Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Comeback: I Did Not Used To Be Dead Inside

It has been nearly a decade and a half since I conducted my first professional training for prosecutors on using the lessons of natural horsemanship to more effectively communicate with kids who had been molested. It is odd to look back over the notes of that presentation to see that I had urged that no single prosecutor be responsible for these cases for more than a year and a half.

I have been prosecuting these cases for over twenty years. About a decade ago I was doing a training session for detectives when I mentioned that in every case  I had  succeeded in making the child  comfortable enough to testify.

The oldest detective in the room said, much louder than I am sure he ever meant to, "I'm sorry."

I was taken aback by the interjection and I looked over and made eye contact with the the speaker. He looked a bit sheepish for having spoken as loud as he did and simply said, "That means that you have been down there in it with them."

I had never thought of it that way. Please understand that I have never personally experienced any abuse or victimization myself.  "Being down there in it with them" is simply a description of the power of empathy. Empathy can lead to self inflicted wounds. Being "down there in it with them" requires one to take on the pain of other people. And sometimes with kids the only way to lessen their pain is to take some of that load on yourself.

Please understand that I am not complaining. What I do has given my life meaning and I prefer a life of meaning to a life of frivolity and air-headed idiocy.  I certainly do not feel any resentment towards the victims in my cases. Were it not for these cases Beth and I would have never gotten to know Ashley. Were it not for these cases our program at Mill Swamp Indian Horses would not remotely have the meaning and impact that it now has.

This is not the writing of some kid who just found out that life is not fair and feels the need to whine about that fact to everyone present.

I have spent many hours over the summer in prosecutor training on trauma informed practices. I am delighted to say that I did not learn a great deal that I did not know from the horse lot.  I did learn how to sharpen our program for patients at the local veterans hospital who have PTSD. I got great ideas on how to best use the limited time that we have together to help program participants gain insight on trust, communication, and understanding why they feel they way that they do and how to begin climbing out of the pit.

I learned what burnout is. I am not burned out. Burnout is best illustrated by the automaton who goes through the motions without  being able to care. I am not close to such feelings.

And this gradual erosion of self is not depression. It is not a symptom of depression.

But there is a deadening that happens over the years. It is as if my taste buds are dying. I eat life as ravenously as I ever did, I just don't taste the flavor of the  life that I am consuming. Perhaps it has manifested itself most painfully in the lack of relationships with my horses that I once had. The horses have not changed, but I have. Beginning at the moment that I heard of Lido's death I gradually began to replace the excitement  over the birth of a foal with a strong feeling that I needed to keep in mind that, like every foal ever born, this one will eventually die and odds are that I will outlive it.

Putting emotional energy into developing a close relationship with things as ephemeral as living creatures begins to feel like a very unwise investment.

But then the oddest things can happen. Look at that picture above. Her name is Honey. She was the first super success that I ever had training a horse. She is not a Colonial Spanish horse. She is a registered Paint. I had not seen her for a decade. That is how long she had been living out of state with the family of a former rider of mine who has grown up and is getting an advanced degree away from home.

So this week Honey came back to me.

 And I touched her.

And it felt like it used to when I touched horses--soothing, powerful and transforming.  Who knows how long this feeling will last? For now I will settle for just being very pleasantly surprised to find something that I thought I lost over the years.

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