“By not trying to control the uncontrollable, we get what we thought we’d get if we were in control.”
This slippery slope is a hot topic for all of us midlifers trying to have it all, do it all and be it all. And when you’re trying to work something as large as a horse into this delicate equation, its enough to keep us all preoccupied with finding the right answer. Perfect balance is out there. We can smell it. And sometimes, we may even touch it. But not for long. If you are one of the lucky ones to find this snipe, enjoy every precious second of it, by all means. But don’t get too comfortable.
“Balance,” points out our friend, Kathy Taylor, on her HerdWise blog, is a verb,”something you do, rather than a state of being.”
Comparing the work/life balance to a balance board (you know, one of those gizmos with a wheel in the middle and a board across the top on which you stand and try to keep your weight evenly distributed so that the board tilts neither right or left), Taylor stays, “The reality is that there are only very short moments in time when you’re NOT making some adjustment. One second you’re too much to the left, then too much to the right. You’re in constant motion.”
Well so much for getting everything in my life perfectly balanced, once and for all, then moving on to other, greater pursuits. As it turns out, staying reasonably balanced is the greater pursuit. But what’s reasonable? we ask.
Taylor adds that with awareness and constant practice, the ongoing corrections we make to our time and life imbalances will get smaller and more subtle as time goes on. “The more aware you are of when you need to adjust, the less you’ll have to do,” she adds. “And if you don’t practice making small adjustments that will keep you in the middle of the board, then you’ll be stuck making big corrections later that tend to make everyone unhappy.”
Taking this a bit further, I call on my favorite life coach Martha Beck, whose recent post, Balancing Act: The Dance of an Unbalanced Life on the same subject was still percolating when Kathy’s blog update showed up on our Facebook wall (does anybody think this is a coincidence? I think not!)
We’re nearing that time of year when we look at our life and make those resolutions to do better — or as I like to think of it, the Annual Life Reorganization Summit (the practice formerly known as New Year’s Resolutions). Sometimes annual resolutions to do better and be better stick, sometimes not, but I (and lots of other people, I think) subscribe to the theory that “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
So Martha tells us (see, the Internet puts you on first name basis with everyone):
“I can tell you with absolute assurance that it is impossible for women to achieve the kind of balance recommended by many well-meaning self-help counselors. I didn’t say such balance is difficult to attain. I didn’t say it’s rare. It’s impossible. Our culture’s definition of what women should be is fundamentally, irreconcilably unbalanced. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the very imbalance of our culture is forcing women to find equilibrium in an entirely new way. ”
She goes on to say (and we already know this to be true. We learned it from our Midlife Horses) that once we “get” that the expectations we’ve been trying to fill are, in fact, impossible, we find the freedom to start living life “from the inside out.”
“You free yourself to ignore social pressures and begin creating a life that comes from your own deepest desires, hopes, and dreams,” she adds. This, Martha says, is the beginning of “learning to seek guidance by turning inward to the heart, rather than outward to social prescriptions.”
This is the kind of fulfillment our Midlife Horses show us (if you haven’t already seen it, check out our new video about this and hear from some of the women who are living this dream). I don’t know about you, but whatever I have to do to learn the “dance of imbalance” that gets me to the barn every day, I’ll do.
And granted, there may be some skinned knees and bumps and bruises to nurse as we practice this dance on our own individual balance boards (each of us has one as unique as we are, but rest assured, they’re all the same special kind of slippery), and I’m sure I’ll fall off completely from time to time.
But I’m taking Kathy and Martha at their wise word(s): Balance is a verb. Practice and constant adjustment on the fly makes it easier to stay nearer the coveted center. And above all, the pursuit of this balance is, in and of itself, “a dance of joyful disequilibrium to be celebrated and embraced” as we find new authenticity and satisfaction by living through our wobbles in a whole new way. (For more on this, check our Martha’s new book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, available December 27.)
What small adjustments bring you back to center when your life starts to feel wobbly? How does your horse help? What effect does your Midlife Horses have on your personal balancing act? How have you adjusted your personal priorities to work a horse into the mix? We get into this a bit in The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses (Chapter 3: Take the Reins).
I’d love to know what works best for you! Comment here, post to our Facebook page, retweet your favorite rebalancing tip when you see this headline pop up on my Twitter feed, or talk to us via video comment on our YouTube channel. (I’d love to see some GloZell-style comments to these posts pop up on our channel — in format, not content . . . although I challenge you to watch this “tip” post and not laugh your butt off)
Free T-shirt to the first three tipsters!
At first, I wondered what I would talk about with this crowd, a group more accustomed to hosting style shows, politicos, and noted experts in something or other as their speakers. I’m no expert, but I have written about a lot of interesting things and people, so I decided to go with that. In the mix, of course, I got to talk about the creation of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, and all the unexpectedly synchronistic ideas, people and experiences that came together to result in this book.
One interesting thing I’m discovering in almost every group I speak to (formally and informally), is that while many are intrigued by the idea of Midlife Horses, they also relate to the metaphorical side of this book — and there’s always a handful whose eyes light up with the easily recognizable glow of old “horse dreams,” and I’m pretty sure they go home with the full intention of, as Koelle Simpson puts it, “bringing a little equine energy into their lives.”
If there’s one thing certain in the great big horse world, it’s that there are plenty of people around to tell you what to do. Some of them will be right. Some won’t. And, while what this vet was advising did, in a somewhat quirky way, apply to correcting what Clinton Anderson would call “tiptoeing around” her horse from this normally strong and assertive woman, this is not necessarily the kind of thing you’ll find in horsemanship textbooks.
Or will you?
The truth is, there are many different ways of presenting the same information. And, since everyone hears and processes information differently, what strikes a chord with one person may fall flat with another. That’s why you have to learn, above all, the way you learn this horsemanship thing best — and then go find the people and information that resonate with your understanding, ability, personality and learning style.
Where do you find your best answers? How do you locate the people who can help you learn whatever you need to learn on this spectacular midlife trail? In addition to the wagonload of resources and suggestions you’ll find in the back of my new book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, be sure to check out Chapter 11, “Picking Up the Correct Lead.” (In case the cleverness of this title escapes you, this chapter has nothing at all to do with cantering — and everything to do with finding the advice and instruction that works best for you.) No matter where you are on this journey, the key to successful midlife horsemanship is finding those riding buddies, instructors and clinicians that meet your needs and have your best interests at heart.
Did the vet’s somewhat wonky advice work for Jana? ”
“Well,” she reported to him at his next visit, ” I did what you said. I took my stick home and when my husband started to ignore me, I stepped right in front of him and spanked the ground with my stick. And you know what? He’s not speaking to me!”
The vet, nonplussed, just looked at her. (If only I had a picture of the look on his face) Sometimes even good advice — and the best of intentions — can backfire. The good news here is I’m about 80% sure Jana was pulling his leg.
What’s the craziest advice you’ve ever received that actually made sense to you, changed your thinking, and got a result you’ve been looking for?
Free Saddle Up Your Midlife Horses! t-shirt to the first three responders!
Meet Teresa, (pictured here with her midlife horse, Lladro). It was on a quiet morning ride, when Trace and I were the only other ones at the club, that we began to mimic, in follow-the-leader fashion (at a respectful distance on the far end of the arena, of course), Teresa and her beautiful and majestic Fresian through their daily dressage maneuvers.
We botched them all, of course, as neither of us knew what the hell we were even trying to do, but in the process (and in Teresa’s charitable kindness) a friendship was formed over our midlife horses.
As we rode along afterwards together (with Lladro casting a disdainful but tolerant eye toward Trace) it was our discussion of what our midlife horses mean to us that actually sparked the exploration that, three years later, became my soon to be released book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses: Finding Meaning , Magic and Mastery in the Second Half of Life.
Teresa was giving me the 411 about the Fort Worth Horseshoe Club where I had just moved Trace. “We have the cleaners — they come out every day and clean their stalls their buckets their feed bins. Their stalls are cleaner than my house. We have the groomers, they come out and shampoo, brush, apply hoof dressings and keep their horse looking like a million bucks. We have some that stay pretty much on the ground, others who take a lot of lessons, some ride just for fun and others are very serious competitors — or used to be. There really is something in this experience for everyone!”
“What do you think it is about horses that attract women at this time of life?” I asked in what would become the genesis of this book .
“You know the look a baby gets on his face the first time he tastes chocolate? That’s what a good horse day feels like — and that’s what keeps us coming back for more!”
They say 50 is the new 30. Really, marketers? And if that’s true, I ask you, did “they” (whoever “they” are) also re-designate our midlife birthday?
With all this “50 is the new 30” stuff flying around (and really annoying some of us), it has really set me to thinking. Last year, as I began work on my soon to be released book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife horses: Finding Meaning Magic and Mastery in the Second Half of Life, (Trafalgar Square Books, 2011), I wondered how you know when you’re at midlife. After a lot of research and mulling over this rather complicated topic, I have your answer.
It turns out that rather than a specific, measurable amount of firepower on your birthday cake, the exact threshold of this epic period of transition is really as individual as we are — and, because it is often triggered by certain life events, large and small, it seems to be different for everyone.
If you’re wondering whether you’re “there yet,” take my quiz and see if your “certain age” has arrived.
Have you recently:
1. Purchased your first pair of reading glasses? Then, finding your “number,” gone back to purchase them in bulk?
2. Plucked a dark and unruly chin hair? More than one? More frequently?
3. Waved goodbye to a child leaving for college?
4. Waved goodbye to a marriage that just couldn’t go the distance? (Flipped off a soon-to-be ex-husband leaving for his younger new girlfriend?)
5. Discovered that much of the knowledge you’ve spent your career accumulating is now obsolete?
6. Launched an adult child to true independence — a career and/or family of his/her own?
7. Witnessed the declining health of your parents? Watched them “downsizing” and realizing for the first time why.
8. Sorted through old photographs and memorabilia, wondering what happened to all those dreams, goals, plans, and things you always thought you’d do . . . “someday?”
9. Attempted to do something physically you used to do easily and found it strangely foreign and difficult?
10. Had to really think about it when someone asks how old you are, and found yourself stuck for an answer to long it’s been since you’ve done something that truly feeds your soul?
If you answered “yes” to more than a couple of these, my friend, there’s your wake-up call. Beyond any birthday that ends on “0” (or even “5”) “midlife” for our generation is more of a feeling than a number; and, if we’re clever, we can discover our own ways to use that feeling to postpone the next stage indefinitely. Like the cream filling in a Double Stuff Oreo or the intoxicating sugariness in the heart of a July watermelon, we are the first generation to realize that we can make the middles of our lives the very sweetest part.
How? Follow me. I’ll show you the trail I and millions of others are taking to bring Meaning, Magic and Mastery to the Second Half of Life.
The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses: Finding Meaning Magic and Mastery in the Second Half of Life is scheduled for release on July 1, 2011, and is now available for preorder at www.horseandriderbooks.com.
Reserve your copy today!