Not much of a believer in New Year’s Resolutions, I feel that it is just a source for feelings of failure and regret. Weight loss, financial freedom, spending more time with family – these seem to be the popular resolutions, but they really don’t provide a quantifiable result. You never have enough money, lost enough weight or had enough time. Not liking to commit to specifics, my aspirations are more open ended and simple for each new year – HAPPINESS!.
Happiness is a funny thing – it can be faked, it can be fleeting, and even hard to describe – almost like trying to catch a cloud. For those who have found true happiness, they will tell you it lies within ourselves. Sound like some philosopher? Well, I used to believe that I didn’t deserve or know how to find this “happiness”. I tried to force it, control it, buy it and even manipulate it – all to no avail. I always had a constant feeling of wanting something different, something more. During my journey of many twists and turns, I actually have found IT. The struggles, heart ache, doubts and failures opened the doors to my inner happiness. Sound strange? If someone had told me that it would take all of these lessons to get to happiness – I would have abandoned this journey a long time ago. BUT, if I had to do it all over again the exact same way to get to where I am today – I would say “Absolutely, let’s get started!” Some might not see my life as successful, but I am proud of my journey and the knowledge I have collected along the way. Someone once said, “nothing ventured, nothing gained”, that is a pretty good way to sum up my life. Happiness is a choice, it involves taking chances, sometimes even going against the grain. Over the last two years I have faced some of the toughest times I have ever had to face. Staying true to myself, finding my inner strength and consciously choosing to be happy are what have gotten me through.
My only child was diagnosed with Tuberous Sclerosis in the first few months of her life. No one in my life has ever faced as serious health condition of any kind, not even a broken limb. I never dreamed of having to face something of this magnitude. Sure, I went through the normal feelings of fear, anger, and denial that anyone goes through. But, my daughter was only two months old, I didn’t have time to linger in the self pity. I had to find an inner strength to be there for my husband, daughter and even myself. Many people ask me how I can remain so calm, and I can only attribute it to the journey I have taken.
I wanted the fairy tale, much like anyone else. It wasn’t in the cards, my first marriage fell apart. We grew apart and couldn’t figure out how to get back. I was scared to death, venturing out on my own, no home, no money, self employed, no health insurance and so much more. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it. So, I put one foot in front of the other and re-invented myself. Happiness was my beacon and guided my every step. So, I left a corporate career as a programmer to start a professional pet sitting business – it just seemed to be the right thing to do. No matter where I was or what I was doing, I would always stop to greet a dog or cat. I have always been drawn to them, but never pursued a career working with them. Growing up my parents pushed my focus to corporate jobs for the financial security they could provide. So in turn, it was my intellectual focus – but my heart was not in it. Starting this business that was going to take many hours of hard work and not much financial gain, made my family think I had lost my mind. But, I knew in my heart that I felt so at home and happy with my business of caring for animals. I managed to get my life back together through the help of many of my friends, my business and the support of my animal family.
Eventually horses became a big part in this equation, the life skills I gained of patience, confidence in my abilities and hard work are key to who I am today. My path was not the norm – trainers or hours of expensive lessons on trained horses – truthfully I didn’t have the money for this path. My passion was real and I had to follow my heart, so I found another way. Many years of working for breeding facilities allowed me to watch, absorb and learn everything I could.
The first time I saw a “freestyle” dressage performance I knew – THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO!!!! I still get chill bumps just thinking about it. It takes years of practice, especially if you try to start your own untrained horse. Unfortunately due to financial constraints, I couldn’t afford many lessons. Learning came from watching, reading, studying and taking in advice. Many people were at the ready to tell me to get rid of Dreamer (my Arab), and buy a trained (expensive) horse. In my heart, I knew that path would be a cop out. My true desire was to bring out the best in my partner (my horse), whatever that meant. My little Arab wasn’t able to do a lot of the movements or even compete, her abusive past created many hurdles that couldn’t be overcome in the show ring. But, she became my trail buddy and would do anything for me – in fact I was the only one she trusted. I was able to build a partnership of trust, which was very rewarding. For example – she could be in a full rear and one tap on the shoulder with a stern “cut it out” from me, she would immediately calm down. You can’t buy this kind of relationship. I can even say that my struggles in training her sealed the deal, in five short years she taught me more that I could have learned from lessons.
Today, Dreamer is retired due to many injuries from her past. In fact, later in our career I learned that much of her inabilities and previously believed misbehaving were because of the amount of pain she was enduring. Many times I had vets and trainers watch her to see if she was in pain, no one saw it. After over 5 years of riding, a Chiropractor/Veterinarian come out to adjust her and found that her pelvis had been broken during those years of abuse (before me). The pain from this old injury are what had been affecting her ability to build strength in her back. I was devastated to know that my years of riding were causing her pain from this old injury and no one saw it. She loved and trusted me, she was willing to endure this pain for me. Out of love for her, I retired her immediately to enjoy life as my companion. I grieved the loss of my riding partner. But her lessons continue on in my relationship with a rescued Standardbred from the race track. She was only two years old and couldn’t make the cut for racing. Without theses lessons, Angelina and I would not have developed such a strong partnership of love and trust. We are working towards the dream I set a long time ago – freestyle dressage. Angelina is only six years old right now and transitions in my life have slowed our progress – but I will never give up on my dream. The moment of extreme partnership with my beloved horse is accomplished – you will hear my shouts of joy around the world.
Fast forward to my daughter who is now 2 years old and has some delays in her development due to her condition. We are working with Neurologists, Pediatricians, and Therapists to help her catch up, but the most importantly I remember to be patient! I work hard to understand her, even when she can’t tell me what she wants. Body language, trusting my instincts and reading advice with an open mind are my communication tools. It isn’t easy, but I turn to my lessons learned from Dreamer. I get frustrated and even angry, much like everyone else. Many times I find myself trying to compare her to other children and fall prey to the naysaying professionals – but I know in my heart that Dreamer and I overcame a huge obstacle and together my daughter and I will do the same. Having fun, enjoying each other, loving her unconditionally and discovering new things with her are the most important thing I can provide.
The side benefit is the gift she has given me, healing of my inner child and finding a joy that I could never imagine. Much of my life was wasted in a mire of criticism and self deprecation, I am free now. One look in my daughter’s eyes melts away my pains. We have managed to meet each new test or doctor’s visit with a fun, light and adventurous spirit. It is my job to support, even admire, the courage and trust my daughter has shown through so many tests – MRIs, spinal tap, CAT scan, ultrasounds, EEGs, x-rays, blood tests, and so much more in her short life. In the beginning, each visit to the hospital or neurologist would bring back the horrors I experienced in her first two months of life. I would walk in holding my breath, my bags packed in anticipation of a long stay, and an overwhelming feeling of numbness. Steeling myself against the next report of bad news. The only thing important to me at that moment was that my daughter be happy and not aware of the pain and fear we felt.
This test has taught me to not try to control things in life, enjoy each and every moment. No one has the control to stop things from happening – BUT we all have the strength to cope and make the best of the situation. I work very hard at not trying to predict the future, because no one can tell you what it holds. In the beginning my daughter’s neurologist didn’t want to give us false hope, so he made the worst case scenario very clear. At only three months old, we were told that she might never learn to walk, talk, feed herself, or maybe even live past 5 years old. The one thought that kept running through my head and became my mantra “I can handle this and anything that lies ahead. I will be strong for my daughter and make the best of the life she has, be it short or long!” She has overcome many obstacles and is blowing away the specialists with her progress.
So when someone asks me what my aspirations are for 2011, I can honestly say that it is to be “HAPPY”! It is always my resolution and will always be my resolution. The definition of what makes me happy is the only thing that changes. Watching my daughter grow and thrive – makes me happy! Playing, singing and snuggling with my daughter – makes me happy. Sharing my love of animals with her and seeing her appreciate them as well – makes me happy. Learning new things as I take this journey of discovery through a child’s eyes – makes me happy. Having a loving home and family – makes me happy….. These are my resolutions for 2011!
“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network blogging program, for a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”