Back in the Saddle

I actually used that phase on someone this week. “Glad to hear you’re back in the saddle”, texted in response to hearing of her return to work after an extended medical leave.

God, forgive me.

It has been two years, eight months and one day since cancer was cut from my body; taking my right breast, a goodly share of lymph nodes, and most of my dignity with it. I am still not “back in the saddle”.

First time back in the saddle after surgery. You can’t tell, but my heart is bleeding all over the place for how hard it is.

Sorry to disappoint. I sure have been disappointed, mostly in myself, for my persistent inability to make things right again, normal again, the same again. The truth is, there is no getting back, not when something ugly-big like cancer or death of a loved one (human or animal) or any of a thousand traumas smashes into your existence. You are just screwed and the sooner you realize that, the better. Letting go, not getting back into, is where any sense of salvation lies. Why isn’t there a phrase for that? “Glad to hear you’re doing well with having your life ripped to shreds”. Not as catchy, did you notice? 

I wish it was easier to talk about this. I wish we were collectively more able to understand that trauma is not a static event; it lives and breathes and insinuates itself into the most incongruent of spaces. For me, it flows in a river of conundrums: I am afraid of wanting too much…what if I am not here to see it through? I am afraid of wanting too little…what if I am wasting the time I do have? I am unkind in my heart when people don’t recognize or value my efforts and anxious when they make too much of them. I am in constant internal dialogue about the worth of my life … when I am not worrying about its bitter end.

It is amazing to me that people still put up with me. For sure, I am amazed that my animals put up with me. It’s why I do so much for them … because they smell my walking-woundedness coming before it even leaves the bed each morning and they stay steady for me, anyway.

I share all of that so you can understand what I am working up to saying about Andante. She is still alive, though healing slowly. We wait and then we wait some more, crawling towards some resolution.


The financial cost of this experience would make your eyes bug out; still, the emotional cost is greater. You see, in a comparison of that mare and me, I am not the higher being.

She is. 

Oh, Andante. She is fierce and mighty, does not suffer fools gladly, and commands respect with a flick of an ear or a sideways stare. The geldings are uniformly in awe of her. Hell, we all are. Andante is her own woman. So the crazy thing is that, since the day I put myself in the saddle on her back, she has done nothing but lift me up — by her choice, not by my worthiness or mastery. She is one of the singulary, most transformative experiences of my life. 

She’s a beauty, even halfway in frame.

I don’t even know who I am, or would be, without her. I don’t want to know. I don’t want more trauma, more loss, more breaking down and breaking apart from the insanely cruel act of having my soul gutted by the departure of a horse that chose me; the imperfect piece of work that I am.  I am whining and bargaining now with the God I deeply question exists. But, I don’t want back in the saddle, I don’t. I want….well, in whatever changed and uneven way may be before us, I just want her with.


Writing about what sings to me from a life made full with animals.

3 thoughts on “Back in the Saddle

  1. Don’t know what to say about this one, Lisa. Glad you were able to pour out your pain by writing. Does your talent ever end?


  2. Thank you for this, Lisa. It is a difficult time of year for many of us, making pain like this even more acute. The rest of the year we “suck it up”; don’t let others – even those closest to us – know how we’re really feeling. Your thoughts make me realize it’s okay to feel the way we’re feeling after going through trauma. It’s okay to have bad days. Again, thank you for sharing. And thank you for all you are doing to help Andante.


  3. I try to be careful about what I ingest these days. In the technology tsunami in which we live, there is so much out there to filter through and much of it is a waste of time or frustrates the shit out of me. But not this. Not you. Good writing, well, excellent writing makes me feel alive, challenges my emotions, inspires me, and makes me think. I might guess it is therapeutic for you to write, but it is most definitely therapeutic for me to read your writing. Not because you are offering “Five Steps to Feeling Perfect After Cancer,” but because you are real. I have to filter through a whole bunch of crap nowadays to find real, both in writing and in people. You offer me a reprieve and I thank you.


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