I’ve been quiet for a while and wanted to update. I was thrown from my horse on June 3rd. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I’ve pieced together a narrative from my twins, who were there, and from another rider, who called the ambulance. Noche, our off-the-track-Thoroughbred, startled soon after I mounted her. I fell, or was thrown, hitting my head and shoulder on the ground. Noche bolted for the stable where Ann saw her and rushed down to the ring. I was unconscious for about ten minutes. Thank God for my helmet. I don’t remember much of the ambulance ride or the ER, only bits and pieces. So, my recovery from the concussion and some devastating events previous were all mixed together into a real-life metaphor.
I’m not the only one who has been passed over for a promotion or didn’t win the game. I’m not the only one who lost a loved one, broke up with a romantic partner, or was stopped by an obstacle. But maybe something here will strike a chord and be helpful to you.
- Feel the hurt. You are allowed to mourn for your dream. You wanted it so badly you could taste it. You put in the work and you didn’t get the pay-off. Your heart is broken.
It doesn’t only hurt for one day, for one cry. My headache lasted 9 ½ days. The doctor said to come back if it lasted ten…I guess my brain has a sense of humor. I cried, often suddenly, for the next four weeks. Thinking about parts of my broken dream or even remembering the thud as my shoulder hit the dirt in the ring.
- The sun came up the next day. Maybe you are surprised? I was surprised.
The worst had happened. Everything I’d imagined had come true. I was devastated…but the world was still going on. My husband and children still loved me. They still wanted to eat breakfast. The dog still wanted to be walked. At the stable, Noche was still given grain and turned out into the field.
- Get away. A change of scenery is surprisingly refreshing. If your dream was winning a hot dog competition, maybe don’t hang out at the Farm Fair right now. Stick with hamburgers. You don’t have to torture yourself. Say “congratulations” to the person who got the promotion instead of you and gracefully drift away from the party to be with your people.
I was in the bizarrely fortunate state to be headed to Costa Rica for a family vacation that had already been booked for this time period. Some experts think you shouldn’t fly if you have a concussion, but our flight tickets were non-refundable so I went with the experts who said it was okay.
- Allow help. You don’t know who is going to call the ambulance for you. You don’t know who will actually show up at the hospital or write you a note or call you on the phone. I mean, you might have a reasonable expectation, but there’s a strong chance that someone you didn’t expect to will help you. Maybe they’ve been in your position, maybe they were in the right place at the right time. God moves in mysterious ways.
- Give yourself time. The obstacle changed your five-year plan. It changed the way you saw yourself. You need time for your dream to shift and change. You need time to remember why you wanted it in the first place. You can journal, you can talk, you can sketch, but you can’t force this step.
To me, this is the spiritual part. In the middle of pain there is truth. You have to sit through the pain to get there. Here’s the lesson I was supposed to learn: I was equating my self-worth with what I produced and how it was judged. I didn’t believe that I had worth because I was a child of God. Instead, I was a people-pleaser and when a specific piece of art, or pieces of art, failed, that meant I was a failure.
Riders often tell each other, “You aren’t a real rider until you’ve fallen off.” That’s the test! What you do after. Which brings us to the next step.
- Get back on the horse. Even if you’ve realized that you no longer want to be a cowgirl or a dressage rider, you need to go back one more time and face your fear to take away the power from the original negative experience. Have a trainer put your mare on a lunge line, if you want, but get back on, put the memory in the rearview mirror, and get on with your life. Do not give the past power over you. You live in the moment because that is the only place where we can make decisions.
And if you do still want to a cowgirl or dressage rider? Keep going. Set new goals, make a new strategy. Dream a new dream.
Look, the test was hard, but you are stronger now. You’ve leveled up and have the battle scars to prove it. You are ready to take on the next challenge, the next project, the next relationship. I believe in you!