I still wear a safety pin (different sizes for different outfits) to communicate my willingness to provide safety for those who might feel threatened or bullied. But I haven’t yet scored the big volunteer opportunity I sought, my piece of transforming the world—a commitment to social justice, environmental sustainability and spiritual fulfillment . . .
. . . and I can't seem to get motivated to do the one thing that has inspired me through tough times--exercise. I walk a few times a week, but I used to run. It's been some time since I made a regular commitment to yoga. My upper body especially needs some strength building. I just can't get off my bum, or can't get off consistently.
I have logged a ton of hours researching volunteer gigs. It turns out there is an occasional need for a photographer and writer, teacher and group leader of some kind (targeting passion work wasn't as difficult as I imagined). I have inquired and applied for about a dozen causes (from the ACLU to a local farm-to-school) that match my altruism. I'm feeling a bit bogged down in what feels like a kind of volunteer speed-dating, looking for a meaningful way to contribute that makes my heart sing . . .
. . . and just like when one contributes to worthy causes to offset taxes, there are dozens of volunteering choices, both big picture (what matters most) and detail (how far/how many hours) considerations. It all takes time, and a good match takes longer. I expected to be doing something big by now.
Because of her interest in those most at-risk an activist-friend told me she will put herself in service of elders. She is looking for both one-on-one care and advocacy opportunities. I admire her clarity. Her second hi-risk volunteer choice turned out to be animals, though she didn't say how she would serve. She’s poised and ready and I have only slightly refocused on my own health and sanity. I have reconnected with my estranged relationships. I am getting back to my art. It turns out worrying and catastrophizing takes a bunch of time. Time that could be spent doing something more constructive, and fulfilling.
So there I was completing applications and background checks, and waiting for updates from unknown recipients. While working and sighing through a day in my office, I finally realize my heart feels heavy. Too heavy. And then a little voice, “You are not full enough to help anyone else.”
Two days later I met Rainy. She's the first horse I ever harnessed, cheek-to-cheek, and "turned out" into the pasture. I found the ad on craigslist, an Arabian horse rescue and education organization a pleasant 30-minute drive from my home through farm and ranch land. Half of the property is devoted to boarding and half to rescue.
I have been attracted to ads involving horses for more than 3 years, different spins on the equine theme, many focused on horse therapy. None were a perfect fit, or maybe I wasn't ready. This group does Arabians. The place is the fulfillment of a vision created by a retired physician and his human resources professional wife. They chose Arabians with purpose.
Arabians have a distinctive eye and nose structure, an epic history as a fast, hardy lot bred for warfare and hunting. They are courageous, stealth and are family friendly. And they are the breed most likely to anger their owners by biting or kicking if they get nervous or anxious due to inept or abusive training practices. It's not a surprise they are the breed most commonly found at kill shelters.
I had neighbors who had horses when I was in elementary school and was on one bareback long before I knew how to ride. My first memory is having their "safe" horse run me through low-hanging branches to knock me off. Through the years I'd find myself on a horse every few years. My sweetie and I have gravitated to horse rides on our vacations, and have spent a few afternoons galloping on the beach. We even spent a long weekend on a trail ride in Central Oregon--still my favorite vacation of all time. Galloping through the woods after one of the dogs busted open a hornets' nest, and on the prairie singing the theme to the 1960s western drama, Bonanza,;even swimming in a mountain lake on horseback. There is even a barn a few miles from our home where we often go to snuff on horse noses.
Now, on Wednesday mornings I love on horses. I feed and harness and turn them out and then I clean their stalls and make sure they have lots of water (amazing upper body exercise). Once those that have been mistreated are given good food, safety, kindness, a place to rest and a place to be outside (and are filled up), they transform. He stood swaying at the pasture gate the day I met Mr. Clover. Small and slightly dapple on white, he looked pretty awful, matted mane and a goopy eye, like no one ever loved him. He shied away from my offer of touch. A week later when I saw him, he only swayed at the pasture gate when he was tired at the end of the day, and he let me touch his nose. Today he ate apple slices from my hand.
As for me, mostly good signs. I'm regaining my positivity, breathing without deep sighs, laughing some, making plans. I’m getting unstuck from my position swaying at the gate. I am filling up before I go out and save the world (or at least my little part of it). If you’re still climbing out of the hole, I highly recommend it.