Honey; Weaving A Tapestry of Healing Out of the Threads That Connect the Past to the Present

About twenty three years ago, I worked as a horse trainer apprentice and barn manager at a Quarter Horse farm. I had answered a classified ad in the paper after my job as lead singer in a house band aboard a dinner cruise ship had just ended. I went from dressing fancy six nights a week, and getting paid well to live a Diva lifestyle, to five days a week, twelve hour days, dirty and dead tired, for $25 a day. Horses equaled happiness, and I was spiraling into Depression after losing my job, my dog, and all hope for the success of my crumbling marriage at the time. I felt defeated, and it seemed like a miracle that might help revive me.

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On my first day, I was one of fifteen women who came out to vie for this position. We were set to task with the work increasing in difficulty, as if it were a competition to see who was the toughest.  The old man singled me out and tried to break me like he did his horses. He would stand over me and bark belittling criticisms at me, as if I were at Marine bootcamp. His wife found me in a stall, crying and shaking.

I confided about my marriage and Depression. She told me her own similar story. She told me that her husband was only trying to toughen me up, and if I really wanted the job, to hang in there. Dreams come true. He was her  happy ending. At the end of the week, I got the job.

I had walked into a familiar landmine when I dusted myself off that first day, and felt the determination to prove myself to this man who was wickedly abusive to me. I wanted a father figure so badly that I sought his approval, like a monkey swinging to the next vine, convinced that I could re-create the one I never had. It turned out to be both heaven and hell.  But there were horses, and I loved them.

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There was a beautiful, pedigreed chestnut mare there named Honey, who was in foal. I had held the twitch on her lip the day she was force-bred to a well-known, blue-ribbon stallion whose name I can’t remember. There are lots of memories I have tried to block out from my time there. But Honey was special, sweet, and silly.

Fast forward to now. There is a horse named Honey who has returned to Mill Swamp after being away for ten years. She was a special horse to Steve, and her return was a welcome surprise. Honey is a registered Paint mare, all white, with a large chestnut colored spot on her right flank and belly. She has crystal clear blue eyes like large marbles. I had the pleasure of riding her on Sunday.

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That is the back story to a story I have been attempting to tell for two days. It has continued to disappear or fall apart so many times that I’ve lost count! I didn’t  consider sharing it until I saw a friend make a comment to Steve on Facebook, saying that Honey came there for a reason. Suddenly, I recalled my experience earlier in the day and put all the pieces together, knowing that I was part of Honey’s reason for coming back.

I realize that sounds self-agrandizing. Maybe that is why I have struggled to put what I want to say about Honey and what her being there means, into words. Honey present and Honey previous connected in a very cool way to show me something extremely valuable.

I had shown up, thinking I would ride Shunk, but he was in endurance prep mode with another rider, so that is how I met Honey. I had no reservations about riding this new horse, who apparently is not considered to be a comfortable ride, by those who  knew her from her earlier days. When I met her she felt familiar to me. She had a special sweetness about her. As I was riding, a memory and lots of long-buried feelings came flooding back to me as I thought about old Honey. It was a traumatic experience that had been filed away because the cumulative awful things that had happened to me during my time at Clark Quarter Horses had such a negative impact, that this one event had to be forgotten for my sanity’s sake.

Part of me was enjoying the connection to Steve’s Honey as we took a leisurely ride, while my mind replayed a certain day’s unfortunate events.

Flashback to a weekend alone at the Quarter Horse farm, when I was left in charge while they were away at a horse show. It was evening, and the mares had not come in. There was a long rectangular fenced area that lead to 4 different pastures, with a small gate connecting each one. Usually they were all there at feeding time, ready to go back to their stalls. I saddled up and rode out to gently herd them back. I was walking behind them when something spooked my horse, making her leap into a canter, and causing the eight or nine mares to charge through the gate at the same time, in a frenzy. I watched as Honey got impaled by the fence post. I  managed to get her to the barn and put her in cross ties while I called the vet. I was terrified that she may lose her baby or not survive herself, and felt so guilty. When I looked at the huge, gaping hole, bigger than a baseball, and saw the level of distress she was in, I almost lost it. All I wanted to do was comfort and console her, and tell her how sorry I was. If anything happened to her or her foal, I would be in big trouble.

After what seemed like forever, the vet arrived. I can’t remember anything else, except that Honey and foal were going to be alright, but intense daily cleaning was necessary.

My body did not respond to this trigger, although I was feeling all the fear and sadness that would usually cripple me. By the ride’s end, I had watched the footage of that traumatic event play out vividly in my mind, but I forgave myself instead of self-loathing. It was so empowering, taking my demon slaying to a whole new level. I thanked both Honey’s to myself, for their role in bringing this memory out of the shadows and into the light. It was Sunday, and this was my church. I pondered the immense significance of the day’s events the whole way home.

Later, “Honey obviously came back for a reason” became clear to me. Honey’s one chestnut spot is in the exact location where dear old Honey had been wounded by the post.

So, she did come back for a good reason, through time and space, to give me the closure and strength I needed to continue shining a light in all my dark places. She had a perfect, beautiful and healthy foal and lived happily-ever-after. (because they moved away from that horrible man, and his wife was soon to folllow).

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A Doll and Pony Show

 

When I was a little girl I was very passionate about two things; horses and dolls. I dreamed of riding the neighbor’s pony, Brownie, all by myself  through the thicket that lead to the path that would lead to a magical place deep in the woods, called Charles Island (or Childs Island). In that dream I would take my favorite doll out of my runaway bag, and find the perfect rock to perch on where I could watch Brownie foraging the landscape, which was new and exciting territory for a pony kept in a triangular stall, who had grown quite grumpy with age.

It was there that I held my dearest, and most tenderly swaddled doll, rocking her back and forth, telling her all of my secrets. Mine were not the secrets of a five year old child, but I was lost somewhere in that five year old child, and talking to my doll connected me to a vision that would quell my sadness and give me a reason to hope.

One day, you will understand, I would tell her.

My daughter was with me while I was yet a child. I have always known that she would come, never doubting. Even when it was down to the wire, I knew she would make her way to me from “God’s pocket” or wherever her soul dwelled before my womb.

Though she came to be at a tumultuous time in my life, having stirred up a well of deep fear around bringing a daughter into this world, her presence gave me a sense of purpose and a sublime peace, even in the face of my Anxiety. I was given signs of comfort and encouragement along the way.

Naturally worried about giving birth at the cut-off age of 36, and being told of all the potential complications, I learned at my first Obgyn visit that the baby’s due date was my father’s birthday. I lost my father when I was two. I never had another worry after hearing that.

We had decided on the names Sophia and Bella, knowing we would have a girl. I was working at a department store at the time and my coworkers convinced me that this trick with a necklace held over my belly would definitively determine the sex of my baby, so curiously, I obliged. Much to my surprise, the necklaces back and forth movement, as opposed to circling, was indication that I was actually having a BOY! A BOY? How could I have a boy named Sophia? So I began frantically coming up with a back up boy name, which was awful because with the due date being my Dad’s birthday, and me feeling very strongly Italian, the only choice I had was Alfred. Or Fred. Or Freddie. It all felt so very wrong. I knew I would love little Freddie, (ew, sorry Dad) but where was this little girl I’d been talking to and longing for all my life? Did she change her mind? I wouldn’t blame her. I set my mind to having a boy. I felt guilty for being disappointed. It was a challenging week that coincided with my being served a fried egg that was still jiggly and raw in the white part, which was the most horrific sight that had me so ill, I thought I might succumb. The “e” word was not spoken of from that day on.

That afternoon I came home from work and could not wait to get out of my skirt that was binding at my expanding waistline. I had borrowed some larger clothes from a friend who had managed to survive a fashionable pregnancy. Now this is gonna sound nuts, but it is the absolute truth. When I took the skirt off, I looked at the label, and it said SOPHIEBELLA! I cried tears of joy while I danced around the kitchen in my stockings. That night we decided to name our daughter with both names put together. Sophiabella. Ahhhh. That was her! My next Dr appointment had my due date changed to Oct 30th, about a week earlier than we originally thought. Fine by me, I thought. I knew that all would be well.

I talked to my baby all the time, much like when I was a little girl. I would sing and read to her. But one day, while sitting at the library downtown, those secrets rose up in me like bile and I began to panic. I visualized myself sitting on that rock, holding my doll, watching the pony, and told my child the most important thing for her to remember, which was this:

I may get sad sometimes, and you might not understand why, but always know that I am a fighter and everything will be fine. I will ALWAYS protect you. ALWAYS.

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I remember exactly where I was sitting and the memory is so clear. I put those ugly secrets back in the box and prayed daily that I would be the mother my child needed me to be, and for her life to be so much different than mine. Safe, secure, nurtured, protected, loved, happy… Unencumbered.

The night before she was born I had a dream/vision of a pair of huge glowing hands showing me the most beautiful little baby I have ever seen, in an otherworldly bright, warm and loving light.

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Because God is silly, The Flintstones were playing on the TV while I was in hard labor with my epidural wearing off. It just so happened to be the episode where Wilma’s mother is coming to stay because Pebbles was about to be born. Wilma and I gave birth at 3:20am on October 18th, 2002.  When I was handed my huge yet tiny 10 lb baby for the first time, my jaw dropped in awe. I recognized her right away. Then she stood firm on those strong new legs and looked me square in the eye, and I knew that this was definitely not her first time at the rodeo.

 

I am reflective today, looking back over our sixteen years together. There is an old Jewish fable about the angel, Layla, who tells you all the secrets of the world and your ancestors, while you are in the womb. When you are born, she puts her finger above your lip, just below your nose, and whispers softly, “Ssssshhhhhh”. She locks this knowledge away and leaves behind an imprint.

I wonder if I could have just locked my secrets away, so that they would not have made such a painful imprint on my child. Despite my most heartfelt intentions and love so immense that it defies logic and explanation, it seems the very thing I swore I would protect her from turns out to be me. She is so angry that I suffer with mental health issues. She is merciless in displaying her rage that she has had to see me broken and weak. I know that this rage is really fear. And I am unable to parent her, despite climbing every mountain and looking under every rock for help. I tried and failed at setting boundaries with a father who has consistently released her from ever having consequences, who in fact reinforces negative, entitled, disrespectful behavior by giving her anything she wants. Every effort to give her the tools she needs to be a happy, successful contributing human in this world is wasted and has left me feeling defeated. If I’m really honest, I will say I feel re-victimized and that makes me fire-breathing mad.

My entire life has been a fight to release myself from oppression. While I have now made my pony dream a reality, my sweetest doll, my own baby dear seems to exist in a separate reality to which there seems to be no door. fb_img_1546538945269

The Day I Rested My Boots By The Fire

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It was a cold day that had started out sunny. I knew there was a 100% chance of rain later, but nothing could take away my joyful anticipation. A group of riders were meeting at the farm to grab our horses, get tacked up by 10am, and have an off-site excursion to a friend’s place, Timberline Ranch, several miles away.

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She and her husband had just finished clearing trails in their woods, and we were all happy to christen them, especially since it was hunting season and our usual acreage was off limits.

Riding my favorite horse along the quiet country road, seeing all the farms and fields, had me feeling a sense of nostalgia that was tied to a childhood dream. The entire ride became a prayer of gratitude for experiencing these moments and the joyful contentment I felt.

We were greeted at our destination by a cozy fire and hot coffee. We all dismounted and took a break before hitting the trails, then settling in for lunch. I got some coffee and went to sit by the fire, putting my boots up, and taking in the sights and sounds; cattle mooing next door, the crackling fire, horses and people talking. I was transported back to a golden memory of a day, so simple yet profound.

My daughter was 2 months old and I was getting ready for my first job since giving birth, my first day away from her after eight long and painful weeks of trying to get her to latch on. Despite the overwhelming challenge, I was committed to successful nursing. I have never endured more physical and emotional pain in such a short, yet endless-seeming concentration of time. By the time I took this job, however, we had triumphed and I was well into the breastfeeding zone, mastering pumping and storage in preparation for this day. I felt like I deserved some kind of pioneer-woman, mothering, hardship medal!

It was on this grey, rainy November morning that I got that reward. We were cozily nestled in the glider for her morning feeding. The house was still but for the sound of rain as I watched it fall. It was like a symphony to my ears along the with the precious, sated coos of my baby, finally being nourished by the body that had carried the hope of her arrival since I was a child nurturing my first doll. Her tiny little hands were opening and closing on my chest like a kitten making dough, occasionally resting to play with a button on my blouse. High on a mother’s love and the rush of Oxytocin as my milk let down, I felt a sense of bliss as time stopped and the only existence was the two of us, in this moment. It felt like heaven and I never wanted it to end.

I’m reminded of another day when Bella was about seven and we had gone for a long walk. We stopped to rest on the sidewalk a bit and she climbed in my lap, gave me a big kiss, and said, “Mommy, this is the BEST DAY ever!” I was able to capture that treasured moment with my phone.

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As I sat by the fire drinking my coffee with my feet up, looking around at this group of people whose friendship I treasure, I felt a wave of that same bliss wash over me. Mentally, I fell to my knees in gratitude, holding back tears of joy, tears that are now freely flowing as I write. I wanted to remain frozen in this moment, in this entire day. What makes these memories/feelings so sublime is the way that God is able to turn off my body’s score card that 98% of the time has me “waiting for the other shoe to drop” so to speak. That’s the voice of fear that comes from the child who is trapped behind the door at the bottom of the well, for in her experience there is no ability to see beyond what she has known; the inevitability of lasting peace.

This day in all of it’s simplicity was a turning point within me, for I invited that sad little girl who was peeking out from behind my horse, gazing longingly at me, wanting so much to come out of that shadow, to come and join me. All she had ever wanted in life was now before her and I am finally able to make her know that she is safe. Now that once broken child in me will live forever in this moment of bliss and if there is any shoe dropping, it will be because I am kicking them off after another full day of living in gratitude that I am able to experience riches that no amount of money can buy.

Truly, greater is the reward of contentment when repetitive discord has one falsely believe that they are not entitled to it. It’s been a long, hard road, but I am finally there.

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