personal growth

Getting Even Steven

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Dear Stevie,

You turn 26 years old today.  I've known you for 12 years now and I've never taken the time to reflect on our relationship in writing, so this letter is clearly overdue.

You are the most sensitive, opinionated, human member of equine society I've ever known.  You've been my crazy-best-friend-straight-out-of-a-sitcom-character-sidekick since you came to live with me.  

You had your own fan club back in our lesson days.  You've taught more lessons and taken more ribbons at horse shows for my students and myself than I could ever count.

You're the horse who everybody wanted to buy, but was never for sale.  Partly because I knew you would eat them for lunch if I weren't there to translate.  Partly because I knew we were meant to stay together.  

You've earned yourself many nicknames, some flattering, some not-so-much. You've been an ongoing lesson in patience and picking my battles.  You've taught that some things can never change.

You've made me laugh, even when you're terribly serious.  You've made me cry with sadness and with joy.  You've flattered me and made me look a fool - sometimes in the same breath!  You've inspired me with pride and love.  And there have been times I've been madder at you than any human I've ever known.  

You broke my heart when your health became so poor, that I wasn't sure you were going to make it.  And I know that when I decided to put in the extra effort to help you recover, you made the extra effort required to stay on the planet with me.  

You've made me a better teacher, a better horse trainer, a better friend and a better person.  You are an example of rising above the fray, of perserverance and of mind over matter.

Knowing you all these years, I know what it means to be misunderstood, underappreciated and devalued.  But I see you.  You're a treasure in my heart.

Steven, I'd say we're even. 

Love,
Mom

Google-eye

Prized Possessions

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Have you ever really thought about what you'd consider to be a few of your most prized possessions?  And I don't mean your kids, your dog, your hubby or wife.  I mean stuff.  And before you get all high and mighty about not really needing any stuff, really think about it.  There's got to be at least an item or two that you never thought you'd have to give up, even in the worst of conditions, isn't there?

I just wrote that animals don't count, but many of you know that I had to give up my young horse last month, due to my finanacial situation.  That was tough, but I'm holding on to the idea that I may just get her back someday, so it's okay.  But shortly after her departure, still more cash was needed to prevent our bank accounts from collapsing, so I began the torturous liquidation of what I'd thought of as my most prized possessions - the most treasured pieces of remaining horse tack and equipment I had left.  My saddle, my show bridle, and my show harness.  All hand picked for their quality and uniqueness, the things I thought I would be handing down to my children and grandchildren.  Because one of them might be born with the horse bug, like me.

But alas, it's just stuff, right?

What are the things you think you'll keep until the end of time, and why?

Dooce: Bringing Families Together Since, err, 2009?

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I need to preface this post with the fact that I've been making an effort to be more open with my parents ever since my divorce "came out of left field".  Same with my decision to quit training horses and start designing websites.

But it's a struggle, and like any overachieving, first-born child, I want them to be proud of me.  I want them to love me.  I want them to think I'm great.  And I want them to know who I really am.  But I'm not always sure all of those things can be reconciled.

"So, Mom, I want to show you a project I've been working on, a new website."  I'm nervous, about to reveal EVEN MORE OF THE REAL LISA to my mom.  No turning back now...

"Okay, you want me to go there now?"

"Yeah, are you near the computer?"

"Uh huh.  How do I get there?"

"Go to the top of your web browser with your cursor and type in Girlbert dot com.  G-I-R-L-B-E-R-T dot com.  It's a blog, so I'm going to use it to write about things that are important to me.  And I have a recipe section so that I can put recipes online, and readers can submit recipes, hopefully, I'll collect..."

"Oh, that's Heather Armstrong."  

"Wh-what?"  She was browsing the front page of my site, where I had just posted a picture of myself and my favorite blogger at her book signing.  But I'm not following just how my midwestern, non-web-browsing, baby-boomer mother knows about Heather Armstrong.

"Did you get her book?"  Or her book, It Sucked and Then I Cried.

"Yes..."

"Did you get your brother one?  Because he can't find one in London.  He can't even order one from over there."

"Yes - did he tell you about her?"

"Yeah.  But we heard her on WGN radio, too.  She's pretty funny.  Tells it like it is."

Huh.  Lesson learned: Never underestimate the power of This Whole Internet Website Blog Thing.  Dooce found my mom.

It Sucked and Then I Cried

Crippling Social Awkwardness

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Thursday, Boyfriend and I (okay, mostly me) got a wild hare and decided to drive down to LA to a book signing by my favorite blogger, Heather Armstrong of dooce.com.  Reading her blog is actually what inspired my own, and now that things are starting to roll a little bit on girlbert.com, I thought it would be fun to meet her and introduce myself.  

I'm such a dork -  I may as well have been meeting the Dalai Lama, I was so starstruck.  I tried to use the ride down to come up with a good question - Boyfriend kept asking me, "Are you going to ask her anything?"  I couldn't come up with a thing, but I figured I'd just tell her I started my own blog, and reading her blog inspired me to do it.  I was going to get my picture taken with her and write about it on my blog, it was going to be great!

We arrived at the bookshop just after seven, and the place was packed.  Heather was toward the front - I bought her book, then we made our way to the back to get a spot to listen.  Oh, good, I'll have time to think of something to ask while standing in line.   Suddenly the question-and-answer was over, and she was on her way to the back of the store to sit down and sign books.  Wait, I was already there!  So there I was, first in line to get my book signed, and I hadn't worked out what I was going to say.  Here I was about to meet someone who had inspired me to start writing, to open up about my life, and...

"Are you Erik?"
"Wha - oh - no, I'm not.  That's my brother...he actually turned me on to your site a couple of years ago."  Brilliant. 
"A boy?  Wow, I don't have many boys reading my site."  Wow, she's really pretty in person...say something!  
"Yeah, he really likes it."  Genius.  Act normal!  Make eye contact!
"Well thank you so much for reading, and thank you for coming."
"Thank you so much.  Good luck and travel safe."  But wait - you forgot to mention the weather, you idiot!

Boyfriend and I rounded the corner and I stopped.  "Oh, man, I kinda got all flaky-like."
"Yeah, you kinda did."  
"Shoot - I forgot to get my picture with her!"
"Do you want to stand in line again?"
"Kind of...but that's so dumb.  And I think I want my own book, too."
"Will you regret it if you don't?"
"Probably..."

So we did.  We bought another book and stood in line again.  And the second time, I got my picture taken, but the dialog wasn't much improved.  I did manage to spit out the fact that I had started my own blog, but forgot to mention that I was inspired by her.  I think I started to say it, but my brain censored it at some point with, "Shut up!  She doesn't care about that.  She's probably tired and just wants you to get the hell out of there!"

This is the ongoing battle between my optimistic self and the part of me that wants to curl up on a dark cave somewhere and hide from the world.  The world that could judge me, that could think I'm wrong, that I would feel inferior to.  Even though the same world could support me and love me, I assume the worst.  

So Heather Armstrong is signing her books at a bookstore, she's probably like anyone, humbled and surprised that someone would look up to her and admire her and BUY HER BOOK, of course she's going to be nice to me. And I may as well have just let her kind words lift me up.  But I didn't, I assumed that she would judge me and I stumbled fearfully through what could have been a networking opportunity.  

So this is exactly what has inspired me to write, that just like Heather, I struggle with things that paralyze me, things that would roll off a normal, sane person.  Things that would bounce of a person without crippling her with social anxiety.  So I choose to write about it.  Because I can't be the only person who's struggled with anxiety, depression and the fallout of a divorce, just like Heather's not the only person who's fought the demons of chronic and post-partum depression.  Just like Heather has chosen to share her story, I want to share mine.  If only to show myself that I can.

Dooce and Me!

What's the opposite of writer's block?

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Warning: This is a stream of conciousness with periods and the occasional line-break.  Good luck...

I just hate it when I lie awake for so long, ideas fluttering around in my head, that I forget what to write down.  I know, I know, - keep a notebook by your bed, Girlbert.  I do, but there are only so many times you can turn on the light and scribble something down before a) your partner wants to kill you, or b) you should just get your ass out of bed and do it justice.  And I'm too lazy to deal with the repurcussions of either of those options.

So I have a problem - too many ideas, not enough time to write it all down.  I should be grateful - at least I'm not all tapped out.  Part of it is the surrounding landscape, so rich and filled with inspiration.  I'm having serious attention deficit issues as the weather warms and nature reawakens from her winter slumber.  Hundreds of little orange butterflies swooped and flitted around our neighborhood yesterday, seeming to put on a show just for me.  And the woodpeckers are the court jesters of the forest, they were in full entertainment mode - practicing their acrobatics and heckling one another all day long.  The local turkeys are in full-on mating season the toms march by the house in full display several times a day, the hens nonchalantly following along.  The surrounding forest has become a genuine Garden of Eden - luring me from my money-making pursuits and responsibilities behind my computer.  I am highly distractable.

I'm also reading again.  I haven't read much but manuals on HTML and CSS, online tutorials on content management systems lately.  I was terribly excited when I acquired Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design.  Really?  What happened to the animal-loving, mystic who sought out nothing but feel-good, self-help books, metaphysical manuscripts, and celebrity autobiographies?  When did I learn to absorb information in textbooks?  I certainly could have used that skill in high school.  But I'm back on Memoirs-of-the-Rich-and-Famous-Train, and it's bringing me full circle on why I left Colorado in the pursuit of my happiness in California.

First came Goldie Hawn's book, A Lotus Grows in the Mud.  A fascinating journey, her life is, and who could have anything against someone named Goldie?  Of course I was open to it, as I am with most everything, particularly in the realm of alternative medicine and spiritual journeys.  I used to have a friend who would roll his eyes at my fascination with celebrities endorsing metaphysics and holistic lifestyles.  "If Shirley says it, it must be true," he would sneer, mockingly.  It's always been so funny to me what threatens people.  I mean, what's so threatening about just believing there is an easy, beautiful, happy way to live?  It's true, I know I believe a lot of what those in the spotlight have to say about such matters because I look at them as choices that the people with the most money in the world can afford.  And then I think, or do they have all that money because of the metaphysical choices they've made?  Or is it both?  The chicken or the egg? 

But no matter, the point is that when the rich and famous have health issues or get cancer, most of them turn to alternative therapies.  They can afford the best western medicine and traditional doctors in the world, but they choose energy therapy, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, instead.  And they travel around the world to learn about such therapies, other cultures and other religions.  So as much as hanging on the every word of a celebrity touting another alternative therapy makes me look like a whore to celebrity culture, it's what makes sense to me.  And as I'm now reading in Shirley's latest book (which I intend to write more about upon finishing), information that resonates with you in some way is your reality, and you should take it very seriously.

So here I am again, absorbing Shirley's wise words regarding syncronicity, spirituality, holistic medicine, and reincarnation, and thinking, this is what I'm supposed to be doing.  This is why I'm here.  On this planet.  In this lifetime.

Green on BLUE

Therapy. Well, that and a bottle of red wine...

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If you know me, you know this has been a rough year for me. But this week was about eight thousand times harder.
Work without pay - wait, when did I start training horses again?
So last night, after another 12-hour workday, I looked at my honey, and he said, "Let's just stop for tonight - please?"
With tears in my eyes, I sighed, "Okay." It was all I could do to stop, I was so overwhelmed by everything we had to do.
"Let's make some dinner, have a glass of wine, and watch a movie or play a game or something. We just need a break."
A game? That sounded remotely FUN. And nothing sounded FUN at that moment, so that was a pretty good idea. "What game?"
"Well let's see what we have in here..." He opened the cabinet, "How about Jenga?" I pictured myself throwing wooden rectangles at his face. Not a good plan.
"What else?"
"Therapy - what's that about?"
"I LOVE Therapy."
"Therapy it is."

Therapy: The Game
Fascinating fun with a psychological twist. Explore your imagination. Discover surprising facts about human behavior. Find out how others see you.

Let it be known that I ended up in "psychosis" five times, boyfriend, once. That's about the right ratio. So after some dinner and much alcohol consumption, Therapy turned out to be just what we needed. The directions call for 3-6 players, but we just figured instead of group therapy, we were undergoing couples therapy. I haven't had that much fun in such a long time. A sampling of our Therapy sessions:

"So tell me, Lisa, which player do you think would be quickest to admit to making a mistake?"
That'd be a resounding NOT ME.

"So tell me, Lisa, on a rating scale of 1 to 10, how stubborn are you?" Uh, 10.

"So tell me, Lisa, what percentage of your worries do you eventually reveal to other people - 5%, 50%, or 95%?"
50%.

As my therapist, Boyfriend was to try to guess what my answers were, and he NEVER GOT ONE WRONG.

On the other hand:
"So tell me, Boyfriend, what period of history were you really made for - the Roman Empire, the 'South' of Gone with the Wind, or Modern Times?"
Boyfriend: Modern Times.
Me: Oh, I said the Roman Empire.
Boyfriend: Really? Why?
Me: Hmmm, I guess 'cause you're all chivalrous and believe in battling things out via warfare, if necessary.
Boyfriend: Huh.

"So tell me, Darling, which player would be most likely to make the headlines in the paper?"
Boyfriend: You.
Me: For what?
I could hardly get through reading this one:
"So tell me, Baby, which player do you think would be most likely to become addicted to 'General Hospital'!?!? Phbpbplt!"

He won the the game. But I won the fight with myself.

Therapy: The Game

Amy Dearest

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Why is is that we don't appreciate the things we have until they are gone?
Ugh - my horse is gone. To cut back expenses, I gave her away, and she's gone already. I could cry for at least a week over everything about which I'm sad or angry. But I don't. I get up each day, determined to believe that it will get better. That I'll recover from this year of my life. That I can get past all of this anger, sadness and grief. That I will be able to really recognize just how lucky I am. I have a boyfriend who loves me. I still have my grumpy old men, Reggie and Stevie. And Amy will be back, she's just going off to college for a while...
The weather cleared up here in California just in time for her departure, I was able to ride her the three days in a row before she left. I came home after the first of those rides, and lamented, "Why is it that I'm finally clicking with my horse, now that she's leaving in a few days?"
To which my brilliant boyfriend responded, "Because you only have a few days. You've had five years to learn how to ride her, and now that she's leaving, you will."
Hmmm....

Love you, Ames. I know we've done our share of head-butting over the years, but I've never known a horse to teach me so much. There were times when I thought of you as my angry teenage daughter, thinking, "What happened to my baby girl?" I'm sorry I wasn't always open to the lesson, the hard-headed mother that I am. I have always expected a lot of you, and I know that was hard to take sometimes. You are my mirror, you are my soulmate. You be good, and I'll be back.
Smooches and hugs, Mom

Amy
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