I knew that I was completely over-reacting; my disappointment was disproportional to the actual events that were unfolding. I was absolutely convinced that our summer was ruined. In June, most of my family got COVID, which meant that we couldn’t go visit our son in Michigan. For months, I’d been looking forward to seeing him perform in Mamma Mia. When our trip got postponed, I realized it was the only fun thing I had planned for myself all summer. This felt pathetic and ridiculous; how was it that watching my kid do something neat was going to be the highlight of my summer?
Why didn’t I have more fun stuff in my life? Who was in charge of planning that? Oh, that’s right: me.
I’d made sure the twins had fun things on the calendar, but I guess I was waiting for a mysterious fun czar to handle this for me. I looked around at my family and felt alone in my lack of delight. The big kids are in college, so merriment just finds them. Bryan had multiple exciting trips planned; he wasn’t sitting around hoping someone would give him permission to enjoy his life.
Once I’d decided that I needed more fun in my life, I made a list ( I’m so fun! I make lists!) of things I’d been wanting to do or new things I could try that weren’t directly tied to me being a mom. Yes, watching my kids do stuff is enjoyable, but surely I could think of some things outside of my family. I wrote at the top of my notepad, “That sounds fun…” and waited for the inspiration to flow.
It turned out to be a real head-scratcher. I literally walked around asking myself, “What sounds fun to you, Anna?” It took me at least a week to come up with some ideas. At the top of my list was horseback riding, which I love but only rarely did as a kid. As an adult, it’s been something I only do on vacation. So, I asked around and found someone who does lessons nearby and made plans to meet her at her farm.
When I told my family about my new adventure, one of my twins commented that she’d always wanted to ride and asked if she could come, too. My husband mentioned that we have friends with horses and we could all go out to their farm together. I practically yelled, “This isn’t a group project.” My hunch that I needed something just for me was confirmed in that moment.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love my time on the horse. I love the stables, the saddle and gear, the gorgeous mares, the connection I feel with the horse, the joy of going from a walk to a trot to a canter. The focus riding requires and the need to stay in my body transports me to another realm. I protect my lesson time like I used to protect my kids’ nap time: it’s renewing and sacred and very, very important to me.
But I also feel apologetic about my riding lessons. When I tell people about my new hobby, I usually say, “I know it’s ridiculous..” and then overshare about why I’m riding. Perhaps it’s because lessons are expensive and riding feels a bit “to the manor born,” but y’all, I spend maybe four hours a month on a horse. That’s less time than I spend in the grocery store. My husband is currently on a week-long kayaking adventure and he doesn’t feel the need to justify his hobby.
It might just be part of being a mom or it might be my personality, but I need to stop apologizing so much. At my first lesson, I apologized multiple times to the instructor that I didn’t know how to ride better—that’s why I was there! I also apologized to the horse as I was making her turn because I was worried that I was hurting her feelings. Why was I being so mousy?
I learned pretty quickly that my being timid just confuses the horse. They need to know that someone is in charge and that someone needs to be me. I’m in charge of the horse; I’m in charge of me; I’m in charge of my own joy.