Every year the holidays bring a wave of introspection to most, and I see countless articles telling me that I should be thankful, that happiness is loving what you have not having what you love, etc.
Closely following this is a second wave of post-Christmas and pre-New Year’s articles telling me to be the person I could be. So many promises for 2014: I could be smarter, I could make more money, I could save more money, I could be thinner, I could cook more, etc.
The message I want to hear is this: You are enough. But this is not articulated by society, and it certainly isn’t playing in the minds of the ambitious and goal oriented.
I am an overachiever by any standard measurement: I speak multiple languages, I am a successful entrepreneur, I have a husband who doesn’t hate me, etc. ad nauseam. Every holiday season I find myself contemplating self-improvement. Do I need to know another language? Should I do a better job with my finances? Is my horse as well managed as she could be? Do I spend too much time on my horses to the detriment of my marriage or my business?
As riders, we exist in a constant state of pursuit. Consequently, we never allow ourselves to arrive. There is never a satisfied rider: We learn to post, and then we want to feel a horse on the bit. We win an event, and then we want to move up a level. We spend our lives thinking our dream is prelim, and then we get there and want the do our first one star. This never ends.
Even when riders achieve that pinnacle of a four-star, they then want to do well at one, and then to win one, to make a team, to win a medal, to win the Grand Slam. If all the riders that are satisfied with their season and with their life’s progress were in a room, I have a feeling it would be quite empty and full of echoes.
We treat our riding like we treat ourselves, and often assess it as a collection of shortcomings. We could be more patient, we could learn faster, we could be better in dressage, we could be more athletic, we could, we could, we could….
But here is the message: We are enough.
If we treat our horses with kindness, if we make sure they are warm in the cold, and if we do our best to ride with compassion: we are enough. The color of number on the cross-country fence is irrelevant, and in the affairs of the world our dressage score is literally as meaningless as things can be. We are enough.
Being better is overrated, and it robs us of our joy in being where we are in life. Could I be a better rider, a better wife, a better boss? Absolutely. But the process of life is to become those things over time, as life unfolds ahead of me. I will have moments I am ashamed of and that do not align with my ideals. I will lose my temper, I will make selfish decisions, I will miss something important, I will fail someone I love.
Everyone can always be this elusive idea of better, but the real question is how we are where we are. If we are a beginner rider: are we a beginner rider with compassion and humor? If we are winning everything: are we winning with grace and humility?
Because our horses, and in the end most people, will not remember us for what we did but by how we did it. Trance does not know at what level he competed, or how many ribbons we collected, but rather how I managed our partnership. He knows that I trusted him, and I forgave him, and I will love him until the day he dies. And in return he did the same.
So this year why not set an anti-resolution? Be enough. Cut yourself a break sometimes. Acknowledge that everyone is doing the best with what he or she has. Step out of the cycle of wanting to be better or more or something else.
I want to be a gracious person, I want to laugh when I fail, I want to do right by those I love, including my horses. Could I be better by any measurement? Yes. But this year I won’t measure myself by where I am in my pursuits, but rather how I am.
One of the Chronicle’s bloggers, Kristin Carpenter juggles her riding with running her own company, Linder Educational Coaching, running the shows and events at Morningside Training Farm in The Plains, Va., and riding her two horses, In A Trance and Lizzie. She grew up in Louisiana and bought “Trance,” a green off-the-track Thoroughbred, as a teenager. Together, they ended up competing at the North American Young Riders Championships and the Bromont CCI**. She’s now bringing another OTTB, Lizzie, up through the ranks.