They abused their horses; yelled at them, hit them, spat daggers of anger at them, daily.
I was the thirteen year old victim of school bullying at the time, so I smiled when the abusers smiled and I laughed when they laughed. I suppose a part of me must have thought: well, if they do this to horses, what might they do to me. I’d best tread carefully.
And so I did.
I was a mess of crumbling empathy, inside. Those poor horses. They must have been so frightened and so, so confused.
The two women, a Mother and her teenage Daughter, seemed otherwise nice. They had genuine love for their horses, I could tell by the way they spoke their names and stroked their strong, wide shoulders at the gate, as we talked.
Still. They really were rather horrible, to my thirteen year old eyes. That would never be me.
The day my horse bucked me off in the paddock was an ordinary day. Nothing unusual had happened to upset me. No dark clouds threatened to ruin the perfect sky, or my day as a little sad girl, joyously bounding around on her beautiful, crystal pony.
I was up on the horse.
And then I was down.
And my beautiful grey girl felt the wrath of a Brooke I had never ever been.
I screamed at her. I used words I didn’t even think I knew. I purposely chose sentences I had heard the ‘horrible ones’ using. And although I would never have hit her, I may as well have, because when the dust had settled…I felt such remorse. How had that venom lived inside of me? Did I really think all those horrible words about my very best friend?
I instantly hit the self preservation button, blamed the ‘horrible ones’ for making me behave in this way. Without them, I would never have done this. I was a beautiful, kind person, and wise beyond my years I had been told. Until now. Kind people absolutely never did ‘bad’ things.
But, you see, they did, apparently.
Every chemical of panic flooded my nervous system.
‘Horrible me’ had to go under the carpet and she had to stay there, never to be seen again. Only beauty lives here. Only sweet kindness and love.
Today, 26 years later, as I stood in front of the mirror, a flash of feeling came to me, a sludge of shame. And a memory. Of the little girl who had betrayed her own goodness, and tore another beautiful soul down.
Today, I saw the truth of what I had done, and I cried.
My beautiful girl. She had deserved so much more, and I had been capable of giving her everything she had deserved…until the moment I hadn’t.
That was the day I became fully human, imperfect and perfect, all at the same time. I wouldn’t understand this idea until many, many years into the future. Sometimes, I don’t understand it, now.
Self compassion is a beautiful learned skill, and my own has held me well, today. I can hold that silly little girl who really didn’t know any better and I can promise the me I am now that I will better protect my energy in the future.
Too many times I’ve allowed myself to be influenced by others in a way that has been damaging to me, and sometimes to others. I like to think my beautiful pony gave me one of the greatest lessons I’ll ever learn in life, however late I’ve learned it.
It is up to me to protect my boundaries.
It is up to me to choose love, and not the opposite.
And when I slip up and inevitably fail, it’s up to me to love myself enough to find self forgiveness.