For one of the group classes at the therapeutic riding barn, we start on the ground standing in a circle. Everybody introduces themselves, and chooses a word that encapsulates their state at that moment, and that word goes on a magnetized white board. We have a number of words on magnetized strips–happy, mixed, scattered, angry, et cetera–but any word is fair game for adding to the board.
Because clients are involved, I pull my punches. If I’m actually steaming mad over somebody cutting me off in traffic, I might choose “distracted.” If my daughter just safely gave birth to a healthy baby, I’ll go with “happy” instead of ecstatic/relieved/worried. I don’t give much thought to this exercise before the lesson begins, in part because the volunteers are busy getting out tack, helmets, boots, and so forth.
This week, I was bustling along the barn aisle with water bottles (each student has their own), when I spotted a stray word on the rubber mat at my feet. “Brave.” Must have fallen off the white board as somebody shuffled it out of the tack room. I picked it up and stuffed it into my pocket. The kids sometimes choose “Brave,” when they’re scheduled for their first ride or coming back after a hiatus. Good word, but my initial reaction was, “Not my word. My life is darned easy, and bravery isn’t much called for.”
But then I got to thinking about what a timid driver I became during the pandemic–me, the queen of the coast to coast to road trip. About how I dread every lab report because the news might be worse than last time. About how artificial intelligence–built largely on literary and artistic piracy–could well put me out of business as an author, and very soon. About climate change…
Maybe brave was the word I was supposed to find that morning. I realized that for those kids to simply say how they feel takes bravery. For the instructors to put the students up on 1500-pound beasties of independent will takes bravery. For all of us to get in our cars, turn on the news, and just go about life takes bravery.
So I listed brave as my word that day–it fit better than I thought it did. I call on my courage more often than I realized, and so do the people around me. Have you seen any bravery lately? Have you had occasion to call up some courage of your own? Did the universe ever present you with unexpectedly appropriate “random” food for thought?
The e-ARCs for Lord Julian’s fourth tale, A Gentleman in Pursuit of Truth, are on their way out the door. If you’d like one, email me at [email protected]. The print version has just gone live on Amazon.