It was the look of terror etched across his face that first caught my eye. He sat paralyzed, barely able to speak, clutching the horn of the saddle with every ounce of strength he had. His fingers wrapped white as he hunched low over the saddle, uttering to his friend. “No, I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this.” His friend urged him to just give it a try. “Your perfectly safe. I’m right here. I promise I’m right here.”
Again he uttered “No, I don’t want to do this. Please let me get down. Please.” His eyes sought understanding and I recognized that look. The one that says “Please, let me just disappear. Let me go crawl in a hole. Please.”
Again his friend urged him, coaxing him to relax. But fear was winning the round, as his voice raised an octave, he begged to be released from his self imposed prison.
Mere minutes to us, it stretched like an eternity to him. Helping hands reached for him and gratefully he slid from the saddle, darting past the other kids, through the gates of the round pen, heading for the safety of the tack trailer a few hundred yards away.
And my heart broke for him. Because I’ve been there. When fears tentacles wrap their unrelenting fingers around your heart and mind.
I followed him, hoping to offer a word or two of encouragement. I found him pacing behind the trailer, hands beating his head, tears streaming down his face, as he relived his failure. “I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. I’m so stupid. I can’t do it. I’m too afraid. I will always be afraid”
The week before he had fallen off the same horse. In a moment he had been unceremoniously dumped from his mount. And as his body touched the ground, fear settled as heavy as the cloud of dust around him.
I let him talk it out…and when his words were spent I said “But you did do it. You showed up today. Not only did you show up, you got back on that horse.”
He wasn’t convinced. He was certain that in order to claim courage you have to see the whole ride through. That the small steps didn’t count.
But what he needed to learn was that the small steps do count.
Courage is not born after fear has been defeated, Courage is born while fear is still raging. Courage is found in the small steps. Courage is found in the showing up. Courage is found when you sit astride your fear, arms taunt, fingers wrapped white. Courage is in the living and breathing of those first steps.
What first steps are you struggling to take? Has fear kept you on the ground and out of the saddle?
Friend, may I just tell you that the small steps matter. That if the only thing you can do is get up and dust yourself off, that’s ok. If tomorrow, all you can do is sit in the saddle and yet travel no further than the ring, that’s ok too. Courage is in the showing up. Courage is in the first few steps. The rest will follow in time. Be patient with yourself. Be patient with your healing.
Remember….Courage is not born after fear has been defeated, Courage is born while fear is still raging.