I’m from the North, I’m over 50, and I’m Jewish. So it’s a safe bet that I’m more than a little familiar with therapy. Like Woody Allen, except I’m not as funny, not as rich and not married to my 35-year-younger stepchild.
I still remember the look on the woman’s face. A half-smile somewhere between wistful and trying to look happy. But her eyes, tipped down at the outer corners, belied the attempted smile.
The look was envy, and I’d never seen it directed my way before. I’d worn it plenty though, usually when a fancy, new horse came to the barn or—let’s be honest here—a tall, leggy heiress walked by with no hint of saddlebags in her Tailored Sportsmans that she bought new instead of on eBay.
There’s a hero in my story, and he’s a tall, redheaded gentleman with a missing front tooth. He’s a loud, slurpy eater, and that’s the only negative thing you will hear me say about him, assuming you think loud, slurpy eating is a bad thing. I don’t, at least when it pertains to this fellow and not my children.
He’s kind and generous. He knows when to listen to me and when to tune me out. Most of all, he’s patient and ridiculously tolerant of my mishegoss—what my peeps call craziness or senseless behavior.
Fear and I have been intimate enemies for a long time, thanks to an overprotective mother who though each day would bring catastrophe. Despite, or because of, her anxious approach to mothering, she wound up with one child who jumps horses and the other who flies planes.
So I’ve spent a lot of time (and money) examining fear. I especially like what the author Joseph Conrad has to say about it: “How does one kill fear, I wonder? How do you shoot a spectre through the heart, lash off its spectral head, take it by the spectral throat?”
My son has begrudgingly accepted that I’m not going to stop riding, regardless of his pleas. For that I can thank my old trainer, the charming Snowden Clarke, who had coffee with him the other day in Los Angeles.
“He convinced me that you need to ride horses like a crackhead needs the infernal release of crack cocaine,” my son instant-messaged me. “I’m going to keep trying to convince you to stop, but it’s basically a Beckett-like procedure at this point.” (This is what happens when you send your child to the University of Chicago.)
I thought it was a deer that spooked my Paint mare, Rory, into her leap, spin and bolt. Not so, say the animal communicators I recently interviewed. It was something far scarier than Bambi and his posse.
The first thing I did when I could remember my name was call a local horse dealer. My Paint mare, Rorschach, had to go. She’d flung me earthward twice in the four years I’ve owned her. Twenty years ago, I’d have laughed about it and kept riding her. But 20 years ago I could tip my head back without getting dizzy; I wasn’t tired all the time; I could follow even the most boring conversation without zoning out; and I didn’t have to search for words, keys, cell phones, notebooks, olive oil or whatever I’d just put down.
I didn’t know it was Friday the 13th until it was Saturday the 14th, and by then it was too late. I'd already spent most of the day in the emergency room, asking the same two-word question over and over (My husband lost count somewhere past 50.):