The oddities of grief

Grief is strange, it comes in waves, it hits you when you least expect it, catching you unawares at the back of your throat. Unexpected things trigger it, songs, or smells. Random vistas stir memories long buried, which can erupt into sadness. A view down a track to a gnarled tree can unleash a torrent a grief. Whether we are grieving the loss of a person or an animal, grief can still be encompassing.

I have seen a brilliant graphic illustration about grief, which shows that your grief doesn’t shrink, just that you grow bigger. We are constantly growing and changing, our love of the person or animal that we have lost never goes, it is just that we grow to accept the loss.

My favorite quote about grief is: “Grief is the price we pay for love.” This quote is attributed to the Queen, though in fact it was is part of a longer paragraph written many years before by Dr Colin Murray Parkes which I will share here with you:

“The pain of grief is just as much part of life as the joy of love:it is perhaps the price we pay for love, the cost of commitment. To ignore this fact, or to pretend that it is not so, is to put on emotional blinkers which leave us unprepared for the losses that will inevitably occur in our own lives and unprepared to help others cope with losses in theirs.”

Life is a balance of good times and bad times, a mix of sunshine showers. All we can hope is that in the end, the good outweighs the bad, and that our over-riding memories are ones of laughter, and love. If that is the case, then personally I will accept the grief, in exchange for all the fantastic times, wonderful moments, and endless memories.

Decision making

Someone told me once that teaching your children how to make decisions was one of the best life skills you could teach them. I think this is probably true. Life is full of endless decisions from the small, “what shall I have for breakfast?”, to the large, “shall I buy another horse?” Every decision that we make changes our lives. Some people struggle with decision making, whilst other seem to sail easily through.

I think decision making is difficult. Some people find themselves with “paralysis by analysis” whereby you simply render yourself incapable of making a decision. Some people always pick the easiest option, some always seem to pick the hardest. Some people fail to weigh up their options. The list of way that we can struggle with decision making is seemingly endless.

However there are some good pieces of advice. One is, ask other people’s opinions. Have a group of people who seem to make good choices. Don’t ask for financial advice from someone who is living in a caravan after going bankrupt for the second time. Don’t ask for relationship advice from someone who is on first name terms with their divorce lawyer. Don’t ask for advice on your horse from someone whose horses are always lame and who changes trainers every five minutes.

Weigh up the evidence. Read about critical thinking. Wikipedia defines critical thinking as: “the analysis of facts to form a judgment. The subject is complex, and several different definitions exist, which generally include the rational, skeptical, unbiased analysis, or evaluation of factual evidence.” Don’t base decisions on the opinion of one person. Do your own research.

Believe in yourself. If you have carefully evaluated the evidence, drawn your own conclusion, don’t let yourself be knocked off course by other people. Respect yourself enough to trust that you have made a considered decision.

Decision making can be difficult, but as with everything start small. Evaluate your small decisions and apply a logical process to them. You might be amazed by what you learn…

Opening and closing doors

There is a great saying (and I am fond of a saying!) which says remember when you say “yes” to something, that means you are inherently saying “no” to something else. It doesn’t mean saying “yes” is a bad thing, just that you can only use that period of time to do one thing, and you choose what to do with it. You can never have that period of time again.

This resonated with me recently, after I didn’t get an opportunity that I was pursuing. Though I was initially disappointed, because we are all human after all, I had a think. I thought of all the others things I wanted to do in my long term plan, which I probably wouldn’t have done if I had got the other opportunity.

You cannot do everything, and you certainly can’t do it all at the same time. Every choice that you make have a repercussion. It can be impossible to know what is for the best, and what have happened if you had made a different choice. You can see it sometimes when you look back how a series of choices led you to a certain place. But while you are living it it can be hard to see the best path.

Some people have very clear ideas of what they want their lives to look like, and some people have none. You may be living your ideal life and wondering why it doesn’t feel right. Or you may be living a life that is not remotely how you imagined it would be, but you love it! Every life is different. But the one thing we do know is that you can’t live that time again, so every yes, have an opposing no. Just like simple physics were every force has an opposing force. So the next time you don’t get a seemingly brilliant opportunity, just consider what you would have said “no” to to achieve that “yes”, and remember every door that closes, another one opens…

Don’t live for sunny days…

You can’t live your life around the weather, else you will always spend your time waiting. And time spent waiting is not time spent living. Horses teach us this lesson so well. You can’t only ride when the sun is shining, you can’t wait for those mythical perfect days, you just have to get out, no matter what. And pleasure doesn’t sit only in the perfect moments…

Pleasure sits in hacking in a summer rain storm, trickles of water running down your neck, and the noise of hooves on the wet road, as the steam rises gently from the warm fields. The scent of wet horse, and the swish of their soggy tails. The unexpected pleasures of a wet summer’s hack. Think what you miss if you only choose to live for the sunny days.

And waiting for the perfect scenario means you never do anything. Life is never perfect. There will always be a bit of grit in your oyster, a pebble in your shoe. Life isn’t about the perfect moments, it’s about finding joy in the imperfections of every day, it’s the beauty in the flaws, the joy in the oddness.

If you expect perfection you will always be disappointed, but if you set out to enjoy the moments for what they are, you will be fulfilled. So remember the next time it is raining, and you want to go hacking. Fun can be had in the strangest of ways, and maybe the joy of a wet hack will come back to on a hot, sultry day, sat in a office, wishing for a cool breeze. The memory of the sensation of your wet jods, and the sound of the raindrops falling from the trees above, will cool you far more successfully than the feeble breeze from your colleague’s fan…


Little things…

Some problems seem so huge, so insurmountable that we can’t begin to work out where to start. Take climate change. What do we do? Where do we even begin? With little steps. Everything we do has an effect. Every action has an opposite and equal reaction – this is a fundamental law of physics (Newton’s Third Law). Every single action. If we all make small changes that overall effect will add up.

It is the same with our horses. You can’t change your hairy un-backed four year-old into a gleaming rosette machine overnight. But you can start with teaching him to stand nicely, and to be groomed. Then gradually teach him to accept a numnah and then a saddle. Little by little and over the years, you can create a massive transformation.

And sometimes we will make mistakes, sometimes we will go too fast, or down the wrong path, and that too is okay. It is okay to make mistakes, it is okay to fail, we are humans not robots. You might rush teaching your horse to canter, because the trot felt so good. You might be tired and grab a plastic coated ready meal. It’s okay, because tomorrow you can take your time and establish the trot before you canter. And tomorrow you can make a homemade meal.

We are not perfect, we are trying to be better. Life is a series of learnings, of opportunities, of successes and of failures, but tomorrow always bring you chance to do better. You are never too small to make a difference. No matter how small the step, a step forwards is always a step forwards. And by the very act of trying, by your very intentions in your heart you are making a difference. Keep going, keep trying, you will get there. It might be hard and it might be difficult, but it is worth it…

Making the best of it

“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.”

This quote is one of my favorite ones, it’s just so true. You can’t change what family you are born into, your physical characteristics, your innate nature (to a degree!). Accidents happen, terrible things happen, and sometimes wonderful things happen, incredible opportunities arise, but it is how you react that determines how your life will be.

It is a great quote to think of when everything seems to be going wrong, or when people around you seem to have more luck than you. Remember they have just been dealt a different hand of cards, they probably have struggles you cannot even imagine, we have no idea.

Some people seem to have everything, their life seems to be effortless, they were always standing in the right place at the right, but it is also what they did when standing there that counts. Other people might not have capitalised on the same opportunity in the same way.

Every encounter you have can be an opportunity, can represent a door opening, or it can simply be an encounter. It’s down to your perception. The next time you think, “why does that always happen to them?” think, “I wonder what they do to enable that to happen?”

Doors open all around us, but sometimes we are too blinkered to see them. Make sure you open your eyes, be brave, be fearless, say yes, see what happens. And maybe nothing good seems to come your way, but don’t forget to keep looking, so that if it does, you don’t miss it.

Your life may not be how you pictured it, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be wonderful and fulfilling, and happy. Sometimes we have to let go of our fixed views and embrace the uncertainty.