Tuesday, January 26, 2016

On Horseback Riding--and Marriage, Too

I rode horses competitively for ten years as a child--whenever and wherever my Army family moved, we looked for a barn after securing a home and school for my sister and me. Pony Club or 4-H, in a group or on our own, I did whatever the place offered on whatever horse they had for me. I loved it all, savored every moment in my horse-filled bubble, and gathered my fair share of trophies and ribbons.

Those horsey afternoons brushing and riding Restless Rio or Kula or Flashdance were nearly thirty years ago. The ribbons are faded, the trophies are dusty. For the past year, I’ve had the joy of watching my daughter learn how to ride. Lorelei was doing a fine job on her assigned pony, and I was having a fine time watching her go 'round and 'round the ring.

I was having a fine time, until I wasn't. Until I wanted more. And at that point, I signed up for lessons, too. Why let my girly have all the fun?

I prepared with utter glee! I bought new breeches and boots! I found a helmet of my own! I waited impatiently for the day of my first lesson to arrive. I wondered what horse I would ride. I dreamed of riding. The night before, I was too excited to sleep! I felt like I was eight again, when I ate, drank, and dreamed of horses.

Finally, the day came.

Happy me & big ol' Lee, in my first lesson in 23 years.
I got to the barn at the predetermined time, and saw that I was assigned to ride Lee, a big, old, gray gelding, and got him ready. I hopped on and walked him around. My body was suddenly very alert; it was as if every inch of me, especially those little muscles in my inner thighs that would be screaming at me later, was actively remembering what they used to know and do so well so long ago. My heels remembered to go down and my thumbs remembered to stay up. My lower legs forgot that they weren't supposed to move so much, and I laughed happily at how sloppy I was on that first ride.

In the following months, I remembered how to ride. My instructors delivered the news--one in a more good-natured way than the other--that I could still ride well, but I also forgot a lot in the past decades. The biggest thing I forgot: I forgot how difficult it is to have everything come together at the exact same time. What a challenge it is, I was reminded every few minutes during each lesson, to get my horse to listen to me, to bend around my leg, to keep that leg in position, to sit up straight and keep my hands in contact with his mouth but my elbows still soft...and to do ALL these things at the exact same time.

But when I did get it all right, that one stride was really beautiful. Sitting atop my horse, I couldn't see it, but I could feel it. That one stride was worth all the effort.

I couldn't help, as I worked myself around the ring, to realize how the same thing happens in my marriage. I can't speak for your marriage or all marriages, but mine requires constant work. There's always something that I am doing to work on it, or actively stopping myself from doing if it's not constructive towards a better relationship. I think about it, over-analyze it, under-analyze it, play the comparing game with all my friends and their marriages. I have to remember to balance putting him first versus putting me first. I must be patient, even if I'm out of patience. I need to try to get in the mood, even though I'm not in the mood to be in the mood. If that makes any sense!

There are so many things, both little and big, that happen on a daily basis that go into being married. It's just so much work. So. Much. Work.

But, once in a while, everything comes together. And that one stride where things come together is almost magic. Actually, I think it is magic--especially with three young kids and 30 inches of snow piled up everywhere I can at the moment. And even if I can't see it, I can feel it. And it's worth all that effort.