“Tell me now, what was my fault in loving you with my whole heart?” – White Blank Page by Mumford & Sons
There seems to be a reoccurring lesson for me in everything I am doing right now, which I can only identify as the constant internal debate between “falling in love” with everyone in my life and with everything I do, and distributing my energy in neat little portions. Ever since I began to care about my sense of self, and undertaking the emotional journey that is self-discovery, I have dealt with this. For a long time I was numb to everything and everyone around me. I didn’t cry for like, four years. Then when I truly fell in love for the first time, I discovered again what it meant to really feel. The transition was 180 degrees. I felt everything in excess and I began to withdraw again. Since then I’ve kept an extremely close watch on what I give myself fully to and what I tend to withdraw from. I’ve always held in very fragile balance the will to stay committed to things that could end up hurting me.
What really got me thinking about this again was actually The Daily Coyote, which oh my god, everyone in the world needs to read. It is the memoir of Shreve Stockton, who goes from fast-paced city girl to small town Wyoming, girlfriend of a cattle rancher. I resonated with it in about a hundred ways. The book is a year of her journey after she is granted the care of an orphaned coyote pup. Shreve is incredibly insightful about herself, everyone and everything around her, as well as being extremely dedicated to everything in her life. When she made the choice to take the care of Charlie the coyote into her hands, she made that choice whole-heartedly. She spends the next year learning literally everything about him and growing to understand their relationship fully and completely. In the process she grows to understand herself and her other relationships more fully as well. She knows full well that he is a wild animal and their story could very well end unhappily, but she perseveres.
Today, Laura and I came back from the Tucson Reptile and Amphibian Expo (a story for another day, haha) to find that two of her horses were acting sick and colic-y. Both of them are doing okay now, but I sat and took note to how I was reacting to the situation. My first reaction was to want to stay in the house while the vet dealt with everything. I was scared that it would end badly and I’d have to deal with the heartbreak of my sister losing two of her horses. I was drowning in the worst-case scenario. I did go outside to watch everything, but I felt distant and disconnected. I didn’t want to care about the horses so it didn’t have to hurt me that they were hurting. But I sat and watched and forced myself to let worry in. I watched as they pumped Jazzpur’s stomach, and while he got a bloody nose from the tube that was up his nose, and down his throat. It honestly just left me in awe of people like my sister and Shreve Stockton that can give themselves so fully to loving and caring for a creature that really at any second could drop dead. It made me realize how not ready I am to make that commitment to an animal. Because if you’re not loving and caring for it 100%, you shouldn’t have it.
Shreve Stockton writes that living in the presence of animals holds you accountable for everything you do. Charlie relied on her to be the alpha or else he would turn aggressive. She couldn’t be half there for him. It forces you to understand all your motivations and every consequence, and most importantly, it forces you to be completely present. I learned this working with dogs over the summer, and Laura teaches this with equine assisted therapy. One of the most important lessons we can glean from spending time with animals is purely the ability to be completely present in everything we do. I would say all of human anxiety and depression comes from beating ourselves up about the past, or being overly concerned with outcomes, consequences or reactions that are coming in the future. When I freeze up and start to detach from feeling, it is always because I am remembering how something turned out before, or because I’m fabricating a negative outcome in my mind.
I’m excited and terrified for this year because I’m picking up and doing things that no one I know has done. I’m going to be doing them mostly alone, and all the people I love are going to be far, far away. I’m scared I won’t get what I want out of these trips, that the traveling will be stressful, that I’ll get sick, etc. The list goes on. But I also know that it’s these fears that will keep this year from being everything it can be, so I’m learning to let them go. I’m learning what it feels like to not be afraid of getting hurt. In this recent process of learning how to throw myself into things passionately and wholly, I have met more amazing people than in the rest of my life combined, and made the most amazing new friends, reconnected with old ones and revitalized relationships with current ones. I’ve learned not to judge myself for how I’m feeling, and to reserve judgment on other’s feelings. And mostly importantly, I learned to let myself cry again.
In the end, everything you felt, and anything you learned along the way make it completely worth it. So I resign to ask myself to feel everything and dedicate myself to my friendships, activities, relationships and emotions wholeheartedly, even when it’s scary as all hell. I was numb for long enough, and I know that even when it hurts, life is a way better deal when you let yourself live it. Like the quote at the beginning of this post (from the song that I named this blog after), there is no fault in loving something with your whole heart.