I'm having a bad week. Nothing is particularly wrong, but nothing seems to quite mesh in a way that allows me to breathe. When the demands of work and parenting and ticking things off the "you need to do this now" list overlap too significantly, my coping abilities seem to go into reverse.
I took number one son out to breakfast today. Over Egg McMuffins, chocolate milk (his) and bad coffee (mine) we had a conversation about how hard it is to make good decisions about your behavior when you're feeling really upset or mad. And once again, like a slap to the head, I'm reminded how these lessons I seek to impart to my children are really lessons I'm still trying to learn. I need to get better at managing the things on my plate, better at holding up a hand and saying "stop," better at saying "I need help." Instead I insist that I can do this and that I'm fine and stuff everything until I'm ready to pack my suitcase and catch the next southbound bus to anywhere. Next thing I know I'm being short with people, dictating rather than seeking solutions, feeling defensive, feeling indignant.
I have no one to thank but myself.
I hate that saying, "admitting the problem is half the battle." Admission is only the first step of the journey. Admission must be followed by willingness to self-reflect, to look inside for the reasons and the solutions. You have to find the "why" and be ready to discover that the only "why" you can do anything about is you. Then you have to find solutions, and in that process be prepared to find out that the solutions that will really make a difference will involve changing something, and that change will likely be uncomfortable. I'm a creature of habit as much as anyone else. Habits, even habits that no longer work for me, are still comfortable. Familiar habits are easy because they don't require me to do the work of creating new responses to life's challenges.
Buck Brannaman says, "Your horse is a mirror to your soul, and sometimes you may not like what you see. Sometimes you will."
Wednesday night, at our first dressage lesson of the year, I noted to our trainer Tony that Bugs was doing a lot better at not trying to lean on my hands for his balance at the canter. Last year, when we first started doing Western Dressage, he would lean in on his forehand and then race faster and faster in a frantic effort to stay upright. He looked like a barrel racer making the turn, except we weren't racing and there weren't any barrels. Part of the problem is the way he's built. He's built like a working cowhorse - in other words, downhill. His conformation does not naturally assist him in learning to round his back and hold himself up. His breeding is all about working close to the ground, using fast bursts of speed and using that big head for ballast as he tries to outmaneuver a cow. Learning to collect and hold himself up has been challenging for Bugs. He's begun to develop his top- and bottom- lines, though, and as he continues to be challenged, he continues to improve. Last year he would still lean heavily on the reins, especially at the canter, asking me to help him hold himself in the center. Now he's learning to do it himself, and it feels so much better. Getting to here, and getting to where we eventually want to be will require continued discomfort for both of us. The end result will be worth it.
Bugs is an impatient horse. He wants things right now. He hates being asked change the way he does something. Gosh, who does that sound like? I don't mind physically hard work, or work that requires a lot of mental effort to accomplish. I would say, though, that I'm emotionally lazy. I want the world to accomodate my reactions and my judgment. I don't want to have to cope with emotional discomfort and try doing something differently to see if it works better. I don't want to, but sometimes I have to.
Like Bugs, I've gotten better, but I still have a ways to go. I'm not as quick as in the past to let stress and anxiety push how I speak and act with others, but this week has shown me that I have to keep growing my emotional muscles so that, like Bugs, I can hold myself up better.