It has taken more effort than I fully understand to begin sharing myself here again. Thank you to those who reminded me to keep trying.
Life humbles us. We plan and plot and think our way through many challenges. We have trial runs of our most important presentations at work, job interviews and even dates. Yet the truly immense and life changing experiences almost all come without warning, without the ability to pre-plan or rehearse. Lately I've been thinking about what we are left with in such moments. Informed by a series of such moments, this year I've been thinking about the relationships of grief and fear and anger, of love and loss and grace, of fear and acceptance and strength. I will be writing about those, too. But today I'm writing about something simpler.
When I was 13, my parents bought me a horse. She was gloriously beautiful. She was also impossibly spirited and very troubled. I remember the day we were trying to load her into a trailer to bring her home. She leaped over the loading ramp, danced around at the end of the lead rope, swung wildly around to the side of the trailer, her neck extended into a long line glinting in the sunlight, eyes rolling and nostrils flaring. She stomped, tried to rear, snorted. She stood and shuddered with dread, her coat rippling gold in the sunlight. She was a horse, but we understood how she felt, quite clearly. She was scared, she was mad and she was notnotnot climbing into that horse trailer. Not without a fight. Eventually, of course, she was loaded into the trailer. And once she did, she was not a horse that stood kicking the side of the trailer. I truly do not remember any more how she came to be in that trailer's stall, as I've rewritten and reimagined this scene so many times - but in my current memory she lifted her head and walked lightly up the ramp, trusting that it was the path she needed to walk.
I'm like that. Faced with some types of change, with things I do not want to do or things that I fear, I flail and stomp and kick just as that horse did. I have language, I'm sharp-witted and often funny, but I kick like a mofo. I try to avoid the ramp, reroute the ramp, bypass the ramp - just as she did. And, when it is clear that walking up the ramp is precisely what I'm going to do, I shake it off and walk up the ramp with as much grace as I can muster. And as most everyone knows, I don't kick too much in the stall. Once I'm in, I'm in for the duration of the trip.
Prose writing workshops I participated in, especially fiction workshops, spend a lot of time talking about the complexity of character reactions. We sat around conference tables, analyzing a piece of writing and talking about the complexities of emotions. "Love," we would say confidently, "does not come in the package that Hallmark is selling. It is not Lifetime Movie Network love. It is complicated and messy and has elements of so many emotions." And then we would try to imagine a few. An interesting set, a set that seemed true to the character and to the story being told. I remember thinking deeply about characters in love, in hate, in betrayal. I do not remember thinking about characters in grief. Grief was simple. Sadness, regret, a little relief now and then mixed in. I am embarrassed to say that I had always thought of grief as being the most universally felt and understood emotional experience. I was wrong.
Be well and happy wherever this may find you.