“Suck it up, Buttercup!”
I have often thought how much I wish someone older and wiser than I am had cared enough about me to tell me the following, back when I was young and weighed 128 pounds no matter what I ate:
“Pick a number on the scale that you don’t ever want to go above, and make that your ‘red-line’ number. Whenever you get within five pounds of that number, take note, pay attention, and change something – food, exercise, stress, or a combination of the three – to assure you will never go above your red-line number on the scale.”
Alas, I had no elder shaman to give me this sage advice. Otherwise, I’d like to think I would never have surpassed 135 pounds! (Note to younger, thinner, Horse Nation readers: Set that red-line number. Now. You’re welcome.)
No, I kept on feeling stressed and using food to cope with the stress until I weighed over 200 pounds at one point. So, here in the middle of my journey, I am working hard to remove every bit of unnecessary stress from my life. Living a stress-less life – or, at least, a less stressful one – is better for my health, better for my heart, and better for my waistline.
It is unseasonably warm at the moment here in East Tennessee (today is sunny and a shockingly warm 81 degrees) and my mustang knows exactly how to beat the heat: he rolls in mud. Lots of mud. He loves to roll until the mud covers him like thick icing on a cake.
As I groomed Kaliwohi, removing all that mud reminded me of all the stress I’ve been eliminating in my life. And here’s what I’ve learned about cleaning up horses and cleaning up life.
First, help is an awesome thing. My friend Paige came over to clean horses with me one day this week. We had a great time grooming her two and my two. We laughed and watched the dust clouds poof up from each long, winter coat. We talked about life – Paige is taking the bar exam next week; my divorce will be final in just a few weeks – and so it is a time of fairly high stress, and new beginnings, for both of us. Galatians 6:2 encourages folks to “bear one another’s burdens” and that is a beautiful thing to do, whether the “burden” is dirty horses or the complexities of life.
Second, cleaning up is a multi-step process. Kaliwohi (the dirtiest of all the horses, of course!), was so caked with dried mud, Paige and I each took a side and gently scraped the clumps off first.
Next, we each donned a pair of “HandsOn” grooming gloves and started a deep clean of Kiwi, from neck to tail. He loves the massage of a good grooming, so he dozed while we worked up a sweat in February!
As I lifted the dirt from his coat, I thought about how I keep working on my mental and emotional health and cleaning up the inside of Esther. For some time now, I have been changing long-held biases and beliefs, learning new ways of eating, trying new foods, and generally giving Esther’s brain several long-overdue “updates” like a slow and burdened computer, so it can function faster and better. [Note: I wish my imaginary shaman, way back when, had encouraged young Esther to run and play to relieve stress, instead of seeking solace in cookies and cakes. Reprogramming long-established patterns is so much more difficult that learning healthy living patterns in the first place.]
After Kiwi’s deep and dust-removing massage, Paige and I worked to clean his coat using firm brushes, followed by polishing brushes. Over and over, neck to tail, repeat, repeat, repeat. Each time brought more dirt to the surface and off my mustang. Brush out his mane. Brush out his tail. Pick his hooves. Clip the bridle path. Stand back and admire our handiwork. Run a hand over his what-should-be-sparkling-clean coat. You’d think he would be sparkling clean by this time, right?
Not really. He was cleaner, but still not “clean.” And winter is not over. Having been born wild in Wyoming, Kaliwohi has a very thick, heavy winter coat. And as we all know, excess moisture and dirt can lead to that wretched fungus known as rain rot. So, when I patted Kiwi’s coat and the dust still flew, I knew it was time to bring out the big grey snake.
Believe it or not, my mustang handled being vacuumed like a champ. He tuned into the sound, and he kept an eye on the big grey snake, but he stood still and allowed me to give him a thorough, down-to-the-skin grooming with the vacuum. And, as I vacuumed this once-wild animal, I reflected on my own weight-loss journey to date.
I’ve made a lot of changes, one step at a time. I focused first on the most obvious things (move the body more – yay, yoga!) just like Paige and I started cleaning Kaliwohi by first removing the largest chunks of mud.
Correcting years of poor eating choices, lack of self-confidence, and generally learning to give yourself permission to rightfully take up the wee bit of space and air you need on this planet takes a long time and a great deal of effort. And after all that work and all that effort, I look at the scale and it seems so very stuck. Just like Kaliwohi remained dirty after all that effort. I used the vacuum on Kiwi to get him clean. I have absolutely no intention of undergoing physical liposuction, but the idea remains the same.
Now that all the obvious changes have been made in my life, it’s time to “suck it up, buttercup” and use a metaphorical vacuum to dig even deeper and start a whole new level of mental cleansing.