Never Give Up

Judith & Latte

Judith & Latte

Sometimes I lay off blogging because I feel like I don’t have enough time to get my words right. The thought of doing what I’m doing now…just going commando in the post window freaks me out. Even just this second, I almost backed up to take out those … because I read a post elsewhere about how annoying and lazy it is to use …

So, yeah. I’m trying to be brave and nekked.

Originally, and probably still for a lot or maybe even most bloggers, I think blogging was like that. Just an organic recording of thoughts, impressions, and ideas. But, I’ve never blogged like that without at least the safety net of enough time to re-order, revise, and re-think. So here we go. Yah, boy!

Sometimes people ask me: What’s with the horses?

Heck, I don’t know. What’s with the baseball? What’s with the cats? What’s with the craft beer and hard cider?

What’s with the ________. Pick a noun. Fill in the blank with one or more of the things that bring you joy, inner peace, and ease.

I love them. Horses are my daughter. My daughter and me.

A million reasons why.

This summer our horse Albert passed away, as blog readers of mine are undoubtedly weary of hearing. In the last five years of his life, nobody rode him much. But, horses, for me have never been all about riding.

And, our friendship, mine and Albert’s, was like a Vidalia onion. Many sweet layers. We liked to visit. Talk. Read together. Share peppermints and baby carrots and Honeycrisp apples. Split the occasional nutrigrain bar. Oh, we tried to like celery, Albert and I. Mostly, we liked to stand around breathing and looking at trees and listening to birds, watching butterflies. Remembering things we did and people we’d met and places we’d been together.

Here’s something I don’t write or talk about much: I’ve been estranged from my biological father for most of my life. We’re episodically connected. Sometimes, we’re all good and, sometimes, we’re ghosts.

The first time I ever rode a horse, I was five years old and living in Boulder, Colorado in 1969. I showed up for the event wearing a mini-dress and patent leather Mary Janes.

My dad and me. Boulder, CO. 1969. A blurry photo of my first ride.

My dad and me. Boulder, CO. 1969. A blurry photo of my first ride.

My father was already at the ranch and had tacked up this big draft horse. I didn’t have very much fun because my little legs were getting chaffed, a consequence of the mini-dress. That my mother let me wear. But, I remember that I wanted to dress up because it was a pretty special thing, getting to ride a horse.

That year I dressed outlandishly a lot. I remember also wearing my pjs to school…a really cute lime green and pink with white polka dot two-pieced number. Bell bottom pants and a sort of peasant top that exposed my midriff. Not practical pjs. I felt like a gypsy wearing them. A gypsy with a pixie haircut.

When we met Albert, my daughter was eight. Her dad and I were going through a divorce. My dad and I were at the beginning of an episode of connecting that would last a few years.

My father also has a love of horses. He helped me buy Albert for Judith. And, he was happy, thrilled to do it. It’s a weird thing to love someone deeply and yet to also be separated from them.

Horses are my daughter. Horses are my father. My family. Me.

See, this post started out with the title ‘Never Give Up’. And, there’s that photo up top with Judith and Latte riding like champs to the jump.

Never Give Up is what I write when I sign copies of my historical novel, Come August, Come Freedom.

Never give up is something that I learn from horses. That’s what I was going to write about. How sometimes, I feel like giving up on lots of stuff because stuff is hard.

Making money to pay bills and help provide for my family is hard. Feeling confident, for me, is hard. Not worrying so much is hard. Maintaining a weight that makes me feel attractive is hard and impossible, really, because, I guess it’s really not about a number but about something inside of me. Sometimes, believing that I deserve the amazing life that I have is hard. Sometimes, being always more or less estranged from my father is hard. And, thinking of not being estranged is very hard, too.

If I hadn’t committed to going without the safety net on this post, I’d take out that whole entire last paragraph because it’s just too…weird and true.

Writing books is really hard!

In fact, right now this very second, I feel like giving up on the one I’m currently writing because sometimes I don’t think I can get the book in my head and in my heart to match the one that’s coming out on paper. I KNOW I can’t or at least not until I have lived longer. Long enough to get better at it. Long enough to think some more and understand something new.

There are some writers who are, like, geniuses. These: Edward P. Jones, Edwidge Danticat, Jacqueline Woodson, Susann Cokal, M.T. Anderson, Maggie Stiefvater, Silas House, Allan Wolf.

Ok. So, here’s another point that I’m tempted to back up the blog and take out that part about the writing geniuses because, really, there are a lot more writing geniuses than those awesome ones that just popped into my head. Plus, I’ve left out the dead ones. But, I’m going to press ahead in this experiment of writing commando on my blog.

Never give up. Yeah, that’s where I started.

Recently, I went out to the barn where Judith rides and observed her in a jumping lesson. I was surprised to hear her trainer yelling, “Don’t give up. You always give up. You have to make a decision and ride to the jump. Don’t just give up.”

I talked to Judith about that later because I wanted to hear if she could feel when she was giving up. She explained to me that each obstacle on a course presents a question and the rider has to decide how to answer. And, she said, that riding with this trainer is helping her see how sometimes she was avoiding the question and leaving it up to her horse to answer for the both of them.

Angel

My pony, Angel

So, okay, also this summer I bought the wonderpony, Angel. In fact, I just made my last payment so she is my pony! Because the only thing that fills the sinkhole of Albert being gone is Angel being here. Really truly.

When our old girl, Blackberry died, we got Biscuit straight away.

And, believe me, if I could’ve bought myself a new grammy in 2007, Ida done it in a heart beat. I’d have danced with the devil all night long for a new grammy. And, come back for more. But. It don’t work that way with grammies. Just with horses and dogs.

My grammy and me at Monticello.

My grammy and me at Monticello.

Anyway, last week, I watched a young rider taking a lesson on Angel. I could tell that she had certainly ridden before, and that she likes riding. Yet, when she approached the jump, she up and quit. Left the decision up to Angel. She dropped her reins and let her legs go slack.

Every time the young rider failed to face the question, every time she gave up, Angel would slow down and evade the question, too.

For sure, Angel took care of her new charge. She didn’t duck or swerve or knock the student off balance. She just slowed down and avoided the little vertical. Because her partner was giving up, Angel wouldn’t take on the burden of the answering the question solo.

That’s where I was trying to get to this morning. That I’m in this peculiar mindset of seeing all these questions, these obstacles in front of me and it seems hard. But, being with horses helps me try harder.

I’m not a jumper like Judith is. Still, I get it. This idea of answering the questions with decisiveness and with your partner.

One of the first times I took Angel on the trail, we came upon a felled cedar blocking our way. We faced a question: jump it or look for a way around?

The thing is. With Angel I do feel confident.

That day on the trail, we didn’t hesitate. We saw the tree and decided, together, that we were going. We picked up the canter and sailed over the obstacle. Question answered. Together.

Never give up.

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14 thoughts on “Never Give Up

  1. “You have to make a decision and ride to the jump. Don’t just give up.” A few other quotes come to mind that float around my head in times like those you describe (which happen a lot more than I care to nekkidly admit):
    “By your stumbling, the world is perfected.”
    “Progress, not perfection.”
    “Living the work and letting go of the results.”

    I’m so fortunate to have you in my life. I know for a fact I am better for it! See you tomorrow. D

  2. Katharine, thank you for those encouraging words. Doubt is such a demon. Thank goodness for good friends & our amazing, creative community & your leadership!

  3. Gigi, this is just so lovely and true. I agree with Meg that you should go commando all the time. I should probably be a bigger person that is not reassured by the fact that others have doubts, but if you have doubts and can produce such wonderful, honest words here and in your books, maybe I can, too! So thank you for sharing!

  4. Meg, my strong girl. Thank you for reading & I’m going to come back to your advice whenever I feel whimpy. So, prob every day. 🙂

  5. I love this post. I hear your voice so clearly, Gigi. My advice: Go commando all the time, my friend. Tucked inside all those random thoughts are the pearls and the reason so many of us adore you. XO

  6. Oh Gigi! Love getting to know you better through your blog. And this line is PURE poetry–so true:

    In fact, right now this very second, I feel like giving up on the one I’m currently writing because sometimes I don’t think I can get the book in my head and in my heart to match the one that’s coming out on paper.

    I’m so glad you didn’t back up and take anything out.

    Never give up indeed. Love to you.

  7. Aw, Holly! Thank you for taking the time to read & comment. I really appreciate your sharing part of your story here. What a lucky horse & lucky you to have found each other!

  8. This resonates with me in almost every way: horses, relationship with my (late) father, family, writing, feeling blessed and often stressed, never give up/challenges, you name it. Blog on, friend!
    P.S.: I kiss my horse every day.

  9. Hi Mary! Thanks for that awesome quote & for your kind words! Yes, my daughter does compete in CVSJA! She went somewhere else last month, maybe the Fairfield Hunt? I can’t keep up. 🙂 would love to talk horses/writing/daughters more!

  10. Hi Gigi,
    I love this post. I just wrote the following quote in my journal, and then your post appeared:
    “A diamond is a piece of coal that stuck with the job.” This was shared by another one of my favorite authors.
    Thank you so much for your stories. I have ridden horses my whole life and I also get the question “What’s with the horses?” They are a symbol of all the important people and moments in your life. They are part of your soul. If you are not a horse person, it’s hard to understand. I am also bringing my love of horses to my writing.

    Did your daughter compete in the CHJA finals (CT finals?) in August (Fairfield Hunt Club)? My daughter rides competitively and the last name of one of the riders in her division was Amateau.
    We are looking forward to reading your new book!

    Happy trails!
    Mary

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