Happy, Healthy & Horsey: Handling the Holidays, Thanksgiving Edition

I hope everyone had an awesome Thanksgiving holiday filled with good food, fun, family, and friends. This Thanksgiving, I have much to be thankful for.

I am healthy and getting stronger every day. Kaliwohi has maintained a solid 5 on the Henneke scale for a year now, as confirmed by my vet this past Monday. Woo hoo!! If you recall, Kiwi had a body score of “7” when we began our journey, so I am overjoyed that my metabolically-challenged mustang is consistently fit and trim, albeit fuzzy these days.

Yearling Gil has also made tremendous improvements over the past few months. Now sixteen months old, Gil is small, smart, and sweet. He recently learned to load. While some youngsters are wary of their first time “into the box,” Gil loaded, stood, and unloaded like a seasoned pro.

Gil, relaxing in the trailer, and sauntering off, as well, with his trusted friend Olivia Attanasio guiding him. Photos by Esther Roberts.

I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to write this column and connect with others who are on their own horse-centric journey towards health and happiness. Writing here, and on the Facebook page and group, has helped keep me on track and accountable, as well as feeling supported and uplifted when life brings great challenges my way.

Stress-eating is something many of us struggle with, and the holidays are known for being a stressful time as we try to work, play, connect with loved ones, and maintain some sense of balance.

This Thanksgiving holiday, I faced some of the most emotionally challenging circumstances I have ever faced – and I did not gain an ounce.

The backstory, CliffNotes edition: on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, my ex-husband asked me to take him to the hospital for a procedure. We are reasonably cordial post-divorce, so I agreed. Knowing I’d have to come back and pick him up afterwards, I decided to be efficient and take some work with me and just wait for him. Two hours into what should have been a relatively simple, fairly fast “procedure,” however, the surgeon came out and told me there were severe complications, and X additional surgery had to be doneĀ stat and I had to authorize this X surgery right now.

Friends, I could write you a laundry-list of challenges I’ve faced in my lifetime, but I have never before been put in a situation where another human being’s life was in my hands. You want stress? Whoo-boy, in spades!

Six hours and three surgical teams later (complete with a “code blue” that wound up being in another wing of the hospital – and, yay, that person did revive), ex-hubs was in recovery, and I needed a drink. Well, actually, I was craving sugar and fats – cookies and cakes and ice cream and all sorts of things. And, raw honesty, I did eat two slices of pizza for supper and without a smidge of guilt.

While ex-hubs is waking up in recovery, I realize that he has no family within fifty miles of Knoxville, and he’s going to be released from the hospital sometime over the holiday. Some of his family did drive up to Knoxville for Thanksgiving, but, you guessed it: ex-hubs was released from the hospital to my house, which was “our” house during our marriage, but was “my” house before we ever wed. As a Christian, of course I was fine with helping him recover in any reasonable way. As his ex-wife, well, I’m sure the entire situation was awkward for both of us.

But there is much good news to report and much for which to be grateful. Ex-hubs is now back in his own home and recovering nicely. I was the grateful recipient of much help from friends who came over to cook and help me get ready for Thanksgiving; those friends also helped me remember that life is full of unexpected twists and turns and, as the saying goes, “this, too, shall pass.”

I successfully hosted Thanksgiving dinner for my family and, while exhausted by that point, I enjoyed the opportunity to get together with my loved ones.

For me personally, the huge victory from the past ten days is realizing all the effort I have put in to my own personal growth has been well worth it. I have learned – and now proven I can implement – healthy coping mechanisms to deal with incredible, real world, life-and-death stress.

And, while I did overconsume my mother’s homemade pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, I got right back on track the next day. As Al Pacino said, “It’s simple. That’s what makes the tango so great. If you make a mistake – get all tangled up – just tango on.” (from the movie Scent of a Woman.)

And that, friends, is the thing I’m most grateful for. Whether the issue is falling off my horse and working through the healing process, or falling off my healthy food regime and getting back on track, or ending a relationship yet showing grace and compassion to my ex, life – like the proverbial tango – goes on. And learning reliable coping skills that help you help yourself deal with “life” is the best possible gift you can give yourself and all those around you.

Now that I know I can trust myself to get through difficult situations without caving to cravings, I am poised to resume weight loss, instead of merely maintaining, and yet the “maintaining” was – and is – a huge victory on my overall path to health and fitness.

I used to think “self-care” was for self-indulgent prima donnas. Now I understand that genuine self-care is the key to giving my best to my horse and my fellow man.

And giving one’s best to the world is definitely a reason to give thanks.

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Go riding.

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