I didn’t want to write today. In fact, I didn’t want to think about writing.
Last night, I didn’t see the point of reaching for anything anymore.
I know these waves pass. And I told myself that as I walked back into my house.
Before, I was sitting in my car and some song came on that reminded me of some time when I was happy, and I started crying. Full out, no-holding-back, crying.
Tomorrow I will feel differently, I kept thinking. But at the moment, even those thoughts didn’t comfort me.
I called a friend, someone who wouldn’t be surprised or shocked or scared if I told them I just didn’t want to keep doing this anymore.
By the end of the conversation, I felt better.
I woke up this morning, went for a run, kept the thoughts of not-caring at bay, somewhere in my toes, and tried to stomp them out on the pavement. Then I drove to the barn.
When I was a kid, from the age of five until about eighteen, I spent almost every day at the barn. I rode, had a horse, competed. It was such a large part of my life, my identity, for years. And recently, I’ve gone back to that love.
This afternoon, I spent two hours cleaning other people’s tack. I took the sponge, dipped it in water, pressed it against leather-soap, and scrubbed strips of bridle leather, saddles, martingales, girths.
Don’t think about anything but cleaning this bridle, I thought.
And so, with each stroke, I watched the brown and black begin to shine in my hands. What a simple task. What a saving grace.
I listened to horses munch on hay, hooves clacking on concrete walkways, trainers shouting in the distance, Heals down! Shoulders back!
If I closed my eyes, I could imagine I was 10 or 16 or somewhere back when I was doing this exact thing at a different part of my life.
And I did. I imagined my horse was somewhere in one of those stalls. Imagined my mother was about to pick me up, and I’d sprint down the road and jump into her car.
But I pulled myself back. To this moment. I was cleaning some stranger’s bridle. I was in New York. I was 25.
And I was scared.
Tonight I had dinner with a friend. We talked about where we wanted to go. Everyone asks that question, don’t they? Where do you see yourself? What are your goals? She talked about Italy, marriage, teaching.
I said, I don’t know. I don’t know why I’m here.
She said, This sounds cheesy, and cliche, but it’s the journey that’s important, though. You don’t have to know.
But I’m scared.
I keep going back to the strips of leather in my hands. The simple act of cleaning a bridle, something I used to do as a kid, young teenager, for fun, to relax, after a long day of riding my horse. I wasn’t thinking about anything back then. Not career, certainly not, When will I get married or, How old will I be when/if I have kids.
And then I’d go home and write. Not for publication, not for my “next manuscript.” I’d just write.
I think our younger selves are sometimes smarter than the present selves. At least, I think I was, in many ways.
Going back to old loves, old activities we used to have as kids, younger-selves, is a way to gain perspective on the adult’s being-lost.
Just as muscle memory developes, or can be recalled, maybe self-memory acts the same way—self-memory–the memory of our core-selves, tucked away deep in the spirit.
As I sat among the dirt and leather-soap, the hay and horses, I felt a sense of self-memory come back. A bit of bliss and simplicity that I had forgotten.
So I’m scared. Some days I wake up and don’t see the point of trying anymore. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. But the self-memory surfaces and says, Just Be.
The self-memory, recalled through the act of cleaning bridles, as though I was transported to younger-me doing the same thing, comes to mind and says, I love you.
I drove away from the barn, smiling. An old country song came on my iPod. It was a song that just so happened to remind me of many trips to and from the barn back in Texas as a kid.
What did I feel then?
Suddenly, it hit me. I used to be scared back then, too. My life seemed to stretch out in front of me like a dark wood. I wanted to run toward it and at the same time, hide. But there was a difference between that being-scared and this present day being-scared.
I didn’t have the ego I have now. I wasn’t burdened with the idea that “I had to prove what I’m fighting for.” Or maybe I was just certain I’d make it somewhere. Maybe I had more faith. And I wasn’t so scared of the world, after all.
Maybe being-lost back then was more about being unsure and less about losing sense of self.
I cried again tonight, in the parking lot of CVS. I’ve lost my center. Lost the base-camp from which I always used to return.
Perhaps now I’m fighting to get it back. Step by step. I’m lost, scared, but I’m trying, desperately, to get back to what matters. What makes me happy.
It’s the journey, my friend said.
But what’s a journey if your self is splintered about in the woods, scattered, without it’s center?
I don’t know. I’m working on bringing myself back to myself.
Honestly, I’m scared. But I think I’m on my way to something Beautiful. True.