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Early April

Merrickville, Ontario

The memories of my equestrian past have faded. They’re drifting softly away as time relentlessly soldiers on, the last 19 years having eroded my ability to recall them. Like carefully saved old family photos, the memories’ edges are soft and worn from years of touching, their images black and white. They’ve become just quick recollections of a most precious period of my life.


I couldn’t bear it if the memories of those cherished years were to disappear forever, slipping permanently into my unconsciousness, becoming irretrievable. So, in order to keep them alive, I cling to the small moments that still visit me, albeit infrequently. Because these recollections of my past are bare and unadorned, I dress them, providing them with many details. Molding the memories into stories lets me enjoy those times again and again. On rare occasions, old reel movies play in my mind. Inevitably, as the years have gone by, the movies have become silent, Chaplin-like.



There—that’s a start. Stretching my arms up and yawning, I swivel my desk chair away from my computer screen and gaze out the window at the snow. Some years, an early-April day such as this one hints of spring. Today, however, there’s still plenty of snow on the ground. It sparkles defiantly in the sun, thanks to a thin layer of ice laid down by the freezing rain last week.


Even during these frosty months, when each day seems to struggle to wake up, my home office is alive with light. The office invigorates me, its brightness defying the inhospitable weather that peeks in through the white horizontal blinds. Daylight pours in through generous skylights that, while connecting the room to the sky, leave the brisk early-spring weather barricaded outside. Enormous windows boldly interrupt the red-wine paint on the walls, bringing more of the outdoors in. The paint colour, caliente, is described in brochures as hot, passionate and sexy. I just like the way it adds vibrancy and energy to my space.


Annie, a purebred mixed terrier from the local SPCA, sees my chair move and, reacting instantly, runs to the door. I can’t hear myself think through her high-pitched, piercing barking.


“Okay, all right.” I tell her. I awkwardly—the right leg of my jeans is covered from ankle to hip by a brace—make my way across the room to where Annie is bouncing impatiently next to the terrace door, hardly able to contain herself. The brace is a lifesaver. When I sit, it allows my leg to bend normally; when I stand, it stops my right knee from painfully bending backwards. Years ago, I never imagined a day when I’d be grateful to be able to walk only a few steps or manage just a very short flight of stairs.


Pulling the door open, I enjoy watching my dog as she dashes out and punches down through the shiny ice, losing her legs in a massive snowbank. Annie seems oblivious to the frigid air that blasts by her and gusts effortlessly through the open door into my warm space. Slamming the door closed against the weather, I leave the dog outside for a moment and plunk myself inelegantly onto the old couch that faces the wood stove.


Inelegant is now normal; plunking is now normal. Finally I’m okay, I’m happy with how things are and who I Now am. When I suddenly had become unable to live life the only way I knew how, I’d spent the next few years constantly looking backwards, reliving every memory of my past with my horses. I had refused to let go of my past. Instead, I’d yearned for the person I’d used to be and clung to the singular, narrowly focused identity of “equestrian athlete.” Since my teenage years, it was the only identity I’d acknowledged.


At long last I’m emotionally healthier. The past no longer scratches me painfully with each passing day. But although it’s been more than 19 years since my life changed so dramatically, I still grasp at the disappearing memories of the time when I lived for my horses. They’ve become healthy, fond thoughts of a beloved period of my life; I’m now able to peacefully enjoy the fading, precious memories of my life with horses.


Because it’s been so long, I’m surprised—startled even—when nostalgic memories of the past push their way into my consciousness. I always wonder how they choose when they’ll appear in the Now of my life. I could be driving my car, taking out the garbage or feeding the dog. Suddenly my past will poke insistently at my Now, vying for attention, demanding that the now stops in its tracks. Welcoming its intrusion, I can’t help but immerse myself.


Occasionally, memories pounce on me when I’m sitting at my desk in front of my computer, waiting for inspiration. Then my fingers can’t stop typing.


Riding in the early morning, the mist hovering, not yet burned away by the sun. Sitting on my faithful friend Gordon, his ears pricked, framing his world. Mine too, during that magical time.


Although I don’t want the past to disappear completely, I do heed the words of Joan Didion, who writes that as time passes, “Memory fades, memory adjusts, memory conforms to what we think we remember.” I wonder how my memories have changed. Have they adjusted or adapted? Maybe the memories of my past have been redesigned in my dreams to conform to what I want to remember, how I want to remember.


For the first few years after my life suddenly changed, I absolutely would not acknowledge that there were many parts of my former life that I didn’t miss at all. During the early years of my recovery, there’s no way that I would have faced that harsh, unpleasant reality, let alone accept it. Instead, I continually struggled to turn back time, to be the person I used to be. It took years, but I finally admitted to myself that I was no longer wistful for the tough parts of those years, the relentless hard work. The aching tiredness, the frustration. I can certainly do without the tough realities that made up a large percentage of that time. I now question why on earth the very occasional flashes of success seemed to make it all worthwhile. At long last, I’ve put the loss of my former life in perspective.