Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Back to Grazing

The last few days I’ve been mulling over a journal entry from some years back:

She who dances in the moonlight becomes the lady cloaked in sorrow. Dance the grief…. Oh God, let my heart be pierced, let my heart be opened so that joy may flow once more.
The entry is the record of an active imagination session, a waking dream, that occurred in the aftermath of an emotionally devastating relationship. The grief still haunts me, and there are days when I become pretty much nonfunctional because of it. Lately I can feel myself sliding back into that depression, just when I most need to be alert, alive, and aware of the excitement that a new direction in my life offers me.

Worse yet, this entry seems to represent a kind of pattern in my life. Not just the relationship itself, or its outcome, but the story. I am a closet drama queen. Well, in truth, my friends would probably dispute the “closet” part. I prefer the terms “high-strung,” or “sensitive,” but call it what you will: I seem to thrive on intense emotion, and what better way to keep it alive than by spinning it into the myth of my life?

So, I realize now, I tell myself these stories over and over again, like re-reading Jane Eyre or some other beloved, romantic book. The brave but beleaguered heroine faces poverty and despair, but ultimately triumphs over it all…. So satisfying to read. So uplifting, in fiction.

However, it’s not so uplifting when it’s your own life’s fictions that you’re re-telling. I’m finally starting to get bored with the plot, and it’s holding me back. But I’m having a terrible time changing my habits. It’s not so easy to let these kinds of stories go—not nearly as easy as putting down a book. I think I’m addicted to the melodrama.

I’ve recently been using Linda Kohanov’s The Way of the Horse, which accompanies a set of cards bearing gorgeous images of horses created by artist Kim McElroy. Like “angel cards” or the tarot, these “wisdom cards” allow one can do readings or get advice from the Guides by pulling a card or cards at random. Whether or not the cards one pulls are meaningful depends entirely on one’s point of view. As you might imagine, I use these types of tools pretty much every day.

This morning’s card was #19 in the Horse Wisdom set, “Back to Grazing,” which speaks of emotional agility and letting the story go. Horses live in the eternal present. They remember, of course; but they spend no time or energy re-living the past or worrying about a possible future. When they are frightened or angry, they react. When the moment is past, they let the emotion wash through them, and they return quietly to grazing.

If I could let my story go, I could simply experience the emotion that is actually present in the moment and not re-live the past and its destructive patterns. The story, alas, can just keep playing over and over in my mind, robbing me of peace and energy.

In point of fact, I am not cloaked in sorrow right this moment. Yes, there are times when that is true, and I can deal with those times. But for the most part, I am, in the moment, feeling quite fine, and am often joyful. So, as the Horse Ancestors might advise,

Let the story go, Kay. Let the grief wash through you, and get back to grazing. The world is a salad!

[Cross-posted on It's an Alchemical Life]


  1. Kay, this may not seem relevant, but your entry reminded me of the first line of a novel by Anita Brookner called "A Start in Life": "Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature." I know that probably needs some unpacking, but for now I will leave you with just the quote. Make of it what you will.

  2. Unpack it whenever you want; I think I have a sense of what you mean, but would love to share a discussion with you.