I can barely recap the month of December without feeling exhausted. I will say, attempting to not sound trite, sappy or maudlin, that like so many prior years in my life, 2011 started with much promise and contained many surprises, both pleasant and not-so-pleasant. It was a watershed year, year of epic change. It is a year that I am more than happy to put behind me.
I am sitting on the floor of my living room, coffee cup on my left and mimosa on my right, trying to shake off the effects of last night's wine. I consider, as I do every year, what it really means when we flip the switch on the ball and a new year begins. Dates are something artificial that we have imposed on our world to maintain the fiction that we actually control something. Still, the seasons turn and the earth dies and is reborn every spring. That promises us that something hopeful is around the corner, even as we suffer through the withering and dying of the winter months.
I had such expectations for 2011, such hope. And because it is my nature to be hopeful, I have hopes and dreams for this year. But because I am older and because I now understand more viscerally the nature of life, I feel the need to be cautious as well. I tighten the reins on my hopes, hold them in check. And yet...
I have been working with my horse on his collection and his need to charge forward. He is young and full of energy, and you learn over time that although it seems counter-intuitive, holding your horse back is the surest way to make him feel as though he needs to go faster. Because he is a prey animal, the more you try to trap him, the more he will try to get free of you. Over time, if you allow him his freedom, guide him with your legs and your seat and your voice, trust him to be himself, he will trust you enough to relax when you release him and to allow you to check him when that is what you want from him. He will trust that when you are done needing him to stop that you will let him go. You will find, together, a harmony and a partnership wherein you don't need to hold him back and he doesn't need to get away from you. And inside that bond of trust and respect, you will both grow.
In the documentary Buck, Buck Branaman says that our relationships with horses reflect the issues in our lives. As we develop our skills to read and respond to our horse and our ability to establish his trust and his respect, so we hone our maturity in all other areas of our life. If you can stand on the ground with nothing in your hands and ask a 1500 pound animal to back up with nothing but your energy and intent, and he does, there is nothing in your life that you cannot approach with the same energy and intent. The first thing that is needed is that you know what you want your horse to do. The second thing is to understand how you tell him that in a way that he will understand. Lastly, you need to apply only as much pressure as is required to convey your request. The moment that he complies, you release the pressure and reward the horse.
So it is in our everyday life. Know who you are and what you need to accomplish. Apply as much energy and intent as required and relax that pressure when it is not needed. How much time have I wasted in my 46 years apply pressure to situations when it was not necessary?
Something within me wants me to be cautious about my hopes and expectations for this year. The child within me who was given away, the woman within me who struggled to find herself within a marriage that was wildly out of control, the woman who suffered unexpected and devastating loss, they think that they need me to hold the reins tighter on my hopes.
The woman within me who has learned to appreciate what is good,who has experienced unexpected and incredible joy, and who has learned to release the pressure gathers them all close and tells them, "it will be okay. You can let go."
Yes, there will be sorrow. There will be pain. There will be days when I fail to do and fail to be. There will be great loss. But there will also be great love and great joy, great success and great contentment for me, for my husband and children, for my family and my friends. For us all.
And so I let go of the check and I allow the hope to blossom fully. I will not temper it with caution. I will hope.
I let go.