Thursdays frequently wind up being frustrating for me. Ostensibly, they are my day off, but I typically have them so carefully orchestrated so that the whole day is spent rushing from one task after the other, for fear of being late and causing the whole house of cards to tumble down.
For the past six months, I’ve been spending a good bit of my Thursdays working off board for my two horses at the ‘retirement’ farm. My Old Man has been there for years now; this past spring, I had to move my no-longer-young mare there for financial reasons. Since caring for a community of horses, many of which are blind, lame, and need medication, is time consuming, I spend about 2 hours in the morning taking care of the herd–only to have to come back in the evening and do it again. My goal has always been to get out there early, hurry through my tasks, and rush home so I can do laundry, get groceries, and try to get some writing done before I have to head back out again. Thursdays are also the only night I can get to my yoga classes, and for the last month I’ve been skipping it. Well, that’s catching up with me, especially since I dropped all the other expensive manage-the-pain therapies I’d been doing for years.
I already had to skip the morning walk with the dog in order to meet a client before doing the first feeding, but today, instead of rushing through the chores, I decided, “Screw it. I’m taking my time.” Why? Well, the biggest problem about Thursdays is not how much I have to do but my attitude toward it. Far better to let go of the expectation of ‘getting something done’ and just be there in the moment doing what I’m actually doing.
So I took the time to appreciate the choreography of herd interactions–how the horses all know where they are supposed to go, and how doing things out of order upsets them. The last thing you want to do with a herd is let a submissive horse get pinned in a corner by a dominant one, so at feeding time, there is a lot of opening and closing gates so that the right horses end up in the right slots in the right order. It’s kind of beautiful when it all works smoothly. When you make a mistake, however, or one horse slips past you, ears pinned and teeth bared, there is the potential for serious injury (yourself included) if you don’t intervene right away.
I also took the time to appreciate the Old Man. He’s thirty years old now, and he no longer has any front teeth. He’s swaybacked, and despite eating $75 worth of grain every 2 weeks, I can’t keep any weight on him. But he is still happily puttering around the property, gumming grass and eating his mush–as much as I will give him twice a day. He still comes up to me looking for scratches and snuffling my pockets for treats. I’m sure if someone who didn’t know better saw him, they would accuse me of animal neglect, but he’s the equivalent of a 95 year old man and he looks it. I worry about him with the coming winter, but I also know he’s had wonderfully long life. I don’t regret a single moment since the day I bought him as a three year old for 89 cents a pound.
I also came to a decision today about the Mare Who Lived. This weekend, I’m going to bring my tack out to the farm. I’ve received permission to ride the fields out there. There’s no arena–just open fields–and my mare is a bit hot for just a simple trail ride, but I feel like I have to give this a try. If we survive the attempt, I’ll let you know. I’ve just put far too much of my life on hold to let *this* go. I look back at all the things I’ve let slip through my fingers waiting for ‘the right time’ or a better situation and I should have taken them when I could. When I had the chance.
There are other things we need to let go of, however. While I was taking my time at the farm this morning, I got a text from work: could I come in and see a patient that can’t wait until tomorrow? Well, there goes the carefully orchestrated day… but since I had accepted that I wasn’t going to rush around like a chicken with its head cut off, I was able to shrug, pick a time that would fit into the schedule, and say yes.Had the call come in before I’d made the decision not to rush, I probably would have been seething as I hurried through my chores, anxious to get home in order to salvage a little writing time.
All I needed was an attitude adjustment.
I know that attitude is everything, and I wish I could understand how to make that work for you when deep down you don’t believe you have what it is you’re faking. I can’t fake feeling beautiful and sexy when I don’t. I can’t fake confidence in my writing when I don’t have it. But I look at that picture of the cat in the flowers I posted above and recall how this little tomcat could prevent my 95 pound German Shepherd from leaving the house simply by sitting on the porch and staring at him through the door.
My boy would get to the door and back up, saying, “I can’t go out there. Dat bad cat’s out there.” And nothing I could do could persuade my dog it was safe to come out with me. The tom has since tamed down and been neutered and vaccinated. The dog will now walk past him without batting an eye, and occasionally will try to engage in play. The cat runs up to us when we’re outside and shoulders into the dog, taking a swat at his legs as the dog re-enters the house. They’ve reached a level of detente that they are comfortable with. But I am still amazed that a ten pound cat could stare down a dog ten times his size without even hissing.
That’s attitude. Or Catitude, depending on your POV. Because that cat was utterly confident of his ability to take on my dog and win–and my dog knew it. I think I could use a little Catitude. I’m a little too quick to listen to the negative self-talk because it is familiar, something I’ve heard my entire life: from family, from frenemies, but perfected by my self. I’ve been working on it. On dressing up for no particular reason, other than I know it makes me look good. Wearing something I like is empowering to me, be it a favorite necklace or a good pair of boots. That’s why I am so fond of International Walk Like Beckett Day. It’s not about how you look–it’s about how you think you look. And with little feel-good boosters, I can get there sometimes.
Writing is a different story. Or is it? I strongly suspect the only thing holding me back is my own negative self-talk. Chuck Wendig wrote this great blog post the other day about self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy, and it’s simply brilliant. This one line jumped out at me: And suddenly your doubt has the hunger and gravity of a collapsing star. Wow. Yes. Been there, done that, own the T-shirt, sing the song almost every day. Go read the rest of his post, it’s awesome.
But as I’m sitting here, just as earlier I contemplated the stupidity and necessity of trying to ride my horse again, it occurs to me that I’m my biggest roadblock. And I don’t have as much time left as I used to. So it’s kind of now or never, you know? I got an email last night from one of my friends who is an author–a ‘real’ author, someone who got published back when you had to have an agent and legacy publishing was the only way to go, and the walls were steep and topped with guards ready to pour boiling oil down upon your head for daring to approach the gate. I know, I’m a real author with a real press behind me, but there’s that doubt, you know? The one that says if not for the digital revolution, you’d be papering your walls with rejection slips. Anyway, in response to my saying I’m not good enough to write x-y-z, she tells me that I’m capable of writing anything I put my mind to, that is it the voices of little-minded people running down my confidence that’s holding me back. So… what if she’s right? What’s the worst that can happen if I assume she is? I’ve got nothing to lose by trying.
I’ve got two hours before I have to be at the next task on my list of things to do today. I can get a lot done in two hours.