Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Holidays, Reflections, and Life Lessons

The holidays are usually a time for people to see family, reconnect, and show each other how well you know the others based on your gift-giving skills. At least, that's pretty much what it was always about for me. Also church. A lot of time in church.

To be honest, I'm pretty excited to just spend the holidays alone with Sarah. Usually on Christmas day we would go to three or four houses, and it was absolutely exhausting. This will be a nice year to just hang out and recharge.

For me, the holidays are usually about reflection.

So, as I was reflecting on... I don't remember exactly.... but I also happened to be cutting carrots. I was moving just a bit too fast, and next thing I knew there was blood on the cutting board and a bit of the tip of my finger was gone. It really could have been much, much worse if the knife were actually sharp (but it's currently as dull as ditchwater).

Nevertheless - I cleaned up, wrapped my finger, and went back to cutting without pause as one single thought crossed my mind, as if in the distance of my brain... a thought that I have been living by for years and was not even fully conscious of until that very moment. One single phrase that I have since realized has been probably one of the most important lessons I have ever learned...

"Get back on the horse."

When I was young, my parents sent me to summer camp. A day camp out east on Long Island where the taxes are less and the properties are large. A horse camp - the definition of my summer. I would count the days until it would start, and knew that pretty much as soon as it was over I had to get my ass in gear and finish my summer reading before school started again.

I attended this camp for over a decade: first as a camper, then as a Counselor in Training, and eventually as a Lifeguard. Despite all of my other available activities, the hour that I could ride a horse was the best hour of the day. Not swimming, not arts and crafts, not archery, not even playing cards under Shady Lane as a CIT and skipping other daily responsibilities. None of that mattered when I was riding - it was just me and the horse.

A shared understanding between me and this majestic beast.

An unspeakable bond.

That would sometimes end up with me slamming into the mud from upwards of 5 feet off the ground.

There were many rules at camp, none of which rang more true than 'You're not a real rider until you've fallen off at least three times'. This rule was immediately followed by, 'every time you fall off, you must bring brownies for your entire riding group'.

Needless to say, I made quite a few batches of brownies over the years.

Of all the things that summer camp taught me (too many to count), the most valuable lesson of all was 'get back on the horse'. You fell off, you got back on. That was it. If you let the horse win in that moment, the chances of you getting back on, ever, dropped dramatically. We had kids fall off in their first week and quit camp - never to be seen again. There were those that had bad falls and waited a few days but ultimately recovered and reclaimed their saddle, but many were lost within the first few weeks, their tears falling all the way to their parents' cars and probably continued as we watched them drive away in a cloud of dirt.

"Get back on the horse" was my mantra from a very young age, and I didn't realize as it crept into my subconscious and became one of the strongest reactions in my arsenal. Looking back now (don't worry I'm not currently chopping vegetables), I realize how many times I've used this lesson. I can remember times in the past where I have told myself to 'get back on the horse' and it's like a second wind rising up against something that I refuse to let beat me, or hold me down.

So if you're struggling with something, or it feels like the universe if fighting against you - don't just sit back and take it.

Get back on the fucking horse.

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