This morning, I met a good and dear friend for coffee in Carytown. We shared a quiet conversation – in tone and in heart – about loss and the continuity of personality during and after loss. Since my friend and I last enjoyed a really good sit down together, we have both lost someone precious to us. For both of us that someone held decades long layers of our personal history – threads that no one else saw, or felt, or touched.
Over lattes and banana bread, we wondered together: How does loss change our future? Can it also change our past or the way we recall our past? Who are we now?
I am thinking of Albert and his loss. Who is he now?
To me, he’s remarkable. One year after losing his eye, we’re cantering again. He has gamely gone on short trails with me. He is, I have thought for a while now, back to his old self.
I learned, again, this weekend that he is a changed horse. Learned is probably the wrong word; learned implies a completeness and a finality, and this lesson is one that I seem to revisit too often. Maybe, I am learning that like any of us after some kind of loss, Albert is emerging into a new self.
We count on Albert to be calm, steady, and reliable. After all, he taught therapeutic riding for sixteen years. On Saturday, he had a little melt down during a bath when the barn crew pulled the tractor up near us on his blind side.
Looking back, I wonder why didn’t I just unhook him, turn him around, and let him watch the tractor? Instead, using a firm and deep voice, I more or less demanded that he chill out.
A long time ago, a friend tried to teach me to play squash. I am hopeless with eye-hand coordination and kept missing the ball when I swung the racquet. My buddy started yelling at me to relax. “RELAX. JUST RELAX. YOU CAN’T HIT THE BALL IF YOU’RE SO TENSE.” Did that help? No, of course not, yet I think this is the same way I responded to Albert’s tractor freak-out. RELAX, ALBERT. IT’S JUST A TRACTOR. YOU KNOW WHAT A TRACTOR IS; CALM DOWN.
He couldn’t see the tractor, but he could hear it coming closer to us. Clipped into the wash stand, Albert had no way to get his right eye over there to check out the ruckus. Because he is Albert – dependable, quiet, Albert – I expected him to just deal.
But, he is a changed horse.
How have I not changed along with him? Have I been waiting for him to “get back to normal,” instead of helping him create a new normal that considers who he is after the loss of his left eye?
I know it is a bad idea to get yourself into a girl vs. horse situation, so I did eventually end the bath and walk him over to the tractor. He stood there for a minute giving the crew the old hairy [right] eyeball, and he was fine. This situation needed Albert Yoga – not striking a pose, but sinking my heart into a deeper awareness. In the moment, I didn’t find it. Maybe, I have I found a new place inside me that is ready to stretch out to meet the new Albert where he is instead of where I want him to be.