It was 8:45 p.m. on a Thursday evening. It was dark, wet and cold outside. I had 24 hours until the chili cook-off fundraiser I’d been planning for the Area II Young Riders, and the anxiety was setting in, as it always does before any function I plan.
I was doing my best to balance my time between my full-time job at Sinead Halpin Eventing, my part-time job at Prestige Saddles, my commitment to Young Riders, my part-time job teaching at River Edge Farm, and my personal commitment to fitness.
I also had roughly six weeks until Sinead’s beach wedding, and I had started riding a lot more again in anticipation of taking on nine clients in New Jersey this winter. I’d been trying to stay extremely focused while pushing limits in all aspects of my life. Protein, water, vegetables, rinse, repeat. Etc., etc., etc., and so on, and so forth… #skinny.
But on this particular night, I really wanted a glass of red wine. Frankly, all I wanted was a glass of red wine. (i.e., Ryan Gosling or red wine? Red wine.) I had been running around the entire state of New Jersey tying up loose ends before the fundraiser, and I could feel myself starting to crack.
I finally decided to allow myself to buy one bottle of Pinot Noir—something that I had not done in a really long time—and I made it to the wine store with five minutes to spare before closing. I had tried unsuccessfully to make it here after work on more than one occasion this particular week, and so I thanked the karma gods for granting me these five minutes to pick out a ridiculously overpriced bottle of red.
I pulled up to my house around 9:30 p.m. That day I had been to three different places of employment, taken a class at my gym, and ridden a horse for a new client of mine. All positive things—signs that I was doing well, and business was heading in the right direction.
As I was going through my never-ending mental checklist, prioritizing all the different things I needed to do before the fundraiser, I started piling my shopping bags on my arms until I could carry no more weight.
Things that ran through my head looking at my arms full of grocery bags:
“I really need to start recycling more…”
“My neighbors definitely think I am a weirdo…”
Approaching the stairs to my porch, “Someone needs to pick up that dead mum…”
I made my way up my stone stairs to the front door of my old, creepy house. I reached for the screen door as one of the bags ripped, and the contents spilled out onto the stone porch. And given that the amount of times this happens on a weekly basis has desensitized me, I didn’t even really try to stop it from happening.
But lo and behold, it was my wine. And it broke into about 67 pieces, spilling every last delicious drop of fermented California grape juice all over my haunted stoop. I yelled an expletive or seven and walked into my house, leaving the mess out there for the ghosts to clean up, and promptly started crying. No one could convince me at this moment that there was no use crying over spilt wine, because clearly there was.
The pressure for success is something I obviously put on myself. I am completely aware of this. Sometimes it is a little ridiculous. I’ve gotten a lot stronger mentally this year, which has helped me enormously with time management and goal achievement. We could spend many hours on a red leather couch in a dimly lit office going through my life to try to determine why I’m a certified control freak, but I don’t have that kind of time to spare.
What I want to tell you is this: There is a time to push harder and be better and ignore all the little talking Post-It notes in your head, and there is a time to just take five minutes and read them all.
Like some of you, I am guilty of looking at time off as a sign of weakness. Extra sleep? Weak. Two days off in a row? WEAK. You had cheesecake???? WEAKLING! I am strong and amazing, and you are a puny, weak loser!
So after said incident involving broken wine, tears and behaving like a child, I reached out to Guru. I could feel myself losing control, and I did not like it. I was determined to get a strategy and a plan and be back on my path to amazing things in no time. I was eagerly anticipating his words of wisdom, shedding the light on a dark situation, and he shut me up with one simple line: “You just need a break.”
Not what I was expecting, but exactly what I needed to hear.
Not everyone can say this to you and have it resonate to the point of actually resulting in a break. When my mom tells me this, I shut her up and work harder. If Sinead tells me this, I change the subject and get a sixth job. But somehow, with Adam’s simple email, it hit me. I need to be able to tell myself to take a break, without thinking less of myself, and trust myself that a break does not mean a complete derailment… rather, it is just a break. (Most of the country calls these “weekends.”)
It’s either that, or me shutting myself in a haunted house with shards of glass, an opened container of peppermint bark that mysteriously never made it to the raffle at the fundraiser, and an abnormally large bunch of kale, crying on the floor watching “Parenthood.”
Just like our horses, we all need change, breaks, timeouts and the occasional day off. Tate is fat, hairy and happy entering Week 4 of his vacation. If we did not give him and his friends a break, come January when it was time to start thinking about the show season again, the quality of work would be lacking, our patience as well as theirs would be failing, and all the seasons would just blend together. Not to mention that we would be setting them up for failure physically. And when that happens, one glass of red wine is not going to fix it.
So, my friends, I am not telling you to YOLO-out during the holiday season, sending your scales skyrocketing and your horses straight into soft tissue despair. But I am telling you to take the off-season off to catch up on something else, have a glass of overpriced wine, replace your cross-fit with yoga or swimming for a few weeks, and chuck your horses out in the pasture for a little time in the mud.
But for God’s sake, if you are feeling emotionally unstable, do not under any circumstances watch “Parenthood.”
Meg Kep’s Jam of the Month: Diplo feat. Nicky Da B, “Express Yourself”
Meg Kep’s Flavor of the Month: Peppermint Bark! Just kidding…
Meg Kep’s Recipe of the Month: Make a veggie stew. Sauté a chopped onion and several gloves of garlic, add veggie stock and chop up all your favorite veggies before they go bad. I love onions, peppers, kale, carrots and squash. I add Sriracha for some heat and serve with Fage Greek yogurt for protein. Delicious.
“Meg Kep” as she’s best known in the U.S. eventing community, resides in Chester, N.J., and works as head groom and manager at Sinead Halpin Equestrian. Meg, 28, is also committed to sustainable avenues promoting good horsemanship and the sport of eventing, and her recent dedication to fitness has inspired her to share her story and help others toward “the path of awesomeness” at MyBodyTutor.com.