There is this thing I do with the horses. Most of the time, they roam as a herd sharing — or demanding — personal space at liberty. But, there are times when I need to manage their space, when I need them to hold together, to pay attention, to cooperate. Then, I tell them to “pony up”. It means they must put aside their usual boundaries and let me direct them, for example, “Loosa, Legs, and Beamer, stand aside. Andante, go through the gate and make room for them.” It is a giant, albeit temporary, shift in their way of being.
It is November 28th today and I have been in the constant and close company of family, friends, and quite a few strangers since November 7th, the day of my surgery. Some of that togetherness was fully and happily planned; much of it was not. As a person who spends a heck of a lot of time by herself, it was a giant shift in my way of being and truthfully, it challenged me — until I cogged on to the value of telling myself to pony up: to ease my personal boundaries and to let someone else call the shots.
Kate was my first teacher. Now, there is no kinder soul on this Earth than Kate and I am fortunate to call her my sister-in-law. Kate came down to help us for the week of surgery. In addition to having me on her hands, during that time, we had not one, not two, but three puppy-related emergencies. Those are things I’m supposed to handle. Kate wouldn’t let me. In her own kind-Kate way, she backed me off, sat me down, and showed me that things can work out just fine with me on the sidelines. Marco believed her. He shifted his allegiance to her leadership and started herding me around like flock.
Monroe knew, too. Wearing a cone and woozy on pain meds for her stitched-up eyelid, she still knew who was keeping order to the space of things.
The last night of Kate’s visit I landed in the hospital for what would be five days with a post-surgical infection. I hate hospitals. I hate the lack of boundaries, the feeling of entrapment. I suck at being in the hospital. Nobody cared. So, I ponied up more. I let nurses and doctors take over. I took directions, followed orders. I was not perfect, but I was not the opinionated, bolt-of-lightening person I tend to be under stress. Luckily, my sister Kim arrived the day Kate left. Kim is a professional take-charge person. She is the first born, so she comes by it honestly. Kim ran the household, letting Gordy focus on me. No one asked me how to do anything. It wasn’t my job anymore, for the moment. Pony up, Lisa.
My sister Julie arrived the day I was released from the hospital with a mini picc-line in my upper arm and fourteen days of IV antibiotics on deck. This was supposed to be our sisters altogether, sitting on the porch drinking margaritas time. Instead, it was hook Lisa up to her IV pole and then go vacuum the house (among other things) while she drips. I had new leadership and they were vigilant. I gave in more. I followed orders and let them tell me what to do — okay, well mostly. I did get my way on some things.
I hope Kim and Julie think I was a better version of myself than I might have been. I hope they felt me step back, let them in, let them be the ones to order space for me. We were all still talking to each other by the end, so that’s a good sign, right?
Kim left, Julie stayed a bit more and Donna joined us. Donna is our daughter-in-law’s mother, but mostly I want to think of Donna as my friend. Donna is also a nurse and wasn’t fazed a bit about the need to step in and take a leadership role. Dropping Julie off at the airport coincided with an IV session, none of which I needed to problem solve. Donna and Gordy coordinated and I ponied up — in this case, with orders to sit curbside in the airport parking lot. I believe in your leadership, Donna.
I have a harder time talking about the next part, but it is a part of this tale, so I will tell it. Donna left on Tuesday and the next day, I got sick. Very sick. It’s a thing that can happen when a person is on strong, long-term antibiotics. This time, Gordy was in charge. Gordy was my leader and every ounce of me that I could give over to him, I did. Gordy made everything happen that was supposed to happen: The trip to the Emergency Room, the ambulance transfer, the sepsis alert care, finally, finally handing me over to the hospital for admission in the wee hours of the morning. Everyone else was in charge. I was in charge of nothing; not even my own body would listen to me and in this, I felt the sharp reflection of myself and how letting the barriers down, letting people in, letting people care and care for me was a life line, a literal life-line. I could not do this myself. Pony up, Lisa. Pay attention. Cooperate. Let someone else hold the space together. There is a higher order to this.
Another five days in the hospital, but I am home now, no longer tethered by my veins.
I am beyond grateful for the good care I received, for the attentiveness of strangers who, in the undertaking of their duties, went out of their way to be kind and connected to me. I feel lighter, like a weight has been lifted. I have dropped the interior mantle I wear that decrees that I must be in charge, I must know what to do, I must order things for others. I don’t. Sometimes, the most valuable thing I can do is shut up and pony up… and I learned that from my horses.
Sorry for the length of this post. I hope it makes sense. I am still recovering and my head is not right, but I wanted these words to go out and be real. To everyone on Facebook and elsewhere in my life who sent healing thoughts and prayers, I thank you. I felt it and it mattered. To Kate and Kim and Julie and Donna — oh my god, thank you! I am a better person because of all of you. To the nurses and doctors at University of Florida-Shands, who may never read this, I thank you. You excel at what you do and I am a grateful beneficiary of it. And Lynde, thank you for holding space for the horses. It’s a crappy picture, but I caught you bringing the horses in yesterday, just after I came home. They follow you because you are a good leader. Thank you.
And mostly, oh my heart aches, mostly, thank you to Gordy. I have always felt like I could not survive without you. Now it is a bright-white truth branded across my soul. I would not have survived without you. All my imperfect love to you, my beloved.