My Dad, bless him, has been a powerful influence in my life.
He taught me to drive, and I marvel at his patience and self-control, thinking back on it. I was apparently unaware that one should slow down prior to making a turn. If it was possible for a Ford LTD station wagon –later used for drag racing, but that’s another story—to corner on two wheels, screeching, well, it did.
When he asked me why I took the corner so fast, I explained that I was worried about slowing down the cars behind me.
While my father has imparted a lot of wisdom over the years, this nugget was a huge one.
“Patti, just forget about that rearview mirror. You look through that windshield and let whatever is happening behind you take care of itself.”
I suspect when you are a parent (because I know it is true as an aunt) there are moments that you are quite certain will be imbedded in the memories of your kids. Big things. Monumental things.
During the first year of my divorce, my sister brought her two kids, then 3 and 5, to the farm. In my heart –without having a clue about the awfulness of Covid to come—I felt this compulsion to make that visit memorable. It might be their last visit there. (And it was.)
We took the Rhino out on the trails. We went down and fed treats to the horses. We played with the dogs, and Jackson ran around and around the house with what appeared to be an endless source of energy, until even Rogi said “Okay, this is pointless, I’m done” and came to sit on the porch. We got those city kids country-life tired. We had a campfire. We watched the sun set from the porch. The next morning I made an epic breakfast. It was lovely. Idyllic. For me, anyway. I checked every box in the Memorable Moments to-do list.
In the cosmic way of memories, I have this feeling they will remember nothing from this visit.
Instead, one will remember with vivid detail some (to them) Memorable Moment where Aunt Patti inadvertently and with great enthusiasm drops the F bomb. The other will recall some inconsequential and random thing I did, or something I said. Potentially unflattering. Okay, almost certainly unflattering.
One of my most colorful memories of my mother, who died when I was seven, was her chasing me down the hallway in our house with the canister vacuum cleaner, half-laughing, half-frustrated, because I was no doubt in her way. I can remember the pattern of the linoleum floor, so imbedded it is in my gray matter.
Memories are just that way.
Windshield time has always been a favorite time for me. While traveling for work gets old, and certainly I’ve had drives that were too long, too tiring, or too much, I like driving.
There was a period of time I did a great deal of hauling a big horse trailer on my own. Taking a horse or two, picking up a friend, hitting the road for Florida or Maine or Canada. But the last several years saw me in the passenger seat almost exclusively. And the past two years, completely on the sidelines.
It was a temporary thing, I told myself, these last two years. A hiccup I’d make up for in the future, on the other side. I couldn’t afford to take the risk. Not even the risk of riding. As anyone self-employed can tell you, and as I like to say succinctly:
“No workee, no payee.”
But when I packed up for the new life, without a horse to ride for the first time in 30+ years, I kept my horse trailer. It is used and small and un-fancy, but it is symbolic of the new pared-down version of me, where things are things to be functional and not too much trouble or requiring a second mortgage. Something that brings peace and a safe place to be. Not too much.
I kept my tack and horse things I thought I would need. Only things I loved. It’s astounding what you accumulate after 40-some years of horsekeeping. I kept size 75 blankets because I decided that the next horse would fit into those, I laughingly told my friend Nicole. I gave away stuff, sold some, donated the vast majority, and when asked if someone could give me something in return, I’d just tell them to think of me when they were enjoying it or giving it to someone else.
God, what greater joy can stuff bring than giving it away?
My dearest friends, the tribe, would ask about my horse situation. Was I shopping?
I told them that all I was doing was putting it out to the universe that I was open. The past two years had shown me, in a billboard sort of way, that certain things should just be handled that way.
Tom’s interest in horses can be summed up by the day I asked him, when we were newly dating, if he might like to help me put ointment in Ace’s eye.
Still, when we arrived in SC with the trailer and dogs and cats and the last of the stuff, and finally napped and lunched and were sitting out on our patio for the first time, road weary and perhaps a little delirious, he started pointing and explaining where he thought the pasture fencing might go, wanting my thoughts.
“I thought you’d like it if you could see your horses from every window.”
Moving two businesses –one growing at a rate I was both excited and terrified about– and a household and purchasing a home and changing a name I’d had for a long time, it was a lot. Too much. Some things could wait a bit.
It was Tom who would remind me about my plans for a horse. In the quietest and most generous of ways. And I would tell him “no workee, no payee.” I had to get the wheels on, everything aligned, and that the horse would find me.
And it did.
Just like I knew, deep in my soul, that it would.
A dear friend, someone I trust, contacted me. She had a back up endurance horse, and it just got moved from second string to third string with another horse entering their herd.
Did I just want to take him for a while, a lease of sorts? No pressure.
He was safe and sound.
What size blanket does he wear?
I met him.
I was assured he could stay where he was as long as needed. Perfect. I had more wheels to align on the business, I wanted to board him for a while, I didn’t want to bring a northern horse to the south during the heat of the summer. Check.
The perfect boarding situation presented itself. Check.
Bought a truck. A black Ram, such that it felt like climbing back somewhere comfortable with an old friend. Check.
Got my little trailer unwinterized after two seasons idle, checked over, power washed, restocked and packed. Check.
And then I hit the road.
I was armed with a variety of podcasts, a couple of audiobooks.
One I downloaded is about Checklists, a sexy topic to be sure, but with my business now growing and my team expanding, clear communication and avoiding human error is getting more and more critical.
The other by a Jungian analyst about finding happiness in the second half of your life, aligning your soul with your true meaning. Eye opening stuff. (No, really.)
“We are not here to fit in…we are here to be eccentric, different, perhaps strange, perhaps merely to add our small piece, our little clunky, chunky selves, to the great mosaic of being…we are here to become more and more ourselves.” ~ James Hollis
And podcasts, loads of podcasts. Interviews with Oprah, Monica Lewinsky, Viggo Mortensen, Kim Kardashian-West, and BJ Fogg, a research scientist from Stanford, talking all about building new habits.
As I accumulated dozens of new habits—mostly tiny ones—they combined to create a transformation. Sustaining all this did not feel hard. Pursuing change in this way felt natural and oddly fun. ~ BJ Fogg
Wisdom gleaned from each, finding myself nodding and saying yes, yes, as I drove and listened, the miles stretched ahead and then behind me.
Of course, I also tuned in to listen to the Bills crush Washington.
On the agenda for the week: time with my dearest friends, some camping, more time with friends, a little work sprinkled in (“no workee, no payee” and I’ve got an ex who has insisted he requires my financial support) and bringing home a horse.
That windshield time, it’s healing in an indescribable way.
Having sat hostage in a vehicle for too many road rage incidents to count, I was traumatized in a way that I didn’t quite take in until I unpacked it later, when I was no longer subjected to it. I was unable to understand why I was on the edge of panic any time I was in the passenger seat with a man driving.
But each mile that passes allows me to exhale a little more.
I’m in the driver’s seat now and I will never allow myself to be subjected to that fear again.
I contemplate saddle fitting and conditioning, and where I’ll ride and with whom. Dressage lessons, rusty as I no doubt am and getting to know a new partner. From scratch. I think about feed, and how to transition the new guy to Purina from Triple Crown, and how I’ll trim his feet and when I’ll think about having him shod, and by whom.
I ruminate on my growing team at PCS, having had speed bumps as we’ve grown and a couple of opportunities to re-assess, and giving myself a pep talk about the ability to choose every single person with whom I work from now on and forever. Without apology. I’m surrounding myself with collaborative and patient people who not only tolerate but appreciate the fact that our role for our clients is tough and challenging and critical. It is, quite literally, life and death for us to get it right. And ironically, almost mandatory that they have a warped sense of humor.
Not everyone is a fit. And that’s okay.
But there is so much fun as well. We started PCS Happy Hours, virtual of course, as our team is in three different time zones, and well, Covid. Sure, we talk shop, but we also talk about our lives and paddleboarding and broken oven doors and painting projects and dating and kids. We laugh and we collaborate and we “rumble” about getting things right for the business. I’m learning tech things and they’re learning safety things, and damn it, it’s exciting.
It was over twenty years ago that this whole journey started.
I’d been laid off by my employer, a manufacturer that got acquired by an international company, a cut across the board. Since I’d just gotten an Employee of the Year award, the layoff rumors didn’t concern me. And then they let me go.
I was hurt, I was furious, I was outraged at the injustice of it all.
My Dad took it all in as I ranted about all of it, a verbal torrent of unpleasant emotion. Blahblahblah … and the manager we all knew was sexually harassing his female employees and how HE still had a job! That pig! I was on a roll of self-righteous indignation.
I was staring right into that rearview mirror. As I drove 70mph into the next chapter.
His words were calm and they were prophetic.
“It sounds to me like it’s time for you to become a part-time overpaid consultant, and a gentlewoman farmer.”
And that was precisely what I did. Well maybe not overpaid … and certainly not always part-time, certainly of late.
I got off track, took a bit of a detour, but I am back on that road, wheels are aligned and my next goals are ‘part time’ and ‘farmer’ again.
A couple of weeks ago, I sat with my dad and reminded him of that life-changing comment he made at a pivotal time in my life.
He has no recollection of saying it, but admitted, laughing, that it was pretty brilliant advice.
No matter. I heard it. For me, it was a Memorable Moment.
The windshield is big and it’s clear and there are a couple of squashed bugs smeared on it, but the road is open and clear ahead of me.
I’m a middle-aged broad with a few miles on me, literally and figuratively, with a new horse and adventures ahead.
Meet Dunkin’. (Because he has a splash of cream on his forehead.)
I’ve got the passion and the energy to share a little bit by writing again.