The Best Bad Luck

If I had a blog, today I would write about my having the best bad luck in the world.

Halloween, the year I was ten.

Halloween, the year I was ten.

I used to think I was the unluckiest person in the world. There was some basis for my assumption, after all, my medical record read like (and looked like) a textbook on unusual medical conditions: At age ten I was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes, I had brain surgery when I was sixteen to remove a tumor that destroyed my pituitary gland, found out I have a rare blood-clotting disorder when I was thirty, discovered I have Asperger’s Syndrome in my early forties, and have suffered from migraine headaches for more than a decade. When it was all said and done, I had trouble finding a specialist to help me manage my kaleidoscope of conditions. I was a medical marvel. To say I was angry at God would be the understatement of the century.

Me and my horse, Jamil, just before my surgery

Me and my horse, Jamil, just before my surgery

I wore my anger like a badge for close to thirty years. Counseling helped a little, maturity balanced things here and there, abut I was nearly forty years old before I had my epiphany; before I realized I didn’t have common bad luck, I had the best bad luck of anyone I know.

My lightning flash of insight came one night while I was journaling. I was doing a retrospective of some sort when I saw a pattern emerge in the events which caused me so much angst: Yes, the events were unfortunate and unpleasant and maybe even unfair, but in every case, there were occurrences that were really pretty marvelous. For example, when I was diagnosed with diabetes I knew I would be giving shots of  insulin for the rest of my life, but if I’d been born even fifty years earlier, before insulin was discovered, my prognosis would have been grim. Today, Type 1 Diabetes is not a terminal illness. I could have been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, cancer, or worse. All in all, if I had to have a serious condition, diabetes wasn’t a bad way to go.

My epiphany expanded when I thought about my brain tumor. Not only was it benign and fully operable, my second cousin, Dr. Don Long, was chief-of-staff of neurosurgery at John’s Hopkins Medical Center, the place where the surgery I needed was developed. Don would perform the surgery alongside the specialist who invented the procedure. Talk about spectacularly good-bad luck!

My Girl Rain

My Girl Rain

These realizations began a change in perspective that is the center of my life today. Whatever happens, it is now second-nature for me to look for the good fortune in the bad. Yesterday was a case-in-point: My beloved horse, Rain, turned up lame yesterday morning. Her leg was swollen and hot and she couldn’t put any weight on it at all. My first instinct was panic. It could be blood poisoning, some kind of infection, a fractured bone, or even a snake bite. It was Saturday and although our vet will make weekend house-calls, he isn’t always the vet-on-call. The voices in my head told me I’d have to wait until Monday, then try to get an space in Dr. Berger’s very busy appointment schedule. It could be two or three days before Rain would be seen. At that point, I had a few moments of meltdown behind the barn. Once I’d composed myself, though, I decided to give fate a chance. I called the emergency phone number for the vet clinic and wonder of wonders, not only was Dr. Berger on call, he could come right out. Good Luck Number 1. After a thorough exam, Dr. B diagnosed Rain with a bruised hoof. He gave me a daily regimen of foot-baths, poultices, and bandaging, but he assured me my Rain would make a full recovery.

If I had a dime for every time my brain predicted gloom and doom, then was proved wrong, I would be in the Fortune 500. I don’t know what defense mechanism makes us think assuming the worst is helpful, but it seems to be hardwired into the human genome. The good news is: There seems to be a treatment. Like my diabetes, it is more management than a cure, but approaching the fearful things of life with the intent of finding the best of bad luck does work miracles.

I am a little nervous as I head to the barn this morning. Rain should be better, but the committee in my head say, “No, no, things could have gone downhill over night.” Nevertheless, I will take the high-road and dare to hope for the best, not expect the worst. After all, I want to maintain my title. I want to remain the human with The Best Bad Luck in the world.

Sweet Freedom

Our Home on The Greenwood

Our Home on The Greenwood

If I had a blog, today I would write about Freedom – my personal liberation from the shackles of landscaping. Don’t get me wrong, I love our beautiful farm and nothing pleases me more than to see it mowed, manicured, and abloom with wildflowers. I think it is only right to honor one’s home by keeping it beautiful. The thing is, its too big a job for one (or even two) people. In order to keep our lawn, the lawn at our guest house, the barn lot (front and back) and all the side lots and paddocks mowed, I have to mow every single day from mid-April to mid-October and then I have no energy for the things I really love to do. So, in the interest of self-preservation, I have hired a landscaping company to take on the grass for the remainder of the summer. They start Monday and I am now free to get back to my creative exploits.

Rain - My Dearest Friend

Rain – My Dearest Friend

In anticipation of my liberation, I committed a large part of my daily energy budget to working with my horse, Rain. Although I care for Rain every day by bringing her to the barn to rest and munch hay when it is hot outdoors, I haven’t played with her for almost a month and oh! how I have missed my girl. Rain is a big, raw-boned paint mare; one-quarter thoroughbred and three-quarters quarter horse. She is 15-2 hands (that’s 5’2″ at the shoulder) and is as laid back as a horse can be. I don’t ride a lot (a story for another time) but I love working with Rain on the ground. We are in a training program that sets out specific goals for horse and rider so they can work as a team, with the human as the leader. This is important for Rain and me because Rain is the leader of our horse herd and thus thinks of me as a subordinate. As an introvert and empath, I struggle to assert myself and this program is helping both of us find the right place in our relationship. If it sounds like marriage counseling, it very nearly is. Horses are complex creatures and smart, thoughtful, low-energy horses like Rain are a real challenge. As an introvert myself, I know where Rain is coming from, but finding the balance of power isn’t easy when you believe an animal is every bit as sentient as a human being.

Sure, I could make this a lot easier on myself. I could just treat Rain like a mindless piece of property – a motorcycle or ATV – and demand she do my bidding whether she likes it or not, but that isn’t me. I want to earn Rain’s respect so when she obeys me it is because she trusts my judgment implicitly. I want to have a partnership with this amazing creature. I want to learn from her as well as instruct her. There is much she can teach me, I am certain.

I will close with a quote from writer Monica Dickens (the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens), that sums up my philosophy regarding horses:

“You and your horse. His strength and beauty. Your knowledge and patience and determination and understanding and love. That’s what fuses the two of you onto this marvelous partnership that makes you wonder, ‘What can heaven offer any better then what I have here on earth?'”

To that I reply, “Nothing.  Heaven is a life lived deeply, here on planet Earth, with a horse as your deepest, dearest friend.”