Horse Crazy Part I: How to Build a Wall


IMG_6068“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”― Joseph Campbell

One warm summer evening when I was five years old, my father took me for a walk down a dusty Tallahassee road. At the nearby stable I saw my first horse and fell passionately in love.  From that day on, I went to the stable as often as I could.  It was bliss just to be near these magnificent animals—to see them, smell them, and if I was lucky, to touch them.

From then on, I had one goal in life: someday I would have a horse of my own. Each year as my birthday drew near I fantasized about the horse that would be standing outside my window when I awoke on my special day. I nursed this fantasy when we moved to a big city. It continued throughout elementary school, where everyone knew I was horse crazy.  If I wasn’t drawing pictures of horses or writing stories about them, I was reading Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books from the school library.

The summer before sixth grade I wrote myself a letter to open when I was sixteen. In the envelope I included the best present I could think of to give my future self:  a picture I had drawn titled “A Wild Stallion Sniffing the Air.”  It showed a stallion standing high on a cliff overlooking his herd of mares far below.

My father died that winter and I began to lose my unrealistic dreams (Chink! go the bricks as they are added to my protective wall: “Playtime’s over;  it’s time to grow up!”). I was also losing my utter confidence in myself (Chink! “Face it, kid;  you’re a victim!)  Occasionally, however, I got to be with horses, and the month I spent with my mother’s Michigan relatives who leased a black-and-white pinto for me made for the best summer I ever had.

By high school and college my love for horses took second place to boys.  I married after graduation, got a job as a third grade teacher, and dreamed about having a child of my own.  But the horses were still there, running around in the shadowy summer pastures of my mind, and I still dreamed of owning one someday.  Five years later my dream came true when my husband bought me a white albino gelding with light blue eyes. But my dream was short-lived: I was pregnant within a few months and my cautious doctor warned me against riding.  We sold Bamboo before my daughter was born.

It was the only thing to do. Motherhood is a full-time job. Isn’t it? When we grow up, we need to be reasonable and give up our unrealistic childhood dreams.  Don’t we?  Passion is a foolish and dangerous emotion.  Isn’t it?

It can be enlightening to examine the symbols that prevail in our outer lives; sometimes they have an amazing correspondence to our psychological development. My youthful confidence and self-sufficiency were symbolized by my fixation on the black stallion, the epitome of powerful masculine energy, combined with dark, feminine, instinctive passion. Had I lived in another place and time, I might have continued to develop the capabilities of this powerful symbol, but, wildness and darkness were not quite acceptable in my world which preferred reason to passion and masculine to feminine.

As I grew older, my symbol acquired some balance and became a tamer, more reasonable, and less passionate (lighter-colored) black-and-white pinto.  (Chink!) By the time I was a wife, mother and teacher and had accepted the restrictions placed on women, my symbol was a colorless gelding.  Passion and dark femininity were lost and masculine light and reason overshadowed my horse energy, which had become dormant and impotent. (Chink! Chink!)

1649041“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell

My choice to be a teacher was guided by my needs for security and societal acceptance, not my real interests or skills. I didn’t even know what these might be. And although becoming a wife and mother were the right choices for me, I was not fulfilled in either capacity. Why? Because I was conforming to ill-fitting, societally transmitted renditions of these roles.

I lived on the surface of my life for several more years. I was a good sport, a good wife and mother, a mediocre tennis player, and an enthusiastic church- and party-goer, looking outside my Self for answers, approval, and temporary relief from my discomfort. Unaware of the wall that covered my true Self, a place where my passion for the black stallion was still alive and well, I assumed I was who and what I appeared to be. What I really was, was a woman following a path laid out for her by her forebears, a woman living her life for others.

Let go of the life I planned?  Out of the question….much too dangerous to even think about, for in the first half of my life I was obsessed with building. Rebelling and tearing down weren’t even on my radar.  Fortunately, the life that was waiting for me wouldn’t be denied.

More about that next time……

Image Credit:  The Black Stallion, Google Images

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

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0 Responses

  1. .Hi Jeanie, Such wondrous story-telling! You’re a natural healer and cantadora storyteller. I love how you describe the black stallion as ‘the epitome of powerful masculine energy, combined with dark, feminine, instinctive passion’ … Oh my goddess how this poet’s ears pricked up to that internal, eternal call of ‘wildness and darkness.’
    “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
    Thank you, this is one of the best quotes I’ve read this year. I am so pleased you included this! I love, love, love how you recognise and share how you literally ‘held your horses’ throughout those years and ‘walled yourself in’ as a good sport, wife and mother. I resonate as my life felt torn in two when I came out as a gay woman twenty years ago and then last year it felt like I ‘came out’ all over again but this time as a ‘Poet’ if that makes any sense … these were not planned events but definitely the life waiting for me.
    I feel many will connect with your post, most especially ‘living a life for others and not for oneself’ … along parallel lines I recently wrote a short article about the “Like” button and asked if others were pressing the ‘right’ button? If the topic interests here’s the link It’s something ‘like’ (lol, couldn’t resist!) a four minute read.
    All in, another fabulous blog post! Really looking forward to part two of Horse Crazy. Blessings, Deborah.

    1. Thanks so much for your affirming and pitch-perfect comments!! Wow! I hadn’t connected the phrase ‘hold your horses’ with this phase of my life, but it couldn’t be a more apt metaphor. I did, indeed, hold my horses for many, many years, as you did, and as anyone who takes their inner life seriously does. I still do.
      As you know, this work of soul-making, of finding and manifesting one’s true Self while being equally committed to nurturing one’s relationships, is a constant struggle for balance, patience, restraint, perseverance, self-discipline, and strength to tolerate tension and delay gratification……all without knowing what the next step will be or if you’re doing the right thing. For me this is holy work…what we’re supposed to be doing in this miraculous time and space of consciousness in which we find ourselves.
      Also, I don’t think it’s so much about achieving or manifesting or attaining some ideal end result as it is about the process: caring enough to keep trying, staying conscious, trying to live with integrity, facing and meeting the new challenges life will always throw at you, not settling in complacency while there’s still work to be done. Doing one’s best and staying the course like a racehorse (!!!) is where the magic is. It’s like alchemy: to just keep cooking on a low simmer in the crucible of our soul and that’s enough to let the grace come through. Grace! G(od)race!! Hmmmm. Okay, I’m stretching things now…..(as I head down the stretch!!) Help, someone stop me!! I’m out of control here. 🙂
      I did read your article about the “Like” button, and I “liked” it. It’s an original and thought-provoking take on the way we can become conditioned into making habitual responses without connecting in a more meaningful way. As you and I do here, for example. Of course, it is at least a way to connect, to let someone know you’re there and with them while you’re struggling to balance your own very busy life, and that’s a good thing. Also, for me, “likes” are a helpful measure of which posts and topics resonate more with my readers. This helps me choose what to write about next time. But your point is well taken that it can so easily become meaningless. I guess it’s up to each of us to monitor ourselves to make sure that doesn’t happen to us.
      Again, many thanks for taking the time and making the effort to communicate with me in such meaningful ways.
      Blessings, Jeanie

  2. Oh Jeanie your wonderful reply fills my heart with joy! Naturally I found myself nodding throughout. Yes, I agree for me to this is holy work. A thousand blessings as you give us your readers so much meat on the bone to chew over and reflect upon. Thank you so much for reading my “Like Button” article and for sharing your thoughts and feelings with me on the topic, truly appreciated. Blessings, Deborah (@LiberatedSheep).

  3. Lovely post Jeanie thank you! Much looking forward to part two … your comments to Deborah could be a post on their own 🙂 We have to let go of the reins holding us back and let ourselves reign … OK I’ll stop ..

    1. Thanks, Susan. Yes, and we need to be sure not to saddle ourselves with too much self-criticism……or stirrup too much resentment about the difficulty of trying to stay conscious…….:-0 🙂 😉

  4. Letting go of the life we planned is definitely traveling the road less traveled. Thanks much. The article gave me encouragement for today. With warm aloha,

  5. Chink! One good thing about being behind on everything is I now get to go directly to part 2. Tantalizing and well-told.

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