It’s Not Really a Horserace What is this fascination with horseracing? The interest calls to me in that faint, distant-feeling way that defines the quality of something that speaks at a deep level. The other day I sat at Churchill Downs and watched a short video of the Kentucky Derby race experience. Continually I was moved to tears as I watched the big screen. No longer embarrassed by myself in these instances, instead I just sat and let my inner feelings and thoughts bubble up and into me, letting me know that something is touching me deeply, right here, right now. And as the feelings seep into and through me, I begin the inner exploration.
The images of the paddock, the horses, the foal running with the mare, the jockey astride the horse, the early morning sun on the Kentucky countryside, the crowds mingling while the derby music played, the horses charging side-by-side around the track, all of these images pull and tug at me. The memory of England emerges; it was my first trip to Europe. My dear friend and I stayed in Chester. During our stay we had a day downtown when we walked the walled city. Our excursion found us at the racetrack at the edge of town. We sat in the field next to the track and talked, ate apples and spoke about the intimate things dear friends share, our inner worlds. I loved being there; again knowing something about that racetrack spot touches me. I can’t make sense of it logically and don’t try to any longer. I simply accept that it speaks to something in me at a deep level, my soul. It doesn’t matter what it is or isn’t about, it is a clear truth that it stirs me within. This is the reality that is important to me to honor. What touches our soul does not need to make sense.
During the brief film a jockey described working with a race horse, his thrill of coming to know the horse and it’s natural inclinations. What he shared was that some horses were followers and some were leaders. When he works with the followers it is his challenge to bring out the leader in the horse so that it can perform when the time is right. And with the leader, he must help the horse learn to relax into the experience so that he can manage his energy properly to perform at the right moment. Ah, I thought to myself what a beautiful metaphor for us. As we grow into adulthood we become our own jockey; we must learn our inclinations. In this game of life, when we know ourselves, when we take the time to discover how best to work with both our assets and our weaker areas, we can perform our best. Timing is key to so many experiences of life. We must learn when to utilize our assets and when to allow our weaker areas to also teach us how to serve in the moment. When we allow our weak areas, they teach us how to be soft and gentle with ourselves, how to seek assistance – connecting with others when it is in our best interest, and how to become humble in the best of ways.
As I watched the horses come charging out of the starting gate, I could feel my inner world getting jolted. Ah, look at that competitive urge in you Laurel. I want to pick the horse and be a winner! As I watch, I am the jockey on the horse that I picked, one with the horse. Inside I am saying come on, let’s go, we can do it! Right to the crossing of the finish line I am one with my horse and in the race. My competitive side is a place I like to think I have made good use of during this lifetime. Our competitive edge and urge can be problematic if we are not aware of this aspect of ourselves and able to see it for what it is. Because, really, life is not a horserace, it’s a long journey in which we live and grow and become fully ourselves if we are fortunate. When our competitive self is left unexplored and runs rampantly and unconsciously through our life, we often find ourselves constantly measuring every aspect of our being and our experiences up to some standard that we imagine is what is best and important to aspire to. Often this leaves us with a sense of lack, an energy drain. When consciously exploring our competitive self, we may acknowledge that competitive part and recognize the desire to perform; and then simply perform to the best of our ability and allow whatever that looks like in the moment. Ultimately, if we are living an authentic life, there is no real competition. Instead the goal is simply to be who we are, deep within, and to do that fully and satisfyingly. That is the performance of our lifetime, the lifetime achievement award – Authentically ME.
I laugh at myself when I feel the competitive “me” bubble up inside; I love to joke about her. Remembering that if I take her too seriously she will diminish me instead of allowing me to be simply me, this is so important. Lovingly, I believe I have shared this consciousness about our universal competitive side with my grown children. Laughing with my daughters as we giggle at ourselves about being the best - at double solitaire or any other game we are playing - is sheer joy. When I turn my attention to Words with Friends on my husband’s new iPhone, I go all out to become the victor, knowing deep inside, it’s not really a horserace, it’s just for the pleasure of playing at life. And on the first Saturday of next May, most likely you will find me in front of some television, somewhere, perhaps sporting a cute hat, watching the horses charging around the track at the Kentucky Derby.