A Little Bit Goes a Long Way
I was fortunate enough to attend a call this morning with about twenty-five beautiful, sober souls. Every Sunday morning since the pandemic began, the two co-hosts of the Unruffled podcast have also been generous enough to host a weekly virtual share circle. The creative, positive energy shared among the women on the call is palpable even though we are spread all across the country. There are weeks that the mood is heavy, but those are the weeks where we all lighten our load by putting it down in a safe space.
I'm not always able to attend due to our weekend road trips. The times I've joined, the calls tend to naturally settle into themes. Today, I listened as several women celebrated themselves for small acts of courage. There were crafting wins, sobriety milestones, even just choosing the call over isolation. It lit me up because I am such a fan of celebrating each and every baby step to bravery.
One of the most interesting things I’ve learned while leaning into my own courage is that small wins feel good. I wrote recently about how they build a bridge to self-respect, regardless of the outcome. What I’ve learned from trying to spark this in others is that nobody gives themselves enough credit, so it was awe-inspiring to hear these women pat themselves on the back. As Jen Pastiloff says, "give yourself a *&#$% medal!".
Take my week, for example. Last Sunday, I climbed in a saddle for the first time in about seven years, one of only a handful of rides in my adult life. I have such admiration for my friend Taylor, who is an accomplished equestrienne. She finds joy in riding every minute she can. For me, this ride (which I use loosely because my husband held the reins the entire time) involved setting aside some lingering childhood fears and, as the saying goes, “getting back on the horse”.
When I look at these giant animals, I'm taken back to a time where I was small and frightened as my trail horse tried to take the lead. When I'm standing next to one now, especially one as large as this palomino, I feel seven years old again, and as if I could be crushed on a whim.
In truth, horses need guidance. They want to trust the rider as much as the rider wants to trust them. Mutual respect, mutual trust, it's not unlike any healthy human relationship. As I worked my way up to climbing on, I took baby steps: brushing his mane, leading him through the courtyard, climbing on while my husband gave me a boost. Ryan had been riding him for some time, so he was well-exercised and content to just saunter along. I think it was written all over his face; it sure is mine.
Perhaps emboldened by this ride, I carried courage through the week. I faced some tough work conversations head on. I stopped cowering in many ways. I stopped taking things as personally. And on Thursday, I got my first ever flu shot.
Like horseback riding, there are millions of people who participate in this each year without a second thought. For me, fall means I’m in the thick of ragweed season. I also let every horror story I'd ever heard about adverse reactions (and in hindsight they were quite few in number) fester like the virus. My burning eyes and allergy fatigue are bad enough without taxing my immune system with flu cells. Besides, I traveled extensively for the last two flu seasons totally unscathed. In fact, I’ve managed to dodge it my entire adult life.
This year, however, I had to consider the stakes. I try not to live in fear, but the prospect of the flu + COVID-19? No thanks. My insurance company had given a little nudge in the form of an email providing free locations to get one. My husband got his at work and a friend from out of state even suggested it after she got hers. "Fine," I thought, "how can I say I embody courage if I'm this afraid of a damn shot!". Not to mention I get three allergy shots every other week. I'm not sure of the logic there, although it had less to do with the needle and more to do with the horrible flu I was going to contract.
I popped into Walgreens, who pulled up my insurance and gave me a free shot. I even got a nifty little “flu fighter” Band-Aid. And I didn't get the flu. I didn't even feel sick. I was queasy for a couple of days, but earlier that morning, I'd suffered a terrible allergy attack. I think whatever "adverse" symptoms I experienced were based on my war with ragweed, not the flu.
All of these little things add up and a little bit goes a long way. One small dose of courage can lead to bigger and braver things. Rewarding things. Things bigger than can be imagined today, but will seem like small potatoes in the future. I know I can look back and say "remember when I was too scared to even get on a horse?".
"There are exactly as many special occasions in life as we choose to celebrate." ~Robert Brault