In so many old western movies, we’ve often watched the scene where a tired cowboy is seated on his horse while nearly slumped over from exhaustion. But the horse keeps moving. The cowboy of the Old West, exhausted from days of work and struggle, unsure of his next step and too tired to care, depends on his horse. With no energy remaining to make his own direction, he surrenders to the will of his trusty steed, secure in the thought that the horse knows the way.
For each period of good road, there will be rough road. Endings are followed by beginnings. Joy is followed by pain, and each cycle continues and continues again. When the road becomes too rough, and the thought of one more step is unbearable, we must lean on those around us for stability. We must look to the lessons of endurance we’ve acquired over the years and know that these lessons will deliver us from whatever discord or sorrow or heartache that appears at any given time. In these moments of uncertainty, we learn to trust that everything will work itself out. Somehow, in the depths of the mire, we subconsciously know that if we surrender to the flow, we will be carried to where we need to be. If we surrender to the will of our proverbial horse, it will get us there.
A Summer I Wish I Could Forget
The Summer of 2016 is shaping up to be, uh, interesting, in my part of the world. After experiencing several years of unbelievable contentment, the world has turned upside down. A big announcement at work, where I’ve worked for 19 years, left in its wake feelings of confusion, sadness, and uncertainty. My good friend (who works with me) and I comforted each other by saying, “We’re going to get through this. Nobody died. Nobody has cancer. We’re going to get through this.”
One week later, my favorite brother-in-law died unexpected.
Two weeks after that, her husband was diagnosed with cancer.
So much for our statement of comfort. It was clear that the ways of the world were toying with us, much the same way a small child “toys” with ants and a magnifying glass on a bright summer day. A few choice words were uttered, lots of tears were shed, and life gained a new perspective.
The Way Back
Yet, I don’t write all this to be sorrowful or to garner sympathy. I write it to focus on resilience, to remind myself — and others — that these trying times are when we are made. A former boss said, “A runner never improves by only running on the flat. You have to run up hills to make progress.” This summer, there are hills. There are mountains. There are summits so high that I cannot see the top. But I know it’s there. Somewhere, beyond that cloud-shrouded peak is the end of the uphill climb, a place to rest, a place to breathe.
Breathing is a good start. All life starts with breathing. So it’s time to saddle up and get going. Ride as long as you can, and then let the horse take you further. Depend on those around you for help. Depend on those hard-fought lessons you have gained in your life. Ride until you don’t think you can ride another moment, then let the horse take you the rest of the way. That horse, that instinctual part held deep inside of you, always knows the way.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep . . . and miles to go before I sleep. — Robert Frost
For a glimpse of the song that is keeping me afloat these days, I give you Rob Jungklas with Horse: