Well it has been a while since I have posted anything...
I don't remember when I took this picture, but I started this post back in August of 2019. That means I was writing this post titled "Wishes" 13 months after having moved back to Florida, leaving my entire life behind me in Michigan after I suffered several catastrophic life events.
I was diagnosed with an illness that would change my life, my husband divorced me not long after the diagnosis, my career evaporated while I was battling my illness, and had it not been for my parents and a very, very, very small group of friends, I am not sure where I would be now.
Since my world started falling apart in the winter of 2018 so much has happened. I am currently sitting in a hotel in Visalia, CA writing this and getting ready to go to work tomorrow in the industry that I thought I'd left in the past, and pondering how much I want to share here about what I have lived through and where I am today. I don't think that anyone in my real life knows about this blog. It started as a way of documenting my experiences as a first-time horse owner at the age of 30... but now I wonder if there is more to that story.
I think, maybe, when I started writing this post, I was dreaming and wishing for my old life back, or at least the pieces of it that I felt I had lost forever. The marriage was terrible, and good riddance to that. I am happy to say that since I started this draft so much has changed.
When I left Michigan, I wasn't leaving much of anything... except my horse. That nearly broke me. Thank God for my trainer and friend with a heart of gold. She let me leave my mare with her, free of charge, and told me "You just come get her when you are ready." That degree of selflessness is something that I hope I can repay in kind someday for someone else.
Not having a job to go into when I got to FL, I didn't think that I could manage the responsibility of a horse, so I made the gut wrenching decision to leave her in Michigan with my trainer as offered. I put her in the stall one last time, tried to choke back the tears, because I knew if I started crying, I would never be able to stop. How it is possible to close a stall door for the last time, to look at that bright eye that doesn't know that it would be the last time to look out at me from that place, to feel like everything I had worked so hard to attain was crumbling from my grasp? I don't have an answer. All I know is that even when you feel like dying, your heart can keep on beating, your lungs keep drawing breath.
I walked the walk of a dead man walking to my horse trailer, took off my boots and spurs, set them inside the trailer door, and locked it for what I thought would be the last time...
And it was the end. For a while.
If you love something and let it go, and it comes back to you, it must be meant for you to have.
The agonizing seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years that followed were hard, lonely, horrible, and strange.
The only things I had left were some furniture and stuff that I had accumulated over 18 years of living in Michigan, some money (thankfully), my dog, and my truck. We left Michigan on July 15, 2018 and made our way down back home to the Panhandle of Florida where I spent most of my youth growing up. It felt like I was a disgraced general returning from a war of attrition that was slowly lost, one season after another. It was horrible to admit defeat. Life had chewed me up and spit me out.
But I wasn't done. Thankfully, my parents took me and my dog in, gave us a place to build a cave of depression and misery where I wallowed from bed to couch and back to bed for at least a month, day in and day out. My parents are so filled with compassion and love, they didn't have the heart to be hard on me and force me back into the world. It was a farmer friend from Michigan who helped me stand back up and strike out in the world.
He listened as I sobbed into the phone that I just could not possibly leave the house and apply for jobs... no one would want to hire a failure like me. He listened, and firmly told me that I was to apply for three jobs that day and call him back when I was done. I showered, got dressed, put on makeup, did my hair, and went out in the world. I didn't even know where to start, so I started back at the beginning. I walked into a restaurant and asked for an application to be a waitress. I knew from the look on their faces that I was not going to get a phone call, but I filled out that application anyway and left it with the snotty hostess.
I felt better. One down.
I don't remember the next place I applied. But I do remember going in to the Starbucks and asking to speak with the manager. He was so kind. He listened to me, made me feel valuable, and helped me apply for a job.
I was offered a shift manager position.
While I was applying in person like we had done back in the olden days of newspaper ads and red pens circling prospects, I was also applying online for the first time in my life. It felt like I was hurling my resume like so many stones into a bottomless well of non responses and empty email replies.
The day after I accepted the job at Starbucks, I got a call from an insurance company that I had applied with, and they called me in for an interview. Not long after that, I was offered the job there. I took it, feeling guilty for not starting the other job with Starbucks, but the other job was more money, better hours, and I thought maybe a new career for me.
I was a personal injury claim adjuster not long after that. It took everything I had not to cry all day at work, my body would physically tremble with anxiety, but I was doing it. I was living a "normal" life again. I was the old lady on the team at 38 years old in an entry level position being taught my job by kids in their 20s... but they adopted me, invited me into their circle of friends, and helped a few more roots dig down into the soil of this place, and lifted my branches up a little higher toward the sun.
Horses were still in my past.
Until Red Hills Horse Trials in the spring of 2019. COVID was just starting to take its death grip on the world's bodies and minds. But I volunteered at the horse event to do something, give back, and get out there in the world again. I met some really nice people, and had a good time watching the riders and their horses, still thinking that was never for me again. My mom came out and watched with me, and on our last day we got lost trying to get back to the car. We ended up wandering past the stables. That smell of horses and hay and leather broke open my heart. In that moment I knew it wasn't over; I wasn't done.
I reached out to the local equestrian community on Facebook, and was flooded with offers of catch rides, and kindhearted people offering their personal horses to help me get my fix, get back out there, and get horses back in my life. I said yes to everything at first.
I met some of the best people who I am still friends with today. I found my new home barn, a place where heaven touches the earth and the sunsets are breathtaking and beautiful year round. It's a family legacy farm, one that has been in their family since before the Civil War. It was build by the hands of the man who is now my trainer. Nail by nail, board by board. With love for his wife who was an accomplished equestrian until her untimely death from cancer when she was in her 40s.
I rode whatever I could ride, just like I had when I was a kid. I still wasn't ready for my own horse again. What if I had to lose her again... my heart couldn't bear it.
Then one day, I finally felt ready to bring her back to me. I had been in my job a little over two years, was making decent money, had bought a little townhouse to call my own, and was feeling like maybe I could do this thing called life after all.
My dear trainer trailered her down to me, hauling straight through. It was a beautiful reunion, but also highly triggering and traumatic. A week after getting her back to me, I was in the hospital again, and nearly lost it all over again.
Thankfully this time I was working for a major corporation and was protected by FMLA. My job was safe, for the most part. My manager was a man who had no compassion or care for anyone who struggled. I had a target on my back in a job that I did not love. He left and took a job somewhere else, so I was again safe, but not happy in that work. It paid the bills for the most part, but there was no upward mobility or future there that I could see. I was losing hope.
Over the years, I had wished and dreamed that maybe I would find myself working back in the industry that I had spent 12 year in, building my career, my reputation. I thought a door opened at one point, but it stayed shut (for the best, as it usually happens with unanswered prayers). One day, I finally got the guts to respond to a recruiter who reached out to me. What, I thought, was the worst that could happen? Nothing? More rejection? I ate rejection for breakfast at that point.
I ended up taking a leap of faith going to work for a company that exists in the same industry I had so unceremoniously left in my past. It has been a dream come true. I have to remind myself that it is just a job and pays the bills, just to make sure that I don't spread myself too thin and end up back in the hospital, but I am doing it!
It has been 15 months in this new role, and I am trusted, respected, and appreciated. I get to help people, work on things I care and know about, and build and create things that didn't exist until I made them. It is a miracle.
In the space of five years, I lost so many things I held dear. I held on so hard to them it nearly killed me. Over time, I let go. I kept breathing. One moment, one breath, one minute at a time. It was so very hard.
I am where I am today by the grace of God, and his many angels on earth walking around as people, dogs, and horses.
People I thought who were in my past are back in my life again. I am more cautious with who I let in and close to me, but I have love in my heart. People do the best they can with what they know. Not everyone was raised the way I was, and that's okay. Some people don't know kindness, compassion, and selflessness because they never have seen it firsthand. They mistake those traits for weakness, or something to be exploited. I protect my heart with fierceness now.
This was a long post, that leaves out so much. But I want to say that if you are in a dark place, keep breathing. Keep hurting. Keep feeling and fighting. Never, never, never give up. The tide will turn. The sun will rise. You are strong. You are capable. Get up. Take a shower. Step out the door. Do the hard thing. Then send me a comment, or phone a friend, and tell them you did it. And be so proud of yourself for doing that hard thing. Taking that step.
My journey is far from over, but I am sitting here at the foothills of the mountains in California, wishing I had snow chains to get up in the folds and peaks and valleys. Just so I could turn and look back on the path that I 've been walking to see how far I have come.
Wishes really do come true, if only you dare to dream them and then get to work making them happen.
Abbey and I are now competing in Western Dressage at local schooling shows and have earned our WDAFL Bronze and are working on Level 1 and Level 2 WDAA tests to earn our WDAFL Silver.
So maybe I will write some more about that, and my health if anyone is interested in that part of things. Or maybe just because I want to share more about my journey in case it might help someone else who is struggling with a similar diagnosis.
Keep on keeping on, if anyone is still out there in Blogger land reading this. I hope you are well.
All my best,