Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's not about you.

I have observed that there is at least one thing that cats and horses have in common: they think it's about them, all the time.

When the doorbell rings, Roxy scoots down to the basement, to the darkest corner of a storage closet. If the doorbell even rings on TV, she's gone. When the ice maker in my freezer tosses another load of cubes into the bin, Roxy heads for the hills. If I am wrestling a garbage bag into the kitchen trash can, she's outtathere. She's absolutely convinced that something terrible is going to happen to her.

My horse, Wolfie, while somewhat less of a nervous Nellie, is also sure that he's a target. Horses are flight animals: they run away from predators. So, the log across the path that wasn't there yesterday, the fake brick wall in the arena that's in a new location, the leafy branch that fell next to the trail--all of these things give him pause. If the menace is behind him, he bolts a few steps. If it's next to him, he jumps sideways. If it's in front of him, he stops in his tracks, front legs splayed, head held either very high (if the apparent troll is a distance away) or very low (if it's right in front of him, on the ground). As he gets more confident, he's less and less nervous, but his response to any new situation is viewed through that filter.

. . .

There have been so many times when I've been fearful or angry or hurt because I interpreted whatever was going on around me as being about me. I spent what must have been a decade in therapy railing about work until one day I realized that the dysfunction had little to do with me. It was what it was, and I just happened to be there--participating and, no doubt, contributing to it--but it wasn't about me, really, at all. Once I realized that, I found that I was no longer so angry and defensive at work. It wasn't all about me = it wasn't all my fault.

. . .

Years ago, I owned a Thoroughbred horse named Danny. He was big, opinionated, and a little hot, but seemed unflappable, and I trusted him the way I had trusted my childhood horse, who always took care of me no matter what we came across. One day, for no apparent reason, Danny spooked and bolted in the outdoor arena, and I fell off.

It was illuminating: I felt betrayed, because I somehow believed that he had intentionally done it to me. Some weeks later, I consulted an animal communicator (yes, I know, I know), and asked her to tell him that he had scared me when he bolted, and that I didn't like it. When she asked him about the incident, he said that he'd seen something at the edge of the arena out of the corner of his eye and it spooked him.

And then he said, "You know, it's not always about you."

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