Decision Time

Darling Santiago

I’m pondering whether to continue riding dear old Santa. He’s a terrific horse. No dirty spooks, sound, calm in many situations other horses would take advantage of. A good equine egg. The issue is on the rider end. The barn is an hour away, and to get 45 minutes in the saddle means half a day shot.

By shot I mean, the energy is spent and I’m not sure that what I have to show for it justifies the expenditure. The good rides, where I get into the zone, become absorbed in the task, and communicate effectively with the horse are fewer and fewer. I’m simply not fit enough to achieve that anymore. So riding has taken on an aspect of duty, of hoping for the no-longer-possible.

I realize though, that my identity as a horse lover has been consistent clear back to early childhood. More than that, it has been an unabashedly positive identity–unlike lawyer, mother, wife, and some other labels I’ve worn. Horses have never betrayed me, in part because my expectations of them have always been reasonable.

Me on Delray the Wonder Pony (I should be looking UP more.)

Riding is the only sport where men and women compete head to head all the way up to the Olympic level. If you can communicate with a horse, you have something rare and powerful. The first horse I bought for myself stood eighteen hands at the withers, meaning when I was on his back, the world looked UP at me, and I did not feel fat.

When I ride, I cannot be all up in my head. I have to be in my body, and that body can do stuff. I can get a three-quarter-ton beast to listen to me–wow. Riding is a passion I’ve shared with my daughter, and I do believe that horses saved her life and my sanity.

But I’m afflicted with the nagging sense that it’s time to let this go. To use that time and energy elsewhere, at least for now. That’s the sticky part. If I knew for a fact that hanging up my spurs would be permanent, I doubt I’d do it. I would hang on in hopes that my energy well would somehow fill up, or my fitness ambitions would find some traction. I suspect I will ask for a leave of absence, which is my way of trying on the decision to quit without closing the door.

How do you approach complicated decisions? Is there a question you put to yourself, a process you observe? To three comments, I will send ARC files of Erica Ridley’s debut title in the Siren’s Retreat Novella Quartet, An Affair by the Sea (on-sale March 15).

 

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20 comments on “Decision Time

  1. The same thing happened to me a number of years ago – through chance and circumstance, a much-loved hobby had fallen by the wayside. I made the decision to get back to it, because even if I never did, there was more benefit in trying than in giving it up for good. whi
    It’s taken several years, two surgeries, and many, many hours of PT so far. I still have a long ways to go, but I’m returning to my hobby this month. I guess it depends whether you can make it easier (a closer stable?) or on how willing or able you are to try to do what you need to in order return to your hobby. Even if you don’t ever get back to git, you will probably have an adventure and learn new stuff along the way. Good luck!

  2. Although much of what Marie Kondo says is a bit much for me (ONLY 30 books!?!), I have started asking my version of her question, “Does it bring me joy or contentment or pleasure or something good?” when trying to decide. In fact, I recently applied that thought to something I have been doing over 10 years and used to look forward to. But I now dread it so when my term is up, I won’t be continuing.
    I think realizing your physical body isn’t up to things anymore is your best gauge. I know it’s hard because I’m a few years older than you and my knees are currently being treated with gel injections to put off the knee replacement surgery I will need but don’t want. So I’ve given up some things and I resent the heck out of my body’s failings! I think your “leave of absence” idea is speaking to you and is probably the way to go. You’re not just giving up, you’re testing the waters. And maybe you’ll miss it enough that you’ll decide the pros still outweigh the cons. Or you’ll realize giving it up is the right decision after all.

  3. Me making my own decisions has, since childhood, been a sticky wicket. Without getting into the details too much, I was, essentially, not given agency over my mind, emotions, decisions, etc. So, now that I’m all grown up, a difficult decision can seem insurmountable. I will use “feelings” or my “gut”… but, that has not always produced the best thought out plans. Pro and Con lists can help. Or, the questions, “how will I feel if I don’t do X?” and “how will I feel if I do do X?”

    This next part of my post refers back to 2 weeks ago when the “Fairness Doctrine” was brought up. Grace posted that we needed a poem / anthem / song parody lamenting its repeal. If you are reminded of “Thank You For Being a Friend” (Golden Girls Theme) by Andrew Gold… (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voNEgCKzves)
    well… I’m not quite sure if I should apologize or wink or both. I’ve “played merry hell with the rhythm” towards the end… I just had too much to fit in to a veeerrrryyyyy small space. But, here is the Fairness Doctrine Anthem by me!
    I hope you all enjoy!!!

    We Need You, Fairness Doctrine
    We miss you Fairness Doctrine.
    Why’d you go? We want you back again.
    Too much fightin’,
    What we need is a new détente.

    It’s hard to tell these days.
    What’s true and factual among the haze.
    Some things I hear
    cause the lift of dubious eyebrows.

    Democracy is fragile.
    We can lose freedom so easily.
    Expose loose screws, easy answers don’t stop coups,
    unbiased news should stay.

    We need you Fairness Doctrine.
    We miss you Fairness Doctrine.
    We want you Fairness Doctrine.
    We need you Fairness Doctrine.

    Opinions we don’t lack.
    But balanced news can fight mental plaque,
    misinformation, deception, and chicanery.

    Frustration creates blues.
    Social media has become our news.
    How can this be? Decide from opinions and views.

    It’s ok to disagree.
    The biggest gift is speech that’s free.
    But true news
    floats like ghosts that we can’t see.
    Educate us, light our way.

    We need you Fairness Doctrine. (We miss the doctrine.)
    We miss you Fairness Doctrine. (We want the doctrine.)
    We want you Fairness Doctrine. (We need the doctrine.)
    We need you Fairness Doctrine. (We need the doctrine.)

    [repeat 4 lines above once]

    The FCC took it away
    They didn’t want to help decay
    Freedom of Speech, which is our friend
    But consequence they din’t intend…

    We need you Fairness Doc

    Baaaa baba ba ba ba ba

    FOS for opinion,
    not journalism.
    Fairness D ain’t censorship.
    It cross examines.
    Politics – put through the wrangler
    of rationality.
    We need you Fairness Doctrine.
    FD is news presented non-e
    ditorialized.
    Confirmation Bias means
    fuzzed logic again.
    Believing repeated things.
    We shouldn’t do that.
    We need you Fairness Doctrine.

    Decide with just one side?
    Fairness Doctrine keeps democracy alive.
    F of speech for opinion.
    The Fairness Doctrine for political people and bills.
    We miss you Fairness Doctrine.
    We want the doctrine, doctrine.
    We need you Fairness Doctrine.

  4. Not making a decision to making a decision. Sometimes we stall or dither or whatever you want to call it….and that’s making a decision. When things become more of an obligation than a joy maybe it’s time to pack it in. I have a few of those obligations in my life right now and I am struggling to decide what to do. Other people are depending on me which is the only thing preventing me from leaving/quitting. If they weren’t, I’d stop them right now.

    Have a lovely week Grace and everybody!

  5. I will admit I am awful at making decisions. Even choosing a meal at a restaurant sometimes sends me into a tizzy, so big, life altering decisions? Wow! I guess my method for deciding the big things is to get a consensus from the smart people in my life (I am blessed to have several of those). The questions I would ask myself, are: “What will I think of this decision a month from now, a year from now?” “Will I regret doing (or not doing) this?” “Can I go back and reverse this decision?” And the grand daddy of all questions, “What’s the worst that can happen?” When my husband & I were debating if it was the right time for us to get into the housing market, we had been married for all of 3 years, had a 10 month old son, a sickly cat, and a monthly rent that hadn’t increased in all the time we’d lived there. It was hard to think about taking on a mortgage, unknown utility and repair bills, and all the other responsibilities that come with home ownership. But the answer to “What’s the worst that can happen?” was that we might have to turn around and sell if we couldn’t handle the expenses and responsibilities. We took the leap and never regretted it. As to whether you ought to give up riding, I would caution you (advice from someone much older than you!), that it’s sometimes hard to get back things we give up as we age. We think we can just go back in time, but it’s increasingly difficult to do so. I think it’s normal that our enthusiasm for activities ebbs and flows with our energy level, the amount of aches and pains we live through day to day, and the number of responsibilities that fall on our shoulders over time. So maybe cut back a bit, ride a little less frequently, but, IMHO, it would be a shame to give up on an activity that you describe as a passion. There are so few of those in our lives, especially one which has been with you for most of your life. Stay safe. Stay well!

  6. That’s a tough decision. Near me is an non-profit organization that has several properties for horse rescue. They are certified with all the things to that end and have blind mustangs, retired work / race horses, rescue horses from all types of situations. They even have therapy miniatures for a program that takes them to others. It is a great org and has some really dedicated, wonderful people (https://www.thisoldhorse.org/). I wonder if there is something similar near you? You may have to give up time on top of a horse, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up horses all together. Volunteering would continue to value and utilize your accumulated knowledge and skills, cost just your transportation, and have hands on horse time. Between your legal knowledge and your writing skills, you wouldn’t need to be able to shovel anything to make a big difference and still be able to love on horses and retain an active, positive horse-lover identity.

    I’m not great at navigating complicated decisions, but I try to allow for a changed mind. To let myself reverse course if I guessed wrong, and to reassess without judgment. Many decisions have more flexibility than we think at first glance and I look for those spots.

  7. When I am faced with a difficult decision- I made a list of pros and cons.
    I have been thinking of stopping dog school for Greg. He knows the Novice obedience pattern but we can’t seem to pass the test. It’s an hour drive to the training center, an hour class and an hour to get home.
    And it’s a 1/2 vacation day, plus the cost of gas and the lesson.
    What to do?
    Am taking a break until May. We are back to our regular trainer- less cost and travel time. Today, we started nosework and Greg found ALL of his hides! And it was FUN!
    Am hoping Nosework will raise his confidence level and we’ll give one more sho at lessons.

    Getting out of the house is important to me. Doing something for myself is important. I just have to decide was Greg and I can do together!

  8. I saw the title of today’s entry and almost had a heart attack! I was in terror the “Decision Time “ had something to do with your writing career. Don’t scare us like that!

    For every, every, every big decision I’ve ever had to make in my adult life, I’ve used pro/con lists. What are the pros of continuing, Grace? What are the cons? Also, I try to use an emotional vs practical list, too, although that does not fit as well in every situation. For example, your comment that horses saved your daughter’s life and your sanity would be a huge emotional reason to hang on— but is that still a practical reason? Is having shot half a day such a problem if it’s something you can use to reward yourself?

    I hope that whatever decision you make will bring you peace, even if it’s the decision to postpone your decision. That’s a decision, too!

    It’s 70 degrees in northeast Pennsylvania today! That has nothing to do with anything, but I am so thrilled to see sunshine and hear birds chirping that I had to share!
    Best wishes,
    Mary

  9. Just under 10 years ago I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroid disease. I understand the diminishing well of energy intimately. The things that I used to enjoy that I have given up for lack of energy are more than I can count. I did quickly come to terms with the 60 pounds I’ve gained as a result of an inactive thyroid, which is something others who don’t understand this disease struggle with (my mother being my biggest critic).

    Please don’t look in your mirror and see fat. I know lots of people who can’t wrap a pretty gift to save their life. But that does not take away from the appreciation of the gift inside. You have given the world many great gifts and have thousands of appreciative readers and that says so much more about you than what size your clothing is.

    Only you know if you are pushing your limit of energy stores to take that ride with Santa. I might try to make that drive just to put my face in his mane and breathe deeply even if I didn’t have the energy to ride. But a 45 minute drive is something that would make me have the same thoughts you’re having. Some days it’s more than I can do to put a load of laundry away. I have three baskets of clean clothes in my room right now to support that statement.

    I wish you all the best with this decision. I’d like to say I’d never give up time with a horse, but I’ve lived with this disease long enough to know better than to make such a statement.

  10. My health changed in ways that mean I’ve hung up my spurs, other than every couple of summers I’ll go ride with a friend. It’s still hard, not everyday, not grinding. But in my head I’m still a Horse Gal.

    I guess I’d leave that door open. See what it feels like on perfect summer day to not go to the barn.

    Change…so much change and stagnation (endless March 2020) at the same time.

  11. A leave of absence from riding sounds like a good idea. Maybe your energy will improve. Sometimes taking even a little bit of pressure off can help a lot.

    I approach it in about the same way you are doing this time – I give myself a break from whatever seems to be just too much and concentrate on what must be done.

    FYI house work is the first to go. I work full time, do most of the grocery shopping, laundry and pet care. Everything else has to move to the back of the line.

    I hope you feel less stress in the coming days.

  12. I’m so sorry you are grappling with this, Grace! Gentle hugs.
    If there are valid reasons for both choices (or multiple choices), and I will tell myself that out loud, and say that any choice I make will be based on facts and will be at least part right, so it’s ok no matter what I choose. Somehow saying it out loud helps it sink into my brain and heart better.

  13. Is riding your bribe to go grocery shopping or vice versa?

    My well of energy is currently depleted by what someone called endless years of March 2020. Stagnation, boredom, massive frustration and the increasing cost of living.

    An acquaintance of mine has been in contact with a friend of hers in the Ukraine. She mentioned that the very legitimate worries she had had were now concentrated on staying alive to look after her people.

  14. Dear Grace,
    Getting older stinks, but the alternative is worse! To keep going we have to exercise which is easier if we do something we like. I garden which sounds ladylike, but since I live in New Hampshire involves shifting granite rocks of all sizes. I live on 160 acres of an old Revolutionary war soldier’s land grant and I’m trying to clear a few field from the Forest. Last summer I was expanding to vegetable garden and dug up 1020 rocks at least the size of a soccer ball. The Little Rock’s turned into homemade gravel. I counted them because I was mad that there were so many! If I don’t work hard in the garden I loose whatever fitness I have within weeks.
    Yesterday, I spent 10 hours burning one of the stick piles I stacked up during the summer. They have to be burned while there is still snow on the ground. Today I’m completely exhausted, but I lost 1 1/2 pounds and I know this will help me regain my summer fitness. My suggestion is that you ride more and make it your way of staying fit. If not find something else. At 75 I find it very scary that without exercise my brain turns into sludge. I’m reading though all your books for the third time. I love them!

  15. This certainly resonates with me! I am trying to decide whether or not to sell my little house and move to a condominium. My house needs a lot of small and medium sized things and I spent last year trying to get things done and running into problems which cost more money and delayed the original projects. I got discouraged. But making the list of pros and cons hasn’t really helped. I am trying to “feel” myself into the right decision, imagining myself in the condo, etc. Right now I think I will make the final push to get the projects done – plumbing, massive yard cleanup, junk removal, vermin control (!)and see what I think over the spring and summer. Grace, if you love riding can’t that be your exercise and mind clearing zen type activity, even if it does take half a day? Why not make it the whole day and just relax and enjoy it, talk to other riders, chat with the horses, do some grooming, take a picnic and sit under a tree with a book .. It sounds like a day well spent. If it’s something you love, trying to force yourself into some other “more productive” activity because you “should” seldom works. I say embrace the whole riding/horse/day in the country and use if for spiritual restoration, or thinking, or just being happy.

  16. At 83/‘ after 2 retirements, I know the out of energy devil well. I think it’s important to keep your brain ticking and your great books probably take care of that. BUT it is important to get the physical some regular attention. How about regularly scheduled riding once or twice a week? How about finding a barn closer to you?

  17. I’ve had this discussion with myself, and I opted to take up (equine) driving. The challenges are different but the discussion with the equine partner is very similar (even if the mechanism of half halts is not 😀 ) A horse person is a horse person until they’re room temperature, but I found I don’t have to be on top to get my fix.

  18. Don’t give up riding. Figure out a way to do more of it more easily. As we age we must let go of so much. If riding has the potential to bring you joy don’t walk away yet. All sorts of things become out of reach so fast.

  19. Appreciated hearing about your horse dilemma Grace and seeing pictures of Santa and Delray….beautiful! At 71 I can understand the issue of making energy choices. I hope whatever you choose you will find a way to have horses in your life. My grandfather had a cattle farm in Pennsylvania and raised Cleveland Bay hunters (mostly before I came along…as one of the younger grandchildren). But that farm gave me a love of the country and of horses. I just love to touch them, see them, smell them and hear them. I love the horse knowledge in your books. I am currently educating myself about the plight of the wild mustangs in our country. It is a tragedy unfolding. They are such an amazing beautiful resource. Good luck with your decision.