I slipped and fell in an airport and broke three vertebrae in my neck. The next year was a blur. Surgeries, neck brace, lost voice, lost time on the speaking circuit, lost my memory for a bit. Found my friends and supporters. Found I had more Inner Resilience than I knew. It has been five years and the learning continues. Most important lesson? I’m still here! Technically I shouldn’t be. And I am.
All trauma shifts your brain and awareness in some way. Normally fearless, I found I was afraid of falling. I love to dance, but would restrict my dance partners with, “NO Dipping!” or “No fast twirling!” That was until I ran into ol’ cowboy Doug.
He was a Cowboy Mounted Shooting professional. It’s a fascinating sport, where they shoot at balloon targets with blanks while riding full speed on a horse. He asked me if Iliked to ride, and my post-injury answer was, “I used to… But… blah blah blah” and off I
went with my “story.” He cocked his head to one side and listened to all my BS excuses about why I couldn’t do something I loved to do. Then he half grunted and said, “Well, Bullriders break their necks all the time and they ride again.You’re gonna ride in the morning. Meet me at the Denny’s restaurant up off 1-17 and we’re going.”
The next morning I argued with myself about this turn of events. After all, I had a legitimate reason why I didn’t want to be paralyzed from the neck down. My Chihuahuas listened intently and nodded in agreement as I explained it to both of them. (I’m sure they thought food was involved.) I finally sighed and decided it was only polite to show up at Denny’s so I could explain why I wasn’t going. I didn’t have his phone number, so calling wasn’t an option.
I pulled into the parking lot and saw he was already seated inside. When I walked up to his table, he gestured and said, “You’re late. I ordered for you. Sit down.” So I sat down and ate breakfast with him. Then he explained what we were going to do and assured me that his horse – his CHAMPION horse! – would be perfect for me and made it clear there was no way out of this.
I followed his ol’ truck out to the corral, mumbling to myself all the way about being a milquetoast, and why was I going along with this, and this was not rational behavior, and what did I hope to accomplish. As we pulled into the yard I saw his beautiful champion and fell in love. I reminded myself, “You TEACH this Beth! Get BACK on the Dang Horse!” And I got out to meet this sweet competitor who was going to save me from my own fears. I talked to her for awhile and she listened intently, her giant brown eyes watching my
every move as I leaned in and scratched her neck. I know she understood me.
I saddled her and swung up into the all-familiar leather and horse smells. It felt right. I had to relearn some things: what came naturally when I first rode at 5 years old was suddenly foreign. I had never given it much thought, but recovering from a broken neck makes one pay more attention to details like posture and leg positioning. She patiently waited while I found my balance and my rhythm, and we were off!
The ol’ cowboy watched me with a half grin as I got lost in the moment. It was good to overcome my fears and get going again. As with most things, it’s never as scary as you think it will be. I let out a huge sigh of relief as I allowed myself to breathe in the joy of the moment.
Never saw that ol’ cowboy again, but I’ll never forget him. Thanks for getting me back on the horse!
We all need angels to help us get past our fears. And if we are lucky, we’ll get to be that angel to someone else some day.
Now, git goin’ and get back on whatever horse you’ve been afraid to ride.
All the best,
PS – If you want to watch Cowboy Mounted Shooting or any other western sports, be sure and schedule yourself to come to Phoenix for Winter Range and make your cowboy dreams come true! If nothing else, you’ll have a “cultural experience!”
© 2014 Beth Terry, CSP • All Rights Reserved