Laid bare to the elements, I felt every insult more keenly than I should. My old resilience was beaten down. Hypervigilant, I suffered from blows that I only guessed would fall.
I tried to find myself among my horses, but they, too, sensed my absence. My body may have been in the saddle, but my mind attended a courtroom of the soul. It spent hours in that lonely chamber, making my case against what shouldn’t have happened, but did.
They say being angry is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. It’s true, of course. I knew that. I felt that. I fought that. I did all the things: exercised, ate well, journaled, practiced yoga. I sat with my meditation app and tried to be present.
It was a podcast that broke me loose. A podcast by a gentle friend who doesn’t know me, but whose work I have followed for many years. I met her in the fitness and nutrition space. The podcast wasn’t about that, though. It was called “Hypothangry.”
She talked about her habit of imagining confrontations. Entire scenes of conflict – involving a stranger in the coffee line, perhaps, or else her ex-husband – played out in her mind. These events that never happened left her fighting mad. Her boyfriend dubbed it being hypothangry, which is to say, hypothetically angry. She’d been fighting battles that didn’t actually exist. And she chose to stop doing it.
I listened to that podcast on yet another long walk on yet another tormented day. It was summer then, and as I listened, I began to feel the sun. The world brightened as if months of fog had burned away at once.
Meditation transformed from a fifteen minute practice to a gentle hand on my shoulder throughout the day, an arm around my waist at night. Instead of trying to center on my senses and my breath, I simply noticed when my thoughts spun toward the blades.
I became aware of the turning point that waits just before cortisol takes hold and drags me into the ring. In that moment, instead of stepping through the gate, I whisper, hypothangry. A reminder: Don’t be hypothangry. Or hypoth-anxious. Or hypoth-sad.
Be, instead, just here.
When the water tanks were full, I trudged through the snow to drain the hose. Slowly, thoroughly, because it will be cold tonight. Already the temperature was dropping as the snowclouds rose, pulling away their blanket of fog and exposing icy stars.
Like anyone with a farm in colder climes, I felt the respite of full and heated tanks. Storms may come, pipes may freeze, de-icers may fail, but my precious animals have all they need today.
I stayed with the horses for a while, stroking under their manes as they cleaned up their hay. The brimming tanks glistened black against the snow. A farm cat stretched upon hind legs to taste. Tomorrow, chickadees will line the rim, bobbing their cheerful heads. I will watch from indoors as the horses wander over and drink.
Presence, I’ve learned, is neither seated meditation nor flight from reality. It is simply a pool that rests under the storm. It doesn’t resist growing shallow and prone; it holds nothing back for fear of freezing. It quietly sustains because that is its nature, because it is here and this is now.
Presence, my friends, is water in winter.
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Thanks for dropping by! I'm an endurance rider in the northwest region of the United States. This blog is about the practicalities of distance riding and the practice of being my best self for my horse. I hope you'll come along for the ride.
The Sweaty Equestrian