Sunday, December 20, 2015

Horses, Books, and Sanity

by L. R. Trovillion

I'm only sane because I write and I ride. I see that now.

All last year during a particularly difficult period wherein my horses became unrideable, I swore to anyone who would listen that I had bought my last horse. Friends and family smiled, nodded, and disbelieved me. I was speaking the truth. I'd had my heart broken for the last time. I was done.

A week or so ago I accepted the invitation of a friend to ride a horse at his barn. When I arrived and was shown a very tall, red Thoroughbred ex-racer waiting in the cross ties, I asked myself "What woman of a certain age gets on an OTTB when she hasn't slung a leg over a horse in more than a year?" Well, I'll tell you. A woman who has lost a sense of self preservation or one who is sad over having lost a part of herself. After a short ride (the limit for my out-of-shape muscles) I got off, but wasn't ready to leave. The identity of being a Rider came back to me both barrels and ripped open that plugged up place in my heart which had convinced me that riding was a thing of the past, time to move on, close the book. No. I am a rider--maybe not a great one or even a good one, but that's who I am.

Something inside woke up and took notice. That something got plucked once again this week as I was reading Elizabeth Gilbert's work on creative living, Big Magic. In a passage about persistence I read words that leapt off the page and slapped me in the face. She was talking to me. Gilbert likens the creative mind to a border collie dog. You must give it a job--something to do--or it will find  a job you won't much like, such as tearing up the couch. I laughed, how true! But then she hit home, writing about herself: "...if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind)."  I reflected on this. Think of the "creative temperament" here--the many artists and writers who self-destruct. The creative minds that don't create,  destroy. But Gilbert gives those in pursuit of the creative life hope instead of hopelessness. She goes on to explain how creating something gives us an escape. Creating lets us forget for a while our duties, failures, age, backgrounds, enemies and insecurities. Certainly other things in life can do this as well, but by completely absorbing our attention in the act of creating something, for a short and "magical spell" we temporarily relieve ourselves from the "burden" of everyday being.  (And as writers, with our stories, hopefully we can relieve others as well.)

So, back to the myth of the tortured artist. As Gilbert points out, it is not creativity that turns people crazy, but rather not expressing it that threatens one's sanity; in other words, repressing who and what you are. So despite the difficulty, the discomfort, the heartbreak and the fear, I am going to do what I must to safeguard my sanity by being both a Rider and a Writer.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, Lisa. This one touched home. ( And of course also want to know more about the big red TB! ) :-)