The other day, as I tore into a new package of whiteout at my office, I caught myself. I had made the order for the corrective tape myself after several coworkers had passed by my desk in a vain hunt for it, yet once it arrived it just sat ineffectually by the printer. Finally, I found a use for it. “Awwwww yeeeeah,” I thought, giddy with anticipation.
Then I thought, “Wait. What the hell is wrong with me?”
I slipped quietly out of my office at 5:00 sharp and into the bathroom to change into thermal breeches. I layered two pairs of socks, a thermal shirt, polo shirt, hoodie, and windbreaker until I resembled Ralphie’s younger brother, Randy, from A Christmas Story.
“Don’t pump your body!” “Stop chasing him with your seat!” “Sit taller!” “Lighten up in the saddle!”
These commands have all been repeatedly hurled at me by my coaches like small cannon balls of despair and frustration. They bounced harmlessly off my helmet, landing in the sand where they lay like casualties of my many riding flaws.
It’s not that I didn’t listen. I just didn’t comprehend how to train my body to ride in half-seat
. I seized up in my saddle, locking every joint, hoping to get as still and light as possible. That just made it worse. “Be still!” my brain yelled at my back and hips; what my back and hips heard was ”山 羊农民?” I tried so hard to get it right. But it’s like my brain and body were speaking a different language. Some horses were patient with my adjustments and attempts to develop a decent half-seat, while others switched canter leads, as perplexed by the disjointed conversation between my body and my will as I was.
I was hoping for something like this to happen:
Sadly, that was a dead end road.
I go to the pool to swim laps.
As a child, my summer days were spent at the neighborhood pool. After long mornings of swim team practice, I’d wait impatiently for adult swim to be over, recklessly standing on the pool’s stairs and edging deeper and deeper into the water until a shrill warning from the lifeguard’s whistle sent me scurrying back onto the pavement. An unstoppable force at Sharks and Minnows, it was nothing at all to me to sink to the bottom of the 12 foot deep end and pantomime an imaginary underwater tea party.
I’m hard-pressed to reach 10 feet, let alone 12, these days.
But I don’t go to the pool for tea parties anymore. I’ve traded in cannonballs and games of Marco Polo for long, tedious laps, neatly compartmentalized within my lane. I don my swim cap and goggles and my features seem to morph into something less human, more amphibian.
Lap 1…freestyle. Lap 13..backstroke. Lap 27…kickboard. Lap 43…breaststroke. Lap 59…freestyle.
I dutifully cut my way through the water, concentrating on my muscles, breathing, rhythm. Count the strokes. Count the laps. Breathe.
Every now and then, though, as I wait for the lane to clear, I can’t resist one little handstand.
Busy: it’s both commonly bemoaned and universally worshiped, at least in the states. Lifestyle magazines across the board cater their content to their frazzled readership – I dare you to browse the magazine aisle and count the covers that don’t include some headline along the lines of “No Fuss Recipes for your most hectic days,” “Fitness secrets for the busy mom!”- and fast food restaurants have built empires on the backs of our fast lane lifestyles.
Not that I’m complaining. I am thankful for the job, friends, and experiences that keep me so swamped. However, more often than not, perspective is a whisper, not a shout, and it often goes unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Photo Credit: CHPCC.org
“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
“And he’ll do it in five, you think?”
I am staring down a line of fences set up by my coach, shading my eyes with one gloved hand and holding a braided pair of leather reins in the other. Secretly, I am thanking the intrusive late afternoon sun for disguising my expression of concern and self doubt as one of simply squinting into the sunlight. I’ve been on a losing streak lately and I am anticipating another hot mess, but the knowledge that this anxiety is going to negatively affect my ride only amplifies it. I roll gently upward as Ed, my mount, casually stomps at a pestering insect.
After my coach affirms that yes, he’ll do the first line in five strides, I ask, “You think I should trot in or canter in?”
I am buying time.
Just a few short years ago, I was still in college at Georgia State University, sitting in the student center with a friend while a club fair was taking place on the city streets outside. We were languidly draped across some mass-marketed contempo-esque* furniture, people watching like we were born to do it: smirking, rolling our eyes, flippantly dismissing the endless enthusiasm of our eager young peers.
Until I spotted it: a black velvet riding helmet.
Unmistakable in the otherwise bustling, urban, environment, it was resting on a folding table along with a virtually empty sign-up sheet and a poster board advertising Georgia State’s equestrian club.
“I have to go! Bye!” I screamed over my shoulder as I vaulted over chairs and bowled into students in my rush to get to the street before the mirage evaporated.
One of many conditions that all people probably share is the the cruel inner whispers of doubt about who we are, what we can do, and where we belong. I have always felt like an outsider. No matter which party I go to, what crowd I’m with, etc., there is almost always a hushed little mean girl in the back of my mind, reminding me in bored, condescending tones, “You don’t belong here.”
Saturday at Dragon*Con, this voice was sent to its room to think about its actions and not come out until it’s ready to behave.