Mirror, Mirror on the wall…

A stranger called me today and offered to buy my horse. She had seen my mare cavorting in her paddock the previous weekend, and Jazz is apparently the spitting image of a much beloved mare she had left behind overseas. She tracked down my number and we had a conversation that went something like this:

Her:     “Linda, we met last weekend – I fell in love with your horse and I wonder if you would consider selling her to me.”

Me:      “Wow – um – thank you – I mean – she is special…she is my soul-horse…. I followed my gut and got on a ‘plane and went to find her in KZN …. she was so thin and tiny …. I just knew I had to have her …. she needed me ….. we needed each other …. I didn’t even try any other horses, even after not riding for 15 years…….I can’t sell her, not even if you offer me vast sums; it would be like selling my child.”

Her:     “Actually, I totally get it – its really not about the money – that’s exactly how I felt about my mare – I really do understand that you can’t sell her.

Me:      “Even though she sometimes overwhelms me and I don’t always know what I’m doing, or even if I’ve made the right call in re-entering this world after so long away from it. I feel as if our destinies are somehow entwined, and she has been sent for me to learn some really important lessons, that sometimes have nothing to do with skillful horse riding…”

Reflecting on this occasion a few weeks ago, and my thoughts around it, I am struck by how much I identify with this horse of mine.

Her name, Jadzia Assault, loosely translated, means war-like. I like to think of her as my Warrior Princess. With Jazz, everything is a negotiation. Nothing is a given. Leading her from stable to paddock or paddock to stable? Don’t assume that because it went well yesterday she will be in the same mood today. Just because she was happy to have me rub her itchy spots with a curry comb yesterday doesn’t mean she won’t flatten her ears at me today. Her body language is so clear, she may as well be talking English! And what she would be saying is, “Don’t take liberties with me! Check with me first!”

My husband says I’m just like my horse, and what I think he means is that I am a little unpredictable. Sweet, soft and gentle velvety muzzle transforms in the blink of an eye to arched neck, rearing up and squealing with rage. And here is where I am learning to “look in the mirror” a little. What do I need from this particular comparison, to help my own awareness of how my behaviour affects people?

I know from the work I have been doing around the way we naturally express ourselves, that each of us instinctively chooses to respond from either our head, our heart or our gut, calling on either logic and cognitive reasoning, emotion or intuition and “gut instinct”. Delving a little deeper, and working with the idea that even though we sometimes try to “keep emotion out of it”, each of us has a unique and special relationship to the key emotions of anger, anxiety, shame and grief.

If you are a very logical and rational person, the chances are good that the emotion of anxiety is one you are quite familiar with, either because you worry a lot, or possibly because you scrutinize and analyze all the facts so thoroughly that you don’t have to worry about them. A very “feeling” or emotional person is often more familiar with deep sadness, grief, and sometimes shame, while a “gut instinct” person frequently has to work with the emotion of anger, either with the after-effects of too much anger, or with the impact of suppressing anger over a long period.

If you spend a quiet moment with yourself now, you’ll know exactly what I mean. How you feel about each one of these emotions, and even what you think about what I think about them, that is your personal relationship to that emotion.

What I became interested in exploring, is why my “big button” is always anger, and how quickly it grabs me and shakes me around. No matter how hard I try to channel serenity and peacefulness in my life, I am quick to jump to anger and even rage, particularly when I sense something isn’t fair, or “right” in the world.

Using my new model, lets do a checklist of where we are:

A – what am I now AWARE of, in respect of my relationship to the key emotions of Anger/ Anxiety / Grief and Shame?

B – What do I notice about my BEHAVIOUR when I’m reacting to any of these emotions?

C – What do I need to CHANGE, and very important,

D – how can I learn to DO it DIFFERENTLY?

I have come to realize that my undiluted anger is not always useful in the world. It is limiting and exclusive, and scary to many people. That doesn’t mean that appropriate boundary setting anger doesn’t have a place. It just means that I have a responsibility to take accountability for the impact of my unbridled anger.

Coincidently, when I was competing in triathlon a few years ago, my friends nicknamed my beautiful pink and white tri-bike: Tinkerbell, the Road Warrior! And some of the work I have been doing recently has been referring to the Journey of the Spiritual Warrior. So it’s a bit of a theme for me, it seems – working with the energy of the warrior in my life. And what is that energy?

For me it’s the energy of CHANGE – a warrior fights for things to be different to how they are. A warrior does not accept a broken or an inadequate system. A warrior protects the rights of the people, and does not allow injustice to prevail. I have a responsibility to take accountability for how I set boundaries in the world, for how I map changes and for how I help others to define and set their own boundaries.

When Jazz is rearing and bucking and letting off steam like the warrior princess she is, I watch in hushed admiration. She is magnificent in her power: dominant and courageous. She is predictable in her glorious unpredictability. She is wild and free and untamed, even as she belongs to me, and must live in a paddock and also be ridden. Such a paradox, this life.

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