The horse's pasture to the East...

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

LEAVING THE SMOKE BEHIND or Recognizing the Patterns

I've been thinking about patterns again. Everything is part of a pattern, everything. Trees have a root system below the ground that matches the branch system above the ground. The light shining through the leaves and branches makes a pattern around it. The leaves on the tree are so predictable that each tree can be identified by looking at the leaves. A tree is the perfect example of a successful pattern in nature.

The fabric that makes up our clothing is woven, dyed and printed in patterns by necessity and because we find those designs so pleasing and restful to our eyes. We are biologically prone to seek out patterns to provide safety zones to rest in, repeating the same behaviors that have kept us alive in the past. 

And we love symmetry even when we seek out diagonals and asymmetry in a good composition. It makes sense to us, helping us to connect to our world and anchor ourselves. When we have a base of predictable patterns to start from, it allows us to take chances, make leaps small and large to move ahead. Learning something new comes when we step outside our comfort zone. And then we create new patterns, adding to our comfort zone so we can repeat the process again, yet another pattern.

I'm old enough now that I've watched friends and family repeat relationships and behavior patterns even when they aren't healthy. They tell me they're going to change, find new partners, and a new way to interact with family members. And then they, usually unconsciously, seek out and recreate exactly the situation they were in before. 

I repeated a relationship pattern, without realizing it, when I brought home Lucky and Apache. Lucky is very much like one of my sons. He's tall, handsome, athletic, intelligent and with a dry sense of humor. I motivate him by taking a lot of the pressure away and letting him find his way to me. 

And then there's Apache, who is much like my other son. He's very strong, has great presence, wants to run the show and feel like everything we do together is his idea. He loves to play the games back too. He's my Houdini who opens gates just to walk out and then come back in to tag me. " Say, didn't you notice I opened that gate and left it open? Just thought you'd like to know. " His sense of humor is in your face. Lots of belly laughs when I'm playing with him.

And Stony. He is very much like I am, a RBI kind of horse with extroverted tendencies in the right situation. He can be a ghost, quietly appearing in the environment and disappearing just as quickly. He's my mustang, my wild one. The deeper our bond becomes the more I realize that I am working out some of my own challenges when I face them with Stony. The day he released his fear and tension while with me, we both cried. It was one of those moments I did not expect, caught me completely off guard. He laid down next me and rolled, stretched out and sighed, going to sleep, trusting me to watch the horizon.  His ability to forgive showed me how to let go of a past that left scars. A year later I am still licking and chewing over the lesson he taught me. And when his feet get stuck I can see and feel the tension mounting, much the same way it does in my own life when I panic and freeze, sliding in to depression.

Although depression can be diagnosed as a clinical condition, a mental illness, I am convinced that if our doctors and therapists relied more on finding effective ways to help their patients to move rather than skipping ahead to the chemical process of prescribing a drug, there would be more success in helping people to find their way through the places in their lives that cause such stultifying pain. Drugs alter brain chemistry and are only a temporary solution, a kind of boo boo bandage put over a gaping wound. And those temporary solutions sometimes alter brain chemistry in ways that are unintended, releasing the inhibitions we have set in place that keep us from taking that last step to hurt ourselves.

I know, from personal experience, that depression is a habit, a pattern that is easier for me to stay in rather than let go of. Better to deal with the devil I know than the devil I don't know. When I move; go outside in the fresh air to do chores, clean the barn, pull weeds or harvest vegetables, hike out to take photos or to paint, play with my horses or even just clean my house or organize a closet, I leave the depression behind. It's still sitting on the sofa, curled up in a corner. Without me there to keep it going, it disappears like the smoke that it is. Moving and being physical helps me to breath, stretch, connect to the world again and take another chance. 

The races I win are small and usually with myself. I step out of the shadow of the trees, leave my safe zone, and discover that I'm still alive afterwards. In the back of my imagination I'm Alec and The Black, running together because it feels good. I am making new directions and patterns to dance and move in with my herd around me, trusting me to be a leader I didn't know I could be until they showed me how to take one more step. They are my motivation and I am theirs. 

I am, ever yours, Nancy, grooving with the big guys, smiling...

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