I’m not blogging this week, because my deadline has overwhelmed me. But I’ve written something on the HorseBack UK Facebook page today about which I am quite proud, and I wanted to tell you of it.
One of the most interesting things about the writing I do for HorseBack is that it is almost entirely ego-free. The grant proposals I write are not signed; the daily posts on the Facebook page are under the HorseBack name, not mine. The whole point is that it is not about me. Going there five days a week and meeting the men and women I meet is humbling enough. Some of the stories of survival are so extreme that I could not repeat them here. They are my daily perspective police, and my constant inspiration. Whenever I am tempted to feel sorry for myself, I think of those people, and what they have seen and experienced on the front line.
But, in some ways, even more an exercise in humility is doing this anonymous writing. Writers tend to have joke egos. I can’t quite speak for all my cohort, but I suspect I am not unusual in loving praise and good reviews and the very fact of my name in print. I am so tragic that I even get a thrill when someone says something nice about a tweet I wrote. I try to pretend that I am an island, entire unto myself, but it’s all buggery bollocks. I crave pats on the back.
For the HorseBack writing, it is the doing of the thing itself that is enough. I do not need five gold stars for prose, because the people the organisation helps are far, far bigger than my puny plan. I think this is a most excellent corrective. I feel it puts iron in my soul.
But today, I am cravenly giving into my baser instincts.
Yesterday, it was announced by Downing Street that several military charities have been awarded government grants. One of those grants went to HorseBack.
I wrote that grant proposal, and even though I know perfectly well that it was the cause which won the day, not my judicious choice of adjectives, I cannot help but feel a rather vulgar sense of gleeful delight. Even worse, I could not stop myself telling you of it.
This crazy deadline will be met. The book will, or will not, be published. I’m at the stage where I can’t tell any more if it is any good or not. The discerning agent may hurl it back at me and tell me to start again. If so, I’ll pick myself up and start all over again, dust off one of my idiot secret projects, get back in there and keep swinging.
Obviously, it’s important on a personal level, because I must earn enough money to keep my beautiful, clever, huge-hearted Red in the best hay cash can buy. But much more important than my absurd quest for literary glory is a document that does not have my name on it, that will never be reviewed in the broadsheets. It shall not win me plaudits or career advancement. It will already be gathering dust in some echoing vault in Whitehall. But it did something in the world.
I feel this is a good lesson for life.
I have a shocking tendency to put my tap shoes on and say, hey, hey, LOOK AT ME. Look at what I did with my dancing thoroughbred, look at how many words I wrote today, look at the handsomeness of Stanley the Dog, regard this picture I took of this hill.
As you can see from this post, I shall never quite be able to rid myself of this tendency. I’m not the Dalai Lama, after all. We must all work with our frailties. Maybe what I’m trying to tell myself is that it is sometimes the unsung things which are the important ones.
I expect I shall always have to sing a little song. The tap shoes will never quite be consigned to the back of the cupboard. There will, inevitably, be jazz hands. But, as I canter across the sometimes rocky terrain of middle age, I’m trying to teach myself what really matters and what does not, and hoping that I may be able to learn the difference.
Here is today’s Facebook story:
And here is one of my favourite HorseBack pictures. The very dear Mikey, who is one of the goofiest and sweetest and most affectionate of the herd, is on the left. And one of the remarkable veterans is on the right:
Oh, and there must also be a Red the Mare picture, because she exceeded all crests and peaks of loveliness today, cantering along under the lime trees on a loose rein, in her halter, when everyone says that thoroughbreds must be ridden in all kinds of hardware. But even though today was a triumph, I am keenly aware of those flapping wings of hubris. Funnily enough, I’d been thinking about humility a lot in the last few days, because I think it is the most important thing you can have when you work with a horse. You can never stop learning, never stop thinking, never stop questioning yourself. You can always, always, get better, try harder, stretch further, for your horse. Because the gifts they give are so generous, and so astonishing, and so essential for the human heart. For this human heart, anyway.
Really not quite sure which one of us is being more goofy in this picture. That is what love can do.