Vitrify

IMG_1273

Running into her eight year old year, the mare was considered one of the hard knockers on the track, racing long past her prime.  I think of her when I hear the Kenny Chesney song, ‘Dancin’ For The Groceries’.  She ran for her groceries.  I don’t know much about her history other than after her career on the track ended, she was adopted out to a young woman in Virginia whose husband is a career Marine.  When they moved to San Diego, the mare was shipped from the east coast to the west and from what I later learned, was lucky to have survived the trip.

“She doesn’t ship well.”  The woman said over the phone.  “Her owner can no longer keep her.  Since you’re in Colorado, a hell of a lot closer to California than the east coast, we thought we could send her to you.  Maybe you can get her going under saddle again.  You know, brush up her training a little and then we’ll adopt her out from there.” 

“I can make room for her.  Y’all will be covering her expenses, correct?  Vet, farrier, board, etc.?  I cannot take on another horse in the midst of my ongoing litigation battle.  I’m drowning in attorney’s fees and court filings right now and I don’t see any light at the end of my tunnel.”  I understood the mare needed help and I also was well aware that as my ex-husband was doing his damnedest to bury me, the last thing I needed was another horse to care for.

They were right, she didn’t ship well.  She arrived in April of 2013 and proceeded to colic that first night.  I walked with her in the freezing cold for hours.  She was stressed and I felt such sadness for her.  Here she was in a strange place surrounded by unfamiliar sights, sounds, horses and humans.  I imagined she begged herself the question, “What did I do so wrong that I had to leave warm, sunny California for cold, snowy Colorado?” As the days passed and she began to settle in I scheduled to have the vet out to go over her with a fine tooth comb.  At 16 years of age, having spent half of her life racing, I could only imagine what we might find.

The day the vet did what’s equivalent to an in-depth human physical, I learned that aside from her endorphin addiction (she’s a cribber, not to be confused with wood chewing) she was fairly healthy.  “Her stifles (a joint whose mechanism is equivalent to our knees) are smoked, Jess.”  The vet said.  “It’s really the only thing I can find “wrong” with her.  You’ll have to gauge what type of job makes the most sense for her.  We can sure try injections to see if that helps though it’s not likely.  Used is used.”  He patted her on her neck.  I felt we needed to give the injections a try and called to let the rescue group know what the status on the exam was.

I’d worked with this group for years.  They would ship me their misfits and bad boys that no one else was willing to work with, coming from all over the east coast, New Jersey, New York, Florida, etc.  I have a thing for fire breathing dragons and rarely said no.  I’d had a great relationship with everyone involved however something seemed amiss this time.  I knew there was a massive changing of the guard occurring within the organization and rumor had it, the powers that be were not interested in what was best for the horse rather the almighty dollar and how much these horses could be sold for.

“Pinfire her stifles.” The trainer demanded!

“Whoa!  What did you just say!?!  You want me to have her stifles pinfired!?!?!”  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  “Do you recognize how barbaric of a practice that is?  The mare is 16!  She deserves a decent retirement not to have red hot needles shoved into her stifle joints in hopes the resulting scar tissue will miraculously heal her!”  I was so angry that this woman was willing to torture this mare just to be able to sell her to someone as “sound”.

“You will do as I say!” the trainer seethed.

I could feel this rebellious teenager rise up inside of me and almost repeated to her what I jokingly tell my kids, “You’re not the boss of me!”  Instead I fired back, “Even if I could find a vet willing to do the procedure, which is slim to none out here in Colorado, I won’t do that to this mare!  She deserves so much better than that!”  I was breathing fire, enraged that this person had her own interests in mind, not what was in the best interest of the horse.

“If you are refusing to do as I tell you, then I will have a shipper there tomorrow to pick the mare up and bring her back to the east coast.”  She threatened, attempting to bully me into abusing this precious horse.

“It doesn’t work that way out west here!”  I laughed into the phone, “Shippers don’t just show up whenever you demand.  The whole reason this mare is here is because she tries to die when she is shipped.  I’ll do you one better.  You send me whatever contractual bull shit I need to fill out and sign and the mare stays with me for life.”  

And so, “Sorraya”, joined my herd.  She’s a beautiful mare the color of rich, dark chocolate.  She has the most beautiful dapples in the summer that look as if the dark chocolate has cracked and caramel peaks through.  Her eyes are a deep amber color and she loves to have the star on her forehead kissed.  At 21 now, she’s fully retired.  I can hear the click-clack of her stifles as they pop when she walks.  She’s comfortable, not in any pain and I have promised her that she is with us for life.

She’s a more aloof mare.  I ponder what her whole story might actually be.  I know the woman who owned her in California loved her deeply.  So much so that I will send her pictures periodically.  “Sorraya”, is content to stand with me in the pasture with her eyes closed, breathing deeply as I stroke her neck.  She’s wise and I recognize that her journey to me was a difficult one.

She has lessons to teach around addiction and self medicating, something she learned long ago to deal with situations she couldn’t change.  Her soft, quiet, gentle way of being around people will offer those uncomfortable around horses a feeling of safety.  I’m not sure what her special gifting will be in the coaching pen.  Knowing “Sorraya”, it will be something she thoughtfully offers when the timing is just right.  She will be the most graceful and patient coach.  I cannot wait to open this door for her to truly shine as her talents and calling are finally able to be realized in this work.

“Precious mare, you’ve waited a long, long time for this.  I’m so very grateful you chose me as your partner and vessel to bring this work to the world.”  ❤

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”

Misplaced Burdens

AAL-McMillianJJ-068

I sat in the chair shaking.  She wanted me to give shame back to the person it belonged to.  I struggled inwardly to even acknowledge that shame was something I’d been packing around all these years.  What was shame?  If I couldn’t recognize it in myself, how could I ever recognize it in another?  The battle raged on.  She asked me to embody the me that was married to a sociopathic covert narcissist and as if on cue, I felt my shoulders round and my body slump over in defeat.  My eyes fell to the ground unable to make eye contact.  I wrestled with this old version of me.  This me was exhausted, beat down and cowering.  I felt like a dog chained to a steel beam who’d accepted her fate.

“Give him back the shame that doesn’t belong to you, Jess.” 

My lip quivered, the tears welled up behind their dam … why was this so damn hard!?!  And then I found myself thinking about this suitcase we’d unearthed from the darkest corner in my heart.  It had been buried back in there for so long, I’d forgotten I’d been packing it around with me.  I’d built up the callouses and the extra muscle it had required to carry it and then forgot about it.  Suddenly, there it was, staring back at me in the light of day.  It was dirty, scuffed, the corners worn, the hardware rusty, banged up and beat up like it’d seen thousands of airline cargo holds and rampies throwing it on conveyors and tug trailers at countless airports.

The inner turmoil was at a fever pitch.  I didn’t want to give it back.  It seemed so unfair.  How could I ask anyone else to carry such a load?  I knew the person that had filled that suitcase was far too weak to carry it himself.  He’d done a meticulous job packing shame into this grimy suitcase.  I was accustomed to it’s weightiness and I’d been conditioned to believe it was mine.  I knew in my soul it wasn’t my burden to bear.  I knew that I’d been unfairly and unjustly tasked with bearing this burden and yet I found it extremely difficult to give it back.

“Wow.” I thought to myself, “Wow …..”

My parents, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles … you name it, they were all married without a trace of divorce in their history.  People would regularly comment with disgust, “How the hell did an asshole like that land someone like you!?!  You should leave him.”  And while my wasband stood there with a cocky grin on his face, my reply was always, “I’m all in.  I didn’t get married to divorce.”  He was perfectly happy to throw those words in my face when he saw fit.  He even went so far as to hiss threw his clenched teeth in my ear, “Your parents won’t help you.  They’re too busy with your sister’s girls.  You can’t leave me and you won’t.  Divorce isn’t in your vocabulary.”  He regularly threatened me stating that even if I was dumb enough to think I could leave him, I wouldn’t because if I so much as thought the thought, he promised I’d never see my kids again.  And, “Jess, you know, I don’t make threats, I make promises.”, he’d say, arrogance dripping from his tongue.

I was all in, committed and I refused to quit … until I did.  I couldn’t take it any longer and I was so ashamed that I was too weak to stay.  I was ashamed that I’d allowed myself to get into the situation in the first place.  I was ashamed that I hadn’t listened to my family when they questioned me and repeatedly stated, “It’s not too late.”, weeks before we married.  I was ashamed that I had allowed a charming, manipulative sociopath to reel me in so easily.  I was ashamed to know that my kids had witnessed their father raging and abusing me and I had done nothing about it.  I was ashamed that dysfunction and a total disregard for women was what they were seeing patterned in that home.  And, I was ashamed that I had ever gotten involved in the first place, that the first time he raised his hand at me, I didn’t leave.  That the day he yanked me out of the pick up, threw me against the side of the bed and then forced me to the curb, I didn’t leave.  That the day that he pinned me against the side of the horse trailer tie ring, driving the cold steel into my spine while he raged, I didn’t leave.  That when he fired off his pistol and laughed as I levitated over the drop gate, sure the next bullet was for me, I didn’t leave.  That when he accused me of affair upon affair upon affair over the years, working double overtime to convince those within our community that I had been having an affair with my, now, husband, I didn’t leave.

Even after I finally summoned the courage to leave, I carried shame.  The tape that played in my head over and over and over sounded something like, “How in the hell did you get into this!?!  You were too weak to leave, too weak to put the brakes on this train wreck and now you are destroying these kids innocent, precious lives by uprooting everything they know.  You were raised with better values than this.  How utterly and totally disappointed your dad and mom must be!  The church taught you that God HATES divorce!” and on and on the tape played continuing to pack shame into that suitcase.  I had unknowingly been carrying shame around believing that when the teachers and principals, coaches and parents, etc. see my husband and I together, they don’t see us for the couple we are rather they see the affair everyone believed existed … ugh.  He had it easy, I was doing all the work for him.

“Damn it!” I thought!  “She’s totally and utterly dead on, I’m carrying shame.” 

“Give him back what is rightfully his.”  She said again.  I struggled to gather up all the shame I had been mentally unpacking, shoving it back into that nasty ol’ suitcase.  I couldn’t believe he’d been able to pack so much shame into that thing!  Finally, with all I had in me I summoned the strength, raised my eyes from the arena floor and I handed the suitcase over.  “This belongs to you.  It’s yours.”  

“Shame on you that you preyed upon my naivety, my independence, my inner strength and my values.  Shame on you that you attempted to destroy my life and the lives of our children.  Shame on you that you manipulate and lie.  Shame on you that you tried to drain the very spirit and life from me.  Shame on you that you abused me and continue to abuse our children.  Shame ….. shame is on you.  It is your burden to bear and how dare you demand that I carry it all these years!”   

You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”

Million Dollar Mare

Cartoon Moon

Her coat shimmers like the gold leaves of an aspen grove in the autumn sunlight.  Metallic buckskin with amber eyes outlined in black like a Cover Girl model.  Her fancy black legs, black mane and tail, and black tips on her ears finish the look.  She’s truly beautiful in every way imaginable.  The American Quarter Horse Association knows her as Latin Moon Bug however, to us, she’s known as, “Moon”.  This mare is the most nurturing horse I’ve ever been honored to share space with and her story is a special one.

Moon” was bred and born here in Colorado on the western slope.  We don’t know much about her history until she found us in the late fall of 2011.  My daughter’s pony, “Rose“, was in rough shape.  When we rescued her, I knew there was a chance we wouldn’t be able to save her however for well over two years I did my best.  In the end, I came to the realization that the neglect she’d suffered for so many years of her life was more than we could heal.  I knew that the greatest gift I could offer that sweet little pony was to help her die with dignity.  I knew that I was going to break my daughter’s heart into tiny shards and the best I could offer her was, hopefully, a new partner to ease the hurt.

I received a call from a local rescue.  “Jess, you need to check out this cute little Quarter Horse.  I haven’t seen her but I think she might be worth looking into.” 

“What do you know about her?”  I inquired hesitantly

“Well, all I know is her owner says … well …” She stammered a bit, “The gal says she has a broken leg.  And it’s been broken for a few months now.”

“I’m sorry, did you just suggest I go look at a horse with a broken leg!?!  Is that what makes her a kids horse!?!  You can’t be serious!?!”  I said in disbelief.

If curiosity killed the cat…..  I scheduled a time to meet the mare.  I had told my daughter from the get go that when it was the right fit, she would feel it in her heart.  We’d looked at a dozen potential partners and though all nice horses, nothing really seemed to speak to her.  I had begun feeling like maybe the timing was off, that maybe the right partner wasn’t out there, maybe my baby girl was too young to really understand what that feeling in her heart was.

Moon” was living behind the Sam’s Club in a small neighborhood comprised of two acre properties.  “You stay close to me love.” I said as we climbed out of the pick up.  “We don’t know this mare.  Okay?”  My daughter nodded in agreement.  As we walked into the “pasture” the first thing I did was investigate this “broken” leg.  I wasn’t getting another risky rehab that could potentially break my baby girl’s heart a year down the road.  As soon as the woman began explaining her farrier had diagnosed the broken leg, I realized I was dealing with a person who, by all accounts, had no business owning anything bigger than a hamster.  “So she’s not seen a vet?”  I queried totally annoyed by the woman’s ignorance.  “Well the farrier guy that comes said it’s broken …”  She trailed off when we made eye contact.  I’m sure the annoyed look on my face spoke everything my tongue wasn’t allowed to.  Lol!  Anyone who knows me, knows the look!

I nodded at my daughter who’d been standing at the fence waiting for my okay.  As she walked through the gate, I watched the mare as she quietly stood statue still intently watching this little dark headed beauty approach her.  As tenderly and gently as the mare could, she lowered her head so that she was at the same level as this little kindergartner.  Her amber eyes closed as a tiny little hand reached up to stroke her head.  Rebecca caught my watchful eye and smiled.  She wrapped her arms around “Moon’s” head and closed her hazel eyes.  I whispered in her ear, “She’s the one isn’t she?”

A few months after introducing “Miss Moon Bugs” to my herd, “Rose” crossed over.  The kids knew what was happening that day however I didn’t want them there for the procedure.  I promised we wouldn’t bury her until they could see her.  I remember picking Rebecca up from 1/2 day kindergarten.  I held her hand tight as we walked out through the pasture to the top of the hill where “Rose” lay in the March sun.  As her tears gave way to sobs my heart split wide open.  I felt such immense guilt knowing I’d broken this beautiful, precious little girl’s heart.  I sat down and cradled her in my arms.

I heard her footsteps coming up behind us, soft and slow.  She stopped with her knees touching my back and she lowered her neck over us, resting a hind leg.  She let out a long deep sigh and closed her eyes.  It was “Moon“, standing over us like a mare standing watch over her resting foal.  It was a moment seared in my memory and stamped in permanent ink on my heart.  It was as if she said to us, “It’s okay.  I’ll stand watch.  You take all the time you need.”  If you know horses, you know what a rare moment this was.  She really didn’t know us well yet.  We were all still getting acquainted.  My heart was so broken and so full of honor and joy at the same time that afternoon.

I’ve had the great privilege of watching this mare raise my daughter.  She’s been an incredibly patient and loving teacher, a best friend, a confidant, and a rock when our world was imploding.  I joke that she is my daughter in horse form.  Both are wild at heart, beautiful in spirit, genuine, strong and at times impulsive!  Lol!  Knowing all the counsel and sweet support she’s offered us, I am truly excited to watch her as she steps into her calling alongside me, as a coach in our practice.  I imagine that the love and support she’s offered us is only the tip of the iceberg for her.  Just wait until you meet her!  To know her is to truly adore her ❤

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”

Tornadoes & Turmoil

056BW

It was sunny and warm for early June.  My, then, best friend was going to watch the kids for me while I ran to an appointment that morning and then we planned on doing lunch.  I hugged and kissed my babes as they took off running to play with my bestie’s daughter.  I felt an uneasiness about me as I pulled out of her drive.  I kept watching my mirrors, hyper vigilant of my surroundings.  Three times I thought I saw my wasband’s pick up in my rear view mirror. I did what I’d gotten so good at and talked myself out of what I was sure I saw.  I reminded myself, “He’s working way south of town.  There wouldn’t be any reason for him to be up this far north.  Stop being so damn paranoid!”

I parked the shitty single cab plow truck I was driving (my pick up was at the dealership for some recall work) and took a deep breath trying to shake my uneasiness.  As I walked into the woman’s office she stared long and hard at me and then asked, “Who’s following you?”   I can still feel the chill that ran up my spine like an electrical current.  I played stupid with her, “I don’t understand what you mean.  I’m here alone.”   She stared deep into my eyes and I finally had to look away.

She’d been a cop in Las Vegas.  Retired now, she’d moved to Colorado and started a consulting business.  I had scheduled a meeting with her hoping she could help me make sense of all that had been taking place over the course of the past year or so.  Honestly, looking back, I think what I was really searching for was someone to tell me what I already knew, “Get the hell out!”  I hadn’t shared much about my history or what brought me to her however she read a page out of the book written inside my heart within mere minutes.  She explained to me that I was dealing with a sociopathic narcissist and confirmed that if I didn’t get out, I was in all likelihood, dead.  What stuck with me long after our meeting was a story she shared about her best friend.  She said, much like me, her friend knew what she needed to do though she couldn’t seem to bring herself to leave.  This woman told her best friend just what she’d told me, “Get the hell out, NOW!”  A week later, law enforcement found her best friend’s body chopped up in pieces out in the desert just outside of Las Vegas.  The woman’s husband caught wind of her plans to leave and made sure it was on his terms.  My heart still hurts when I think about how truly horrific that must have been for that woman.  As I walked out of her office she said, “I pray you do not wind up like my best friend.”

As I wrestled with everything in my head, replaying our meeting that morning, I again thought I saw my wasband’s pick up in my rear view mirror.  This time, instead of looking away and talking myself out of what I thought I saw, I kept one eye on my rear view and one on the road.  Sure enough, it was him.  He was a few vehicles back and as we rolled to a stop at a light I made eye contact with him in the mirror.  I picked up my phone and called him.  I watched him look at his phone, hit the ignore button and put it down.  I called him again.  Same thing.  I texted him, “Are you following me!?!” and watched him read the text message and then put the phone down.  We made eye contact one final time as the light turned green and I watched as he cut across all the lanes of traffic to dart off in between the church parking lot and the community college that was just to our north.

I called my friend and shared with her what had happened.  I told her I was going to be late, that I’d turned around to run by the dealership to inquire about my pick up.  Something wasn’t right and I needed to get to the bottom of it.  I blogged about what happened at the dealership in my post about the disappearing dually.  I left the dealership shook up trying to put the pieces together and trying to rationalize why the man I was married to was lying to me about the whereabouts of my pick up.  And why was he following me!?!  That was it for me.  That was the tipping point.

Divorce wasn’t even in the forefront of my thoughts.  Getting the hell away from him was.  The incidents were stacking up and happening more and more regularly.  My life looked more like a Lifetime Channel documentary only this story hadn’t ended in my death ….. yet.  The kids and I wound up an hour and a half away that night seeking safety, refuge and normalcy with my parents.  I sent him one final text that day and said, “The kids and I are safe however we will not be returning home at this point.  You are acting like a crazy person and I cannot take anymore.  I am terrified of you and my most important job is keeping these kids safe.”  Within ten minutes of receiving my message he’d called in a welfare check with law enforcement.  He said I had a pistol in the house, that I was home alone, suicidal and he was concerned for the safety of his children (I just puked in my mouth a little as I typed that).  And thus began my initiation into the world of a sociopathic covert narcissist and the lengths they are willing to go to in order to take you down.

A string of severe storms produced micro-bursts and tornadoes in our area that evening.  He risked the lives of police officers making that call and sending them to a home he knew was empty.  He was building his case.  He knew that our local first responders would see the welfare check on their computer screen as they responded to true emergencies caused by the weather and he knew they’d talk.  I hadn’t been gone 24 hours and already he was working to malign me within the community.  He filed for divorce the next day and had me served within the week all while professing his deep love for me, begging me to return home.  “I promise things will be different Jess.  I’ll try harder, I can change, you’ll see…” All the usual lines and words I’d heard a million times before.  The ones scripted and spewed by just about every abuser out there in an attempt to keep their prey trapped and under their thumb.  Looking back now, knowing what I now know was happening behind his veil of schemes, bullshit and secrecy, I can only imagine what he actually meant by those words…

“You are beautiful, powerful, brilliant & brave”