Release the Pressure

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“It’s the release that teaches.” I said.  “The pressure we put on him is only enough to encourage him to search for the answer.  As soon as he so much as looks your way to ask a question like, “This way?” or “Are you asking me to move my feet?” etc., we MUST reward that by releasing the pressure.  Does that make sense?”  I patiently waited as I watched the young man roll around what I’d just said.  “We MUST reward the slightest try.  If we don’t or we miss the opportunity, then the horse will begin to feel frustrated and eventually quit trying.”

I spent 17 years feeling as if I couldn’t win for losing.  The pressure was constant though I wouldn’t say entirely unbearable, I just couldn’t get out from under it.  The house was never clean enough or orderly enough.  I was never thin enough, fit enough, pretty enough.  What I cooked was never what he was hungry for.  You name it, it was never enough … I was never enough.  Though I wanted to quit trying, I just didn’t have it in me.  I was frustrated, resentful and mostly sad and disappointed.

The day I bolted out of there, the pressure increased 100 fold!  There were times I was sure I would buckle at the knees, crumbling to the ground under the weight of it all.  The narcissist is masterful at applying increasing amounts of pressure to their subjects watching with delight as they attempt to find the right answer, the right button to push, so that the narcissist will back off.  The thing about it is, there is no answer (right or wrong) and there is no button.  The narcissist is waiting for their dutiful subject to either fall to their knees under the load, giving up trying or explode out of furious frustration so that they can shame them for getting emotional.  Either way, the narcissist wins!

The initial filing for divorce and subsequent incessant filings, contempt of courts, and outlandish accusations hit me as if I were standing at the base of a dam as it gave way.  I felt as though I was under the surge of water being pummeled and tossed about unable to come up for air.  The pressure to defend myself against the falsified contempts and accusations was unrelenting and for a very long time, he had me right where he wanted me, knocked off balance and going down.  That is, until I made a decision to be calm in the midst of the storm, to push off the mucky, debris ridden floor below me and swim with the current.  It was then and only then that I began to feel some of the pressure release itself.

Each and every one of us at some point or another feels under pressure.  We may be the ones applying the pressure.  We may be applying pressure to our kids, our spouses, siblings, co-workers, etc.  The thing about it is, much like the horses, if there is no release in the pressure, if the slightest try isn’t rewarded, then bitterness, resentment and frustration build.  Living under constant pressure heightened my sensitivity to this and wound up benefiting the horses I was working with.  I could relate to their need to find the release and I was quick to offer it.

“Great! Your timing and release couldn’t have been more perfect!” I yelled over the tractor working the pasture next to the arena.  “See that!  He’s licking and chewing … Oh, and there was a huge sigh!  That’s conformation for you that you released at just the right time and now he’s able to process your request.  Once he’s finished processing let’s ask again.  I bet he’ll offer it more quickly this time.”  I watched as the young man began to make his request and his beautiful four legged partner contemplated what he was being asked to do.

I discovered as my head breached the surface of the water and I began to swim with the current hitting each court filing, contempt of court and falsified accusation head on with facts backed up by documents and painstakingly detailed notes, was the pressure I felt lessened more and more.  He remained true to his covert narcissism, spewing made up tales, stories, and outright lies, playing the victim (a role he’s perfected), to combat reality.  The tables were turned and the pressure was increasingly on him.

I could hear the Wicked Witch of the West in my head the last time we were in court.  As my attorney and I walked out the courtroom doors, I did all I could to maintain my poker face, refusing to gloat or crack a smile as he and his then “girlfriend” began shredding his attorney to pieces in the conference room down the hallway.  What I heard was, “I’m melting … melting …. melting …!” though I’m pretty sure what they were yelling was more along the lines of, “How could you not win a case based upon all the perfectly packaged lies we gave you!”   

The beautiful gelding, ears forward, attentive to the young man, eyes searching him, began to place his feet precisely where he was being asked to and as I watched the young man release with ease and perfect timing, the biggest smile crept across his face.  “Don’t hide it!”  I laughed!  “Let that smile take over your whole face!  It’s a beautiful and well deserved smile!  And don’t look now, but I’m pretty sure your horse is smiling too!”  Both walked out of the round pen with an air of accomplishment and confidence all because the young man was willing to release the pressure and reward the slightest effort the horse made.

As humans, the release in pressure isn’t always the reward for the slightest try however often times, it is.  It can be hard to understand in a way that allows us to utilize this in everyday life however I know the most perfect  coaches, perfectly suited to teach this lesson!  These four legged beauties have so much to offer us humans if only we would grab hold of the opportunities that are before us and run with them!  To tease your curiosity a bit, go to: http://untetheredhearts.com/

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”

Take the Time it Takes

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Have you ever said, “Good job!” and then pondered if the message was even heard, much less received?  As we sat breaking bread together my last night in town discussing the week and all that had been accomplished, the more I learned about the young men I was working with, the more it dawned on me that although I don’t really care much about people or horses pasts, it may have been helpful had I chosen to inquire a little about who I was working with.  I didn’t know the back stories.  Much like the horses that cross my path, I looked at these kids with fresh eyes.  I’d rather meet them where they’re at that particular day, not have all these preconceived notions about who I think they should be because of a label, whether they’re horse or human.

I sat there rolling the most decadent sopapilla around in my mouth, questioning everything I’d said out of encouragement to kids that likely couldn’t hear me much less receive what I was offering.  My heart ached.  I’ve said it before, these kids, they aren’t trouble anymore than the horses we had worked with all week.  These weren’t bad kids anymore than the horses.  These were kids, who, much like the horses, were dealt a crappy hand and were doing the best they knew how to with a very limited tool kit they’d been given to utilize.  If you aren’t given the right tools for the job then how can you be blamed for an incomplete messy work in progress?

I had smoke coming out of my ears as I tried to slow down my thinking.  I pushed back from the table and leaned back in my chair.  I thought about how the horses I worked with came to me in various forms of frustrated, shut down, hot messes due in part to the lack of savvy and education they’d been handled with.  These were horses who had not been respected much less partnered with.  One of the first things I do is take the time they need to build rapport.  I know I’m not going to hurt them however they don’t know that anymore than the kids do.  Those kids have no idea if I’m friend or foe.  I can sure tell them I’m not going to hurt them in any way, just like I could tell the horses the same thing, however both have received more than their fair share of lip service over the years.

I took a deep breath and contemplated how I might do things differently.  Now, knowing some of the back stories on these kids, what was my plan for the next time I traveled down to work with them?  Something I have come to believe when working with my horses is that the attitude and amount of effort the horse puts forth when we’re together is in equal measure to the rapport and relationship that I’ve built with them.  If I’ve taken the time to listen to what they’re communicating, to tend to their needs tenderly and without expectation, and if I’ve spent undemanding, hang out time with them, then the rapport, the relationship, the trust, all comes fairly quickly.  If I haven’t taken the time to listen or spend time with them, those things suffer.  Why wouldn’t this be true for these kids?

And, what about rewarding the slightest try?  In the horses, the slightest effort is something I do my best to be cognizant of.  If I can recognize and reward the smallest attempt at trying to learn and do what it is I’m communicating, then pretty soon, they try harder and the effort is even greater.  Again, why wouldn’t this be true for these kids?  Had I been rewarding their slightest try as they learned to handle their new tools and follow the direction I was offering them?

I’ve made a practice of allowing the horses to share their opinion without taking offense.  I’ve had horses come to me that weren’t allowed to express or even be themselves .  Much like people, there are plenty of things each individual horse may or may not like.  And much like we do to our kids and other people, when they begin to be themselves and their opinion begins to surface or be expressed, we shut it down.  When working with the horses online and at liberty, the conversation sounds something like, “Okay, I hear ya!  That’s cool.  Why don’t you get out away from me with your bad self and share that opinion from a safe distance.”  I knew to a degree the kids were being allowed to express their opinions constructively with the staff, house parents and others however was I creating that space for them in the round pen as well?  A space where they could truly be the individual God created them to be, full of their own thoughts and opinions about things.

I replayed the week in my head and snapped back to the present moment.  There was one warm, tantalizing sopapilla left in the basket and I was claiming it!  I drizzled honey over it and purposed in my heart not to change a thing!  What I was doing is what I do best and if I looked at these kids much the same way I look at the horses, I knew that given enough time and positive reinforcement, they would be able to hear the encouragement I was offering.  I know given my own back story where the try had been beat out of me and where my opinion, thoughts, hopes and desires had been shut down, that time in a safe environment was and is the best antidote.  Given the time that is necessary for each individual to gain trust in me as their coach, slowly building rapport bathed in integrity and fairness, each kid would be able to hear the positive reinforcement, the positive affirmation and words that I was offering.  And with that, I felt my body relax back down into the chair I was sitting in.  I took my time eating my warm, sweet sopapilla and allowed my heart to overflow with the gratitude I was feeling!

We all need a safe, sacred space to seek out within ourselves the answers that sometimes feel just out of reach.  Home isn’t always that space.  Work isn’t always that space.  Our relationships aren’t always that space.  I know of the most wonderful, sacred, safe space in the fresh air and the warm sun where the horses are waiting.  Learn more about us and this precious space at: http://untetheredhearts.com/

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”  ❤

 

Love is Patient

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“Strength does not come from winning.  Your struggles develop your strengths.  When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”  Arnold Schwarzenegger

I swore off marriage long before I was divorced.  Sounds a little weird, right!?!  I would mumble to myself, “If this is marriage, I would have NEVER done this!  I’d never marry again given the chance for a do-over!  I’d rather be a cat lady!!!”  The abuse aside, it wasn’t a relationship, it was a dictatorship.  It wasn’t about building each other up, it was about knocking me down.  I’d pull myself back up just in time to get kicked to the ground again.  After years of trying to build myself back up, I became pretty battle weary, my boot straps thread bare and worn.  My needs were rarely met and I’m not just talking materialistic needs.  I’m talking about needing a good, tight hug, or a pat on the back for a job well done.  Those simple gestures that say, “We’re on the same team.  I’ve got your back …”  I had even grown to hate the phrase, “I love you“.  It was empty and if what I was experiencing was a husband’s love, I wanted nothing to do with it!

The first time I met my future superhero husband, I really didn’t think much of the encounter.  He was that guy that everyone loved to be around and he was about as friendly, laid back and easy going as a person could be.  What I didn’t know was that he saw me.  He saw life behind my dull, exhausted eyes.  He also saw my pain, my heartache and the jailed spirit that was dying behind those prison bars.  I was beat down and did my best to hide it from the outside world however he saw through my well worn mask.  I don’t know what crawled up his skirt a few days after we’d initially met, all I know is I’m grateful he reached out.  He called my ‘wasband’ and asked him for my number.  My ‘wasband’ gladly shared my number as if he were tossing him the keys to his pick up!  We joke about it now!  It was my first lesson of many.  It was and has been a lesson in keeping that which is precious, close to your heart for safe keeping.  I wasn’t treasured by the man who was supposed to be my protector.  I was my own protector and most of the time, I was raw and exposed.  He didn’t view me as something to keep close to his heart, rather I was more like something he held the title to.

The friendship that grew from that first phone call was just what I didn’t know I needed.  He would instinctively know to send a text message or give me a quick call to check in on me on days I was secretly falling to pieces.  I didn’t share much of anything about my marriage.  I was living it, I sure as hell didn’t need to talk about it!  Somehow, he knew it was rough.  The conversations were light hearted and I began to find laughter again.  He’d joke and give me a hard time without ever giving me too hard of a time.  He intuitively knew the balance was pretty delicate and treated it as such.  I enjoyed the ribbing and fun.

I didn’t tell a soul that I’d bolted for several weeks.  I wanted as few a people involved in what was mushrooming into a whopper of a nightmare as possible.  At that point, I had been being accused of affair on top of affair for years and the last thing I wanted was to drag my friend any deeper into that mess.  I sent him a quick email note to let him know I was safe a few weeks after I’d bolted and prayed he wouldn’t run like so many of my friends already had.  A couple months went by and I got a call.  He asked if I was interested in supper with him and a guy he was working with in the area.  I agreed.  As I approached their table at the restaurant, he stood and wrapped me up in the biggest hug I’d ever been gifted!  That bear hug of his was just what I didn’t know I needed and I remember wishing it would last forever.  Yet another lesson I was learning.  Hugs are good medicine, they are an integral part of showing our support for one another as we traverse our paths in life and it was the realization that I was starving for good, tight, bear hugs.

The rest, as they say, is history.  It’s not been easy and the attacks we’ve shouldered have been numerous.  Attacks on us individually and as a team and family.  I open my eyes each morning grateful he’s still standing alongside me.  I’m pretty sure he wakes up, at least some mornings, wondering what he got himself into!  Lol!

It’s been said to me often, “I can’t believe you considered loving someone again.”  I suppose had I allowed bitterness, anger, disappointment and a jaded point of view to take the reins, I wouldn’t have given another man a fighting chance.  I chose from the get go to be more than a victim, more than a survivor … I chose to shed all of that and fight for my healing and wholeness.  I’ve chosen not to surrender to the hardships.  It’s been messy, ugly and I still have a ways to go however the reward has been more than worth the struggle.

My biggest lesson to date has been accepting the very gift I’ve offered the horses that have found their way to me, meeting them where they are.  My husband has taken what was broken, bruised, bleeding and almost lifeless and offered the space I needed to begin finding myself again.  He met me where I was and began teasing out the light and life he saw behind my scared, angry, exhausted eyes.  He’s been patient, kind and supportive.  “Love endures long and is patient and kind … Love bears up under anything and everything that comes …” Ephesians 13: 4,7  He’s stood up for me and had my back (and that’s taken some getting used to).  He’s patiently watched as I have reached for my own personal healing, allowing me the safe, secure space I’ve needed to defeat the demons that once haunted me.  And, he’s done the same for my kids, loving them as his own, showing them what love truly is, walking the talk.

I have my own personal work to continue to do.  Then again, don’t we all?  I am grateful for the counseling that I sought out immediately after bolting out of that marriage.  Had it not been for professional help, I may not have been capable of loving again.  You may find yourself in a similar space.  Your heart has been broken, scarred and is in need of tender care.  My horses and I are here, waiting for you to reach out.  Learn more about us at: http://untetheredhearts.com/ .

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”  ❤

 

 

 

Frustration & Exasperation

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There are times when it feels as if this twisting, turning, rocky road will never give way to the path I know is ahead for us.  As my kids get older and more vocal, things are getting rougher for them at his residence.  Nothing is ever “easy” with him.  My kids are beginning to truly experience the illness that is their father and it’s painful for me.  My heart aches for them knowing the frustration and outright disbelief that can be all consuming when dealing with him.

She texted me and then I had a call from my son a few hours later.  Each describing their annoyance and frustration in his ability to complicate the simplest of things.  My daughter’s basketball camp was 2 1/2 hours north of her father’s residence and started early each morning.  He signed her up for it and then decided that it inconvenienced him to stay in the promised hotel for the weekend.  He was far more content to force her out of bed at 5:00 a.m. each morning leaving her exhausted, more prone to injury and less able to retain everything that was being taught.  I could hear the utter disbelief she was expressing as I read each text.  The only answer I really had for her was not to go.  I told her that if she were that concerned about being overly tired, then maybe she should bag it.  Her reply was that she couldn’t do that, it wasn’t worth whatever punishment he would dole out should she stand up for herself.

Fast forward a few hours.  I’m soaking in a much needed hot, relaxing bubble bath when my phone rings.  It’s my son and I can hear the irritation in his voice as he begins to explain to me that his father is incapable of making any sort of decision and or plan with regard to getting him to the school so that he can ride the bus with his team to a football camp several hours away.  I listened as he railed against his dad and continuously stated, “This isn’t that hard mom!  You already said a week ago that you would make this work for me if he wasn’t able to get me to the school.  I have told him over and over that you’ll get me to the school!  He’s got to be completely stupid!  Why else would this be so hard!?!” I knew exactly the feeling he was experiencing, that of utter exasperation and frustration!  His father has never been capable of making a decision or plans much less sticking to either!

“Here’s what I can offer you,” I said to him, “You are welcome to stay with us tomorrow night and I can take you to the school the next day.  I can pick you up from his residence and take you to the school.  I can pick you up, take you to the school and you can come home that night, stay the night and he can pick you up on his way back to his residence.  Any of those are viable options.  You just let me know what you can work out.”

I could hear my ‘wasband’ in the background saying, “You’re being really disrespectful demanding that you go to this camp.  I’m thinking you aren’t going.”

I rolled my eyes so big I’m pretty sure he could hear them!  My son said as calmly as he could muster, “I’m going.  My team and my coaches are counting on me and I already made the commitment.  I asked you a week ago if I could go.  You said I could, so I’m going.  Period.  And you know what, there’s no reason why mom can’t take me.”

He took a deep breath and I heard the sigh on the other end of the line that I knew all too well.  The sigh that means the brick wall you’ve been beating your head against is calling.  “Okay, mom.  I’ll call you tomorrow.  Love you.”

I sat in the tub staring at the picture on the wall shaking my head.  The problem was that he didn’t want me to be involved.  What I knew was he’d already tried to get other parents and people he knew to take my son to the school.  No one was able or willing to help.  Until he could figure out in his head how to twist, contort and reshape his inability to parent much less co-parent into something he could live with, he was incapable of allowing my son to make a plan.  Narcissists have to remain in control of everything and everyone and even more importantly, they have to be able to control the story line.  The underlying feelings of resentment, anger and at times despair on the part of the narcissist’s own children is of little importance.  He could care less about the undue stress he was causing both kids.  It was, is and always will be about him … period.

I went to bed that night thinking about Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] …..” and Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.]”  A sense of gratitude washed over me as I considered how much less exposure the kids have to his constant harassing now that I’m free of him.  How much worse their lives would have been had they been in a position of having to deal with him 24/7 ….. Leaving and fighting for what I knew was in their best interest was the single smartest thing I have ever done to date!

I was told kids are resilient and to a degree, I agree.  I’ve experienced and witnessed it first hand.  My kids have had a solid support unit and our horses to work with and love on.  I recognize that not everyone has the same luxury.  My horses and I are here to support you and your children as you navigate your own unique paths.  Your situation may be similar or starkly different though that’s not what’s important.  What matters is engaging a professional to support you and your kids as you navigate the difficult circumstances you may have found yourself in or find yourself in now.

I encourage you to look us up at:  http://untetheredhearts.com/ to learn more and schedule an exploratory call or session.

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”   ❤