Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The River of Change

Owning and caring for horses in the middle of all the other challenges of our lives isn’t easy. I’m wrestling with some serious problems with my 93-year old mother’s health. She’s been incredibly strong and well, “a geriatric poster child”, as her doctor jokingly calls her. She takes no meds and hasn’t ever had a major illness. Unfortunately, her hearing and her eyesight are wearing out. She has macular degenerative disease, and last week, her world just went completely blurry. There’s nothing that anyone can do to change it. Suddenly, all the things that were no problem, like walking to the mailbox or emptying the dishwasher, are disorienting and difficult.

The horses are insanely itchy, and I feel stretched and jerked back and forth trying to help them and comfort my mother, who lives with us. So, even though the weather is gorgeous, my horses and my mom are miserable. I can run outside to wash the horses and cover their bellies with aloe and fly spray. I can race back into the living room to listen to my mother, who is wondering why life is worth living if you can’t see or hear. Waking in the middle of the night, I worry about how we will be able to communicate with her if she’s deaf and blind. I wish I could wave a magic wand and fix these problems.

Just the other day, before this unhappy turn of events, I was realizing how everything was fine. I stopped for a moment as I was picking up some flakes of hay to give the horses and just appreciated how okay life was, with a prickly intuition that soon it might not be. Even now, I realize that things could be a lot worse, and very well might be in the near future. So, I’ve been looking for some guidance as to how to ride through this upcoming turbulence.

I was bending under Silk’s belly, rubbing her with a soapy sponge, when I thought about Jack Kornfield’s book, “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry”. Kornfield is a doctor of clinical psychology who is also a Buddhist monk. I am particularly fond of him because he has a wonderful sense of humor and a great heart. Coming back inside, I found the book on my shelf and read something that helped me:

“Underneath all the wanting and grasping, underneath the need to understand is what we have called “the body of fear”. At the root of suffering is a small heart, frightened to be here, afraid to trust the river of change, to let go in this changing world. This small unopened heart grasps and needs and struggles to control what is unpredictable and unpossessable. But we can never know what will happen. With wisdom, we allow this not knowing to become a form of trust.”

It reminded me of that same leap of trust that I had to take with my horse after she had injured me years ago and I was afraid of her. I learned to be comfortable in the "not knowing". I was able to ride and successfully handle Silk because I decided to trust her. It was more than okay, it was a turning point in our relationship.

Then, Kornfield quotes St. John of the Cross, “If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.” I had to laugh because it was so in line with what I just wrote in my last post here. Maybe that’s why I’ve been riding around on Silk with my eyes closed and my feet dangling out of the stirrups. It’s good practice for what’s to come when I’m not in the saddle.


EquineFacts said...

I first just want you to know that I completely enjoy your blog! Keep up the good work! With that out of the way my grandfather is going through the same thing as your mother. I asked him what the secret to life is and he told me that he just keeps kicking and wiggling. I laughed and said what do you mean? He responded with: "You have to kick every now and then to let God know your still there. It doesn't matter if your kicking happy or mad atleast your still kicking and God knows your there." I just thought I would share that little tidbit my grandfather told me the other day.

Horse Forum

djbrown said...

Sigh...You have the wisdom to keep your eye on what is important. What a gift, though I am sure there is a price. Thank you for putting it out there.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I feel for you and your mom. I'm sure she is scared right now and wondering what will happen to her when she can't see or hear anymore. It must be terribly frightening for her. I'm sure you are doing all you can even though it is a drain on you too. It is hard being the sole care giver to so many people and animals. When everyone depends on you to be there, that in itself can can seem an insurmountable obstacle on a daily basis. My wish for you is to have the strength when you need it and the peace of mind you will need to deal with the future. Take one day at a time and don't forget to look for humor along the way, it may sound odd, but humor always seems to get me through tough times. My thoughts are with you.

billie said...

It seems like it's been a tough two weeks or so for a lot of people I know. I hope things balance to a "new normal" and that your mom can get some comfort with the blurriness.

I read something the other day that stuck with me and has made the past week easier for me. It was attributed to the Native Americans, but I have no other author to credit...

"Show me what I need to know

Take me where I need to go

I give thanks for help unseen

already on its way."

Take care!

Victoria Cummings said...

Thanks, all of you - I feel very supported by my good horse-loving friends - Your words are wise and I am taking them to heart.

The Kittens' Mother said...

As always you write such a wonderful blog. I am sorry about your mum. My nextdoor neighbour was struggling with the same problems until she had to go and live with her son and daughter-in-law. Our best wishes are with you, your mum and the rest of the family. Take care, from Meg and cats xxx

Pony Girl said...

It is a wonderful thing you are doing, taking care of your mother. I know a lot of people that do it and it is sometimes a full-time job in and of itself. My grandmother took care of my great-grandmother for years. Not everyone has family to take care of them. These years might be challenging, but also special and rewarding. You do such a great job of taking care of everyone, your equine girls and your family, just remember to take care of yourself, too! ;)

Trail Riding Cowgirl said...

Hi girl,

Thanks for your words of encouragement to me when you are going through so much to. I just try to remember something my Mom once told me."Life is like the ocean, waves and troughs....One day you surf the wave and sometimes you must swim in the troughs." I miss her! Cherish the time you do have and chin up your ride on the wave is coming.