Buck

Some days I can’t make it through a door. I more or less ricochet through it, misjudging the opening and veering too far (usually) right. I’ve got long arms and I’m forever banging my knuckles into door frames.

I watched a documentary last night called Buck, about a horse whispering trainer who travels the country giving clinics, and I see something of myself in those unruly colts. The running into doorframes bit is part innate clumsiness (the mother of my childhood best friend would tease me by setting a bar of soap by my plate at the table because undoubtedly, I would spill something) but also the exposure of an emotional reality. A recalcitrance. Call me kooky, but my stubborn streak—not unlike the boundary-testing of a certain almost two-year-old—shows itself in my inability to make it through a door unscathed. I have set my path. I will not adjust my trajectory. I will pay the bruising consequences.

Horses are highly sensitive. They can be skittish and reactionary. Buck (Brannaman) talks about the way they read humans, read our minds in a sense. That you can tell what kind of human being a person is by looking at their horse. In one instance, a neglected colt brought to one of Buck’s clinics lashed out at the man attempting to ride him, biting his chin to the bone. There’s a striking scene in which Buck talks to the owner of that horse. He’s talking about the horse, but he’s really talking about her—and she knows it. There’s no malice in his words, no judgment. He has the sense to tell her what he sees so that maybe she can start making better choices. Later, speaking to other participants at the clinic, he says, “That horse was a mirror. All horses are a mirror of your soul, and sometimes you might not like what you see in the mirror, sometimes you will…One of the biggest challenges of a horseman is to control your emotions.”

For practical purposes, this is where I swap out horses for children. This is where I only slightly alter the quote to say, “One of the biggest challenges of a parent (or a spouse, or a friend) is to control your emotions.” I feel like I could go a half dozen directions with this. Let’s start with Jonah as a mirror. The things he says. Many he hears me speak or picks up from my attitude. It can be startling and downright embarrassing to hear yourself parroted. Especially my disagreeable side. The way he can make himself sad enough to cry (uh, got that from me too). Yesterday he did not want to go to church, and he convinced any part of himself that might have wanted to go that he didn’t by repeating over and over, “But I don’t want to go to church” in front of his bedroom mirror with a very sad face. Soon, he completely believed what he was saying; his face was truly sad and real tears began to fall. He seemed almost surprised by this. “I am crying real tears!”

As I try to finish up this post, I sit outside Gabriel’s room. It’s almost 10:30 and he still isn’t asleep. Any attempt I make to shut the door a whit or quietly sneak off to get myself ready for bed is met by either “Door!” or the pitter patter of his stocking feet as they run to see where I’ve gone. Not sure where to go from here. I’m no good at giving in. G and I, we keep bucking each other, in our silent ways. He will stay in his bed if I stay at the door, but that doesn’t mean he will sleep. I will not bring him to my bed, but how I need to sleep. So John, with his superhero elastic powers, steps in. He takes G to his bed again and stays inside the room. He may have crawled in the crib for all I know. I feel silly sitting here in my queen-sized bed alone. The child needs what the child needs, after all. Still, I will not move, though I will let someone else move for me. The adjustment is mine to make, but I freeze at the thought of giving an inch.

Somehow hope finds her way, even here. Maybe a scrap of humility can hobble my recalcitrance. Long enough for me to get on with things.

To quote Buck Brannaman, “I’m still on the move, I’m still getting better, I still want to be a better horseman. I’ve learned so many things and I thought orignally I was just going to be there to get a colt started, figure out how to be a little better cowboy. That’s what I thought it was about. Come to find out that wasn’t what it was about at all.”

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