Friday, April 27, 2012

Perception is NOT reality.....

"People say I'm the life of the party
'Cause I tell a joke or two
Although I might be laughing loud and hearty
Deep inside I'm blue

So take a good look at my face
You'll see my smile looks out of place
If you look closer, its easy to trace
The tracks of my tears..."

When you grow up with an abusive parent there are lessons you learn pretty fast...

  • Displaying weakness or vulnerability puts you at risk...
  • Hide imperfections or struggles to understand something and then go figure it out...
  • When someone is busy, stressed, or grumpy make yourself as invisible as you can...
  • Be ready to figure it out on your own, because most requests for assistance will go unanswer...
  • At the end of the day you are on your own and need to be able to survive that way...
As a child trying to stay safe in an unsafe environment these lessons serve you well, they keep the abuse to a minimum, but as you grow up and venture out into the world, they can often become a handicap. Because for most of us who grew up this way, we never stop seeing the world as unsafe and even when it is we automatically revert to putting on the charades we learned as survival tools.

This past week has been a great lesson for me in how this plays out for me in my life, particularly the first one. Because what trying to hide weakness or vulnerability leads to is wearing a mask for the world, a smile or a swagger that people often take as confidence or cockiness that in reality is nothing more than a shell to keep safe that inside you are scared to death.

This past week I lost two (horse) people from my life, that I actually considered friends, because they thought that what they perceived about me was reality. And while many of my friends have told me to move on, it is there loss and they werent really friends if they feel the way they do, it bothers me. Not even so much because they are gone from my life (in the end that may be better for me and them) but because they are gone because they judged me on what they thought I was and not who I am. And as I thought about it I realized this has always been the thing that bothered me about people in my life (especially those that get frustrated with me and walk away), that most people think I am someone I am completely not.

This all stemmed from the horse show this past weekend, but it started before then. Last Friday night in my group lesson one of these friends made a comment about me being so bent on winning. And at the time I responded but realize now nothing I would have said would have mattered, it is what she saw that she believed. I am guessing if you had asked most people how I felt going into the weekend they would have told you I was confident, thought I could win or cared about winning. The reality was so far from that. I have said it many times but I realize now that few have taken it to heart. I went into this with one goal, don't make a fool of myself and that was honest and sincere. I had NO expectations of winning anything. I saw myself failing in every class. It is part of why my reactions to winning were so big (something again mistaken as self absorption). I was SHOCKED at my placements, I still am. Quite frankly I consider them a fluke and go into the next show with even lower expectations of myself. I have written off my results as being "it was just the fun show".

I went into Sunday terrified, without any self confidence and expecting to be laughed at by those watching. I go into most things that way, expecting people are looking at me like the emperor with his new clothes. Yet that abused child in me knows better than to show that, so I go in like the victor, like I am so confident, but it is merely to protect myself. And it does that, but it also has down sides, one is how people see me, and the second is that I end up often going it alone, because people figure I have it all together and dont need help or support. I was really shocked this weekend that only one person (thanks Theo it meant a lot) took the time to ask how I was feeling, if I was ready, how I was doing and was there with a pep talk when I told him I was honestly scared out of my mind. I am venturing no one else even considered that, and that isnt an attack on anyone, I get it, I prevent that crossing people's minds when I play my role.

The second person this week that I lost was also lost because people dont see me, but this one is probably even more my fault. I was told this week that I have had it easy in how fast I have learned this horse stuff, that I made it to the top this fast because my instructor likes me. I think the perception people have gained, again because i hide my struggles, is that this has been an easy learning process for me or is now. I dont think anyone, including my riding coach, has a clue how hard this is for me. How much practice time I put in, with and without my horse. That my lack of depth perception makes learning patterns harder than I ever let on, so I take horsemanship patterns and run through them in my living room trying to figure out how to space things, let alone the hours and horse I have spent on Joker trying to learn to ride an even-ish circle. That the fact I made it through my cones in my trail pattern Sunday only happened because he and I have spent countless hours using a bunch of trees (where no one could see us) working on the timing of trotting cones and making corners on cones).  And do I want credit for all that, no, it was time I chose to invest and I am glad I did. But at the same time it does bother me that people cant see how hard I have worked for this. This hasnt been a given, no one gave me a free ride. From the first day I got on Snapper I have worked my ass off to do this. I have overcome major fears with trotting, I am still trying to overcome issues with loping (look at my videos my hand is still on that horn).

Beyond the two friends that walked, I know there were others who don't get me and took it the wrong way. I really went out of my way this weekend to deal with how I dressed, to worry about the details of how Joker looked. I went far beyond what the show required, most people wore jeans, sweatshirts and rode their horses as is. I dressed up, I had jewelry on, Joker was bathed, vacuumed, braided and beaded. I was asked more than once why I did so much and was even accused of showing off. People truly didnt get it, that this was all a way to cover the fact that I was completely freaked out inside about being seen by people and feeling so fat and ugly. I needed to do anything I could to make myself feel better about how I looked so that I could reach a confidence level high enough to let me ride into that arena. People who thought I was showing off had no idea I spent 12 plus hours and went to over a dozen stores just looking for a shirt that I would allow myself to be seen in. That for me how I looked and the fear of people seeing me and thinking I was "too fat to be riding" was nearly paralyzing. They had no clue when they were putting me down for over doing it that that was the armour I needed to even participate.

I cant end this post without thanking my best friend Kaye, she is the one person who DID get it this weekend. And I truly have no clue how I am going to do the rest of my shows without her here. What most people saw, and probably thought, was Kaye did SO much this weekend, she was my groom, my horse braider and cleaner, she put up with my attitude, she helped me buy clothes and do that marathon shopping to find one shirt, she kept me fed, she kept shoving water in me, she was to an outsider (and maybe even felt it at times) pretty much my show slave. But as with everything else there was so much more going on. Kaye gets me....Kaye knows when I stress i dont eat, Kaye knows I freak about how I look, Kaye knows that my body makes some things really hard (like getting down on the ground to scrub a horses hooves), Kaye gets that when I am stressed I get bitchy, impatient and short. But Kaye also knows my heart, that these things aren't me, that I am the most insecure, scared person in the world. That the outcome of this weekend was a total shock to me. And Kaye I hope you know for seeing me for who I am and standing by me anyway I love you more than words can express. I truly believe you are the one person on the planet who really KNOWS me! What am I going to do without you for the rest of my shows?????????????

Sunday, April 22, 2012

344 days later.....the story no one saw...

"I’m gonna take that mountain
Ain’t nothing gonna slow me down
And there ain’t no way around it
Gonna leave it level with the ground
Ain’t just gonna cross it, climb it, fight it
I’m gonna take that mountain"

Three hundred and forty four days ago I walked into Woodloch stables praying to live through the next hour of my life. I wanted nothing to do with horses and I couldn't believe I let a friend talk me into even trying to ride one.

Today I walked out of Woodloch with a blue ribbon and a host of other ribbons.

I still have a hard time believing the journey of the past year. How I went from terrified to exhilarated. From city slicker to cowgirl. Every day I have to remind myself this is all real. Even after today it still is hard to comprehend.

Our outcome today far surpassed my wildest expectations. Our placings were...

Showmanship 14 & Over - 4th place
Open Walk/Trot Horsemanship Rail - 3rd place
Open Horsemanship Rail- 7th place
Open Walk/Trot Western Pleasure - 2nd place
Open Western Pleasure - didnt place
Open Walk/Trot Horsemaship Pattern - FIRST PLACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Open Horsemanship Pattern - didnt place
Open Egg & Spoon - 6th place
Open Trail - 6th place!

A blue ribbon, any ribbon was not on my radar, even in a fun show. My goal was to not make a fool of myself, if I could have just reached that bar I would have walked away happy. I couldn't have even dreamed of reaching the achievements I did today.

But the real achievement today, the surprise I promised in the last post, had nothing to do with ribbons or placing, it had to do with conquering a personal goal, to regain something that was stolen for me.

Some of you will know this from reading previous posts, but very few people cheering for me today had a clue what really went on today. 16 years ago I was paralyzed on my right side (botched surgery) I had to relearn to walk, to use my hand. I got back to functional, but much of that time was little more. Two plus years ago I started working with a personal trainer and got back more mobility, riding has brought me even more, but there was still one piece I couldn't do, jogging. I have tried on the treadmill, I have tried alone in parks and on back roads, I could not make my body do it. I had asked a couple people to help me relearn how to make my body work, but it hadn't gone far. I had pretty much given up, and then Joker came along. I finally had my patient, non-judgemental running buddy, who didn't care how silly I looked or how slow we went and who wouldn't tell anyone what we were working on.

So last fall Joker and I started training. One step, then two, then a few. We would go out on the track, down by the rodeo arena, anywhere people wouldn't see us. Holding his lead rope gave me enough balance to not trip over myself. Joker would wait, make sure I was balanced and then move with me. Never running ahead, just waiting for me, he knew he had an important job. For as much as I trip over my own feet walking, I never once fell learning to jog with Joker.

When I decided to show this all took on new meaning. One of the classes I had under consideration was Showmanship. In this class you are next to your horse, not on them, and you move together through a pattern. You are judged on how well you move together, how your horse starts and stops with you, how your horse pivots. It was something I longed to do, but something I knew I might never do. Because an integral part of Showmanship is jogging with your horse, in uneven, sandy, deep arenas.

As show season got closer my riding coach and I had to make a decision, and in March we pulled Showmanship off the table for this year. I let my fear momentarily get the best of me and agreed it was the best plan. But my heart broke at the decision, it once again meant my body would win. Yet another thing my heart wanted but my body couldn't deliver. I came away from the decision saddened but also frustrated, not ready to give up.

So I went and had a long talk with Joker (ok I talked and cried, he ate grass, that is usually how our meetings go) and we decided neither of us was ready to give in. So we stepped it up, going and jogging in the arenas when no one was around. Since March I cant even count the number of hours we put in. And no one knew, til last Monday. I had signed up for Showmanship at the Fun Show (allowing people to assume I would walk the jog portion) and had a couple details I needed to work out in my riding lesson. When we got to the point in the pattern my coach offered me to walk that part, but I got to say the greatest words ever "nope we've got this one" and off Joker and I went. It wasn't fast, it wasn't picture perfect, but together we jogged. We had done it!

I still can't jog by myself, don't know if I ever will be able to, but as long as I have my loving patient friend Joker by my side, I am normal. I can do what others do. And that is better than anything I could win!!!!

The video of our Showmanship class can be found at:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

When you think you can' can't. But when you want, you will...

"Tell me it can't be done, and I will do it. Tell me the goal is too high, and I will reach it. Place an obstacle in front of me, and I will soar over it. Challenge me, Dare me, But do NOT underestimate me. For on the back of my horse ANYTHING is possible."

I am so pitifully behind in updating this blog. Life seems to be busier than ever and I guess because I am overall handling life better I am here venting less. Life is good right now, life is crazy right now, life is pretty surreal right not.

First the obligatory update - I am still losing the weight battle, I am up about 35 lbs from my lowest. I am still going to the gym, still seeing the trainer 3 times a week and added a TEAM Weight Loss class. But despite all that I am still moving backwards. I still believe in my heart of hearts that there is still something more medically that we are missing. The thyroid meds aren't stemming the weight loss so there has to be more. I am frustrated and scared and saddened on this front, the fact that we cant stop the gain has me terrified that I will continue back to where I started, and have considered giving up the fight multiple times, but luckily I have a personal trainer who doesn't give up when I do, so still fighting the war.

My weight is probably my only real complaint at this moment, otherwise my life is incredibly exciting these days, and totally unexpected. This weekend is my first horse show!!!!! I have to admit for as much as I have prepared for it, and for as many times as I have said it, that hasn't really registered yet in my brain that it is real! I have done all the shopping (Joker has some great new show duds) and I am practiced my heart out, but yet it all still seems so far out of something I would ever do that I can't make it real yet.

I also can't seem to make real the amazing amount of love and support people, some pretty much strangers, have shown me on this journey. Heck the woman who works at the deli counter at the grocery story asked if she could come (she asks me ever time she sees me how riding is going), I have clients who want to come, I have a friend flying in from NC to be there, and on top of those there in person I have an entire herd of show moms on Facebook who will be there in spirit. A friend pointed it out the other night, how amazing it is how many people are rallying around me for this show. Quite frankly at times I am spooked by it, letting people in has never been a strength of mine but at the same time I believe it is part of the lesson I am meant to learn this summer and am trying to embrace it.

I would be lying if I didn't say I was having nerves about the show, but ironically they aren't about riding. On that front I am good with knowing I have trained my butt off, that Joker and I will give it our best and the result will be what it is.

My nerves are my old demons, weight and insecurities. The closer the show gets the more I worry about how I look. I am fighting more and more to eat, I am freaking out about what to wear. I am very glad my best friend Kaye will be here the rest of this week, because truthfully without someone here I can see myself bailing on the show over nothing more than issues about my weight. Its hard knowing all those people will be looking at me, and in my mind judging how fat I am. But I have to keep trying to remind myself that is all only in my head. It is this great irony of being overwhelmed by all the love and support around me, and yet at the same time feeling totally unworthy of it.

The good news is that no matter what, I know I have the best partner in the world going into the ring with me Sunday morning. With Joker there by my side I now realize I can do ANYTHING!!!!!!! And I know that he and I have a HUGE surprise in store for most of the people in my life (3 special people already know). An accomplishment that far outreaches in my mind any blue ribbon I could ever win.

Curious???? Feel free to come watch the show. It starts at 9am Sunday April 22nd at Woodloch Stables in Hugo MN. For those that cant make it I promise to try to remember to blog afterwards!