter.  Gulp.

We can now get through 2-1.  It's pretty messy and not ready for public viewing yet and requires some extra circles on occasion, and we walk for way more steps than we will once we start showing in the canter-walk-canter transitions.  But that means we'll be ready by next Spring when I'm going to pick up showing again.  (See, even when I don't have goals, I still have goals.  It's the blessing and curse of being Type-A.)

Three musketeers
The other reason I haven't been blogging is that I started writing in my journal again.  I had stopped writing when I was with Ethan, and I used to write almost every night.  One of the signs of trouble in that relationship is that I was never allowed to be alone.  I couldn't go sit in the other room and read, or write for a bit before bed, or just be by myself for a while, without causing a massive fight. Time to myself is something I've learned that I will always need, and will be non-negotiable in every relationship from now on.  

I had a lot of things that I needed to write privately about.  I needed to write about how the heck I ended up in the situation I found myself in last Spring. How did I turn into that person? How did I lose touch with all my friends? How did my life turn into constantly taking care of someone else, and forgetting to take care of myself? Where did my self-esteem run off to? Where did all this anxiety come from?  Why did I always think everyone was mad at me?

My alone time has been my most favorite thing about this summer. I forgot how much I like my own company. But my mind can get a little too busy sometimes, so writing (especially before bed) helps me quiet it down. I write about Ethan, sometimes things that I wouldn't want to admit to anyone out loud, sometimes things that are a little too melodramatic for public consumption. I write about stuff from way back in my childhood and I'm making connections between old patterns and current patterns. You know, all that emotional/mental hard work it takes to be a just barely functional human.

Fully functional cat.  Complete lack of mental anguish.
And I needed to write about a new someone, but this thing is so new that I can't really say anything about it here.  All I will tell you is that I cannot even say his name without smiling. It's new and it's fun but I also have a truckload of baggage to work through.  Trust me when I tell you that I needed to write about that privately. 

So, unless they publish my memoirs posthumously, you'll probably never get to read all that stuff. But it was helpful for me to write, even if it never gets read.  I missed you all though, as I always do when I take a break from blogging.  And now the missing-you feeling has taken over the needing-to-be-alone feeling that I had a couple months ago.  So you can expect that I'll be back to posting and reading and commenting. And telling you all about this boy.  Who is still my heart and soul, wrapped up in a big brown package.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Tending My Own Acre

The radio silence around here is not because things are boring and uninteresting, or because I have things I can't blog about (although I do have some wonderful secrets these days!), or because I'm not riding.  Just the opposite, actually.

I've been tending my own acre.  I stole this idea from a post I read on Anne Lamott's facebook page a couple of weeks ago.  (Anyone else follow her?  She's awesome.  I found her in a TED talk a few years ago and just adore her.)  Somehow, after 35 years of life, I looked around and realized that I was working really hard on helping other people with their acres.  I can look back on childhood and adolescence and early adulthood and find a lot of stops along the way that lead to this.  I will probably always do this to some extent.  I am a fixer, to a fault.  

But lately I have been doing things that make me happy more often.  I've been spending quiet evenings at home in my lovely cottage with my adorable cat, watching whatever I want to watch, reading whatever I want to read, listening to the music I like, eating whatever I feel like cooking (or not cooking!).  Sitting in the hammock listening to the cows.  At first it felt selfish, but now it feels good.

I've had lovely weekends lately.  I farm-sat for a friend a couple of weeks ago and it felt like a mini-vacation.  Her place is beautiful, and all her animals are just so sweet and easy to be with.  



Tucker and Fuzzy
best buds
DQ invades H/J barn

I have been cuddling every dog I can get my hands on.  I swear lately they all seem to just know I need love.

Sammy & Linus
Thea & Milo
I have been spending quality time with some of my favorite people, doing fun things, and not letting myself feel too guilty if that means Tucker gets an extra day off.

Camden Yards
This man has been sick, which is terrifying, because I cannot yet fathom the world without him in it.

But like the Superhero I've always believed him to be, he is recovering and strong and in good spirits, and amazing his doctors.  I sat in the hospital waiting for him to go into surgery, and my grandmother nudged me to wheel her chair closer to his bedside.  So I did, and they held hands.  "There, that's what he wanted," she said.  And I was in that moment so thankful to have this example of true love in my life.

I had a great ride this week.  It was drizzly and humid and gross out, but I dragged myself to the barn anyway and climbed on.  Tucker started off rooting the reins out of my hands and I had this moment of panic because I had no idea what the "right" way to fix it was.  I decided to just keep going on with my ride and talk to Amy about it in my upcoming lesson.  And the more I worked him, concentrating on getting him straight and forward and trying to feel where that errant right hind leg was at all times, the rooting went away.  

We ended on true, solid, correct contact.  Moving off my leg, between my hands, taking the bit, in balance.  And I realized the problem just went away on its own and there was no need to panic in the first place about what the "right" way to fix it was.  And then I realized there were much larger lessons there to be learned, and I once again thanked the heavens that I have this horse in my life to teach me these things.

I'm tending my acre.  And it's beautiful. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Game Changer (or, Why Everybody Wants to Be Us)

There comes a time in everyone's life where an idea comes along that changes everything. Sometimes, that idea takes flight, and turns itself into a plan.  And then that plan gets legs, and becomes action.

By way of background, for those of you who may be new to the blog or new to my life, the Wine and Pony Club is a thing.  Well, I mean, it's not really a thing, there's no official club.  It's just that I love wine and I love ponies and whenever possible I try to combine those two things.  And it turns out I'm not alone in this.  Hence, Wine and Pony club.  Membership is free, voluntary, and open to all who like wine and/or ponies.  You're welcome to join.  Or start your own local chapter.

As I've mentioned on the blog before, mimosas and trail rides go perfectly together.  And here is where the game changer comes into play. This past weekend we decided to seriously up our mimosa game.  With on the go pouches.  Filled with the breakfast beverage of champions, orange juice and prosecco.

My barn friend Alyssa found them on the internet and they clipped perfectly to the d-rings on our saddles.  I used a double-end snap for mine to make it easier to get to.

The weather in NJ was perfect this weekend for a trail ride, sunny, breezy, just hot enough that you didn't really feel like working them.  I managed to recruit a fourth person to join us in the driveway with "do you want to come on a trail ride?  We have mimosas."  (Which, incidentally, is the best pick-up line in the world.)

Look at these views!

Snack/mimosa break

On the way home again
If this isn't living the good life, I don't know what is.  These days I am just so happy.

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Good Weekend

Friday night I had a fantastic ride with Tucker.  There were lots of cavaletti and baby x's set up in the ring so I spent the whole ride trotting and cantering through those exercises.  He was focused and forward and seemed to be really enjoying himself.  He had a bit of a hard time understanding a row of canter rails (I think they were set a bit long for him) and kept breaking and changing his lead (???) through them, but I just kept adding them in until he figured it out.  I tried my best not to hold his hand too much and see if he could read the question himself, and he did!  Eventually he cantered through and bounced them and didn't try to change his lead or break to trot, so I gave him big pats and let him cruise around the ring on a long rein at the trot and quit on that note.  Good boy.  

A Tucker at the end of the rainbow
Saturday was the wedding, which was an absolute blast.  Bride was beautiful, weather was perfect, food was great, company was fun.  Just the kind of night I needed.  It's been far too long since I've had a chance to party with this girl (my lovely sister-in-law, my best friend, who I introduced to my brother about 12 years ago).

Sunday I spent the day at my grandparents' house, floating in a pool, hanging out with my nieces.

I'm not a kid person, never wanted my own, don't have the patience for them, but I absolutely love these two little girls.  

Their newest thing is face-timing with Tucker.  They call my phone in the evenings when they know I'm at the barn and ask to see him.  Adorable.

A very good weekend, indeed.  I woke up with a smile on my face today, for the first time in weeks. It feels like I'm turning a corner.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Two Lists

Things that Made Me Happy this Week:

1.  I had great rides on Tucker.  He is soft and bendy again.  I need to work on getting him to go forward but that's a much easier task now that he's using himself correctly.  Soft and bendy and not hanging on my left rein is a huge improvement.  He feels a whole lot more comfortable and he's relaxed and quiet.  Amazing what a full set of functional joints will do for a guy!

2.  I love coming home to the cottage.  It's pretty and quiet.  I look outside and all I see are green fields and red barns and cows.  I look around and think about what kind of art I'd like to find for which space and what little additional pieces of furniture I'd like to hunt down.  I love that I can decorate it any way I want to.

3.  Sterling is very happy with our new living situation.  He is following me from room to room. Wherever I go, he goes too.  If I'm making dinner, he hangs in the kitchen.  If I'm watching tv, he curls up on the couch.  When I get out of the shower he's sitting patiently outside the bathroom.  I had a friend over for dinner and he hung out under the dining room table.  He spends the whole night curled up on the bed.  This is all new behavior for him.  He has always come to greet me at the door when I get home, and he's a very friendly cat, but he's never been quite so attached to me.  He either knows I need company or he's just happy the whole place is just ours.

4.  One of my best friends came over and I made us a nice dinner.  I barely saw her when I was with Ethan, I don't really know why.  Was it because I was always taking care of Ethan?  Was it because I always felt like things were strained between them, so we had to make plans without our respective other halves?  I don't know.  But we live close to each other now, so she's back in my life on a more consistent basis and it's going to be good.  Cottage martini nights are a go.

5.  My brother took me out to lunch and we split a bottle of wine on a beautiful day, in the middle of the week.  It was a treat, and a pick me up.  Brothers are so good like that.

6.  In response to my last post, one of my friends offered to give me a TV she isn't using.  The generosity and capacity for giving and caring that my friends (both in person and online) have shown me lately is astounding.  They are lifting me right up out of all this sadness.

7.  I made friends with a baby cow.  She licked my hands.  I'm in love.

8.  I went out and bought myself a really pretty new dress and shoes for a wedding I have this weekend. There was a good sale so I didn't have too much buyer's remorse about spending money on myself (I never buy clothes) and it made me feel good. It's going to be a fun wedding.  At least, I'm going to make sure I have fun.  I'm not going to allow myself to get drunk and sad.  I'll be drunk and happy and dancing instead!

9.  I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning talking to a very old friend.  Someone who understands me better than anyone.  It was very much something I needed.

Things that Have Made Me Sad this Week:

1.  I had this realization that my life story has changed.  I had this story of my life in my head, that I had a bunch of failed relationships up until my early 30s, many of which ended due to how much time/money/attention I spent on my horse, and then I met Ethan, who loved horses, and loved animals, and loved me, and everything changed.  And we bought a house with land, and turned it into a farm, and everyone lived happily ever after.  But that's not the story anymore.  Ethan was just another failed relationship, and I'm back to being single.  It's his house, not our house.  I know that now I have room to create another story, but the disappointment I feel makes me sad.

2.  I dream about Ethan every night.  In the dreams we are happy and in love and I feel so good. They feel completely real. Waking up from that in the middle of the night is soul-crushing.  The mind plays tricks on you, and it sucks.  It's my subconscious giving me what I can't have, or something like that. It will go away with time, but yeah, it sucks.

3.  I'm still having a hard time letting go of all the things he said to me.  I keep telling myself that it wasn't all bad and I don't have to feel like a giant failure and I'm not screwed up even though he said I was.  Sometimes I even have to go back through our old messages to convince myself that I didn't make it all up, that he really did love me (or at least he said he did?) and I did make him happy at some point.  But it's painful to try so hard at something and still have it all fall apart without warning. I really didn't see it coming.  Just days before everything ended I stopped on my way home to pick up his favorite candy as a nice surprise.  And then suddenly he was saying what a horrible relationship we had and how we'd be better off going our separate ways, and I should probably find somewhere else to stay.  I'm still trying to make sense of it, even though it will probably never make sense.

4.  I have this nagging feeling of what other people must be thinking.  (I know, it's never a good idea to focus too much on what other people think of you.)  I'm sure he's repeated to his family some of the things he said to me, that I'm ungrateful and spoiled and I want everything to be my way and I'm always mad at him and nothing he does is ever good enough. I know none of that is true, but they have no way of knowing that.  I did care about these people and it hurts to know that they probably believe these terrible things about me (and I don't blame them for it, my family blindly takes my side too).  I feel like I ruined his siblings' wedding pictures for all eternity because I'm in them.

5.  This past weekend he was at a wedding (which I thought I was going to, but since he waited until dumping me to book his flight, I guess he never planned on bringing me along) with a big group of his friends.  I thought it wouldn't bother me much to see the pictures, but boy, it did.  These people had become my friends, too, they were people I looked forward to seeing, people I cared about. I know that most people have had relationships fail and they understand how these things can go.  But I have these awful thoughts about what kinds of things he's told them about me.  In weak moments, I envision them telling him that they never liked me anyway and he's better off without me.  I don't think that's how they really feel, but again... the mind plays tricks.

6.  I'm mad at myself, because when I met Ethan I was happy.  I had a good life, I was content.  I had learned ways of making sure that loneliness didn't get the better of me.  I had accepted that I was better off as a single person and that love and marriage and being half of a couple isn't for everyone. I even went so far as to say that coupling is just a false construct that society has convinced us we need, that marriage is an antiquated concept, that love is an imaginary thing that industries made up in order to sell more greeting cards and diamond rings and houses.  Then I met him.  And I let myself believe that I could be like everyone else.  I wanted to believe so badly that I let myself become all attached and vulnerable and invested in a guy who would inevitably leave me because that's just how these things seem to go.  And now I have to pay the price, because I'm sad, and I don't want to be sad.

There are lots of things in my life to be happy about. These things have been enough to get me through the last three weeks, to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and even to make me smile and laugh.  You'll notice the first list is longer than the second list, which is awesome. But the other stuff is still in there too, and I want to be honest on the blog and not pretend it's all rosy and baby cows and happiness and sunshine.  But there ARE baby cows and happiness and sunshine too.  So, the short answer is that I'm going to be okay.  It's just... it sucks until it doesn't.