Monday, November 24, 2008

I am not a wuss.

Private guilt. Why the hell do we do it to ourselves? Feeling guilty about something that no one else notices or cares about, something that doesn't really matter, something that isn't even wrong. But the judges in our heads are fixated on it, and let us know, all day long.

Here's what I'm talking about:
When I don't take my horse out on a beautiful chilly day--partly because it's a bit chilly and partly because there's no one to ride with--I feel guilty.

It's not the cold that keeps me from riding, it's riding alone. My horse is very cautious when we're by ourselves; he's always surveying the area around us to be sure there are no predators lying in wait. Sometimes he shies at inanimate objects, sometimes he bolts a few steps when he thinks something is sneaking up behind us. Once in a while, he suddenly turns on the afterburners--and you wouldn't believe the thrust those rear engines have. Depending on where we are, it's either just annoying or downright dangerous, say, if we're on the sidewalk next to a busy road, on our way to the barn next door.

Even though I haven't fallen off (yet) and have ridden fairly well through everything he's done thus far, some days I just don't have the emotional fortitude to face it. So I find excuses to avoid riding. And then the judge in my head says, "You wuss. If you really knew how to ride, you'd just tough it out. Everyone knows you're a wuss. Wussy, wussy, wussy. "

Now here's the thing. No one cares whether I ride or not. Certainly Wolfie doesn't--he'd rather hang out in the paddock with his buddy than ride around in circles or go out on the trails. As for other riders, I'm sure the people I ride with wish I'd stop talking about this issue, but whether I ride or not is completely irrelevant to them. It just doesn't matter one way or the other.

But I care. I see it as some kind of foundational character weakness. Yet, if I look at the bigger picture, the fact that I ride at all is a pretty good testament to my courage. Horses are big and powerful. Their reactions to the unexpected can be extremely dangerous. People die riding horses. Think Christopher Reeve.

So, am I really a wuss? I suppose it depends on one's perspective. But I know I'm a fool if I listen to the voice in my head that says so. And I'd rather be a wuss than a fool.

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