I turned fifty seven on June 4th and my birthday wish was this: to work less and play more. I promised myself I’d continue my transformation from human doing to human being by reducing my To Do list and taking more time for the things I enjoy. In short, I vowed to become a sub-optimizer. More of a ninety percenter than a hundred percenter. The kind of person who knows when to say, “enough!”
To support my transformation I’ve started riding again. I’ve got my new friend Peg to thank for this. We had never met but her husband gave me her number and we set up a date over the phone. Before I knew it, Peg was helping me tack up her beautiful Mustang mare, Hailey and we began riding on a regular basis.
Riding is one of those things you don’t realize you need until you do it again. Akin to how good it feels when you stop banging your head against the wall. Sure, my life seemed healthy and balanced, but it was lacking some of the luster. It was only after I joined up with Peg that I knew I had been suffering low level disgruntlement for some time.
It isn’t just the riding. It’s the horses, the camaraderie, being out in the woods noticing new plants and animals, telling stories and jokes and sharing tick attacks. It’s about taking time for myself. That smell of dried horse poo on my shoes is proof positive that sometimes I come first.
A couple of rides ago, Peg and I came across a tiny albino white tailed deer. It was magic and special and I would have missed it had I not gone riding that day. Deer have long been my personal talisman, so I took it as a sign. I declared Albino Bambi the symbol of my new role as sub-optimizer.
On that particular day I had abandoned my To Do list. I was going with the flow in a brave departure from the norm. Bob was hosting an all-day board retreat at our house so I packed the car with anything I thought I might need and began looking for something fun to do. I wandered next door to see if Haruka fancied a walk in the woods. I didn’t find Haruka so I called Janice and found that she was of the same mind so I met her at the college walking path.
Janice and I walked twice around the loop, talking about everything under the sun and enjoying every minute of what was turning into a spectacular day. When I got back to my phone, I had a message from Peg, asking if I was up for a ride. I congratulated myself for packing my riding gear and called to say, “I’m on my way!”
As we rode, I told Peg how I had left my To Do list at home because I was becoming a sub-optimizer and that’s about the time I saw a small blob of white fur on the trail. At first I thought it was a dead white cat but when I got closer I saw the telltale pattern of spots. And as we rode past, the tiny critter stood up and wobbled off into the undergrowth.
The day continued along that way with me taking advantage of every situation. I called Amy and found she was thinking about driving to the craft store so I jumped in. We enjoyed the drive and bought all kinds of fun things, including a couple of cool plastic zebras which I couldn’t resist. When Bob called to say the retreat was over, he said there was enough leftover food for dinner. “All this, and I don’t even have to cook!” I thought, “Wow!”
The image of Albino Bambi will be forever associated with the many precious moments from a special day and a reminder to take time out to play. From now on, when I’m swept up in my To Do list, I’ll picture a white fawn and throttle down. Call it good enough and take time out for myself!