If I had a blog, today I would write about my life as a binge cleaner and horse trainer. Before you click away, preemptively bored by my reference to cleaning, let me say that observing my intermittent need for organization and my love for a very unique horse has opened up a world of insight into personality types. Its a pretty interesting world, so you might want to read on.
What is binge cleaning? It is a phrase coined by my younger brother, David, to describe the way both he and I approach home maintenance. Although we both prefer to operate in an organized environment, neither of us do well at day-to-day upkeep. We let papers pile up on our desks, laundry creep out of the closet, and the detritus of our creativity grow to epic proportions. As an artist and photographer, I have camera gear strewn about my office, covered by my latest artwork, pencils, erasers, and paintbrushes. David is a musician and computer fiend, so his world becomes awash in sheet music, guitar strings, and USB cables. Despite our tolerance for the untidy, we can only go so long before we need relief and a binge ensues. We plunge in and in a matter of hours have brought order out of chaos, leaving our families to wonder, “Why didn’t they just pick up in the first place?” To that I can only answer, “It’s just the way we are.” Accepting one’s eccentricities has recently become central to my life, in a way I did not expect.
I’ve been around horses most of my life. When I was a kid, my grandparents (Dad’s folks) raised Arabian horses and we raised and farmed with Suffolk draft horses and rode Arabians. After a fifteen-year hiatus, we got back in to Suffolks for a time and now we are back to riding horses. We have two paints and three Arabians and this time around, my consciousness regarding horse personality has been raised to new heights.
Although we bought middle-aged, saddle-trained horses, Mom, Dad, and I wanted to do more than just ride. We wanted to find a way to bond with our individual horses in a way that made us partners, not master and servant. The program we chose was designed by Pat and Linda Parelli and one of the most fascinating aspects of their curriculum is the focus on “horsenality.” Based on human personality testing, like Meyers-Briggs, horses (and humans) are one of four types: Left-Brain Introvert, Right-Brain Introvert, Left-Brain Extrovert, and Right-Brain Extrovert. I knew the essence of introversion vs. extroversion, but the right and left-brained concept was new to me. Left-brain horses are thinkers. They react based on observation while right-brain horses react based on emotion. My horse, Rain, is a left-brain introvert and she has opened my eyes into a whole new world.
LBI’s are very smart but have very low energy. Thus, Rain’s entire life revolves around using as little energy as possible and finding creative ways to avoid anything resembling work. The other horses have challenges too, but they are different to Rain because they have different horsenalities. What works to motivate Rain doesn’t work for Mom’s Arab mare, Nika, and what works for Nika doesn’t work for Dad’s Arab, Abe. The key to getting Rain engaged in an activity, it turns out, is food. Rain loves to eat: Clover, apple-treats, carrots, you name it. If I make our training sessions a scavenger hunt for hidden treats, Rain will move at lightning speed to solve the puzzle and find her goodies. She’s happy, I’m happy, and we meet our training goals every time – plus I have Rain’s respect. Not an easy get in horse-world!
What does this have to do with my binge cleaning? Once I got involved in “horsenality,” I started thinking about my personality (I’m a world-class introvert and empath) and I realized just how much of “She-Who-I-Am” is hardwired into my brain and really can’t (and shouldn’t) be changed. For most of my life I’ve pushed myself to be more outgoing, more social, and more energetic, but what if its ok to be quiet, solitary, and low-energy? What if I figure out how to work with who I am rather than trying to become someone entirely different? What if my goals for self-improvement revolve around being the best version of who I am instead of who the world thinks I should be?
When I go to the barn tonight, the first voice I’ll hear will be the baritone nicker of my Big Paint Mare. She’ll have her head over the stall door, waiting for an apple-treat and and good, long, belly-rub. She doesn’t nicker to just anyone, her welcome is for me. If Rain loves me for the binge-cleaning, book-loving, techno-nerd that I am, how can I offer her any less? I don’t want her to become a hot-headed, high-spirited racehorse or a blindly obedient automaton. I love Rain because of her quirky personality, not in spite of it.
As Rain and I embark on the next leg of our journey, we will remember the wisdom of poet and memoirist May Sarton, when she wrote, “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” Here’s to the new adventure that lies ahead.