Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Mocha Shame

There is a horse standing in a paddock beside our barn who is beautiful beyond reason. Her hips are large and firm, her markings lead the mind to the words 'exotic' and 'native', and her mind clicks away almost audibly as she captures with more savvy than most every smell, sight and sound that wanders her way.

She has been abused. Horribly. Where her mouth comes together on each side she carries small, black scars that are evidence of being yanked and pulled by hands that should never have been allowed to hold a pair of reins. On her back side just below the place that her thick tail joins the rest of her lovely body there are scars on either side; the result whippings that no horse would stand for unless it has been tied to an unmovable object with equipment from which it cannot break free.

She's been with us for four months. She spent the first one standing in the corner of her paddock trembling until we were far enough away that she felt she could safely eat the hay and grain we had quietly placed in her feeders. Gradually she began quickly walking or trotting past us as we placed her hay and grain. Eventually we could reach through the corral panel and she would quickly smell our hands and then run back to the opposite corner of her paddock.

After several weeks of having been allowed to pet, scratch and rub her through the corral panel I eventually opened the gate to her paddock and stood just inside her territory. Saying she was unnerved is a gross understatement. One thousand pounds of fear is nothing short of astounding. She trembled with such force that I could literally hear it from 30 feet away, her nostrils spread to an alarming diameter to accommodate her feverish breathing, and she remained frozen in place until more than 15 minutes after I had quietly exited her paddock.

We finally played enough mind games with her that we've garnered her trust. Being as horses are naturally inclined to be in an almost constant state of picking their way around in the social order of a herd, we never allowed her to be turned out with the rest of our horses. Thus, we became her only choices when it came to herd mates - herd mates by default, if you will.

Today she can be haltered, led, groomed, saddled and provided with gentle, consistent, firm and honest ground training (training without a rider on her back). She is practicing following voice commands of walk, trot, canter and lope and woah, but always in very brief training sessions and never without several moments of being startled and breathing heavily. Even still, she occasionally becomes so full of fear that she is simply rendered stuck in place.

Will anyone ever ride her again? We have a video of her being ridden by the 13-year-old daughter of her original owner. What happened between then and now is anybody's guess. Given a year or 18 months of consistent attention she may eventually learn that having a bit in her mouth and a rider on her back means nothing will come of it other than following simple commands and then having all of the equipment removed. Maybe. One of the keys of training horses is always ending on a good note - even if it takes an extra hour of your time to get to one. Maybe one day she will realize that training sessions with us always end with music she can relax to.

Almost every moment I spend with this lovely creature reminds me of the time I was standing ankle deep in piss and shit covered straw that had been lain in the stall so long before that I couldn't even remember when I'd done it. My care and feeding of the horse that belonged in that stall had been one of the first things to fall as my entire family tipped over an edge from which it has not yet fully returned all these 31 years later. That horse was alone. I was indeed his herd mate by default. There were no other horses on the property and I was the only one who would come visit. But what a neglectful herd mate I had become.

Once a day I would walk into the barn, fill his water bucket, dump a scoop of feed into his feeder, walk out of the barn and not return until the same time the next day. His stall progressively filled with piss and shit; becoming a wall-to-wall cesspool of filth. Without proper amounts of feed or hay he was slowly but surely loosing weight. He had also picked up the habits of stall walking (walking around and around in a circle in his stall until he became dizzy) and cribbing (biting down on a board of his wooden stall and then sucking air so hard that it has an affect similar to that of hyperventilation in humans).

By the time I got him out of his stall he had become almost completely insane. Not violent. Insane. Insane in the way of children who are found shut in the back room of some filthy house and have had so little stimuli that they are simply overwhelmed by almost anything. I haltered him in his stall and led him to the grooming station. His walking was that of a frightful horse - start and stop and start and stop. I put him in the cross ties at the grooming station, something he had not been exposed to for longer than I could remember, and he simply could not stand it. There he found himself in a familiar but not familiar space with pressure coming at both sides of his halter. He began to jockey around, tried to throw his head back several times, and his eyes became wider and wider until I could see the whites of them almost completely. I released one of the cross ties in an attempt to lessen the points of pressure he had to pay attention to, but his fear had already snowballed and the release simply pushed him completely over the edge. In his attempt to run away he lost his footing, fell onto the floor of the grooming station, and managed to get one of the ropes of the cross tie looped around his neck. His legs kicked against air, he continued to throw his head back, and his eyes eventually rolled up into his head as the rope cut off his air supply.

I ran in and out of the grooming station several times before running out of the barn completely and standing in the hot sun on the gravel drive and screaming at the top of my lungs,

"Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp! Oh God! Oh Gooooooooooooooood! Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp!"

There was no answer. No one to hear me. No one could.

I leaned over myself and slammed my fists into my thighs over and over until I was grunting and crying and had begun to visualize taking the crude end of the hay hook and shoving it into the veins of my wrists so hard that I would die by way of causing myself nearly unbearable pain and bleeding out. I wanted everything to end. Disappear. Go away. Leave. Stop. Anything. I wanted to discover I was actually an alien and this was simply a horrid end to prove I was failing as a human on earth.

As I walked back into the barn I landed in the middle of a pocket of complete silence other than a pair of barn swallows angrily chattering about as they tended to their nest. Humiliation, disgust and shame had embraced me so completely that the entrance to the grooming station appeared to be tilted sideways.

My horse lay on his side on the floor no longer kicking or throwing his head. He was as silent as a day with no wind. He was still. He was breathing. He was alive. Somehow his struggle had caused the rope to loosen enough to stop choking him, but not enough to loosen completely. Thus, he had simply decided his place on the floor was what was intended for the moment.

I removed the rope then backed into the entrance and made kissing sounds to encourage him to raise his head and discover the rope was gone and he could now get up. Minutes later he heaved himself from the floor, turned and looked at me. I walked to his side, clipped a lead rope to his halter, and led him out the door of the barn and to the pasture. There I removed his halter and kissed at him again to remind him he was free to move as he wished. Once he realized the situation he was in he broke into a run and kept running until he disappeared over the small hill out of my view.

Back in the barn I grabbed a pitch fork and a shovel and then stood in the filthy stall I had let that horse stand in and began stripping it bare. When done, I walked out of the barn, closed the door, walked back to my family home and announced,

"I don't want that horse. Call those people from St. Louis who want him so bad."

The protests of,

"But you love him!"



wandered their way to my ears as I turned my back and walked out of the room. In my bedroom I sat on my bed and turned against myself even further than I already had. The hay hook kept crudely carving itself across my mind and I sat at the edge of my bed thinking of it, desiring it, until the sun was down, my room was dark, and the next thing I knew my mother was waking me up for school the next morning.

Within days the people from St. Louis were pulling a trailer away from our house that contained my horse.

"We'll take good care of him," the woman said from the passenger seat of their truck.

I couldn't even look her in the eye but said, "I'll get the gate," and ran to the gate as I watched my feet run along the gravel drive.

I've talked with myself about this a million times. It comes up every time I make a mistake. Every time I do something that inadvertently frightens one of our horses. Every time I realize we are late to do something or forgot to do it until the next day. Every time I try to remind myself that I was 13 when everything happened. I try to remember how many times my mentor has asked me who was truly meant to be checking that the horse was being well cared for. A 13-year-old girl with very little knowledge of horses? Or her parents?

I try to remember the amazement everyone has at how well my husband and I care for our horses. I've stood in the middle of our training pen and asked myself to remember all of the lessons, triumphs and moments I've had with every horse we own in that place. I think about how funny it is to watch our mares (female horses) every time I go into the pasture - how they immediately turn to me, the being they consider the leader of their herd, and follow me wherever I go. I try to hug myself, soothe myself with knowing this is a different day, a different person, different circumstance.

But it comes up. It disrupts my sleep. It grabs me up with shame, embarrassment and humiliation as if it happened yesterday. It shakes me by the shoulders and says,

"Piece. Of. Shit."

I want it gone. I want to walk into a room and speak of it as I did that poor horse,

"I don't want it."

Please, if you don't mind, let me speak of this here. Let me speak of it and be rid of it from this day forward. It is as if it is that hay hook, and I don't want it anymore.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Your Mission Should You Choose to Accept

So Mongolian Girl's comment got me thinking.
"Just a few nights ago I lay awake in bed in a state of insomnia brought on by remembering a horrid act I carried out when I was in my late teens. I was full of embarrassment, shame, self-loathing and regret as if it had just done it moments before."
I think we all have had a moment or seven that we regret, or wish we would have handled differently. Maybe we hurt someone else, maybe we hurt ourselves. So maybe you don't have to dig to the deepest cringe-worthy moment, it's up to you. But do you have a memory that hasn't entirely resolved itself? Or maybe you've worked through it but you still think about it. I think these would be interesting to read, and perhaps cathartic to write and read. I'm going to go work on mine.

This message will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck Jim

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Self-proclaimed sugar addict and self-help book junkie.

I suppose there are worse things to be. At twenty, I did not dream I would become the Old Mother who lived up the street chastising children for their candy consumption and then hoarding it all for herself. The one who walks gingerly while cats draw figure eights around her feet, drinking herbal tea, reading Charlotte Bronte and Byron Katie, smirking at the absurdity of the ignorant asses around her. No.

At twenty, I couldn't imagine feeling satisfied with my spreading hips. I couldn't fathom watching as my breasts quickly lose form and being comfortable with that.

There was never a moment where I could glimpse myself in the mirror and nod with pleasure-- if I was not built like the next spicy super model, that just would not do. I went to great lengths to starve myself-- thinner-- and berate myself-- smaller-- just so I could see the girl on the other side of the looking glass and not feel compelled to shatter her with my fist.

And yet somehow, without me knowing it, I grew up. The process must have happened so subtly that I didn't even notice the change.

Sometimes I surprise me.

Somewhere along the line of my experience, I became more turned on by making love than fucking. And somewhere in there, I quit hiding from my lover the pooch of my belly while on top of him. Somehow along the way, I began to look down at my flinging breasts and decided that they weren't so bad. Their loss of turbidity didn't knock me over nearly as much as I had imagined it would. And it startled me when the thought barreled through my mind, "This is me, this is perfect, and I love me precisely as I am."

The anorexic, the perfectionist, the self-hateful horrible bitch, these strangers whom I no longer cherished-- they were gone. When I realized this, it was a struggle. I panicked inside. Those girls who were me were missing, and I could not find them within... "Are they dead?" I asked myself, "Did they die painfully?"

This is the part where I flailed.

Eventually, though, the fervor with which I flung myself wildly and widely exhausted. For months, I think I curled up in a ball and slept. Life was too busy to wait for whomever I was now to make herself known. There were bills to pay, a degree to finish, and step-children to parent. There was a lover to quell and cats to feed and plants to water and a commute to drive. Too busy to notice that the larvae I was once had not died, but was hibernating. My body was my cocoon, whether I acknowledged it or not.

Only very recently did I begin to take note. Every self-help book I have picked up has begun to ring true, every day I feel less inclined to dress myself in a clown suit, and every time I see myself in the mirror without clothes on, I smile.

What we are not taught in high school is that who we are at the core will change. No, back then we were impermeable, impenetrable, and allowed to think that who we are then matters.

And that, my friends, is a crock of shit.

There are very few traces of who I was as a young adult in the woman I am now. I've shed the skins of an eating disorder, religious fever, and insecurity. Today, I become straightly giddy over chocolate, go out in public without doing my hair, without shaving my legs and armpits, without putting on makeup, and seek little approval from, well pretty much anybody. I unabashedly make reading suggestions of self-help books to my girlfriends who are struggling with shedding their own comfortable vices.

So I love sugar like a heroin addict loves getting high. I admit that being imperfect in the eyes of judgment is a perfectly sane place to be. But I do not scorn the me I was then. Without recalling who I was as a girl, I'd have little contrast to see how much I appreciate the growth read clearly within these now adult pages of my life.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Here's A Subject We Haven't Touched on Yet


Let me preface this by saying that I have never truly been in need of money. I've never been in danger of hunger or homelessness or anything of the like. I've wanted more, for sure. I've also never supported myself. I've always worked, but I married young and he's provided well.

I've also never spent more than I could afford and a tidy sum from every paycheck goes straight to the retirement account.

Which brings me to the train wrecks I see around me, people my age and younger, who have no handle on their finances whatsoever.

I work with a woman in her mid-40s. She has two young children and a husband. They also own a restaurant which, despite glowing mentions in the travel section of the New York Times, despite being named her favorite place in Nashville by Gwyneth Paltrow and despite being a favored haunt of the musicians in town, stays in the red.

The husband often goes weeks at a time without a paycheck and I watch my friend stress out more and more—taking out loans, telling her kids they can’t go to camp with their friends and wearing hideous plastic shoes.

The restaurant goes through one crisis after another. Last week it was a dead refrigerator. The husband goes to buy a new one, but, somehow, manages to buy a freezer instead. Or, as my friend put it—“they sold him a freezer instead of a refrigerator.” Another day of disruption while the fridge/freezer crisis is worked out.

All the while, his wife is carrying the financial load—providing the paycheck, the health insurance and the parenting since he works until late at night.

But she’s not blameless either—last week they threw a Halloween party for 50 adults and kids. They provided all the food, all the alcohol and pumpkins and carving kits for all the kids. I know their debt load has to enormous. Once she and I were going to the grocery store at lunch. She called her husband to ask if he’d “put that $35 in the bank.”


When’s the last time you worried over $35?

It infuriates me that she works her fingers to the bone while he indulges himself as this restraunteur/musician/foodie. She claims he can’t get a part-time job during the day because he has to be available for deliveries at the restaurant.


This is a selfish man who uses his wife to keep his ego afloat.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

MG Keeps Important Life Goal

I am not kidding when I tell you I sharted first thing this morning.

Just in case anyone is new around these here parts:
A shart is what happens when you think you're going to fart, but instead shit a little (or a lot, as the case may be) in your favorite (or old nasty granny) panties.

What the hell is going on around here? First 'The Elder' sharts, then I make a bunch of jokes about her shart (such as saying I'm changing her name to 'Sharta'), then I myself shart. It's as if I'm back in college living in the dorm and ending up with a menstrual cycle that was synchronized with the other four young women with whom I shared a room.

It's kind of like those stupid ass mother fuckers who cycle out here in the country. I don't know what they're doing, really. Training for some kind of future event? Competition? The Tour de France? Look, I'm tellin' ya, some of those fucker's asses are so big that their poor little triangle-shaped bike seats simply disappear in their butt crack. It's like watching a bunch of giant toads perched on lily pads with entire bicycles shoved up their asses. I regularly pray (or whatever that really, really, really hopeful thinking thing is that we Atheists do) they know toting an ass that size around behind them is never, ever going to win them a Tour de Anything.

Wait? Am I talking about menstrual cycles? Or how funny I think it looks when fat people ride racing bikes? Or sharting? Or what?

I think I'll stick with the analogy I'm attempting to draw between menstrual cycles and cyclist who are training for races.

(It should be noted that I hate the cyclists who are training for races when they do their training out here in the splendor of hillbillyville where I live.)

Have you ever watched, I mean seriously watched, cyclists who are training for a race? They ride single file and then take turns making little signals to each other to indicate that it is someone else's turn to take the lead. The person who is intended to take the lead bursts sideways out of the line, speeds up, and then eases into the front of the line to take over the lead.

Sometimes they signal with their hands, I've heard them yell signals, and sometimes it's as if they just know.

Seems to me this is a lot like women. Maybe not with their menstrual cycles exactly, but with who is going to take the lead. In the hard core women's circles I observed growing up there was a silent and intricate language that never stopped being spoken regarding who was doing what and who was in charge.

Having one's name on or off of a guest list could literally change a woman's entire life. Barely perceptible looks, glances and guttural noises could make or break a moment. Failing to send a thank you note (or one getting lost in the mail and never arriving at the home of the hostess) could end with doom, gloom and incessant questioning about a woman's ability to "care", "fit in" or "know better".

And, God forbid a woman didn't understand when she had been asked to lead. Missing, for any reason, the hand signal, spoken word, or written invitation to lead something (no matter how big or small), sealed a woman's fate in an irrevocable fashion. Even worse? Declining the invitation to lead. Only having a child or spouse being in the last days of a grotesque and terminal illness could, barely, save a woman from disdain should she deny the invitation to lead. Even then? It better be an illness that is difficult to pronounce and rare. And, the child or spouse better die on time, lest things linger on so long that other's become taxed by having to show care and concern for too long.

The decision to decline an invitation to lead due to work, child rearing, house cleaning or simple lack of interest? Really? You are only then admitting having a husband who cannot provide, lest you would not have to work, have at least one nanny, and be able to pay someone to clean your house. That thing about simple lack of interest? Just leave immediately. You are clearly not up to snuff for this kind of socializing.

I suppose it's the same with those fat assed people riding their bikes. I mean, if I was a cyclist in training and some fat ass was willing to shove a training bike up their ass and train, they better train to the point of being able to recognize the signal to lead. Otherwise? What's the point? Why sign up for something if you're not willing to be in it completely?

But, as Shakespeare said, there's a rub to this thing. I wouldn't cross the road to piss on a bunch of fat ass bike riders if they were on fire. I feel exactly the same way about those high-end, uptight, high class women's groups I observed when I was growing up. I just don't see the point in either one of them. What? I'm going to set the lofty goal of riding a bicycle for 100 miles in 100 degree weather? Or seeing if I can throw a little party with the cutest finger sandwiches ever?

I don't think so.

Of course, if I 'rub' a little deeper, I find that I'm truly enjoying the goal of keeping up with this blog to see if everyone starts cycling the same when it comes to sharting. If I think about that for too long it might make me feel funny. Feel all judgemental and everything about cyclists and uptight women's groups.

Naaaaaaaaaaaah. Not really. I think having a goal of synchronized sharting with a group of women I like is just fine.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I know I don't sound the least bit relaxed

This post is actually based on an email exchange I had with one of my feminist friends. She, recently pregnant after trying to conceive for a whopping month, upon learning that I was about to embark on in vitro treatment (see really lame ass backdrop story here), sent me this sage and never-before-heard advice (excuse me while I wipe the sarcasm off my screen):

"i have been thinking of you and Luisito and hope your treatment is going well... i was reading in one of my pregnancy books something that i found interesting and true. She was saying that she got pregnant after a stressful time and only when her body was able to relax. i would have to say the same thing, i got pregnant only after i turned in my dissertation and was finally able to lay around and do nothing and was stress free. i think that may be one key to conceive. well i hope this is helpful!"
I am fucking to the gills with women that have gotten pregnant within a few months of trying to conceive and pretty much anyone else that learns I have had trouble getting pregnant giving me conception advice especially as it regards 'relaxing' and to 'quit obsessing'. As you can see, they still offer this advice even after they learn that I am undergoing treatment, a decision that was gruelling to say the least and that has only come after several years of trying to conceive naturally and many sleepness nights trying to decide what the right thing to do is.

Over the past several years I have had ups and downs, high stress, low stress, been jobless, had great jobs, had my bank full of money, been broke, been at my highest, been at my lowest, been on vacation, and been in the day to day, had sex all the time, had sex infrequently, had sex on the right days and had sex on the wrong days, smoked, not smoked, gotten drunk sometimes, drunk very little, eaten healthy, eaten unhealthy and it just fucking hasn't happened. I know that common knowledge tells us that if I could only just relax and forget about it, it will happen. In fact, I'm fairly sure that it is advice that I myself have given to others at times. But having never gone through this you really have no idea how hard it is to hear it.

It's hard to hear because it basically makes me feel like I'm falling all the more deeper into a state of sadness and anger and isolation over my infertility because it is basically saying that the infertility -- a source of pain and turmoil in my life and in my marriage -- is essentially a problem that is within my own control and it is my own female hysteria that is to blame.

Just last week, my coworker, a woman in her late fifties who has never had children because she never could get pregnant, who in tears told me that her life has been empty without them advised me that I should cancel the in vitro treatment, and I should spend the money on a nice vacation and I'll see - if I could just properly relax I'd get pregnant. She was convinced that she herself never got pregnant because she was too devoted to her career and had put herself through too much stress to be able to get pregnant!

This whole process of infertility has been eye opening. It's allowing me to view yet another area where women are blamed and/or carry the bulk of the pain. We all know that women bear the brunt of the pregnancy, not to mention the bulk of the child rearing. But there are two areas that I was not acquainted with until I began to struggle with infertility that I began to realize it:

(1) the blame for the infertility that I described above, which literally EVERYONE comments on upon learning that you are having trouble conceiving, even your most die-hard feminist friends. EVERYONE knows someone who got pregnant just as soon as they went on vacation or just when they decided to give up, or just after they adopted a child or just after having their first in vitro baby. These urban legends which may be based on very real cases bleed through into our society's psyche and convince us somehow that seeking medical treatment is somehow unnecessary and is only for women who end up being incapable of controlling their obsessive minds. These stories pale all of the other stories of all of the couples who never conceive, who adopt, who seek treatment because they really need it, or because of male-factor infertility.

And (2) we also bear the brunt of planning for pregnancy (this case is entirely personal and maybe does not apply to any of you, but it certainly applies to me). We are the ones that are less likely to delve into our careers because even at 20, even though we aren't going to have a kid for 15 years still, we have in the back of our minds that we have to do something that is compatible with having a family. The worst part for me about dealing with infertility and coming to terms with the fact that I may never have children of my own was when Luisito and I contemplated having a childless life. We both decided, ok, it wouldn't be the end of the world, our lives would be a lot less complicated than our friends that have kids. But looking back at how I've spent the years and seeing all the paths I had not gone down because I didn't see them compatible with family life was excrutiatingly painful. You realize that you didn't get the family life or the career you were passionate about, you got some shitty assed in between bullshit that is altogether unsatisfying.

This post is a bit of a rant and I apologize for how unorganized my thoughts are, but I did need to vent a little. I also didn't edit this post because I'm really tired.