Hang on and don't worry

I tried riding my first horse when I was eleven, between reality and my imagination it didn't end well.  A kind farmer near Three Hills, Alberta had taken in the poor missionary family that recently arrived from Taiwan.  He thought he was giving me a neat adventure when he put me on the horse in the corral.  He told me to hang on and not worry, the horse knew what to do.  What I experienced was the terror of being sat on a huge animal that knew I was scared spit-less.  You all know what that horse did next.  It took off at full gallop across the corral with a sixty-pound blonde girl clinging for her life.   The fear was so overwhelming I have no memory after the horse took off.  I have no idea how it came to a stop.  Neither do I recollect getting off the horse.  I do know that apart from the mind imprinting fear, I didn't suffer any physical harm.

Years later I tried again at the encouragement of my kids and husband.  We were on summer vacation in Kananaskis Country, a perfectly scenic place to go on an hour-long trail ride.  I was assured they were docile horses and I didn't need to worry.  I just had to get on and hang on.  Well, I'd done that once before and lived to tell about it.  I'm all about facing fears head on and conquering them.  This was just another chance to be an example for my kids of courage and calm.  Plus, Greg loves horses and the chance to ride even a docile horse was lighting him up.  How could I possibly be the one to say no?

An old grizzled cowboy helped me get on.  He would have been a perfect model for a Charlie Russell painting, I had never seen someone with such deep crevices in their cheeks or legs so bowed. The kind fellow gave me a few pointers, starting with don't be afraid and ending with just hang on she knows where to go.  Too late.  I was already afraid and that stupid horse knew it.  Could it feel my fear in my shaking legs wrapped around its' belly?  All the other tourists mounted their horses and we set off to ride for the longest hour of my life.
Closest thing to a horse picture I have!
Our entourage left the safety of the paddocks, walking single file across the pasture to a narrow trail along the edge of a hill.  There were bushes on the upside, the three foot wide trail, and then the hill dropped away.  I couldn't lean into that hill far enough to feel like I wasn't going to be thrown off the edge.  Truth is the edge was a fairly gently slope down.  There were no cliffs in sight except in my imagination.  But that damn horse kept trying to scrape me off by rubbing up against the bushes and trees on the upside.

Everything hurt even my imagination

It was a picture perfect Rocky Mountain day, with beautiful blue skies and flowers blooming in the mountain meadow on my downside.  Matt was on the horse behind chatting away to me.  I was sure we had been riding for at least forty-five minutes and was convinced I only needed to last fifteen more.  But I needed some reassurance that my imagination wasn't messing with my sense of time, so I asked Matt how much longer we had to ride.  His answer sent me into the abyss of despair.  We were barely fifteen minutes into the ride somehow, I had to hang on for forty-five more agonizing minutes.  Greg took his horse out of the line-up and came alongside to see how his terrified wife was enjoying the ride.  I hurt.  Everything hurt and I probably swore at him.  My legs hurt because I was trying to hold on so very tight.  My hands hurt from gripping the reins as if it really made a difference.  We won't even talk about how my brain and butt hurt.

My poor brain.  Did you know your brain can hurt when your imagination goes wild seeing danger around every corner and down every slope?  The most danger I was in was from myself.  I was scared silly, convinced my horse was going to break ranks and gallop off into the Rocky Mountains with me hanging on until my last breath. I would be flung onto the rocks only to die a horrible death of multiple broken bones and massive head injuries.  Good Lord, the only prayer I needed to pray was, "God thanks for the imagination, but would you please dial it back a bit?"

Be still and know

As we move into the last few days of 2018, my imagination needs to be dialed back a bit.  I started out writing to you about how the new year felt like going off a cliff, then I tried a waterfall because we might at least survive that experience, but neither worked.  The horse riding story captured my thoughts about the new year best.  New Year's Eve reminds us that time doesn't march on, it gallops ahead of us even when we aren't ready. Who is ready for illness, aging, or death?  No one.  When one of those three horsemen grab hold of time in our lives we simply hang on to the horse, desperately trying not to get thrown off.  In the final post of 2016, we grabbed hold of bravery, resilience, comfort, and certainty.  For 2018, let's Be Still and Know.  If that fails, follow the old cowboy's instructions, "Hang on and don't worry she knows where to go."

Please feel free to share the blog with your friends.  Our readership is growing and I'd like to thank you for your faithfulness.
I have a goal of doubling readership in 2018 and adding some new features to the blog.
Thank you for continuing on this journey with me!

Happy New Year!