We can do hard things
When you look at pictures on the internet of horse riding instructors, we are often seen standing in the middle of an arena. We are surrounded by students on the rails, and spectators on the outside watching and observing. We stand in the middle of the arena with our hands on our hips, and with a hat or sunglasses on in order to dull the sunlight down to a tolerable level. Our cellphone is either in a case on our hip or delicately tucked underneath our pant line so that it is out of the way. This past Saturdays lesson schedule found me smack in the middle of one of those pictures until the phone on my hip started ringing.
As I stood in the middle of the arena watching my students tracking on the rails, I was calling out instructions to each rider in order to assist in smoothing out the transition drills we were working on. I was nursing a coffee, like I do every morning, during lessons and watching the horses with the acute eye of a trainer looking for embellishments as well as looking for flaws. My assistant was in the barn grooming horses in preparation for our next group lesson we had on the calendar and my dog was asleep under the tree by the arena. If you could have taken a snap shot of this morning, it would be a hallmark moment. My students cheeks were beginning to become a little flushed so I called for a walk break and for them to hydrate, at that moment my phone began to ring.
I walked a few feet from where the students where and answered ... "Good Morning Mom ..." My mother, who is normally a very stoic woman, answered shakily and with obvious tears in her voice "He said he found Cancer ..."
I felt all the air leave my lungs in this moment, as the axis of my world tilted off balance. "What?!?!" I returned in confusion ... "Karlie, she returns with obvious anxiety, I don't know whats going on but he said he found cancer and Im confused and scared. He said he is going to call you in a little while. Please answer your phone." "Yes of course," I return in almost an inaudible whisper. A quiet voice in my head is whispering "What the actual fuck just happened?" With that one word, that one dirty word "CANCER" my entire world just shifted. My moms friend gets on the phone, "Karlie I am going to take her to get some coffee and talk, please talk to the doctor when he calls." "Yes of course" is the only response I have in my word bank at this time.
This one phone call took about 47 seconds to happen, and in that 47 seconds I had to try and digest the news and compartmentalize it and return to work teaching. This is how I process though, I am abnormally good at taking my emotions and putting them into a box on a shelf in the basement of my brain and leaving them there until I need them again. I hung up my phone, tucked in back in the waistline of my breeches, took a deep breath and turned around to look at my students ... "alright if we are hydrated lets head back out and track right ..."
Another forty five minutes of my life has passed as I am wrapping up this lesson. My assistant has walked out to the arena to see if I need anything. I stop walking and look at her, I need you to start this next lesson I tell her softly. She nods and responds "Is everything okay?" "I don't think so?" I return as a question. "My mom has Cancer .." The statement feels like acid on my tongue, as I stop to look at her. She silently nods her head "go do what you need to do."
I turn on my heal and walk away for a few minutes ... I call my brother to fill him in ... and he is stunned into silence as well. We just sit in silence on the phone for several slow agonizing minutes. He finally says okay, call me in a little bit. I am just standing at the edge of one of the horse pastures at this point, not really seeing anything and not really understanding these emotions. Then I feel my phone vibrate against my hip before I hear it ring, I pull it off of my hip and glance down at the screen. Realizing its the doctors office calling, I delicately take all of my emotions and put them back in a box and put that box back in the dark spaces of the basement of my brain.
I hit the green accept button on the face of the phone and answer "Hello ..." To which I hear a response, "Karlie, this is your mothers doctor ..."