When Life Gets In the Way of Work: Getting Back on the Horse
I had a lot of momentum going in the beginning of 2015. I was close to finishing the book I’d been working on for the past two years; I was building my platform as a writer through regular blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts; and I was actually doing a better-than-average job promoting (and selling) Flex Your Writing Muscle. In addition, I was getting a lot of positive feedback from the bi-monthly “Healthy Options” column in our local paper. It seemed like I was on track and on a role professionally, and I was happily settling into the rhythm of success.
On January 31, I had an experience that ultimately led me down an unexpected path—a path that I am still processing. In preparation for a “Healthy Options” article, I interviewed an equine therapist. I wouldn’t describe myself as a horse person, but I did take horseback riding in college and I never turned down an opportunity to ride. I was also looking forward to learning more about this “horse whisperer”—something I wasn’t convinced existed. Sitting bareback on a medicine horse was an intriguing opportunity, but I didn’t have the slightest notion how that day would turn my world upside-down.
January in the foothills can be more like fall than winter, and this day was picture-perfect. The sun was shining and it was warm enough to be outside without a jacket. I was greeted with a welcoming smile that instantly put me at ease. The therapist spoke about his work, and as he continued to talk about horses and what we humans can learn from them, he led me into the ring. It didn’t take long for the horse to approach, and I soon found myself up on his bare back, eyes closed, following the therapist’s voice. “Just open up…surrender…maintain your balance…trust…follow his cadence.” For the next hour, as I felt the sun on my face and the gentle rhythm of the horse beneath me, I “danced” with this 1000-pound animal and experienced a sense of peace I didn’t know was possible.
The power of this experience can cause people to have a deep shift in their emotional and spiritual body, and I was no exception. I learned later that a tearful release—coupled with a burst of insight—often occurs while someone is on a medicine horse. But I was there doing research for an article, so while I surrendered to most of the experience, I held my emotions in check—until I was back in my car and halfway down the driveway. The flood of tears was so intense that I had to pull over to compose myself. The part of me that was out of balance, the whispers I had been ignoring for so long, were screaming at me. I knew that changes I had believed were impossible were inevitable, and that my life would never be the same. Although the logical, mental part of me was filled with fear and doubt, my heart was as open as it had ever been. I had no choice but to follow a path of love and trust. Metaphorically, I had fallen off the horse. There was no turning back.
The life I had been living was out of balance, and I suddenly found myself lying in the dust. I knew I had to get back on the horse, but I didn’t know how. Life has taught me that there are times to go it alone and other times to seek help, which is exactly what I did. The help I required came in many forms—astrology, brain spotting, grief counseling, hypnotherapy, tarot readings, an eleven-day Vipassana retreat, and of course, conversations (and a little too much wine) with a few women friends who support me no matter what. Eventually—by the end of June—I was able to speak my truth, say the unspeakable, and have the courage to take action and accept the consequences.
Where am I now? I’m not entirely certain, but in keeping with my equine theme, I’m in the corral, but I’m not yet back in the saddle. Things are calm at the moment, but I’m no longer the person I was—nor am I the person I will ultimately become. I’m not a blank slate without skills, knowledge, or direction, but I’m definitely experiencing a significant shift, and I’m curious to see how that will alter me. I suspect I’ll be a more simplified version of myself, but I’m open to whatever changes occur.
I’m already beginning to see indications of my personal and professional future. Finally, after years of taking on tasks I knew weren’t right for me, I’m following my gut, accepting projects that feel right, and letting go of the ones that don’t. If a situation or person frustrates me, I’m fine with letting it go. I no longer feel compelled to convince clients that I’m the right person for the job or to persuade friends or my kids to see and respect my point of view. I’m no longer willing to struggle. For once, I see and accept my value and worth as a human being. Whatever I do, it’s because I choose to do it, not because I want to get something out of it—like recognition, praise, or payment.
For me, this a different way of being in the world, and so far, it’s working—at least some of the time. Admittedly, I have occasionally fallen back into my old habits and patterns, but during those inevitable setbacks, I recall what I learned on that pivotal day at the ranch—be calm, be centered, and let the horse come to you.
For now, I’m in the corral, waiting.
Something wonderful is in the works.
Jan Fishler is the producer of the Path to Publication DVD series filmed at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers featuring Amy Tan, Janet Fitch, Mark Childress and other well-known authors, agents, and publishers. She is the author of Searching for Jane, Finding Myself (An Adoption Memoir) and Flex Your Writing Muscle – 365 Days of Writing Prompts. She writes articles for VietNow National Magazine and has a bi-monthly column, “Healthy Options” in The Union newspaper.