“No one cares how you feel; just get back up on that damn horse!” he fumed, as he towered over me.
In less time than it takes to say “hi”, I can travel forty-plus years back to an event with my father.
At sixty pounds and fed up with my horse in the show ring, I jumped off of Scuppernong’s back (a good 5 ½ feet from the ground). With the snaffle bit coming out of the side of his mouth, I tugged him by the reins, to the side of the ring. I was mad that I couldn’t get him to follow my commands and I was done--done with the pretense of trying. My father was the show manager.
He greeted me outside the ring with a blustering, hissing and a redness that seemed apoplectic. He was not going to be embarrassed by his redheaded, hot-tempered 8-year-old. While the spectators were aghast by this show of chutzpah by a tiny girl and a humongous horse, they were also politely and quietly giggling in recognition of a boyish-looking little redhead who was frustrated and not about ready to let the brutish animal win.
I haven’t even saved it for special occasions. No! I have used it with common every-day stuff AND the big things in life. I’ve used that scenario as a way to set up nearly every breath I’ve taken.
Feeling a bit blue in the morning, someone asks “how are you holding up, Lee Ann?”
[No one cares how you feel; just get back up on that damn horse!] “Fine, just fine. How ‘bout you, sweetie?” I sing with a smile.
Lost, betrayed and angry after being unceremoniously “let go” from a job, the refrain loops in my head.
[No one cares how you feel; just get back up on that damn horse!] I push forward out of the pain, more alone, more afraid, more desperate, but even more determined and I speak these fast-forward-don’t feel-anything words, “I needed to get out of that place. I’m on to the next thing. Here I come! Yippee!” I put a great spin on it.
I am asked by a stranger, a lover, a friend, a mentor or someone who wants to help me, “what do you need? What do you want? How can I support you? The hissing fills me to a scream, like the art piece by Edvard Munch of the same name. I hold my head, even if it is only figuratively speaking.
[No one cares how you feel; just get back up on that damn horse!] And I get back up on that horse that I have come to know as accommodating, don’t-make-waves, don’t-ask-or-need-anything and say…nothing. Nothing! Or I offer the “oh, you are too kind for asking…” The words fade away and I never spit out what I’m feeling or what I need or want. God forbid! They might actually help!
A life that has not been fully expressed…and yet, I’ve pushed my way into academic programs, leadership positions, travel opportunities and adventures-galore with the “fake-it-‘til-you-make-it” determination. It’s amazing that I’ve succeeded as much as I have. I think of how much more I could have done and can do, but for that damn horse I carry around.
The story has corralled me into the smallest of pens. It has narrowed my connections. It has burdened me or as we say in the equestrian world, I’ve been saddled with it. The recurring story/video has caused suffering for me, and let’s be honest here, suffering for all who know me because I have been “faking it to make it”. I’ve made the story THE STORY of my life, which has run rough-shod over everything.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten some great mileage out of the story. I’ve got one helluva résumé. I’m tough as nails, strong, courageous, smart, sensitive, loving and kind—really kind. But the story is old and worn out, serving no to little importance. It’s an old horse ready for the pasture.
So I have a choice: keep the trope or gently let it go.
…Time to let the horse wear a simple halter and enjoy eating dandelions in the back forty. I’ll bring him in and clean him up every once in a while, but for now he’s not going to be taking up any space in the stable…