When I was a little girl, more than anything else in the world I wanted a horse of my own.
Everything about horses sang to me: the lines of their bodies, their smell, the sounds they made. And of course, it didn’t help that there is a whole industry built around fanning the flames of little girls’ horse fantasies. I played with collectible horse figures, read horse fiction, and pored over library books on obscure horse facts and care. In the first grade I got busted for telling my teacher & classmates long, colorful stories about the horses my family and I owned. It wasn’t that I meant to lie, so much as my fantasy world of horses & adventures was more real to me than my actual life, in a Calvin and Hobbes kind of way.
My poor mother, who was busy juggling her own issues (first a dysfunctional marriage, then single parenting while working two jobs) would only say we couldn’t afford it. After raising my own stepkids I recognize that now as sometimes being parent code for “I can’t deal with this right now”, or “if I wait this latest fad will blow over”. And I understand it couldn’t have been easy for her to handle a child who on alternate days wanted to be an astronaut, a ballerina, or Indiana Jones. For many years though, I felt a sense of lack, of not-rightness-with-the-world around not growing up on a horse farm somewhere. It felt like years of loss that could never be restored. I hope to never again be in the position of wanting anything so badly & so painfully as I did that horse. Now, looking back it’s easy to see I wanted what I thought a horse would give me: freedom, happiness, companionship.
After having years to contemplate this, I’ve come to think alot of unfulfilled dreams are not so much about the dream itself, as the fact that it was denied. For instance, when I wanted to take ballet lessons around age 10, being told I couldn’t felt like a tragedy. When I got a “ballet class on tape” at age 20, it took only one time through for me to realize I HATED it.
When we are yearning, we may think we need another lifetime to make up for something that we lost. But here’s the good news: very often it’s enough just to start now. Sometimes all it takes is a taste to satisfy the yearning, the curiosity, & understanding of the trade-offs that life would have meant. Yesterday, for instance, I took my first English riding lesson with a beautiful chestnut Thoroughbred named Gerry. An hour in that horse’s saddle did more to ease my heart than ten hours of therapy. The sweetness, the pure joy of it was everything I imagined as a kid.
Marianne Williamson has said before that even if you didn’t have a happy childhood, the good news is you can fix it now. And this is what I think that means: whatever you missed out on during your childhood, your crappy first marriage, whatever–you can give those things to yourself. Now.
Roses. Art classes. A puppy. And even if it’s too late to give yourself the actual thing itself, you can give yourself the essence of it: kindness. Attention. Love.
Start small. Start today. Apply liberally. Repeat. Allow yourself to bask in knowing that you are loved and you are beautiful.