Speaking of self-care (which we sort of were), i’m about to go ride a horse.
I started riding again last summer and it was one of the best decisions I made in 2016. Here are a few reasons I love it (and here are a few things I encourage you to look for in a self-care activity):
It wasn’t for anyone else.
It wasn’t about being around other people. It wasn’t about time with friends, or killing two birds with one stone or catching up relationally or proving to people I was cool. It was me, and a (at-the-time) stranger, and a horse. We didn’t talk about my life or my choices. We didn’t talk about my work. We didn’t talk about anyone else we knew because we knew no one in common. It was a place where I got to be utterly anonymous and unselfconscious .
There’s no other end goal for me with this. I’m not working towards something. This isn’t going to help me get ahead in life. It isn’t going to help me get a job or move me further in a career or even make me cooler to my friends (see point 1). It’s just a pointless and meaningless activity that helps me remember that THIS is my life – today. Not tomorrow. That there is joy in it to be found if I will be present and make space.
It offers non-analytical mental space.
I love love love the way that when I’m riding I have to focus on a million different things and none of them are about me. It feels like meditation, It’s an hour in the middle of the chaos where there’s no multi-tasking, no checking my phone, no one can reach me, and there’s no time to be alone with my thoughts because someone is always pointing out that my heels aren’t down or my abs aren’t in or my elbows aren’t tucked.
There’s a reason horses are used in therapy. They behave similarly to us in their social and emotional behavior. You can’t trick ’em or convince them you mean something that you don’t. If you’re afraid, they know it. If you’re not serious, they won’t do what you’re asking. If you’re out of control – there is no tone or behavior you can take to convince them you’re in control. You have to learn how to tell the same truth – with your feelings and your actions and your words. I’m a fan.
I was excited about it.
I love a lot of things. Writing, time with friends, sleeping, tv watching, reading, but it was crazy how excited I would be EVERY single week to go riding. Sometimes self-care activities become, (even when you love them), an duty instead of a delight, because they shove themselves into the middle of your week and threaten your ability to accomplish all the things this world is yelling at you to do. But this – for whatever reason – is this thing I look forward to all week. It never feels like an obligation.
Last year, when I started doing this, I worked a crazy job. (I know, I know. Everyone says they work a crazy job, but really though.) I was working a 13 or 14 hour day, 6+ days a week, as well as trying to do full time school. I didn’t see my roommate or friends for awhile. But some how, I just put my foot down internally on scheduling this. Once a week I would escape for an hour at night – returning to work afterwards – to sit on an animal. And it felt like magic. Weird.
Goodbye now. Gotta go see about a horse.
Questions for you:
- What is something you love to do that has been phased out of your life because it doesn’t seem to accomplish anything?
- What is something you love that has become an obligation or duty because it’s associated with some other end?
- What is one thing you want to do this week, just because you love it?