Endurance Riding

Nov 28 2011

Be Present.

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I was driving home today, listening to country music (yes, I admit I had Garth Brooks on), when I felt this overwhelming sense of defeat. I can’t tell you exactly where it came from or why I would even feel that way, but I had all these thoughts racing through my mind. I started beating myself up about less than average grades I had received in nursing school. I felt regret for moments I had missed out on with my children because I was “too busy.” I thought about times I had let friends down, and times when I had rushed out the door without saying good-bye to my husband. And then I began thinking about a patient I had lost at work several days ago.

While I have seen many people die throughout the 6 years I have been working in health care, this was the first time I had been the bedside nurse when a patient died. My patient had been stable all morning. In the afternoon, she suddenly crashed. For three hours I was in the twilight zone, working hard to save her, with a team of experienced nurses and two doctors. I knew very little about her – just that she had been a pleasant, easy patient to care for. When I could no longer feel a pulse and the doctor left the room, I could not hold back the tears. Three long-time nurses, two I had never met before, were with me and I was so embarrassed to be crying, but I couldn’t stop. I was consumed by this overwhelming helplessness. I knew there was nothing else we could have done and I also knew that her illness had been caused in part by personal lifestyle choices she had made. Still, to me, she was a human being. Another life who, for a moment, had shared my world. I thought about the mistakes I had made and thought I was just lucky to be alive because I, too, could have been gone as a result of more than one choice I have made.

The day after my patient’s passing, I was behind the wheel with my family in the car, on our way to the grocery store to buy Thanksgiving dinner. I rear-ended a car in front of me. While there were no injuries or damage caused, the driver I had hit was not happy. Inside, I was furious, wondering how he could make a big deal out of nothing when I had just held the hand of a woman while she had died the day before. My husband looked at me, knowing something was wrong. He knew the accident had happened because I had been off somewhere else. He rubbed my shoulder, smiled, and reminded me, “Be present.”

A couple days ago, I took my boys horseback riding into the canyon. The boys had never been riding in the canyon before and while I was ponying Declan, Jakob was on his own with Beauty. I looked at Jakob, who tends to be a day-dreamer just like me, and said, “Jakob, you need to pay attention today.” I told him there were a couple spots on the trail where there were sheer drop-offs. I told him we might run into some dirt bikes or ATVs, which could spook the horses. I told him he needed to be on alert and be attentive to his horse. I told him, “Be present.”

I have a tendency to fill my life up with so many activities it would cause the average person to go dizzy. I often feel I am good at a lot of things, but I am not great at anything. When I do succeed, however, it is when I am fully in the moment. The only thing that stands in my way is me. I am someone who needs to learn to listen more – and not just to my friends, my husband, my children – but to my horse, who often has more honesty than the human.

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