“Oooph…Her teeth are a mess.”
Doc shone her headlight into Violetta’s jaw and gestured for me to take a look. Pronounced under-bite aside, she had jagged edges, uneven wear, and several sharp points that painted a pretty clear picture of why she dropped weight this winter.
Tuesday was herd health day; all ten of my horses (six full size and four minis) had their yearly shots and dental work done. Of the ten, only two were complicated. Violetta was one. Cinco, my old man horse whose teeth have mostly stopped growing, was the other.
Many non-horsey people don’t realize that a horse’s teeth continually grow as they age. Yearly floating (grinding down of the teeth) is in order to level out the rough edges that form as the teeth wear against each other. In some horses, like Violetta, the wear pattern isn’t consistent, and sharp, painful points can form inside the mouth. She will need a follow up in six months to try and level out her lower front teeth that are being worn down by the upper fronts in a undesirable fashion due to the underbite, but, for now, we sorted the issue as much as it can be sorted.
Last year, yearly shots and teeth floating got away from me. I just didn’t manage to make the appointment. To be honest, plenty of horse owners don’t have teeth done every year, and lots of people don’t vaccinate animals who never leave home, but on Tuesday, when I learned that Violet was having issues due to my forgetfulness, I felt the guilt pour in. (Guys, I should probably add “feeling guilty” to the special skills section of my resume. I am SO good at it.)
My to-do lists out here are miles long; it can be a little too easy to miss something, even something important. I have lists for both houses, both barns, the pastures, the woods, the gardens, the driveway, and for all of the animals. I have lists restricted by time, lists restricted by money, and lists restricted by motivation or skill. I have lists of long-term goals. Lists for the spring. Lists for the summer. A list for today. Some of the lists are yearly. Some are seasonal. Some are weekly or monthly. A few are pie-in-the-sky wish lists that I may or may not ever find time or money for. Despite the fact that I, my boyfriend, and my dad regularly work to tackle items on the lists, they never seem to get much shorter.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it, to look at this place through the lens of everything that needs to be done and feel only heaviness. That’s how my ex saw the ranch at the end, and on my bad days, when I’m dealing with my anxiety, or depression, or when I’m reckoning with something I left undone for a little too long, it’s hard to see it any other way.
I think this tendency to only see what is undone is natural programming. It’s natural to be concerned with our next meal, to concern ourselves with the next season. Humans have learned to survive by anticipating future needs rather than just immediate ones.
I also think that this normal, natural behavior can run amok and cause us to live in a state of striving, never being satisfied with where we are right now, with what we’ve accomplished, with the items on the to-do list that we manage to check off.
We so seldom give ourselves credit for what we actually do.
The other day, I was complaining to my boyfriend about the fact that I couldn’t muster any extra energy to work on any of the big lists that day. I was racked with exhaustion and also guilty about feeling exhausted. I couldn’t relax completely because I felt guilty about needing to do nothing for a while.
“Yeah,” he replied, “I think you completely underestimate the amount of energy it takes to accomplish the day to day out here. You do a lot. Everyday. Feeling tired after all the regular stuff is done is completely understandable.”
I don’t know why his response struck such a deep chord, but it did. Maybe it was that his response rang of “you are enough” when it used to be that I only got choruses of “you need to do more,” but I think I could have cried with relief. I was content, for a little while, to rest.
Most of us don’t give ourselves enough credit. We forget to count the things we accomplish, the hard work of simply living, and focus unendingly on the to-do list.
I have a friend who works full-time as a teacher, runs a horse ranch full of mostly rescued critters, and is currently renovating a property. As often as not, when we chat, she laments the laundry that she hasn’t gotten to.
One of my dearest friends, who works full-time almost an hour from her home and is in the middle of raising two wonderful little boys, tends to mention the floors she hasn’t quite gotten around to cleaning this week.
My close friend who is currently working full-time THROUGH CHEMOTHERAPY (CAN WE REPEAT THAT ONE FOR THE FOLKS IN THE BACK???) mentioned to me the last time that I saw her that she wishes she ordered less take-out and managed to cook more.
I could go on and on, listing all the people I know who accomplish way more than they give themselves credit for, but then this post would damn near go on forever, and I think you get the idea. Life, as it turns out, takes a lot of effort, and you’re probably doing more than you think.
After John’s comment, I took a moment to catalog everything that I had already done that day, and, later, I took a moment to appreciate just how far the ranch has come since changing hands. The list is growing, always, but it’s also changing. It’s not stagnant. Slowly but surely, the things that need to be done are getting done. Slowly but surely, I’m getting better at prioritizing and better at recognizing that things are moving in the right direction.
My herd health day moved off the list. A recheck for Violet and Cinco in September got penciled in in its place. So did booster shots for Cody and Gem in a month. So did a new course of treatment for my two horses with heaves.
The list is actually longer now with herd health done–funny how that happens–but life is more than a series of to-do lists.
The ranch is more than a series of to-do lists.
I am more than a series of to-do lists.
And so are you.