Choices

Warbler Dance

Warbler Dance

If I had a blog, today I would write about the cold-blooded killer of inspiration, the one thing that stops the creative flow in its tracks: It is the insidious demon of worry. I have been a victim of worry most of my life. I come from a long line of professional worriers and I have kept the family tradition going full-throttle. A change in plans, a bit of uncertainty, conflict between family members; it doesn’t take much to start the process but it can take days to rein it in. During those days, I got to my creative well and find it dry; soil cracked like the scales of a long-dead dinosaur and the merciless glare of the grey sky above offers no promise of life-giving rain.

What is the relationship between worry and creativity? Why do they seem to be mutually exclusive? My theory is this: Worry (fear, anxiety, etc.) comes from Ego. This is not Sigmund Freud’s ego, but a new description of a similar beast coined by writer Eckhart Tolle in his book, The Power of Now. Although I’m loathe to jump on board with self-help gurus, I do like Tolle’s concept of Ego: The Ego is the sum of all the thoughts, actions, and beliefs that cause us emotional pain. These thoughts and beliefs are the result of dwelling on negative aspects of the past or worrying about the future. Hope lies in focusing on the good things in the present moment and learning that the Ego’s spin on the events of our lives is a pack of lies. In my opinion, its like having the media interpret your life for you: All drama, all pain, all conflict while the goodness that’s happened along the way is dismissed. As long as we’re caught up in this internal soap-opera, the gifts we have been given as artists, musicians, teachers, healers, parents, etc., are hidden from us. They don’t feed the Ego, so they are hidden under the proverbial bushel.

Yesterday I didn’t blog because my Ego got the best of me. A situation developed that caused me to worry and when I sat down to write, noting happened. The archives of my mind were closed for business. This morning I am going to go to the barn, speak to my horses and focus on the really miraculous things in my life. I’ll write down a list if I have to. I’ll be thankful for the beautiful place I live, for the love of my horse, my cats, my dogs, and my chickens. It is cool this morning and I will drink in this gift of summer. I don’t want the Ego to win. I don’t want to wast days, or even weeks, lost in a dark forest of my own making. I may not have a choice in everything that happens to me, but I can choose where to put my focus and I choose to focus on all the things that are right with my life. With any luck, and a couple hours of animal-therapy, the muse will return and I will finish the two blogs I started yesterday. Until then, I will bravely soldier on.

Binge Cleaners & Horse Trainers

In the Mist

In the Mist

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.

The Happy Herd

The Happy Herd

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.

Wisewoman Rain

Wisewoman Rain

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?

Rain's Happy Place

Rain’s Happy Place

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.