This might become a bit personal. This is a topic that I wish I understood less intimately. When it comes to self-protection, I have TOO MUCH life experience for my age. Considering I was not born in a third world country, but into the middle class of a first world country, and have travelled the world living my dream there is a very clearly defined flip side to that shiny coin, and I all too infrequently talk about it.
I won’t write home about the dark stuff. Unless I really need help. Objectively people see me following my passions and that is true, but they are not in the trenches. They have not been there for the battles. And they did not see how much grit it takes to try and forge a life in another country on your own terms, and not someone elses.
I have been exposed to too many situations which have aroused my survival instinct into overdrive. This has given me a highly developed, over sensitive ability to protect myself when I need to. But it also makes me highly reactive.
Since leaving the dance world last year I have been doing my best to lay low. I have been going out of the house only for work and rarely just for pleasure and reduced my contact with people down to the bare essentials, only the nearest and dearest. I say frequently that my life at this time is my man, my horse, my pets my home and my business… that is all. No parties, no holidays. I do just enough to bring money in the door, to keep a roof over my head, food in my fridge, taxes paid and gas in the car.
I am not trying to be famous. Let me say that again for those who need repition to take me seriously, I am NOT trying to be famous. I am not trying to be a superstar. I am trying to be myself and live my life to the fullest, and to help people who ask me for it. I am trying to develop my talents into a craft and make a living doing it. I would do it for free if that was possible without becoming homeless. But just like everyone I gotta eat. And part of this means putting myself out there. Some reading this might not believe me, and that is fine. To some people, the fact that I have a website with photos of me and my horse all over it, is enough for them to say,
“Look at his ego! He must want to be some kind of big shot. Look, he is wearing a cowboy hat. He is living a fantasy”
If someone had asked me two years ago that I would have a website with MY photo all over it, on Sanson with blogs, and I was wearing jeans and a cowboy hat I would have been the first to say ‘Bullshit’. Ask my Mum, since I was a child I was hard to get a photo done except when I was in ‘performance mode’. I have walked away from performance life and am rather jaded by it now. I just follow the pull of my gut instinct. If my gut says yes, I just do it. It has never lead me wrong, but it has lead me to confront a few wolves in sheeps clothing.
Nobody has directly said these things to me. Maybe because they know my response would unequivocally protect me from their shallow judgement. Nobody HAS to say these things openly for them to affect me. Like a horse, it is enough that they feel these things and like a radio, I can pick up their signal. I can put it together, and already know. The same gift of non-verbal communication which lead me into a dance career and now leads me into horses, is the same gift I can use to test my safety in an environment with people.
And lately… I am not convinced that I am totally safe.
I do not have to have someone hit me over the side of the head to know I am not welcome. I can feel these things, sense them, deduce them. It takes just an ounce of common sense.
I woke up this morning, heavy. The first awareness that hit me as I opened my eyes was exhaustion. Not a good exhaustion from my busy schedule or previous days work. Exhaustion from where I am.
“When am I going to find a place where I can fit in and just be at peace with people? I am tired of having to explain myself to people.”
It has been a long time since I had this support group around consistently. If I am being really honest, not since before I arrived in Poland in 2011, can I remember having a consistent group of people I could bet my next paycheck would have my back. I had glimpses of these groups… but they were fleeting. Being an artist is a transient life experience and the machine churns through people at a rapid rate. Just as I would start to feel like I could trust my inner circle and someone would leave. Or someone would betray.
So when I meet a horse who has been through several owners, several trainers, several homes, and they just do not know what to do anymore... I get it. I totally GET it. I look at them, rub their cheek and say I know. People suck hey? I am not like them. I’ll stand by you if you let me.
I do not like the feeling of needing to protect myself. To have duties to attend to in an environment where I feel hostility, or secrets, or unexpressed lamentations, but needing to walk through that environment, get my job done, and go home and not feel like I need a 20 minutes shower to wash the bad energy off me. I don’t like that. But I have been in that situation. So what do I do?
I protect myself in a number of ways.
– Changing the frequency of communication to people.
A) Blocking out people I have a bad gut feeling about.
B) Reaching out to those I think I can trust, or wish I could trust
– Avoiding places where people congregate and stay together in groups.
-Choosing times of visitation when there are likely to be less, or even better, NO people around.
-Focusing directly onto my job or my work and not opening myself during activities.
Now, replace me with a horse. How is this any different from a troubled horse?
We think we are so different to horses? There is the prey-predator distinction which is well documented and should be studied and understood. But what about the primitive brain? The ancient mammalian brain? All mammals share a basic primitive brain structure that is more similar than it is dissimilar, and this part of the brain is responsible for emotion.
I believe horses are complex creatures who share complex emotions with humans. Dr. Panksepp does a great job of categorising these emotions down into easily identifiable blocks, but it would be folly to follow those ‘blocks’ as gospel when dealing with any living creature. I have seen horses express emotions that are so complex that even I could not totally understand. What if horses have emotional conjugations that are totally alien to a human? What if?
I totally respect a horses desire to protect themselves. Because I recognise my own instincts when they show theirs.
Believe me, the horse who feels the need to protect himself is not always the one who is running like crazy, high tailing it to the horizon escaping. Protection is what you turn to when escape is not an option, and fighting is also a non-option… and yet you are not afforded the chance of absolution or healing or understanding or reconciliation, so the last resort is self-protection.
And there might be someone right under your nose who feels the need to protect himself when around you. Two or four-legged.
Are you paying attention?