I had hit the ground. Hard. I didn’t tuck and roll, I was 6. Girls, I have been told, need to work on their get off. The ground isn’t forgiving. The black horse took off and I sat there staring up at the blue sky. It wasn’t the last time I would get dismissed off a horse, but it was the one that I remember the most.
I also remember I had to get back up in the saddle. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. I was a long way from home. Up I went and I think I made it home. I don’t remember the trip that time. I think I was too young and I was too stunned.
That’s the first time I learned to be physically strong.
I loved the high jump in track. I still don’t get it really. I mean you have to run in a certain pattern to a bar, plant your foot, and fling your body at an odd angle over a bar to land on a mat. Each time the height of the bar raising and testing your ability, if you got it wrong, the bar hit you hard; but, at least the mat eased the impact.
What I did love is the is the competition was all in me. I had to decide to go for it. I had to decide whether I was going to win or lose. It was just me against that bar.
The first few times of hitting the bar always set me back. It didn’t hurt. It was a mental game. I had to be stronger than the bar. I had to know I could make it over the bar or I wouldn’t. Every time I let thinking about it interfere with the process of doing it, I would lose.
I had to learn to be mentally strong.
One of my favorite men died when I was 19. When my mom called to tell me I was home alone in my apartment and she had asked me to maybe call someone to be with me. I was puzzled by that and when she told me I simply hung up the phone, went to my room and got the quilt his sister had made me for my graduation and wrapped it around me. Popi, as we all called him, always let me come along on little day trips I invited myself on. I would happily crawl into the back of the camper, stare out the window to wherever he decided he and Grandma were going. I didn’t care. I just knew I had to go. Mostly to Medora ND and the night show. He also believed in ice cream and taught us all to stir with your spoon until you had this perfect milk shake like mix in your bowl. And most importantly, he always made us all feel like we were the very best people.
When he passed away suddenly one day while sitting in his chair, I had to learn to be heart strong.
I have fallen, I have fallen apart and I have been crushed. I got up. I dusted myself off and put on a band aid. I have gotten up after being mentally strung out. And I have sure as fuck got up after being heart broke. I am not saying it wasn’t tough. Some days it took everything I had to get out of bed.
Physically, mentally and heart tired.
The one thing I have always had is my spirit. I am feisty as fuck. I am born into a family that doesn’t have one ounce of quit in them. I was always taught to stand up for yourself or for others and always do what’s right. I have gotten lost along this path we call life and some days, I really needed a road map (ironically I have no sense of direction) and I am blessed I have wise friends that step in and redirect my steps, shake me mentally, and give me a hug.
Life can be lonely. Yes, I have family. Yes, I have a tribe. A squad. A clan. BUT at the very end of every single day I have to be able to stand up and look in the mirror; I have to be able to square my shoulders, dust myself off and listen to my heart beat. I know that even though they will gather around me, protect me, and lift me; they won’t be there every time I open my eyes. Strength to get up, to learn, to grow comes from me.
So I carry lessons with me. Lessons on how even when I took that corner too fast on my huffy blue and yellow bike and got road rash, I straightened out and tried it again until I leaned into that curve the road rose up to meet me and pushed me along. Lessons on how to not over think every time the bar gets raised, but rather to re-count my steps and go for it. Lessons on how when my heart gets broke, I remember the times that made me smile and leave the rest.