She came to my course with a bright, helpful spirit. She came alone. I thought she must be in her mid sixties, but from the moment I saw her I thought she could be someone who would fly through the course quite easily. She wasn't fit, but she looked like she had drive and a desire to learn. There were nearly thirty other people in the course but she stands out in my memory. It was only day three. A little early for big breakthroughs, yet there we were, in tears, broken.
I had seen her sitting on the log a few minutes earlier. She had her horse grazing near by on a slack lead line. I casually made my way over to check on her and as I approached I could see something wan't right. She looked as if she'd been crying. Indeed she had.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Is your horse giving you shit?" I asked in a light tone as I sat next to her. I often use strong language with a massive smile on my face to break the ice in emotional moments.
She looked up, smiled a gracious smile, and replied. "No. My horse is doing just fine."
I sat down on the weathered log next to her and the two of us gazed up at the mountains in the distance.
"Good to know... Now how can I help you?" I continued. "I see something isn't quite right, and if you would like me to give you some space, I'd be happy to come back later or find someone who can help."
"Thank you." She said through her sniffles.
She paused. I didn't know if that meant I was supposed to go away or stay. Was she thanking me for saying I'd leave or thanking me for just for being present with her in a moment of darkness? I was sitting just a few feet away, close enough to touch her, but I didn't. Instead I waited, watching her body language from the corner of my eye and looking for clues.
A few moments went by, and finally she broke the silence.
"I left my husband to come to this course!" She stuttered, and tears broke out again. Her shoulders started to heave and she quickly buried her face in her hands. Her horse lifted his head kindly in response to hand movement then back to eating quietly.
What is a guy in his late-twenties supposed to do with a women in her sixties who just told him that her marriage is over. And... she picked horses over her husband?
I sat in silence, stunned, frozen to my seat, afraid to speak, and afraid to move. I leaned forward and took a deep breath as I put my elbows on my knees and supported my expressionless face with my hands. I turned my gaze to the mountains again.
A few moments went by. She had obviously shocked herself for even bringing it up. I don't think she expected to let the cat out of the bag in front of her instructor. She began to apologize for even talking about something so personal, and then I finally broke out of my mental state and began to act more like the caring human my mother raised me to be.
"You don't have to apologize." I said.
"I'm not going to pretend I know how painful that must be. You must have your reasons and I won't judge you for your choices."
She took a deep breath.
I took a deep breath.
On a personal note, I always find it strange, yet powerful, how a simple non-judgmental viewpoint can soothe even the most painful human conditions.
She sat up a little, looked directly at me and said, "I know you care, I see it in your training style and in your videos. It's one of the reasons I wanted to come to the course. There was more going wrong than right in our relationship. This course, was just the last straw for us."
"I know I can help you with your horse, I said. And I believe your horse can help you with your healing. There is probably nothing I can say that would change your past for you or set you on a better course in the future as far as your relationships. Just know that I'm here for you and I care about your success!"
She smiled. "Thank you."
"Now, are you sure your horse isn't giving you shit?" I said grinning a soft but cheeky grin.
"In truth," she began. "I couldn't get my horse to do this one simple task. I found it frustrating and that's what sent me down this road of fear and negativity. I began to feel like I couldn't get anything right."
"Thanks for saying all that." I responded. "Would you like some help with your horse or would you like some time and we can address it later?"
"I think I would like some help." She smiled. And we began.
Within minutes we narrowed down a solution to her horses misunderstanding and the problem was solved. Her countenance brightened considerably and I left her with a hug and a promise to be there when she needed.
Her story, never really left my imagination however. Even a decade later now. I still think of her words. At first, if I'm honest, and I always promote being authentic and honest, I was pissed off. I didn't like what I heard. In those early, fragile moments, a higher power granted me a mouth that would not open. I'm grateful for that. I couldn't believe she would prioritize horses over her relationship. But as the moments passed on, and my heart opened, I began to see who she really was.
She was not a women who prioritized horses over her husband. She was a women who prioritized her passion over her dead relationship. She had felt robbed of her gifts for years and felt it was time to shine as an individual. I saw that there must be things I couldn't see. Things that made her marriage horrible, with or without horses. I softened and gave her room to be herself. As a result, she shined.
I don't know where she is now. I hope she's found peace.
The message I hope to convey here is this. Relationships don't always work out, but I believe you if you stick to your core passions and follow your dreams, new relationships will develop. Perhaps even better relationships.
To be clear, I'm not advocating divorce. In many cases there is a clear path forward to healing your relationships. Relationships are important and should be honored. I would hope anyone in a bad relationship would look for resources to heal their relationship before leaving it. Most people do try to figure things out before they leave. In some cases there is no clear path forward, leaving you with hard choices.
What I'm actually advocating, is being who you are. I'm advocating letting go of fear and pressing forward into pain instead of hiding away from it. I'm advocating opening up to become the person you always wanted to become, even if that means criticism. For some people that might mean trying to figure out how to keep things together. For others it might mean figuring out how to take your first step into a new world, all by yourself.
The reality here, is that I'm not just talking about marriage and horses. I'm talking about fear and passion. Those twin forces that impact our lives in every way.
I commend that women in her sixties who sat with me on that log facing the mountains. I commend her courage. Courage is the first step to becoming a true leader.
Thank you for reading.
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