Unharming

unharm someone
by
telling the truth you could not face
when you
struck instead of tended.

- put the fire out (unburn)

— Nayyirah Waheed, Salt. (2013)

 

A client brought this poem to session the other week, and I found it a lovely compression of the depths and expansive possibilities of therapy.  We are all wounded. We have wounded, and we have been wounded. Wounder/woundee. This poem suggests evocatively how to heal, to move beyond, to integrate through unharming - it defines making amends by tending to the missteps we have all experienced.

In this particular session, the client identified and gave meaning to her own relationship with poetry. In the time we have worked together, she has often quoted from poems and songs, but in this session, she acknowledged for the first time the profound and meaningful impact poetry has meant to her – how poetry often provided a solid structure to gently house her own internal chaos.

Through our wounds, we often develop a very narrow scope of who we are and who we might me. We develop core beliefs around those experiences at the expense of other parts of our selves. Trauma elicits myopic and convincing beliefs around victimhood, failure, self worth. By tending to what has been harmed, we reveal and often rediscover other facets of what makes us who we truly are. This client redefined her core beliefs by facing not only the story of her trauma, but by also – and, perhaps, far more importantly - allowing her poet identity to emerge. Like this gentle and fierce poem, my client ruptured a core belief around trauma victim to expand that she is also a lover of poetry, also a wordsmith, also a truthteller – like the ripple of a pebble striking flat water, she expanded her own sense of self to so many more possibilities. 

She experienced the essence of her own healing through the unharming and unburning, and this poem was a magical gateway to that place.

* Nayyirah Waheed is a poet of two published books, salt. (2013) and Nejma (2015).  @nayyirahwaheed * https://www.nayyirahwaheed.com/ 

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Josh

Yesterday was an exquisitely beautiful day. The last day of February was mid-50s with warming sunshine as well as the occasional breeze kicking up a notch to remind us we are still in winter’s bluster.

Yesterday the decision to euthanize Josh was made. We decided. We nursed. We cried. We loved, and then he was gone.

It is with great sadness that I share this news. It was determined Josh was suffering from a rare and aggressive cancer. It was overtaking territory along his vertebra, and rapidly marching toward his spinal column.  His pain and physical suffering – based on the veterinary assessments – were mind-boggling to truly comprehend.

This horse initiated a massive paradigm shift in me. I never thought I would know enough, be savvy enough, be equestrian-y enough to have my own horse. Josh dared me to scoff at these insecurities and to move beyond my own obstacles in favor of melting into the immense joy I amassed these last years “owning” this horse. Emily Osborne and Terry Lewis were never far when I went wayward. When I lacked confidence, experience, or knowledge, they more than carried me through.

Josh impacted so many people. A stoic, generous herd leader, he was definitive, clear, and exercised a remarkable sense of fairness. He partnered with countless riders, and formed a deeply special and long lasting relationship with Leila Ashkeboussi. He could be massive and inaccessible. He could be large and cuddly. He could be silly and comical at times. He could be athletic, hard working, graceful and poetry in motion. He showed all these facets to the people who interacted with him. He never wavered from being of a particularly sensible and sound mind, and an equally loving heart. He amazed me with his tolerance for my poor skills and sloppy mistakes while simultaneously requiring I show up with my best version of myself e-v-e-r-y s-i-n-g-l-e t-i-m-e. Anyone who has led him may know first hand what I am describing. He would not walk with you until you decided you are worth walking with.

I can not fully express the deep gratitude and awe I feel for Dr. Suzy Welker of Damascus Equine. Her deft and gentle hand is kind, compassionate, professional and deeply knowledgeable, and an absolute treasure to the veterinary community.

Josh, like yesterday, was exquisitely beautiful. And I am far closer to being in his league of wonder by virtue of knowing him.

 

Unfreeze

We are thirty five days into winter. Twenty five days into this new and only year of 2018. It has been desperately cold since Christmas with a few days of warm reprieve this week. It feels a bit tardy for Happy New Year wishes and goal setting.

Yet, I have always liked this alluring paradox of new when there is so little daylight and so much cold.

Maryland has been a bit of a frozen tundra the last few weeks, and I feel the ache in my feet from tooling around on this un-cushioned ground. So much at the farm froze, broke – seemed to give up. There is much to be done: breaking ice for water troughs to be replenished, setting hay out for the herd to eat and stay warm, mucking here and there, everywhere. When the environment feels so hostile, it is tempting to mirror the harshness of the scenery. Tempting, but also dangerous to stay on this icy superficial level. The ground is hard, the wind bites, and the cold penetrates bones, but to deny the earth is prepping for growth, to ignore the days’ light is lengthening, and to forget winter is one of four seasons is defeating.

So, as I sludge around the farm, I find this time of year amazing. To consider all that is percolating beneath the ground; to imagine all the warmth cocooning seedlings deep in the earth, beyond the reach of freeze; to acknowledge the busy energy that in this moment, I can not see, hear, or smell is a profound exercise in hope.  Even when change seems impossible in the harshest of environments, the hope lies in the wisdom of possibility rooted just below the dormant surface: working, growing, shifting, preparing and gathering for change. We just need to know it is there, ready to be tended and nourished and cultivated. Acknowledging shifts the perspective. Nothing has given up, we can mend the broken to begin to unfreeze. Funny and comforting that today, this 25th of January, the earth is squishy and loose, ready to shift into a new form.

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#metoo

It is both horrifying and validating to see the #metoo hash tag everywhere.

Sexual harassment and assault are attacks on the body. It fractures so much of our well being. Its message is clear, loud, and impossible to ignore:

“You have no voice. By means of your gender, this is what you get, what you deserve, all you are. Your humanity has no worth.”

These experiences, sometimes seemingly micro-moments on a subway, awaken our past traumas and losses. These experiences, again and again dismissed as indiscretions and ‘boys will be boys,’ violate our right to inhabit our own bodies.  These experiences, often dramatic and torturous, smash our vision for hope, trust, and meaningful intimacy. They fracture our connection to our authentic self, spinning us into periods of blankness – devoid of our inherent creativity, our powerful life force, our worth.

My #metoo include two particular events both involving men who were in undeniable positions of authority and power. Their positions evoked status, respect, even dignity, and yet their groping fingers and unrelenting unwillingness to hear my physical and verbal protests were about marginalizing my humanity in favor of some insatiable and unattainable desire for more position, more power, more unnamed need.

We can wallow in it. We can be stuck in it. We can discharge it unto others in a desperate effort to rid ourselves of it.

Or, we find help. Love. Acceptance. Compassion. We enter a contract where our self worth is non-negotiable. We acknowledge. We speak. We thrive when we move toward #metoo moments. We remind ourselves – in absolute spite of the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault - it is not normal, and not our fate, and not a decree on our value. We resist the message of sexual harassment and assault, and we persist in living in our bodies and staying in our hearts.

Help can be gentle and tender; it can be fierce and brash, and it is yours to claim if you choose and consent to what at one point was denied you.

 

 

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Tolerating Flies

“Whenever I was upset by something in the papers, Jack always told me to be more tolerant, like a horse flicking away flies in the summer.” Jackie Kennedy

At the end of this September, we are having some August weather. Flies are still abundant and in the later afternoon, the herd is streaked with dried sweat, leaving salty crystals along the their backs. Water troughs are replenished with frequency, and shade is most welcome. It seems the flies are victorious and vicious. At the farm, it is a constant annoyance to balance heat and flies. Not enough movement invites the flies, too much movement within the thick heat is exhausting. Sometimes I will stand near the horses as they balance heat and flies while munching hay or napping in the shade of the shed. They sense the pesky creatures and ripple their skin in warning. A strategic flick of a tail sends a tenacious fly off and away. Occasionally, a foot stomp or a head shake evokes the frustration. It is a constant unsatisfactory dance and it reminds me of upset and tolerance.

Our current climate lacks tolerance; the focus is on the upset, of being appalled, of blame and shame. With the focus on the upset, it creates a more narrow space for tolerance. Tolerance is not agreement or approval, but tolerance is a conscious act of allowing. What transpires when we allow? It illustrates our endurance to withstand hardship. When we allow, we can withstand and not cower from differences, conflicts, and variability. When we truly allow, we suspend judgment without compromising our own boundaries. The horses seem to have endless endurance to withstand those pesky summer flies, and they never seem lost in the upset of being bitten. They exercise tolerance: their willingness to simply allow sets the tone that there will always be summer (even a late one after a wet August), there will be heat, and a few weeks where the flies seem assured victory, and then there is reprieve. Tolerance is an endurance race, and it is an act requiring true engagement. When we really allow, we counter-intuitively secure our place, be it in the shade of the shed, or in the face of daunting newsworthy events, or in our relationships. When we exercise tolerance, we can remind ourselves to flick away the flies with the innate wisdom that the summer slips to cooler weather, the flies retreat, and we are still standing, allowing, enduring, belonging.

Fans help, too.

Jackie Kennedy, a lifelong horsewoman, on White House lawn with Macaroni, John, Jr, and Empress Farah Pahlavi, 1962   I  mage from the JFK Presidential Library

Jackie Kennedy, a lifelong horsewoman, on White House lawn with Macaroni, John, Jr, and Empress Farah Pahlavi, 1962

Image from the JFK Presidential Library

Boxes

Check out this video from Denmark before reading.

I came across this video while perusing Facebook this morning, sipping coffee and savoring the garden sounds coming through the open kitchen window. Taking note of my sensory awareness as the sense of belonging emerges in the video and the false boxes of identity are shed. Goosebumps, throat constriction, tears welling up and moderately uncomfortable vulnerability in the form of almost closing the video tab at certain points. Yet, I pause. Why such a visceral reaction? It is what has emerged with several clients in the last week or two. We crave vulnerability in others. We admire it. We are moved by it. Sometimes, we are even transformed by witnessing others’ vulnerability. And we expend vast amounts of energy cloaking our own.

Brené Brown calls this the authenticity paradox. “Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, and the first thing I look for in you.”

Absolutely, this video is edited; it is a production with a goal, a script and actors, and of course, it an advertisement. However, it illustrates a powerful metaphor. When we move to reconcile the paradox, a shift occurs. When we choose vulnerability within ourselves while being open to it in others, the mutual benefit is transcendent. The false sense of identity erodes and a more authentic sense of belonging emerges.  

It is an invigorating consideration as I move from the kitchen table to go about this day with the intention of seeing and being beyond our assigned boxes.

Welcome

Welcome to EponaHeart Counseling! It is a little bit wonderful for me to consider I first stepped into the tangible world of equine facilitated healing seven years ago - during the first week of April..and here I am posting my first blog on my first independent website. It does feel a little like creating a new world - as the Georgia O'Keefe quote above encourages.

Encourage. It is a word often taken for granted, sometimes delivered in a trite & condescending tone. Yet, I find it a most powerful world when used with care and deliberation. En from Greek meaning "within." Courage whose origins are French meaning core, heart. So this is what EponaHeart Counseling is truly all about - being within our hearts. Not easy, pretty messy at times, but being with our hearts is the fundamental cornerstone to thriving especially in times of stress, grief, and all that cause discomfort. So, welcome to being within your heart - it is my personal goal each and every day, and I look forward to witnessing my clients' do the same. 

Heart Hoof Print - thanks, Pumpkin!

Heart Hoof Print - thanks, Pumpkin!