Saturday, February 25, 2012

Losing My Expectations

“We always enter into relationships with expectations of what the relationship will do for us. This is true not only in romantic relationships but also in other areas—family, work, friends, and even casual encounters. More often than not, we’re not even aware of our expectations; but when we experience a relationship difficulty or conflict, it’s likely that our expectations are not being met.”
Ezra Bayda, “Beyond Happiness, The Zen Way to True Contentment”

When I recently came across this book by Ezra Bayda, my thoughts immediately went to my relationship with Siete. I am always lamenting that I do not have the closeness and trust with my little horse that I share with her mother.

“When our expectations aren’t met, difficulties automatically arise and we may experience disappointment, anger, or fear. Unfortunately, instead of looking inward to see our own expectations, we usually focus on who we can blame or how we can fix the situation. We’ll almost always view our relationship difficulties as problems to be solved, as obstacles to overcome.”

If I think about why I don’t feel any tension with Silk, I see that it’s because I don’t want her to “be” any particular way. I have always just loved her as she is. Rather than wishing things were different, I simply deal with what is and accept that she and I can work it out to make it better for her. So, why can’t I do that with Siete? Partly, it’s because I compare her to her mother, and they are very different personalities. Silk wants to be my partner and is glad to be with me, no matter what we are doing. Siete has a vibrant spirit, a strong will, and does not give a hoot about whether she is pleasing me or meeting my expectations. So, over the years, I’ve come to assume that when I have an expectation of how I want something to go with Siete, it’s often going to end up being a challenge or even a battle of wills.

“These difficulties are our exact path to freedom, in that they push us to go deeper into our life, to work with the very things that cause us so much unhappiness, namely, our demands that life, and others, be a particular way, and the sense of entitlement we have in thinking that we need to feel a particular way.”

Over and over again, Siete offers me life lessons and little tests of my confidence and my ability to communicate without using words. Spirit to spirit.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Memories of My Dad

A friend of mine sent me a documentary about a couple of women who have bought some racehorses. They run the horses at Arlington Park outside of Chicago. It brought back a swell of memories about my father. Let’s start by explaining that my dad was afraid of horses. I started riding as soon as I could walk, and he only came to watch me at a few horse shows. All the pictures he took of me on a horse only show me, not the head or tail of the horse. They look like I’m sitting on a log. Yet, at the same time, he always took me to the races at Arlington Park, and he loved to watch the horses run there.

It was one of my favorite activities. He would give me four dollars, and we would pour over the race sheets figuring out our bets. My mother always put her money on the Polish jockeys. I insisted that I had to see the horses as they were saddled in the paddock before I made my choice. This involved a lot of running back and forth between our seats in the stands and the lovely green park behind the track and the betting windows. I would fall in love with one of the thoroughbreds and dream of magically finding it in my backyard when I got home.

There were distinct smells that I associate with the races. One was the intoxicating scent of horse. The other was the odor of spilled beer. And inside, near the betting windows, there were these carts that sold hot roast beef, ham or turkey sandwiches. They tasted as good as they smelled and were piled so high on fresh rye bread that my mom and I always shared one. My dad would stand with me at the rail during the race so we could cheer on our favorite horses. When I was really little, he’d hoist me up on his shoulders so I could see better. If one of us won, we’d rush inside to the windows to cash in and get a few dollars back so we could bet again. At the end of the day, if my dad won enough, he’d take us out to dinner. Miraculously, he always lucky enough that we could afford it. It was a ritual that continued every summer until I moved to New York City after college.

We also always watched the Kentucky Derby together on TV like it was the Super Bowl. My mom prepared special hors d’oeuvres and drinks. We placed bets, each putting a quarter into the pool. Even when I was living in a different city, I’d call him and stay on the phone through the whole race so we could cheer and comment on it together. It never occurred to me until I was watching the documentary about the racehorses yesterday that maybe my father wasn’t simply crazy about horseracing. He was probably doing this to make a closer connection with me. We really didn’t do much else together, since he was working most of the time. He was a country lawyer and a judge. He loved his work very much, and when poor health forced him to retire at age 79, he passed away the next year.

When I moved to San Diego, my brother-in-law gave us a present one Christmas of a day at the races at Del Mar. He knew some owners who had a box, and we took my mom and my daughter, who was about four years old and horse-crazy like I had been. We walked in, and I felt like I had fallen into a time warp. It looked and smelled exactly like I remembered Arlington Park all those decades ago. I gave my daughter four dollars, and we looked at the race sheets, ran out to see the horses in the paddock, and my husband put her up on his shoulders so she could watch the races. And I know that my dad was up there somewhere looking down on us with a big smile on his face.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Darling Valentines

Dear Silk and Siete,

You probably don’t remember
that it’s Valentine’s Day.
But that’s the reason for the
extra flake of hay.

You’re really no different than you’ve always been,
My secret weapons that keep me honest and true,
Responsive and soft, loyal through thick and thin.
Centered and loving no matter what I do.

So there will be an extra carrot in the buckets for you tonight
Just because you make my world so right.

Love you guys!

Happy Valentine's Day to all my friends -- peace and love

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Attached to the Rest of the World

This has been a challenging week for me. Every day, there seemed to be a small, specific drama that needed my full attention and totally took me away from whatever I had planned to do to keep my life and work moving in the direction that I had set for myself.

My mom, my daughter, my husband and the puppy were all pulling at me so I felt like my arms and legs were stretched out as far as they could go in each direction. At the same time, I was so tired that I couldn’t wait to throw myself into bed each night. Everything was annoying -- from waiting in line for hay for 45 minutes at the farm only to find that the horse trailers in front of me took all the second cut this week to Stella grabbing the reading glasses that I bought my husband for Christmas and chewing them to bits. Listening to the news, the ugly politics and fighting didn't help restore my balance. It felt like the whole world was having a hissy fit. So as much as I hate to do it, I ignored everyone else's problems. It was just one of those weeks to test my patience.

As usual, the only place that I felt like I could find peace was in the barn. Silk and Siete had no complaints for me. They were content to have their necks scratched or just stand at my side and be okay. Horses have no “inner voices” reminding them that they are not trying hard enough or doing what they are supposed to do. They tune into energy, reading the “Qi” ( or “Chi”) that is all around and inside of them. It’s almost as if we human beings are at polar opposites from them. We pride ourselves on our mastery of words and our brains’ abilities to solve problems. We think to an excess, and our daily activities are constantly buzzing with sound and information.

My escapes with the horses gave me an opportunity to notice the angle of the light on the trees and the way that the days are starting to get longer. The silence out there allows me to find a spaciousness inside of myself where I can just stop thinking and be. How lucky I am to have such a powerful retreat just outside my back door. Now, I just need to find a way to carry that feeling around with me throughout my day.

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

John Muir