I Went to a Dude Ranch

I spend chunks of my day, every day, Googling how to turn my life around. I know there are no magic beans, that this is the psychic equivalent of clicking on those ‘Lose Twelve Pounds in Five Days!’ ads that pop up on my news feed, but I can’t seem to stop. I just can’t relinquish the notion that somewhere, in some far corner of the Internet, I am going to stumble on some blog post, some article, some recipe, and have the awakening I have been longing for. I imagine myself becoming feverish, transcribing what I’ve read into the front page of a notebook, knowing I have found exactly what I need to do. I need to find some answer out there because I don’t like the way things are going right now and I don’t know how to change them. I feel lost and I need someone to show me the way. I need a plan. Ten steps. Or twenty. Whatever it takes to vanquish this utter rootlessness I feel.

I was able to take a brief hiatus from my navel gazing when my family spent a week at a dude ranch in B.C. this August, where we wore cowboy boots and rode horses, and, yes, it was just like City Slickers. I was able to lock my phone in a safe and let an entire week go by without reading articles upon articles about figuring things out. I would be up on the horse, breathing in the mountain air, feeling the morning sun on my face, and I wouldn’t quite think isn’t life grand, but I wouldn’t think it wasn’t either. My hands gripping the saddle’s horn, pushing myself up to trot, I would be so focused on trying to post properly, up and down, and I would be so worried my jeans were being pulled down and my thong was being pulled up, that I would start to forget how much I hate my very existence.

Me on a horse with the very best big brothers.
My husband thinks
my Red Sox hat is grounds for divorce.

We were led on walks by these amazing wranglers from the Prairies and Australia and New Zealand and they were all so kind and so interesting and so authentic and so grounded, that of course I started wondering if I too should be wrangling horses on a ranch in B.C. Cowboy boots, it turns out, are the best things ever and I have a couple of plaid shirts and dirty jeans and since I can’t find a job writing for television maybe this is what I should do with my life? These people, bringing in the horses from pasture, shaping new trails, building log cabins, seem to really be living an honest to goodness life. They seem to be breathing in a more tactile way and seeing them galloping on their horses it feels substantial, epic even, to know how to ride, to live their life. But they are younger than I am and that’s their adventure, not mine, as much as I would like it to be. Mine is just a week where I soak up time with my family and focus really hard on not falling down. I am not going to ride off into the sunset.

There was a moment, though, on the last day where I felt like I could. Led by this spirited Aussie with a meaningful voice, we began to trot and then sped up to a lope. We were taught throughout the week that loping requires “making love to the horse.” I would roll my hips, trying to gyrate in time with the horse’s rise and fall but I would miss the beat and bounce around the saddle, concerned that not only was I hurting the horse but now everyone knew I wasn’t very good in bed either.

The Aussie turned around to watch us.

“You look like a deer in headlights,” he said. “Let go of the horn.”

“I can’t,” I said, terrified. I had been holding on to the horn for dear life, certain it was the only thing keeping me up on the horse. I imagined the worst, being pitched from the horse and trampled by its hooves. My thoughts began to race, thinking about how big the horse was and how small I am and that his name was Nipper, and how did he get that name?

“Let go of the horn,” the wrangler boomed.

He was such an incredible person, so self-assured, so certain, and it felt good to trust someone so skilled. Finally, I did. I let go of the horn, let the reins sit loosely in my hands.

My horse picked up the pace, running faster.

“Now smile,” he said.

I did. I held the reins and smiled at him. Somehow I felt myself rooted to the saddle, my hips rocking in time with the horse, and this one brief moment, where I am riding and smiling, is magic.

I think I finally found my answer: to make things happen sometimes you need to stop trying quite so hard. You need to let go. Just like that fucking Disney song says.