Thursday, 29 January 2015

Being human. Or, sometimes you don’t get the gold star you want, you get the one you need.

Sometimes, I have a bad few days. I feel a bit weak and weedy, I forget to take my iron tonic, I don’t sleep well. I get behind on work and neglect to make special green soup.

I believe this is called: being human.

However, although I know on paper that all humans are human, and that flaws are written in to the deal, and that not even the Shiny People are shiny all of the time, there is a part of me which feels this as haunting failure.

Acceptance is a lovely word. It is used, I believe, quite often by the Buddhists, and certainly by the shrinks. One must learn to accept that life is complicated, that human beings are complex, that psychology is a snaking, labyrinthine thing. What is it? I ask myself crossly when I have the bad couple of days. What is going on? As if, by rationality and reason and empiricism, I may come up with the right answer, get ten out of ten, go back to the top of the class, and FIX EVERYTHING.

Sometimes, I think, there is not an easy ‘what is it?’. Sometimes, there are barely perceptible tectonic plates, shifting under the surface. Sometimes one just has to sit with a thing, and let it run its course.

The regular readers will know that I often write: every day cannot be Doris Day. I know this to be true, in my rational mind. In my irrational mind, which is six years old and quite often high on sugar, I am shouting: yes it can. Come on, Doris, shouts the irrational mind, put your damn dancing shoes on. Do jazz hands, Doris, bawls the irrational mind, which wants to have a party.

Today, for no known reason, the sane mind has taken over, like a lovely grown-up coming in and telling the children that it really is time for bed. Now then, says the sane mind, who is like a cross between Mary Poppins and Jung and the Dalai Lama, you really can just sit with it. You can accept the fact that this is not a test; it’s a long, winding journey, with bumps in the road. You don’t always have to get a gold star.

As I type this, with my poor old brain a bit swimmy still from two days of not functioning, I wonder: why write all this? I think it is because almost everyone I know of this age has this push-me, pull-you. My cohort has reached the time in life when we really do know quite a lot of things. We have had to face cruel truths; we have been to funerals; we know mortality like a dear old dog. Perhaps, we have had to understand that not all our childhood dreams will come true. We have had to adjust our expectations. We have had, in the outmoded vernacular, to get real.

But as TS, who knew everything about poetry, and quite a lot about wisdom, but could not apply much of that to his own fraught life, once wrote: humans cannot bear very much reality. They run away from it, or deny it, or drink it away, or merely point in the other direction – look at that, over there, let’s get furious about that.

I try to write about reality so that somewhere, out there in the dark, one person might sigh and say: oh, yes, me too. The more I go on, the sweeter I think it is to know that one is not alone. It is why I love the internet. It’s not just the baby pandas and the Budweiser Clydesdales; it’s the fact that there really is a lot of human truth out there. There are people admitting that they, too, are not quite as shiny as they would like to be. The funny thing about the internet is that it is not about gold stars, or top of the class. It is often about the stone in the shoe. It is about that rocky road, which everyone must walk. Or, at least, the good, kind parts of it are.

Out in the field, where the red mare has no time for such absurd ponderings, there is spring fever, even though it is not yet spring. In fact, it has been minus one and gales and blizzards. Then the dear old Scottish sun came out, casting its benign amber glow on the scene, and the two fast friends went for a hooley. They galloped from one end to the other, turned on a sixpence, and galloped back, throwing up wild clods of mud as they went. They hurled themselves to the ground and rolled and rolled. They leapt in the air for no known reason, twisting and snorting and broncing. The red mare stuck her tail vertically in the air, so it flew like a flag, and snorted like a steam train, and did her floating, Spanish Riding School of Vienna trot. Then she showed off her Champion the Wonder Horse rear.

Bloody hell, I thought, she really is remembering that Nijinksy is her grandsire. I went to work her with a small degree of trepidation. When she is like this, I am keenly aware that she is half a ton of thoroughbred. But when she saw me, she dropped her head and went through her groundwork steps as softly and accurately and politely as if she were a dressage diva instead of the rodeo crazy of ten minutes before. She blinked at me, kindly. Just getting the twinkles out of my toes, she seemed to be saying. Now, what would you like me to do next?

She doesn’t care about Doris Day. She doesn’t care that it’s been a bit of a scrappy, crappy week. All she minds about is that she gets a reliable, patient human, who cares about clarity and consistency. All that matters to her is that I make her feel safe. And then, as I hear the wings of my better angels begin to flap, she sweetly gives me a little gold star of her very own.


Today’s pictures:

Two incredibly muddy horses in an incredibly muddy field, having a little party of their own:

29 Jan 1

29 Jan 2-001

29 Jan 2

29 Jan 4

29 Jan 3

And then, after all that, I worked her for half an hour and she stood, composed and elegant, ground-tethered, whilst I faffed about with the camera:

29 Jan 10

She may be the scruffiest, woolliest, muddiest horse in Scotland, but she is also one of the funniest and sweetest and cleverest. She is all gold stars. No matter how cross and grumpy and scratchy and jangly I am feeling, she makes everything better.


  1. I love these photos - she is so furry, like a (very) well bred Shetland! Not that long ago I used to subscribe to the "Little Miss Perfect" thing, and if life wasn't, I would hibernate until things were better. Now, I've realised that my friends are my friends for a reason, I can admit weakness, and am a lot less lonely. Probably mostly down to the Padre I suspect...

  2. Thank you so much for these pictures! I needed to see the silliness today.

  3. ...oh, yes, me too.


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