Hard Choices, Part Two

My horse Shadow, 1998

Prologue: I wrote this for a reading at my writer’s group to discuss where I am as a writer. WARNING: It contains some swearing and crazy-ass thinking. I’m still grieving the loss of Luke. And it appears any time you suffer one loss, it brings up feelings from all the other losses in your life. As I explained to my writer’s group, I may often be quiet on the outside, but my brain is very busy and very vocal on the inside, and it sounds something like this…

Since Luke died, I’ve been trying to figure out who I am.

I know that sounds very silly, coming from a woman my age. Or just silly in general because, of course, losing a horse, no matter how much I loved him and how much a part of my life he was, doesn’t change who I am. I’m still me.

Of course.

But horses have been a major part of my life since I was twenty-five, some thirty-five years ago. And before that, horses were constantly on my mind – an obsession, really – a cowgirl dream.

My horse Finian, 1999

But horses are separate beings, an interest, they are not a WAY of being.

Still, they were the first thing I clung to when I found my birth family. Horses were an animal and a lifestyle we held in common. When I started blogging, I called my blog “Cowgirl By Proxy” to represent the foot I had in the world of Arizona cowboys and cowgirls by birth and by dream.

Horses for me WERE an identity, one of the few things I had to cling to.

In some ways, it seemed like horses made me an exotic being amongst horseless people. Horses are one of the few things I can talk about and hold a conversation on. I have nothing to contribute when it comes to grandchildren, home improvement, sports or “Dancing with the Stars.”

This would sometimes make me wonder what else besides that animal connection was interesting or special about me? What else was I good at? What was I worth if I wasn’t a horsewoman? What about my friendships that had begun over horses? Would they also end? Who was I now without the smell of horses on my clothing and an ever new horse story to tell?

cleaning stalls

The funny thing is that I don’t consider writing a part of my identity. I rarely speak about my writing, except on my blog. If someone asks about my weekend and I spent it at a writing conference or in my basement, sweating over the reorganization of my book, I hide this elicit activity by saying I spent my time catching up on laundry and making a pot roast so they will quickly nod their heads and scurry away from my boring life.

If I spoke about my writing, how would I explain it? To anyone? I can’t even summarize what my book is about to other writers. I don’t know. Not yet. And I’m beginning to wonder if I ever will know what it’s about. I worry about that. A lot.

I thought I would know the theme, the heart of the story, after finishing my complete manuscript. That was the holy grail of it. I would know. I wouldn’t just have a nice blurb of a paragraph statement that began with “My book is about _______,” but I would have the answer to what I and my fucked up life were about.

Because I feel like writing for me is a search for meaning. Is there a scrap of reason to the mess of my life? I want there to be a a point. I want to have gained some wisdom. I want to have become a better person. I want to feel like I contribute to something. Anything!

broken arm
After Finian broke my collar bone and wrist

I read a blog post by Theodora Goss, a writer and teacher. She wrote about one of the millions of articles on “finding your purpose” she had recently read. She concluded that a better question to ask than the one about your purpose is to ask what will you serve? What are you willing to dedicate yourself to? Is it painting? Writing? Teaching?

Because if rather than naming your purpose, you name what it is you would dedicate yourself to, then the failures that will inevitably happen are okay. They are part of the process. They are things you try and if they don’t work, you try something else. But if you fail at your PURPOSE, well then, your failure is a sign that _________ is not really your purpose or you would only have success at it.

So… Am I willing to commit myself to writing and quit half-assing around? Hmmm….

For about a year, it’s been the time demands, stress, and spirit depletion of taking care of a sick horse that stopped me from writing. Now my horse is gone but not perhaps the spirit depletion. Added to that is not knowing how to return and losing what little confidence I ever did have and questioning whether I still have writing inside me or if I ever really did?

horse and woman
Luke, who rebuilt my trust and confidence (in horses, anyway)

Because now I’m writing utter crap. And I wonder if it’s always been utter crap and I’m just recognizing it as such with the wisdom of years.

Or maybe if our spirit and heart are filled with shit, what we write will inevitably be total shit until we are empty of shit.

But I wonder if the process can in any way be sped up or made less painful. And how do you feed the writer’s soul after it’s been depleted or squelched so it can blossom and make sweet-writing again?

Spend more time with creatives? With earthy peoples? With animal lovers? Sign up for a writing class? Take time away at a retreat? Get a coach? A spiritual guide? A therapist? Maybe a mix of some or all of them?

I sound frantic. Perhaps I need to calm down.

Maybe I just write like this to find once again what I’m thinking. Maybe decide that I’ll serve the manuscript sitting on my shelf and create a second draft. Maybe the answer to “What’s it all about?” is in the second draft.

Please, don’t tell me otherwise. Let me live in the comfort of my delusion.



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