- Washington Irving
Monday, April 5, 2010
Adversity strengthens. It creates empathy and compassion for the adversity and misfortune of others. Until we have suffered, until we have been hurt, crushed to the core, we truly can't have compassion or empathy or caring or even love for someone else.
I guess you could say then that adversity educates us. It builds character.
Last night on the phone I talked with a friend. He and I talked about horses. When I was quite young I was intrigued by my uncle's Tennessee Walking Horses. I relentlously begged and begged to ride one. I wanted to be perched on this gorgeous creature and feel the rhythmic prancing race through me. Tennessee Walkers are gentle and comfortable riding horses, originally bred in the Southern United States to carry the owners of plantations around their land with a smooth gait and easy temper. I wanted to experience this sensation, much to the dismay of my mother who was afraid I might soil my clothes or not be feminine or some such nonsense.
One summer day keeping it from my mother, my uncle lifted me onto one of his 'gentler' horses. I felt on top of the world, as if there was nothing in the world I couldn't do. The horse took off and, with no guidance whatsoever, I let the horse take over. Well take over he did. Soon I was dangling from the stirrup by my ankle. It happened so quickly that I had no time to react. My uncle stopped the horse and being a physician examined me. Finding nothing broken, except perhaps my desire to ever ride another horse, he made me get back on the horse and do just that. I was terrified. My spirit broken and my dreams of being an equestrian crumbled. But I knew that one did not ever tell my uncle 'no.' I was more fearful of him than the horse. So back up I went. I whispered to the horse that I was scared. Something inside him must have understood. He was gentle and his gait slowed, and I was proud. I had mastered my fear, as he began the 'running walk' the breed is so famous for and showed his calm disposition. I had fallen in love.
I shared with my friend another time, riding a horse high in the mountains of Colorado on an early morning trail ride to a campsite for breakfast through meadows of early Spring wildflowers close to timberline. The trail was narrow, and it seemed clear to me that the horse was wider than the trail. It had snowed the night before and the trail was slick on the rocky embankment. I remember the feeling, as the horse tripped now and then on the snow and icy rocks. My heart was in my throat; again I had to trust. Trust the horse, this muscular beautiful palamino, to get me to my destination. My friend understood my fear, and he told me I should have looked straight ahead, instead of down the cliff.
Looking straight ahead! That was the answer then and perhaps that is the answer always. Look toward your goal, not toward the 'what if's' that can side-track you, cripple you with fear, break your spirit, and demolish your dreams and keep you from living in total constant amazement.
If you slip, look straight ahead. If you fall, look straight ahead. If you falter, hold onto the reigns and keep on going with faith.
This is what can make us or break us. This is what separates us from those who go crawling back into the safety net of their comfort zone, into status quo, into nothingness. This is what makes it difficult for them to ever be happy, or satisfied, or complete. This is what causes them to tiptoe out once in a while to find the spirit and love that is so missing in their lives. This is what cripples them - this inaction and paralyzing inability to live life.
We all have our battered periods when we tumble or are afraid we might. Afraid to get back on the horse for fear of falling. Of course falling hurts, but not getting back on the horse hurts more. Sometimes the best and only thing we can do is surrender and ask for help if we need it. Help to get back on the horse and feel the wind in our hair and the courage, exuberance, excitement, and unexpected inner strength we have been so lacking.
No fall is without meaning! Perhaps 'angels' appear in our lives to help us get back on that horse and offer us a spiritual email that life lies waiting and is there for the taking. Those whose lives and spirits are buried, perhaps simply need to face their fear and tell compassionate, empathetic people exactly how hurt they really are and admit they need help to heal. This is a first step.
And within this first step they find that allowing themselves to be willing to listen for that external help, and to accept it in the forms they don't often expect, they are required to act. And just maybe they will find they are in control alot more than they think.
If your tender dreams have been abused, don't refuse to be vulnerable again, don't refuse to get back on the horse, for if you do, you have turned down life and beauty and laughter and love and all the wonders life has to share. All too often people don't even try, fearing more damage to their broken hearts. They become frightened by the constant whispers in their dead dreams.
Part of life is getting thrown off of the horse. But we can't let that throw us. We must grow, we must learn, we must take the extraordinary gifts life hands us and not throw them away because we are afraid. Feel the wind in your hair and on your face and feel it as it cleanses your soul and you feel alive. Live past the adversity.
"Great minds have purposes; others have wishes."
- Washington Irving
- Washington Irving
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