Someone I love, a really good friend who also rides, says to me from time to time, "If only I could see what you see in me, understand how you see it." If only she could.
I think my friend was taught to apologize for herself at what must have been an early age. Some life lessons -- mostly the bad ones -- when learned during childhood and youth prove almost impossible to shake off and discard. My friend's self-esteem withdrew to a safe distance, hidden behind the need to silence her own voice because someone, sometime, either didn't want to hear it or didn't care when it spoke. The particulars of that don't matter. Any time life asks us to erase a part of our identity, we are forced upstream against our nature and left to sort out the side effects even as we discover them. That's harder when you're young.
In spite of that, kicking around in my friend was a vital being hungry for expression and release. Some people would dial the volume down on that hunger, or console it with substitutes. Others might ascend to the shallowest level of themselves, choosing to live there in a deceptive kind of peace.
Passion is a force strong enough to pull us free if we are lucky enough to find it and brave enough to accept its calling. My friend found the voice of her passion in horses, and she had the drive to listen, the heart to listen to what that voice compelled.
I don't know all the facts, like how many years she rode before getting her first horse, how many horses she had before finding the treasure she's owned for more than a decade. But I know that all along the path, she battled against that deep-seated need to diminish herself by negotiating for her right to have horses in her life. In the end, she could only give herself what she needed.
Recently, I have watched my friend discover her identity as a rider. The toughness with which she protected and nurtured her love of horses and riding is the same toughness that has brought her finally to the verge of self-acceptance. There, her skills will shine even brighter than they already do.
It takes guts to have what you want when life has put you down. It takes wisdom to recognize that the very thing you want is also the one thing that can help you get it. It takes simple love to not see the one corrupted by the other. All this I see in my friend and in the horses who accept her voice as a trusted guide. How can I not stand in awe of her?