When you pick yourself up from the mud, you have two options: laugh or cry.
In riding, we often say after a fall you get back on or you go to the hospital. But what do you do when the fall was metaphorical? The injury is emotional or mental. You might get a lot of chatter on the outside, advice, support, etc. It’s a little harder when you need to scrape the mud off your heart, and possible reshape it after a trample. You even wonder if it is worth it. Many people never question their riding, whether they should just give up. Several people do give up, bow out, or fade away for their own reasons. I can admit, at my lowest points I have asked myself if this is what I want, am I doing the right thing, would I be better off just learning how to knit or play sudoku (you know, something that doesn’t require you to pay with your heart to play)?
But what do you tell yourself inside your head? Breathe. Slow down. I have a brain that likes to race. It likes to go fast, solve problems, create, analyze, busy itself. But when I let it run around, it isn’t as its best as it likes to think it is. Similar to a horse running on the forehand, I need to rebalance, regroup, and restore order. Every fiber in my being yearns to ‘do something’— to have a reaction. However, this is not the best answer. More often than not, that solution has led me to more problems. Overcorrecting a bad turn doesn’t right the car, it just spins it out of control.
So I have learned to embrace silence. Not hide from thoughts or emotions, but hear them and let them go. In that moment, when everything is stilled, I take a breath. No, the answer doesn’t magically come riding up on a sparkly rainbow unicorn, but I do find myself more in control and open to more options in the quiet.
Again, how do you pick yourself up? It is a choice to move forward in whatever way that makes sense. Sometimes we get back on the proverbial horse, sometimes we hang up the reins forever, sometimes we catch our breath, sometimes we take a break. The thing about a real fall is that the longer you avoid mounting up again, the harder it makes it in the future. But with the squishy internal scars, they tend to require a bit more sensitivity. Avoidance is not a solution, but recovery is vital to persisting to fight another day. One of my biggest characteristics that I tend to mostly consider in a good light is that I’m stubborn. I know I’ll be back to the fight soon. So while I will use that obstinance for good, I sometimes have to give her a rest so I can heal and refocus. I do not consider myself a patient person, but I have learned the skill and exercise it often. After the dust settles from the fall, it takes patience to see what is next because at times the heart and the head might not agree.
But, I love a good, insightful, poignant quote. The right one can lend words to you when you can’t find any. So I’ll borrow a few. “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for” and “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” An easy ride never made a skilled rider. Confident perhaps, but it is when we are challenged that we grow. In that growth is the adventure of riding and the love of the horse. And if you never go out into the sea to see your ship sail, you never know what you can do.
Pick yourself up. Laugh. Cry. Even at the same time. Maybe you don’t have the answer immediately to your brain demanding what to do to soothe your heart, or perhaps you need to hold it back from lashing out. But give yourself a chance to think all and feel all before deciding what you need to do. It’s not what happens to us that shows who we are, it’s how we handle ourselves that shows us, and the world, who we really are.