I have never been much of a cook. In fact, one might say that I have always been a lousy cook, with a very limited list of foods to cook. Now, because Chuck (my husband) has decided that his heart is important, we have embarked on the Ornish diet for heart health. I cannot believe there are so many ways to cook vegetables: sauté, roast, sauté, grill, sauté, boil, sauté, well, you get the picture. So, my daughter sends me this cookbook called “Thug Kitchen, eat like you give a fuck.” The language in this book is outrageous, but the recipes are downright fun to work with. I actually learned that it’s a good idea to gather all the ingredients together before one starts, rather than find them as you go along. I think I should have known that, but for some reason, it never occurred to me. With 17 items in the ingredients, one would suppose gathering all that together would cover the countertop. Yep, Ginger-Mushroom Summer Rolls have 17 ingredients. But it really doesn’t seem to be too hard, and so tonight I am going to try to prepare these “sexy, chilled, see-through burritos” (their words, not mine). And who knew there were so many beans: garbanzo, black, red, boston, black-eyed peas, and more. You just throw those things in whatever you are cooking, and behold, you have protein and flavor. We do not eat meat, or poultry; we eat egg whites; we eat whole wheat (Chuck freaks out when I accidentally buy enriched bread); we do eat fish now and then (I simply cannot give up red snapper, or shrimp, or salmon). What this all means is that I can cook a mighty tasty meal nowadays, and it’s a lot of fun, too.
You know, I used to like to write. About everything. And now I find myself unable to think about putting my thoughts or my memories on paper. I used to belong to a memory keepers writing group, and while it is still going on, I cannot bring myself to attend those monthly meetings, because I do not have anything to say — or rather, write. I wrote pages and pages of memories and realized they are all about me. Others write about their families, their ancestral homes, their research on historical family members, and so on. I write about my experiences. There is only so much to say about one individual’s experiences, even if that person, being me, has had an interesting life. There are certain things one just doesn’t write about, and those, maybe, are the things that would make another person give a damn about reading the memory.
In just a year’s time I have changed. How is that even possible? After living 74 years, one should stop changing, I think, and have some consistency in life. Like, relax and enjoy life. However, when I am at home, I want to be out. When I am out, I want to be home. Perhaps that is what aging does to you: trying to find a place where one belongs at this stage of life.
Indeed, I have changed. For one thing, I weigh 45 pounds less than I did a year ago. I feel better. I have more energy. I am healthier, and I need new clothes. Unfortunately, I do not have money for new clothes. I am retired, and while not poor, certainly can’t go out and purchase new clothes. Of course, I don’t need much, since all I do is hang around home, go grocery shopping, and go to the barn. I guess I should mention, I have horses, and I try to ride at least three times a week, which is why I’m out of money. That fulfills my “getting away from home” dilemma. I finally took on a volunteer position. It’s okay, but I’d rather be selfish and simply spend time doing my own thing. So, in that way, I haven’t changed.
I am more opinionated than ever. I pay more attention to the political situations in the world. (Now, why in the hell would anyone want to do that when their life is winding down and there is not a thing that can be accomplished by an old lady filled with angst?) I marched in the Million Women’s March in Washington, D.C. in January, 2017. It was an interesting experience, filled with hope and anticipation of making a difference. It also brought me sadness, fatigue, and an aching body. But, boy was it ever worth it!
I am still old. That hasn’t changed. Everyday I am older, and my life is shortened. Kind of sad, I think. Just when I realized I could do so much, I have less time to do it. Another dilemma, perhaps. Well, we shall see what tomorrow brings.
I finally realized that I do not have to ride every day, or every week for that matter. I can spend quality time with Reo just lungeing and learning. He is fuzzy now, like a velvet rug, and smells like a winter horse. He likes me, I think. He likes the snacks I give him, that’s for sure. He knows more than he lets on, as when I think I’m going to teach him something new, he already knows how to do it. He’s just rusty and needs to be reminded that he can do whatever I ask of him. I like working with him; I enjoy riding him in the arena and have begun to work him harder; he makes me nervous when I ride away from the barn as he seems so unsure of his ability to cope with his surroundings. I don’t know if that is a game or if he really has this innate fear. I am working on discovering more about him. I do know that when he decides I have taught him enough, he begins to object. I do not want to push him too hard, but I do not want to let him think I am a pushover. (I am, kind of.) Since I am a senior rider (over 70), and not as brave as I would like to be, I am sure he detects that in me. I have learned that I can get his attention by working him at a nice long trot. My goal for him is to be a successful western dressage horse. Not spectacular, just pleasant and competent. I am running out of time (years), so it is kind of disappointing that my future is limited with him, but I will make the best of the time we have left and see where we end up.
Here’s the thing. God made me white. God made me attractive. God gave me a talent: an ability to type really, really fast to ensure I could make a living. He gave me intelligence and common sense to help me make the most of educational and job opportunities. God gave me the wherewithal to live a fairly safe life in middle and upper class neighborhoods. He gave me a parent that loved and nurtured me. He let me be born to a “Christian” mother.
But wait, what else did God do for me? He didn’t make me black, or yellow, or different, saving me from being looked down upon by people not like me. He didn’t make me homely and therefore avoid bullying and scorn. He didn’t give me slower thought processes, thereby saving me from educators that always determined I was incapable of learning and had no potential. He didn’t have me be born into a family that failed to support me and value my life. He didn’t place me in a home of drugs and crime, thus saving me from an environment of crime and poverty.
So, what am I to determine from this? That “God” didn’t play fair, and that those godly people who tell others they do not deserve help, or only have to “try” or “pull themselves up” from their circumstances, those people don’t know what they are talking about. They have no idea, nor do they want to understand, what it’s like to be placed in a life of destitute and betrayal. God put heavier burdens on some, and when he did that He didn’t give them the ability or power to eradicate their dire situations. He let them suffer and live in bewilderment without any consideration that life would offer them hope or opportunities. God has proven he does not love all people. And God has proven that those He favored do not truly understand what He tried to instill in them: take care and help those left behind.
And let’s face it, God does not exist as people of faith believe. Your God would not have created such an imbalance and lack of love in humanity.
I rode Reo yesterday, and I am stiff today. In actuality, I should go ride again today, and again tomorrow, and so on. I must admit, however, that I do not feel like doing horse riding today. I want to stay home and water the lawn, or read a book I just got from the library (The Bridal Chair – biofiction re Ida Chagall), or vacuum and dust. But, I also feel compelled to go to the barn and give my old horse, Buddy, his extra nutrients so that he won’t continue to lose weight. Do I enjoy my horse time? Almost always, especially when I finally arrive at the barn. And since I will be there, why not take Reo out and ride for a half-hour? Because I don’t want to ride today. Some days I wonder why I spend time and money on horses. Usually, those thoughts come on a day when I am sore, or the weather is perfect for sitting on the patio listening to birds, or I feel like spending time doing something with my husband. And guilt comes into play here, also. I am compelled to check on my horses. I cannot sit and relax without seeing and touching them. I pay tons of money to have them in a safe place, and yet I cannot spend a peaceful day away from them. I understand this is a compulsion, and I believe I was born with the need to be around horses. This is my self-analysis: I am simply nuts.
There is something I learned. I have allowed my mind to rule itself. I do not actively think of what I’m doing, I just do it. I want to actually think about what actions I take. For instance, today while driving I found myself swearing at other drivers because of impatience. I stopped and said whoa to myself. What the hell was I doing? There was no reason to be angry at other drivers. So what if they were driving slow; so what if they crowded others; so what if they shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car! It doesn’t matter to me. I just go on and put my mind in a quiet place and think about the act of driving. I arrived at the barn with a quiet mind, which carried over to my treatment of the horses, and to my relaxing body. On the way home, I realized that while I was with the horses I did not think of anything except exactly what I was doing with them. I was already meditating without knowing I was. I was mindful only of what and who I was with. What is mindfulness to me when I have horses to bring me peace. Of course, it did help that I started out in a good state of mind.
Last weekend I went to a sensory clinic and discovered that I can do more than I thought. I rode Reo in an equitation class, where he behaved as good as, if not better than, most (except for a skittish part where he thought he was being left behind), and then we were the best at some of the tasks. Then we went on to a drill team concept group, and he did splendidly. We led, then we followed, and we trotted, and trotted, and trotted. God, I didn’t think it was ever going to end. But, by golly, my knees felt great, my body felt great, but my “crotch” hurt like hell. Lots of sitting trots, then posting trots, then sitting trots. Once the drill team part was over, it was time to acclimate him to the weird items in the arena where we had been riding. He absolutely loved the damn giant beach ball — it was bigger than he was. He nosed it, pushed it, shoved it, and I finally laughed. The final class was an obstacle course, and that one I failed. He passed, but only because one of the instructors “taught” him to do what was requested. No abuse of any kind, just determination. Obviously, I have work to do on that, but only if I care to do it. At any rate, I did not realize how much the weekend had taken out of me — mostly from my nerves — and I was truly exhausted for at least three days. Is that because I am old? Or is is it because it was a strenuous day? Not sure, but now that I am rested, I am ready to try something like that again.
You know, I’m not sure why I still ride horses. I surely do love the animals themselves, and I could not bear the thought of not spending time with them. However, I do not like the extra pains my body goes through after I dismount. The other problem is having a certain amount of fear spoiling a lovely ride. Every time the horse startles, or trips, or looks askance at an object, my heart does an extra beat. I know he must feel that anxiety, and perhaps that’s why he’s not so perfect when I spend time on his back. Then again, how am I to move forward with my life and the fact that I am no longer youthful? Of course, I must still continue riding, and take the chance that a fall might occur. I can only assume the fall will be “gentle” and no bones will be broken; I cannot worry about this happening. I have this lovely Paint gelding that is a dream to work with on the ground. I have absolutely no nervous demeanor when I am with this big black and white horse, working the lunge line or lead line. But, and that’s a big but, I can’t seem to totally get rid of the nerves when I am mounted. Being stubborn, as I am, I will overcome this and enjoy riding — especially this Fall with the beautiful colors and pleasant temperatures.
I was a child. I still had a father and a mother. I pause to remember being in the basement with my father watching him work on a wooden bench. He smiled. He tossled my hair. His shining black hair and startling blue eyes looked upon me with warmth and love, and I felt safe and happy. He was not as he seemed.
My mother shook me violently from the bed. She grabbed a blanket, wrapped it around my small shoulders, and pulled me out the door of our 2nd floor apartment. Smoke filled the rooms as we fled. My older cousin, Janet, cried as mother hollered at her to leave the apartment. We stood outside in the morning rain as the firemen shot water onto the burning building. Flames rose from the windows, engulfing our small home. But we were safe. My father was not with us — where was he?
I later learned the fire had been started by him, as he casually tossed a cigarette onto the floor and let it burn. He was a drunk, they said, and didn’t know what he had done. We loved him, we forgave him. And life moved on.