It’s All So Simple – When It Isn’t So Complicated

Yesterday was my first experience volunteering with the non-profit Lift Me Up.  I got to the barn over an hour before my official ‘start’ time.  In part my timing was off because I mis-read the instructions;  my subconscious though was clearly insistent on spending some time in the quiet of the morning communing with the horses.

Frenchie knickered when I arrived and was rewarded with a couple of carrots (this is me – of course I had brought carrots along). We nuzzled over the fence for a little while and I was overcome with emotion.  Horses are inextricably tied to memories of time spent with my dad – riding with him and/or my sister, lesson after lesson with Mr. Gardner as he scolded me when I missed the lead found in the horse’s hooves (I would be looking at my father – always seeking that goofy smile of his), Gold Nugget (the most beautiful Palomino in the universe).  I sat on a fence, feeling the sun greet the morning and watching the horses in their pastures anticipate the arrival of their morning hay.  As each bale was dropped I watched them argue and tussle over who had dibs, bucking with the feistiness born of indignation and bluster.

photo-1

I don’t think there is anything more glorious than an early morning sun, the smell of fresh hay and eavesdropping on conversations between old equine friends.  I could have stayed like that all day and felt like I had been given the gift of golden memories and magical mornings combined in a perfect olio.

Ironically, I ended up bringing the largest horse in for the morning’s work.  Nyles is a beautiful, mouthy guy, who likes to nibble on your sweatshirt, hair and anything else within touching distance.  He’s a big guy and I couldn’t even see the top of the head of the other volunteer who helped me with grooming.  So, I sang quietly to Nyles as I tended to him with the requisite different types of combs  and brushes.  And not to put too fine a point on it – but yes, we kissed.  I kissed quite a lot yesterday (and I think I already have a favorite in Elmo, who truly does return the kiss).  And all would have been well if I could have just spent the day like this.

“Who are you?”

“No one of consequence.”

“I must know.”

“Get used to disappointment” — William Goldman

The volunteers couldn’t have been more indifferent to me and more importantly to the riders scheduled for therapy.  With great discomfort, I introduced myself to everyone, tried to make the requisite small talk and failed miserably.  Ok, this experience isn’t about me.  I struggled physically with the need to keep my body twisted towards Nyles while consciously maintaining weight on the rider’s leg.  A lovely, profoundly challenged man, he shouted with delight while on Nyles’ back, though he was unable to sustain holding the reins or fully balancing himself (it was clear that he was learning more about balance, and with some assistance to dismount, was damn graceful once I was able to move his leg back and over the saddle).  He laughed most of the hour and when he would make eye contact with me,  he’d also try and lean forward to touch my head.

As we walked, I would talk to the rider and sing to Nyles.  Or perhaps it was vice versa.  It is no exaggeration when I write that I was the only one who spoke to this lovely man.  Or the horse.  The volunteers spoke to each other about various aches, pains, marital issues and competed to see who had the most comprehensive knowledge of the barn’s tenants.

When Nyles was done working, we brought him back to pasture.  The next hour I spent with another gentleman and Valentine (a horse with a fair amount of gravitas and a limited supply of grace).   He was able to hold the reins and balance well, which was a selfish relief, for at this point I was struggling with my own body’s resistance to the efforts from the first session.  And my heart was hurt from feeling dismissed by the other volunteers.  Believe me, I know this is a function of being new and having tenured people watch as well-intended folks come and go without commitment or comment.  It is as reflective of my insecurity as it is their indifference.  But I was disappointed for a bit.  And worried as I walked into the house looking like a bent, pained old woman.  Can I hold up my end of the bargain even with some limitations?

The answer remains unclear.  I know I will go back next week and look forward to seeing my equine friends and riders, if not my colleagues.  I don’t cave that easily and I have yet to wave the white flag when my body wimps out.  So the odds are good it isn’t going to happen this time either.  I know the challenges of working in the non-profit world, I just need to find the rhythm so I move with its gait and not against it.

I gave Frenchie a good-bye carrot and nuzzle and headed home, my senses heightened by such a powerful exposure to the morning and my heart a muddle.  I’m not buying a new pair of paddock boots just yet, but I’ve already made a note to buy some apples for next week.

White horse in field

White horse in field (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

40 thoughts on “It’s All So Simple – When It Isn’t So Complicated

  1. Oh I can so relate to that weird feeling of being the newbie. And, since you were doing what was expected (relating to the horses and the lovely guy) and not gossiping with other volunteers, there may have been a bit of jealousy? Like Animal Couriers says, they’ll come around. Onya!

  2. There is something. Something about certain (and many) lines in your posts that touch me to the core. “We nuzzled over the fence for a little while and I was overcome with emotion. Horses are inextricably tied to memories of time spent with my dad.” Moved. It might be the season. Or, it just might be you. Period.

  3. I’ve been there with that weird feeling of not being accepted and at first I took it very personally by considering not going back, just like you. I can feel your enthusiasm about this adventure in your words, so why wasn’t it embraced by the other volunteers? I’ve come to realize it’s about intention. You are there with the intention of helping others, sometimes others do this work to help themselves. It’s not easy being the rainbow in a box of solid colors. I eventually did walk away from my volunteering post due to the negative vibe, but it was my loss. Hope next week is better.

    • You are so generous with your perspective – and I appreciate it so much! I love the analogy of the box of crayons and I’m going to hold onto that…though arguably I don’t see myself as a rainbow (more of a beige-ish..;-)). I will also remind myself about intentions. I’m not going to throw in the towel just yet – it’s not my nature..

  4. Awwww, honey, I feel all of it in your words–the joy of being back around horses, with all the attendant sights and smells, and the pain of being “odd woman out.”

    I, too, grew up spending many hours at the barn, albeit with my grandfather instead of my dad, but nevertheless… As I read your post, the warm, musky smell of manure and hay filled my nostrils and the image of horses huddled together in the early morning, steam rising off the backs, filled my mind’s eye. Precious memories followed…

    You gave freely and lovingly of yourself to the horses and the folks there for therapy, and I’m sure both warmed under your compassionate ministrations. As for the other volunteers, try not to let them get you down. This might be the right fit for you in terms of volunteering, and it might not. Give yourself permission to do what you enjoy. If it’s not this opportunity, I know another, more rewarding (andreciprocal) one awaits. Xoxox

    • Love you Lori..and on some level I needed that permission. I’m not ready to give up on this, because it feels like it combines two elements that are so personal to me. It’s interesting how much my conscience was already gnawing at me. Not surprising is that a) we both hold similar memories so close and in a similar way and b) you knew I would be having pangs already..xoxox

    • You’re very kind, Kristin – in every sense of the word. I am so grateful for the encouragement (to continue posting and go back to the barn…both of which I will do). 🙂

  5. They will love you in no time! How couldn’t they? And you’re spot on about the people that come and go. So many volunteers show up for only a short time that perhaps the long-timers have decided to withhold trust and basic courtesy until they believe you’re in it for the long haul too. Not a great strategy on their part,but then, they haven’t gotten to know you yet!

  6. Perhaps, all that is needed is for you to bring the sunshine so that all the flowers in this garden can grow. There’s a reason you’ve chosen this organization. Two lives – and I’m not talking about the horses – were already made better, lighter if you will yesterday, because of your smile, your tenderness, your care and because Jack was with you. You can only make a difference and/or change the world one person at a time and 2 people in one day, well, that’s the lottery. “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. The others will follow. No doubt. Sad it was a rough beginning, but that’s why they call it a beginning – leaves plenty of room to change 🙂 To the the moon and back…

    “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

    • You know me well sweetie..you know me well. And Margaret Mead – one of my favorite quotes. I won’t toss in the towel just yet – that’s not my nature as you know. Too much draws me back – whether that difference is felt or forgotten. It’s a blessing. To the moon…xoxo, m

  7. Follow your heart on this one -and you’re right – the smile, the glimmer of a twinkle in an eye may not be remembered two seconds after it’s happened – but the internal sense of knowing they are with a good, kind person stays. Forever. Have a heavenly weekend. Happy Hanukkah to the entire family. ❤

  8. So proud of you for what you endured. As I read this I felt as though I were in your shoes….knowing you are helping ….. but feeling ignored…..wondering why the others seemingly do not care….You are awesome. What you did mattered so much! But take care of yourself! ♥

  9. What wonderful work you are doing, and I know you are doing it for the right reasons. It makes me question the other Volunteers who did not make an attempt to make small talk with you or the nice gentleman you were with. But guess there are cliques in every group, even the Volunteer group. So keep on doing your thing and forget about the others!! You are to sweet a person to let them get the best of you! 🙂

    • It somehow seems ridiculous to be hurt by such silliness and with the benefit of a few days away from it, I’m annoyed with myself for getting sucked into behavior that is so sophomoric. You’re right of course – I’m not volunteering to befriend the other volunteers. Thank you for the gentle reminder. 😉

  10. Hi Mims, so proud of you for just doing it and being in the muddle of it all. it is so hard to walk on to a new situation. I know you won’t give up easy, I just wish they knew how lucky they are that YOU chose to be there and that in short time, they choose you. I echo what your friend Jo said…that you already helped two people, and have already begun to make a difference in another person’s life….that is the gift you bring!! xoxo

    • The gift-giving that day was clearly not mine honey – though I thank you very much (well, the horses did appreciate the carrots). I think there were gifts in there for me – with tricky gift-wrapping for sure – but there nonetheless..xoxo

  11. It is hard to understand indifference especially when you come across as such a warm person. But it is not your problem and I think you know that–but discomfort while volunteering is not a good thing–you would think you would be made welcome so that you would want to come back. It sounds like a day of mixed blessings. Good on you for staying and going back.

    • I do know that – and I’ve had a few days to gain a bot more clarity. I will approach this coming week with a better perspective. Thank you so much..

  12. Awe Twinky, YOU are such a beautiful heart. Good for you! Wow! You surely touched that man’s heart and the horses as well..They will be so excited when they feel your ‘aura’ next week. As for all the other people there, ‘it is their loss”. YOU are amazing! hugs. Renee 🙂

    • Renee, you made my morning. Thank you…I am going to go back with a better perspective I think and let go of any perceptions that can cloud the intent of this effort in the first place. I’m really not amazing – just trying to do a little more with my time that may matter…Hugs Twinkle, have a great day..

      • It is difficult at times to just focus on what we are enjoying and ignore the negatives around us. I know I falter with that one from time to time. It seems some people are not happy if they are not in a ‘gossip circle’. I really enjoy reading your blog and felt like I was with you as you were telling your story. The funny part is, I am afraId of horses. I don’t even know why~My Hubby and I figure that possibly I had a horrible experience with a horse when I was a child?? I think they are beautiful and love to look at them, just won’t touch them. Kinda weird hey.. Maybe someday I will understand my fear?? Have a great Saturday. I am going to bundle up and go for a long power walk and I am sure I will be running too. 🙂

      • Oh good! NOW you’re trying to get the ‘last word’. Just like a ‘bratty little sister’. ha ha too funny. Thanks for the early Saturday morning laughs my friend. Have a super day. 🙂

  13. People are just so interesting aren’t they? I recently had a similar experience with a new group I am lecturing with. It always amazes me when people are not friendly and welcoming. What does it cost them? Nothing…

  14. It sounds like a wonderful way to spend a day. I remember riding horses many years ago in the mountains, and that close feeling with an animal going slowly in a beautiful place, and not really communicating, though you both are experiencing much the same experience…

  15. Well done, my friend. I believe it won’t be long before the other volunteers realize the treasure that is you. I hope for their sake they have the instincts at least of a horse, because it sounds like at least some of the horses have already figured it out.

    Russ

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