I get knocked down, I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down!
That Chumbawamba song is what came to mind when I began dwelling on the concept of bouncing back.
When I turned 12, my grandma paid for me to take horseback riding lessons. I was “horse crazy” at the time, reading all I could about horses, collecting model horses, –which was about as close as that suburbanite, tract home dwelling girl was going to get to owning a horse– drawing pictures of horses, etc.
As my mom drove me up to the ranch for my first lesson, I gazed lovingly at all the pretty horses. (For some reason, I feel compelled to interrupt my writing of this blog post to do an internet search on Cormac McCarthy and Matt Damon movies.) There was one horse in particular that caught my eye. He was white with black and brown patches. When I asked about him up at the stables, they told me his name was “Howdy Bars” and that I wouldn’t be riding him just yet. For my first few lessons, they gave me the calmer horses, whose names I don’t remember. Finally, by my third or fourth lesson, I was allowed to ride Howdy Bars! He was so pretty. I could tell he was a bit more fiesty than the other horses. I mounted him and joined the other two riders who were there for the lesson. As we gathered together, I’m not exactly sure how it happened. Perhaps one of the other horses thought it would be funny to nip Howdy Bars in the behind, perhaps one of the other horses dared Howdy Bars to just take off running for no apparent reason. We hadn’t quite gotten to galloping yet, but I was getting an impromptu lesson. I was glad I had taken Western style lessons which meant I used a saddle with a saddle horn instead of the English saddle with no horn –at least I had something to cling on to desperately as Howdy Bars raced around the corral while the instructor tried to catch up to stop him. As we made our second turn, I could feel myself slowly sliding off to one side. I tired to hang on to the saddle horn, I tired to hang on and readjust myself with my legs, but it wasn’t going to happen. Good thing the dirt was soft. As soon as I was off Howdy Bars, he stopped running and come back to me, or maybe the instructor brought him back. That part was a little hazy. I remember being asked by several people if I was “okay.” I replied with a gruff, “Yes” and then before anyone could stop me, I remounted Howdy Bars ready to continue the lesson. The instructor asked if I was sure I still wanted to ride him and offered to switch to a calmer horse. I declined. I didn’t want to go back to kindergarten!
Both my mom and my instructor praised me for getting right back on the horse. My mom even seemed a little surprised that I would get right back on after that. I was surprised that she didn’t seem to know, what I thought everyone knew, that when you fall off a horse, you have to get right back on, otherwise, it’s going to be so much harder to feel confident enough to get on a horse again if you wait till later. It wasn’t until later, that I found out this could be used as a metphor for bouncing back from life’s setbacks.
In life, though, sometimes, “bouncing back” can feel more like “crawling back.” I plan on talking more about this “crawling back” in a future post.