Some of you may have seen that I wrote yesterday about how hard it is to escape old patterns and negative self image. I decided to challenge myself to accept myself just as I am, because hey, I’m trying new things, learning new skills, and staying active for someone who’s 64 (especially where I live, since people my age have had much harder lives and it often shows).
Coincidentally, I had to take the videos of my most recent virtual Working Horse Central shows and upload them to YouTube so they can be judged. Look, I’m asking to be judged! That proves I’m doing better already! So, fine, y’all can judge me, too! I know may readers have studied horsemanship a lot longer than I have (I had three workshops before starting my lessons last year around this time). So, bear in mind that both I and the horse are not very experienced. On the other hand, we’re having FUN. That’s what counts.
So, you don’t have to watch this, just mentally pat me on the back for being brave enough to share what I have done, mistakes, successes, good tries, and all. This is a test for me, not a thing you have to take part in! Thanks!
Let’s see if I can actually bring myself to be brave enough to post this.
Yeesh. Thing number one is that I am acutely aware that the deaths of black people at the hands of law enforcement is not all about me and my problems with it. So skip that lecture; I already read it here. I want to say I’m not interested in hearing how my reactions to world events are wrong, or that I don’t have a right to react because of my race, socio-economic background, or perceived intellectual status. I get to react how I react. I get to test my bravery, even if I screw up. I get to be upset.
But I do want to butt out of other people’s issues. I’m all for letting the people most directly affected direct their responses, whether individual or as a group. If I’m needed, I’ll step up, but since I am reading over and over again that I’m not needed, I will stand by and do other stuff. What other stuff? Well, here’s a really long list:
And I am going to point out racism, anti-free speech, and non-factual content when it’s in my face. No, I’m not gonna go troll everyone I know and shower them with my thoughts. That’s not gonna work, and I know it. But I might answer back if you troll me with your anti-liberal assertions.
It’s a hard line, which is why I gave the title I did to this post. I just have to accept that some people will damn me for not taking enough action or being silent, while others will damn me for speaking out in ways they don’t approve of. I will be taken to task for not responding to accusations or inaccuracies, then told I should just block and ignore anyone I disagree with. This is true for a lot of us right not.
But, I want to hear what people have to say. All of them, not just the ones like me. I can’t figure out how to listen to my more radical and more conservative associates and not talk back. My mom would laugh. I always talked back.
Luckily I spent a lot of yesterday reading Lion’s Roar, the Buddhist magazine. It reminded me that life happens, it doesn’t happen to me. And that life is hard, but that’s how you learn. It reminded me of the virtues of silent observation.
That’s the Lesson for Today
I have, at least, figured out why I feel uncomfortable (in addition to the obvious other reasons). I’m used to being a participant, going out and doing stuff, and raising my voice to work for a better world. Right now I need to be more quiet. You know, like so many people of color have to be, in order to keep from being noticed and targeted.
Since we’ve added a very appropriate new focus of concern for the people of the country where I live, I’ve found it harder and harder to concentrate and more and more difficult to see the positive in things. This is the other area where I need to be brave. Let’s hope the horse stuff helps me.
It’s been bad enough watching people turn dealing with a pandemic into a partisan thing, but now I see the exact same thing going on with protests about the death of a black man at the hands of a police officer (and more). People seem WAY more interested in deflecting from the actual issue (systematic racism) to other issues, in the most polarizing way possible. I am just sick about it.
First I Want to Say This
NOT ALL POLICE OFFICERS ARE SOCIOPATHIC KILLERS. NOT ALL PROTESTERS ARE LOOTERS. THIRD PARTIES, LIKE ANARCHISTS, WHITE SUPREMACISTS, RUSSIAN AGENTS, AND THE LIKE WANT TO DISTRACT US FROM THIS: OUR SOCIETY MUST TAKE CONCRETE ACTION TO DEAL WITH RACISM OR WE ARE NOT A JUST AND FREE SOCIETY LIKE WE CLAIM TO BE.
Well, Suna, what qualifies you to say this?
Does personal experience count? I KNOW more than one ethical and principled police officer. In person. I’ve hugged them. I KNOW more than one passionate and peaceful protester who is willing to take action to improve the lives of black and brown people in this country. In person. I’ve hugged them. I’ve given birth to them.
That said, I am totally aware that telling people how to think and feel is not a useful tactic, because people will believe what they are already primed to believe. I’m primed to believe good things about liberals, socialists, actual communists (the very few real ones, not the “all media members are commies ones”), non-sensationalist news outlets, and intelligent people with backgrounds in the subjects they are talking about. I also think there are capitalists who try to do good in the world, and businesses that aren’t out to smash poor people.
So, news that fits in with my world view is more likely to be believed by me. I totally get it that if you are primed to believe liberals hate Good Americans, and all the associated beliefs, you will believe other angles. We’re just stuck with that. Can’t fix it all by myself.
What Can Brave Suna Do?
Or brave you, or anyone, for that matter. I get conflicting advice. One school of thought is to not let myself get all worked up about things not in my sphere of control. I can’t change people’s minds. I can’t cure diseases. I can’t make people learn to be less racist (other than me). So, I should just let go and stare at nature some more. Bravery, in this case, is being brave enough to live the Serenity Prayer, darn it.
But, I need the wisdom to know what I can and can’t control, right? Another set of advice I get tells me I need to speak up. I need to let the world know that the stereotypes of people like me are not all true. I need to not only say I’m an ally but BE an ally to people struggling. I need to listen to them and to learn where I can do better and maybe even make a difference.
And sometimes when I listen, I hear that, dear old white liberal lady, it’s not your time or place to protest. You have lived a life of privilege and have no clue what it’s like to be marginalized. Shut up and let the people who know the issues first hand figure out what to do. It’s not your job. I get that.
It’s hard to be a person with empath traits when there is a lot of hurting going on. You take on the pain and suffering of others around you, even if you don’t experience it yourself, but of COURSE you aren’t directly experiencing it. You want so badly to help, to make the world a better place for all of us, but you may not even have the right tools.
So, what can you or I do to be brave about our convictions in public?
It feels really inauthentic, and to be honest, chickenshit, to do nothing when you see your friends’ neighborhoods being destroyed, your children putting their lives in danger to support others, other people’s children being killed just because they look a certain way, your friends’ husbands feeling uncomfortable in their own neighborhoods. All that. It won’t do. It sure won’t make our society any better.
One thing I can do is model the behavior I’d like to see in others and hope someone notices, I guess. I sure can’t order people to notice their biases (I DO try to notice mine). We can all give that one a try.
Plus, I guess I must speak up publicly. As much as I really dislike being labeled and insulted, I will calmly state what I believe, and when I hear false information, present another viewpoint. That may not be much, but it is one way to make it clear that the vast majority of us, no matter what label we put on ourselves, just want ourselves and our neighbors to live in peace and safety, even if they look different from us, worship differently from us, or love differently from how we do.
Why is that so hard? Humans, you disappoint me, deeply. And I’m human. I’m not proud of it right now.
I’m physically sick. I’d flee, but there’s no place to go. Must be brave and stick it out with the rest of the humans, many of whom are in much worse shape than me. George Floyd doesn’t have that option anymore.
This is a two-part part 2. Looks like it will be two posts.
The Horse Part
Like a good optimist should, I got on that horse again today. I was a little concerned about my attitude, not because of Apache, but because I’d been reading Facebook and becoming more and more sad/angry/disgusted/insert other negative emotion here. So, I walked to the barn and put thoughts of calm, peace and love in my mind, buoyed by some deep breathing.
Sara and I had a backup plan today. She was going to ride Lakota, our boarder horse, and I’d ride Apache. If all went well, great (she predicted today would be wonderful). If it didn’t, we could switch horses (I am not competent to ride Spice, I’m told).
We started going down the Scary Row of Trees, where Apache has always tended to want to go back or rush. It took a while, but we got him calmly walking, did a bunch of practice circles, then walked in a serpentine formation all the way back. He did okay (not great), but he was paying attention. Everyone was brave.
So, I declared we would now try the race again. Brave! That lasted about 20 yards. Apache again was having nothing to do with walking down that path. I spent a rather exhausting 20 minutes where he simply didn’t do a darn thing I asked him to do. There was backing, turning, going sideways, head flinging, ear pinning. WTH?
Fiona, Lakota, and Sara just watched me patiently coax and prod, and urge him a LOT harder than usual. So, I got off again. I managed to only briefly lose my temper, so I consider that a success. Sara said I did way better in being patient yet persistent than most people. Probably those saintly natural horsemanship trainers would be more patient, but then, they would be better at “reading the horse” and figure out what’s up.
Sara got on Apache, and I walked Lakota behind them (so I got to hang out with a nice horse and get some exercise). I can’t say I was pleased, but I guess I was relieved to see that Apache acted the same with Sara, though she had more tricks she could do (because she would not fall off). She eventually got him tired enough that he went forward halfway down the race. She said that was enough, because he was still all worked up.
I got to a gate I could use to get myself up on Lakota, so I did get to ride him back. That was nice, and it was brave to get up on a new horse out in the middle of nowhere on a wiggly gate. He didn’t act weird or anything, and followed my cues just fine.
Meanwhile, Apache never did settle down, though he did at least walk back. He was coated with sweat and only calmed down enough to walk in one circle at a calm pace, which we declared SUCCESS!
Once Sara dismounted, he was his normal self, although sweaty. As I gave him a bath, I realized I felt nothing but love for him, and curiosity about what was causing his problem. I wasn’t angry at all! I wish I had that attitude when my kids were small!
Interestingly, Sara had read a post from someone in a group she’s in who said their horse started acting extra barn-shy and strangely when a new gelding was introduced into the herd. So, maybe there is going to be a time of getting used to Lakota. Hmm.
So, what being brave and doing hard things the past two days has taught me is that just getting through a challenge counts as success. I am not going to give up on Apache, but will work through the issue, however long it takes, so we will both feel good about ourselves and learn a lot.
Will this attitude hold for challenges outside my immediate community?
Yes, I didn’t write anything yesterday. For one, I had way too many meetings and errands to do. But really, I joined many people I know in being so overwhelmed, appalled, and upset about how black men and people of color in general are being treated in this country that I couldn’t find anything non-incendiary to say. So, I’m not saying anything else yet. I will, though.
Am I a Coward?
One thing about observing injustices in the world is I sometimes feel cowardly, like I really could be doing more to express the outrage I feel. Or take concrete action. (I have plans, though.)
This morning, however, I got a lesson that showed me I can indeed be brave, but that it helps to do so with a clear head and not from a place of anger.
Testing My Bravery
It was horse riding time on a very hot, cloudless morning. Sara and I met at 9 am, hoping that would be early enough for it to not be too hot. Wrong. By the time everyone was all groomed (including Fiona, who I am continuing to help shed her winter fuzzies) I was dripping with sweat.
Sara told me she’d had a great ride on Apache yesterday, though he exhibited some of his “druthers,” as she calls them, where he indicates he’d rather be doing something else, thank you. He warmed up fine, though.
Once I mounted, he began to hint that he’d much rather be over chatting with Lakota, the new gelding, who was not being ridden. I got him to do other things though, and we set out to go ride in our favorite pasture, where there is some shade.
To get there, you have to walk down a long “race” that’s used to bring cattle up from the far pasture. It’s mostly grass, but with the recent rains there are still some big muddy areas, which we usually just go around.
Not today. Apache had absolutely no intention of walking down that race like he normally does. He kept turning around. When I’d make him go the other way, he’d back up. He’d go sideways. We crept forward (poor Sara had to just walk her horse back and forth), and eventually got to an area between two slippery muddy areas that caused him to slip and slide as he cantankerously waved his head around and acted pissed off. No amount of urging, poking, bopping with the stick, and strong language helped.
After about fifteen minutes of this and I could see that I was losing my ability to project calm thoughts and not act angry. And Apache was slipping and sliding to where I was worried for his safety.
So I got off. He started to head back. Nope. We walked the rest of the way that we were going to ride. He was still agitated but at least went the right way, mostly. About halfway through the walk, he sighed and started acting completely normally. I was so glad I didn’t give up on him, managed to stay calm, and saw the day’s agenda through.
When we got to the end, we enjoyed the shade a bit, then I got back on (no easy feat with a hybrid saddle with high stirrups), and we walked sedately and calmly back. He didn’t break into a trot or anything.
There was a bit of druthers when we got to the end of the race, because we didn’t go straight to the barn. Sara and I wanted to be sure he had a clue who was in charge. Eventually he realized that prancing around foolishly was just making him sweat, and he did the circles he was asked to do.
Sara said we’d had a real breakthrough and she was very proud of me. I realized once again that I CAN push past fears and do things that need to be done so that I and others (including horses) can grow and do better.