Well y’all, it’s been a minute.
The other day I chatted with L when she made a comment about her blog hitting a ten year anniversary milestone. That number seemed crazy to me. Ten years?! Ten years we’ve been writing about our horses? Surely I hadn’t reached that.
But I looked, and I had. I started SMTT in 2010, though it had scattered posts back then. Still, technically I was at ten years. Eleven, really.
There are a lot of ghosts on this blog. Anytime you document your daily life for a significant period of time, things are bound to change. Add in major life events, trauma and tragedy and… well it can be hard to take.
I’ve thought about writing here in the 7.5 months since my last post. After all, life has continued. Poet went to another horse show. Lucie the puppy grew up. I’ve scraped through the pandemic like the rest of us. I made the excuse that I didn’t have time, with working a full time corporate job and blogging for The Plaid Horse on the side. “I need to work on my book,” I’d say. “I have to prioritize paid writing!” was another easy excuse.
But the truth is the fear, and the ghosts.
All I have to do is open up the SMTT homepage and I am bombarded by loss. Most of the latest posts are about Pascale’s final days, something that is still hard for me to talk about in person without needing to change the subject before I break down. Five years since Tim died. And of course the added layer of a global pandemic, which is pervasive and has touched everyone in ways we don’t fully understand yet. The weight of it all feels so heavy. Even if I wanted to write a lighthearted post about how Poet, my heart couldn’t do more than go through the motions. Nobody wants to read going through the motions, and I certainly don’t want to write about it.
Since graduate school, I’ve put a lot of pressure on my writing. It feels like everything needs to be touching and beautiful. My book, which is “done” but needs a 3rd (or is it 4th?) revision before I pitch to another round of agents, hangs out in the background as something I’m both deeply proud of and ashamed that it hasn’t reached publication yet. Writing is more than a hobby to me now, but I find myself with very little mental energy for it at the end of a day when part of my “real” job is writing, my side-hustle is all writing and editing, and my literary work needs to get done when I have time and gumption.
Every time I think about working on the book again, the ghosts and the pressure get to me. Pascale is a constant character (as is Simon of course, but his role is mostly devoted to a single chapter), and editing her existence to past tense is more than I can handle emotionally right now—even a year after she died. Re-writing and editing my trauma feels impossible. So I end up doing nothing, and then beat myself up for not working on my book… you know, the thing I uprooted my entire life and went to graduate school in CA for.
Which brings me back to this blog.
In an effort to be kind to myself and do some things simply for the joy of doing them versus accolades, publication deals or cash, I wanted to start blogging again. After all, this is the place where I found my narrative voice. This is the place where I’ve made great friends. Without the blog, there would be no book. No degree. No writing gigs in the equestrian industry. I owe a lot to it, and want to reclaim some of that joy.
But you know, the ghosts.
For the past two weeks or so, I’ve prepared to start writing again. Some of this was sheer housekeeping like fixing security issues and updating some photos. But most of it was re-categorizing all 1200+ posts into a streamlined navigation that made sense for the future. And my god, nothing will open your eyes more than looking back on your candid, daily thoughts for the past ten years of your life.
I feel like I don’t know the young woman who wrote most of those posts. I don’t remember the majority of them. Why did I care so much about tack and equipment, my god?! Now I wear the same three pairs of schooling breeches over and over and over. I was obsessed with weight and limiting my equestrian goals based off my size, something I will write more about soon. Every horse show write-up was literally called “Surviving Horse Shows,” as if I should have no higher expectation of myself or my horse than making it through 8 jumps in one piece. Sometimes the old posts made me laugh, sometimes they made me sad. If you read between the lines, I often thought so little of myself.
As bloggers, we’re all the “main character” of our stories, but Simon felt like the real star of the show from 2012-2018. He was so deeply engrained into my existence. Looking back, it feels like a fever dream. I see all the pictures of us jumping things that look tremendous to me now. We did the jumpers, like what? I hate the jumpers! He was this skinny, average Thoroughbred with bad joints and he did everything for me. We won big stuff, we derbied. When I go out to the barn now and celebrate a walk/trot rehab day with Poet, it feels impossible that I ever accomplished so much. But he was real, and if I concentrate I can remember the sound of his nicker that he always greeted me with. It’s not often that I allow myself to remember how much I loved that horse.
That’s the thing about ghosts—they sneak up on you. Those 1,200 posts had countless tiny anecdotes from the life I used to live. The one with a husband, a little blue house, three silly dogs and my nerd horse. When Pascale died, every single character from that story had gone. I am the sole survivor.
This week I told my therapist about how it feels like my blog was written by someone I don’t recognize. How I feel like I’m two different people now, the Lauren before all the losses and the Lauren in the aftermath. I wish I could have protected 2012 Lauren, as naive and immature as she was. She had no idea how much she was going to hurt in the next ten years. I hold some shame for her too, for the things she said or cared about back then that are so numbingly irrelevant now. I deleted some of the worst posts I am ashamed of, but there are still many you can find in the archives that make me cringe.
I have always tried to be honest with y’all, but it’s been with a wash of optimism. I write about hard things, so I can show you it’s possible to live through hard things. Some of my “happiness” and adventures I’ve taken on have been fully manufactured as a way to cope and keep going every day. Though I do believe in seeking gratitude and looking for the joy in life, I can also admit that it’s been an empty feeling at times.
And that’s the main reason why I disappeared for almost eight months. I could not pantomime the bright side anymore. I just had to survive for a bit.
Today, I’m still surviving. I’d say my emotional range is something like optimism –> neutral –> OH MY GOD THINGS ARE ON FIRE AND I’M AWFUL AND LIFE IS MEANINGLESS AND WE ONLY EXIST TO SUFFER. You know, typical human experience shit.
There will always be ghosts for me. They aren’t contained in this blog, but ignoring it does make it harder for me to push away all this hurt that I carry. But as I’ll readily tell anyone, I’m fascinated by human experience and the narratives we tell. I have an unlimited appetite for personal stories, and that includes my own.
So here’s to another ten years? That seems aggressive, but maybe. I still have a lot to say.