I'm enjoying watching River's daily progress. She's working on her crawling technique and is figuring out how to directly get to places. It used to be that if she saw something and wanted to get to it, she'd just roll her way there, but now she has perfected the commando crawl. She uses one leg and one arm, looks like an injured soldier crawling to safety, but it gets her places quite quickly.
She often just sits and stares at me (or at Koryn or Jason or strangers), and I wonder, not what she's thinking, but how. She has no words, no vocabulary to wonder about specific things, but she looks at me so contemplatively. I wonder if there's a way to wonder in shapes or actions. Must be like a dog. They have no vocabulary, but they make it clear when they're thinking about dinner. But the thinking about, wanting something specific, I can understand: wa, I want food. Wa, I'm wet. Wa, I'm bored. Big grin, I'm happy to see you. Big grin, you're funny. Big grin, for no particular reason I'm happy. But it's the wondering that leaves me totally perplexed.
K, better stop thinking about it or my brain's going to explode.
I've experienced sadness about my accident for the first time. Not a topical, "yeah it sucks what happened to me" kind of sadness, but a deep, poignant, woeful kind of sadness. It started over the Fourth when I became sad that I wouldn't be a good role model for River. Then it made me think about and miss the actual feelings of riding: the moment an exceptional half-pass begins, rocking the weight back on the hindquarters and preparing for an extension, knowing the power is coiling up and ready to explode, the feeling of damp, warm muscle as my hand slaps a neck in appreciation. Then it extended into teaching. A horse was having a problem and Koryn wasn't around; boy, did I just want to get on and figure out what was going on. Then yesterday, as I sat teaching and watching the girls on their horses laugh and joke when two nearly collided, I realized the social aspect of the life I'm missing out on. It nearly brought me to tears.
I feared that this sadness would settle in like a disease that's been dormant, realized that I'd never taken the chance to be sad about it. At first I was utterly confident that with some hard work, I'd make a full recovery, so I wasn't upset, just absorbed in the process of recovering. After four years, I realized I was sacrificing a great amount of enjoying what I can do now in my obsessive efforts to become what I once was, so over the course of a few weeks, I gave up that idea and decided to simply be happy how I am now, never bothering to mourn for the person I was laying to rest. When the deep sadness appeared, I thought, "Ok, now comes the mourning" and prepared myself for the depression that people were certain I should have experienced at the start. But the sadness was, and continues to be, a fleeting visitor. It's made a handful of appearances since the Fourth but hasn't lingered.
Yesterday as I was lamenting the loss of the socialness of what I lost, River was sleeping in my arms. She moved, and when I glanced at her, the sadness ran away with its tail between its legs. I'm sure this poignant sadness will continue to appear like getting a jab in the side, but having River in my arms, in my heart, will eliminate the possibility of it settling in.
Last week was the Courtney King Dye Horse Mastership Week of the Emerging Dressage Athletes program at gorgeous Riveredge Farm owned by John and Leslie Malone (the owners of my Olympic horse, Myth) and run by Scott and Susanne Hassler. The Hasslers are quite amazing... let us take over the incredible facility and impose on their business, provide ten stalls and houses for the kids, let us use the lecture rooms, take over two arenas, arrange tours of the breeding and therapy places. Scott even gave a full day out of his rigorous schedule to teach and lecture. Many people donate their time: the trainers; Scott, Lendon, JJ Tate, Michael Barisone and me. The organizers; Jann Clark , Judi Gilsdorf and Susanne Hassler. The tours and demonstrators; Paul Loomis of Select Breeders Services, Bruce Jackson of Fair Hill Therapy, Richard Malmgren. Plus the many mothers who arranged lunch for everyone daily.
Although Koryn is now too old, 22, all the trainers do me the personal favor of teaching her.
Lendon astounds me. What she did for me personally is quite amazing, but her generosity in her efforts to help our country floors me. If the U.S. wins gold in the Olympics in eight years, the president should write her a thank you note.
Lendon and River got to meet each other last week, and, as you can tell by the photo, they mesmerized each other. Jason handed River to Lendon and Lendon said, I don't do babies, but forty-five minutes later River was still happily in her arms.
It went till Sunday, but I had to leave on Saturday because I had to be at the Millbrook Horse Trials luncheon to accept the Charles Owen Equestrian Role Model Award. The award is a $5000 donation to the charity of the winner’s choice, and it’s given to someone who’s had a positive effect on horse sports. Of course I chose riders4helmets to receive the money because I’ve always said if my accident saves one life, it makes it seem worthwhile, but r4h broadened the impact my accident to save many. Silva Martin presented the award to me and I told her it was perfect that she was on the stage with me because in a way, we were winning the award together. People often email me saying that they were wearing a helmet due to me and it saved their life, but no one else ever hears about them. But Silva's accident was widely publicized, so she showed the world that helmets can save lives. I showed what can happen when you don’t wear a helmet, and she showed how to avoid that fate.
I've written so much lamenting my inabilities and expressing my sadness over what I can't give my daughter, I think it's time now to think of the good things I can offer her.
I'm patient. The first night we got home from Portland, River struggled with the time change and wouldn't go to sleep. Jason was struggling too, and after an hour of picking her up and trying to put her down again, he was through, so although I was like a walking dead person, I went into her room to do what I could to comfort her. Although I couldn't pick her up, having my face in touching distance from hers as she lay in her crib entertained her, and singing to her soothed her. After nearly two hours, a contented mother left a sleeping daughter.
I'm a good watcher. When she's three and constantly says, "Mommy, watch me!", my eyes won't waiver. Even now when she's on her jolly jumper, she often looks over and when she seems I'm watching, gets very excited and starts leaping around again.
I have a healthy outlook on life. Even now, when she wants to be upset, a smile will force its way out. When she opens her eyes from sleep, a smile is soon to follow. In that regard, I believe I am a good role model.
I needed to come to terms with the anguish of my inabilities, but it feels good to have them digested and be able to enjoy the dessert of my positive attributes.
I was very worried that as River became more active, I'd lose my usefulness because how I've been able to care for her thus far while Jason works is having her sleep on my belly. Although her extra pounds are a challenge, now I'm feeling good about continuing to help, though. Some things are just easier, like now that she has more neck control, I'm able to sit her in my lap and read to her. And some things we're just finding a way around. For instance, we're converting my room of inspiration, aka the gym, into a play room. We'll baby gate the doors and put a big rug down so she can roll or crawl around and around, and we'll arrange a chair, cushions, handle bars, whatever I need so that I can take care of her. (other than the dirty diapers!)
Yup, we're figuring things out.
“Courtney’s Quest” has been released!! It should be available on Amazon in a few days and I’ll post a link when it is.
I’m doing a book signing during a clinic I’m teaching in Portland, Oregon, next week, and I have to say, I rush ordered copies for that before I did my final draft and have found a few insignificant but embarrassing mistakes, like leaving the “e” off “courage” and using the word “meet” instead of “meat”. I really wanted to have books to display and I hope that the Portlanders will feel that having Righty do his damndest to sign my name makes up for a few spelling errors!
Although I’ve been anxious to have it finished for the last month and it feels fantastic to have a three-and-a-half year project culminate into a tangible object, I must admit that completion brought a bittersweet sensation. I always need to be busy, and I thought having a daughter would eliminate my fear of boredom, but there are still her many catnaps and I’ve become very cognizant of making sure she doesn’t become tired of my ugly mug! I thought I’d take up painting again, but painting requires solid chunks of uninterrupted time. The great thing about writing, although it can be hard to tear yourself away from it, is it doesn’t get ruined if you leave it. In reading all my old journals for information for my book, I found a great many poems I’d written over the years, and my idea (which I may or may not do) is to put them all together, add a few and make a book out of that. We'll see!
Look, I have teeth!
I didn't get to go to my book club meeting because I'd had a bad night (I still have trouble sleeping), but that's ok because I can get the book they're reading and be able to contribute next month. If I even go! A girl I knew long ago emailed me and we're meeting up for a play date with our daughters! I actually don't have any free time before August 12 but I'm excited. And I'm going to call the hospital where I gave birth and see if they can recommend a mothers' group because that's of more interest to me. I found one that's perfect, meets for dinner or coffee, just a bunch of ladies chatting, but it's an hour away. So sad.
Meanwhile River's making exceptional progress. She's getting teeth (which she's handled stellarly), is rolling over from back to belly and from belly to back, and the pediatrician was very impressed with her strength in every regard. She's in the 95th percentile for height and 75th for weight.
Although I want to do everything with her, I'm coming to accept that I can't and am simply lucky that I'm surrounded by people who can. For instance, she LOVES the outdoors; it always makes her happy, and what I loved as a child that my mother did with me was critter catch. We'd turn over dead logs and catch salamanders, trudge through the woods and catch snakes, toads, turtles and crayfish. I can't do it, but Uncle Gib can and lots of Kiwi cousins.
It's fun to watch her progress. I'm processing and coming to accept my limitations, and what I said when I was pregnant is true: sadness over not having a child at all would be far more painful, and that knowledge is more profound now that I'm a parent.
I just realized I should have been clearer. I have some excellent friends nearby: Jason, Koryn, the owner of my farm Clair, Lendon, some old clients Francine and Kathleen... simply no one close by enough or free enough to hang out with often. I do go to ladies' dinners at Clair's but only about every two months. I love my friends dearly and know they love me, so I don't feel lonely, I'm perfectly happy. I just know I need to broaden my life to take the burden off my daughter. I deeply appreciate the time I get to spend with her, I never want to be away from her, I just know it's unhealthy for her to have mummy all the time. Besides, she may get sick of me!
We had a fabulous Fourth. We stayed at my Dad's cottage in Northern Michigan, and it was so special to have my large and loving family shower my angel in adoration.
I want to thank everyone for their notes of encouragement and support in my moment of despair. Hearing such reassurance was like a warm blanket on a cold night and as normally happens with me, once I digested the knowledge that more things are beyond my capability, I accepted it and was fine. I was initially fine with being unable to do the big things because I'd prepared myself for that, but realizing I couldn't do some of the smaller things was a shock to the system. But once I gave my mind a chance to fully process that realization and reflected on some of the good traits I possess which many of you kindly reminded me of, I was fine. One lady wrote to me that she had to send her kids away in order for her to recover. It broke my heart. At least I'm able to watch River grow.
I have my first book group meeting tomorrow! A couple people also suggested a new mothers group which I think would be fabulous idea, but unfortunately I couldn't find one near us. There's no way I could ask Jason to drive me an hour to have dinner with a group of ladies!