My best psychotherapist so far is a horse.
You might wonder how horses can be therapists since you can’t lay on the couch in their office and answer questions about what you’re feeling inside, or allow them to dig through your past. Instead, you put your hand on their fury cheeks and look them in the eye. There is no need to talk. They already know everything; they can sense your fear, sadness, happiness, confidence and everything in between. They are pure love caught in a massive, powerful fury body.
Just before the summer of 2014, I decided to move from Europe to the States for good to be with the love of my life, consequently giving up my career at home, my car and my horse. A few days before we were supposed to leave for vacation after a whole summer of work, he dropped me off at our house to have some alone time and never came back. The following morning I saw the sheriff’s car driving up the driveway. My world collapsed in the next minute. The one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with had been in a fatal car accident.
Those who have lost someone significant know the emotions that come with it: I lost my ambition and the will to live; I stopped taking care of myself; all I could think of was dying. Whiskey and rum were on my daily breakfast menu, and I drank until I passed out in tears day after day. Waking up in the morning felt like punishment. I was still breathing although I prayed every night not to wake up again. I was defeated by life.
Eventually, I decided to move back home to my parents and friends. Going to the things I knew seemed like the only way out. At first I was afraid of seeing my friends again. I didn’t know how they would react and I didn’t know how to respond. I stayed home and read books about spirituality, mostly because I wanted to know what happens after we die.
I needed answers so I found meditation. Or, better said, meditation found me. Answers came clear and I finally found some peace inside myself. Newly educated about afterlife, I knew my darling is as safe and happy as he can be.
One day I was driving home thinking about him when I got mad at myself and the fate that life had planned for me. In an outburst of anger I yelled: “Fine! You win!” If I have to be stuck here on this planet breathing and living I will have it all, I thought. I want to feel it all: I want to laugh, I want to taste, I want to be happy, I want to be sad, I want to feel insecure, I want to be afraid, I want to be uncertain, I want to feel adrenaline, I want to touch, I want to smell… I want everything I won’t have after I die.
We all have a reason to be here but we don’t all realize what it is until something turns our world upside down. Unfortunately and fortunately, tragic events—losing a loved one, a job, a relationship—often bring us closer to finding the meaning of life. Eventually, we all tend to find our life mission. Meanwhile, there are lessons to be learned and accepted.
After a while, I decided to reconnect with my fury friends and get back in the saddle—literally. My friends let me ride and take care of their horses since I don’t have my own anymore. Paddington is a tall brown gelding who loves to put his muzzle full of sawdust right on my neck and breathe into my ear. When he feels like I need a hug, he wraps his neck around me and lets me pet his chin. When I am feeling down, he rests his huge head on my shoulders. Every time I try to leave after petting him he bites me softly, asking me to stay. The first time I got back on the saddle was the first day in four months I could honestly smile.
My psychotherapy was remembering what it’s like to love and be loved. No stranger, specialist, friend or relative could have gotten as close to my frozen heart as Paddington has. Joy for life doesn’t seem so far away anymore. I now think about living, not dying. My breakfast is healthy. Horses have helped me laugh again and meditation has given me directions to light.
Each one of us has a sanctuary that reminds us of who we are and why we came here. Whether it’s music, dancing, painting, biking or walking, it’s often simple and right next to us. For me, it’s horses. In the toughest times, we see these things as a light in the dark. They are essential nutrients for our soul, no matter our circumstance.
Author: Eva Wolf Mlakar
Editor: Caroline Beaton
Photo: Haley J Schrimpf