Tindur and the Orchard

Tindur (Super Pony) and I went on an adventure yesterday!

The reason this is so amazing needs some explaining.

Sunday and Monday mornings were kind of rough for me. I woke up each morning with blood on my pillowcase, a massively bloody nose, a body that felt like it had been beaten with metal poles, and when I sat up my chest was so tight I actually couldn’t breathe (amazing how chemo side effects mimic panic attacks). And I was alone. Sunday morning I pressed my head against the headboard of my bed and cried for a good 15 minutes. Monday was a bit shorter.

Sometimes, when you’re sick like this, everything just sucks. And recently I’ve been thinking about how people respond to this fact and what’s most helpful for me (which is an exercise I’m bad at, but one I need to be better about, since without articulating what I need my life is gonna get even worse a lot quicker). In the last two days, two friends have said the following words to me, when I describe how I’m feeling on a particularly hard say: “I can’t imagine.” And those three words are simple, but they do two crucial and priceless things: they validate my emotional reactions, which in turn makes me feel more human and less like I should always handle this with grace. Which, by the way, I can’t — and which, as I’ve had to be reminded of these past couple weeks, is totally okay and acceptable. As I’ve heard many times but only recently begun to believe, “Kiara, it’s okay however you react. This sucks and you get a pass.”

This is not to say I can be a monster all the time, and I would never presume as much. What it does mean is that in the moments when everything does suck and I feel totally and utterly overwhelmed with the awful fact of my illness, and all I need to do is scream and cry about something, all that anyone around me should attempt is comfort and love. Endless happiness, logical reasoning, or “talking down” don’t and shouldn’t work. Sometimes you just need someone to hug you and say “I know, it sucks.”

But back to the pony.

Yesterday I decided I would take Tindur down to the lake and play around on our own for awhile. I was having a kind of rough day and I wanted to do something really lighthearted and fun (this is why I own Super Pony). But my chemo addled brain had a hard time remembering where the entrance to the trail to the lake was, and on top of everything else that was suddenly the worst thing in the world. I sat on Super Pony in the orchard and cried — just bawled — and shoved my face in his mane. And he sat there, silently (duh) while I sobbed and shouted into his neck “it’s not fair! I hate this!” And once or twice nuzzled the toe of my boot.

After ten, fifteen minutes, I brought my head up and looked around. The world was still standing, the sun was still shining — but if you told me that while I was freaking out I wouldn’t have cared or even known what you were talking about. Tindur’s silence was a blessing — it reminded me that it’s okay to have random outbursts about even the most inconsequential (or consequential) things sometimes. Because the thing about a terminal illness is that it gets mapped onto every part of your life. And after awhile, it’s not that the pain of it goes away — it’s that you get moderately better at managing that pain day to day. The first three months, I’ve been told, are the worst. Every day is hell. And I can believe it because, even though I’m still living in that hell, things are slowly getting better.

Anyway, Tindur and I turned around, walked out of the orchard and down the other path across the street, and found the trailhead for the lake. And when we got there, it seemed like a massive accomplishment, even though it wasn’t that much of a thing to accomplish. But I made it — I found the lake. And my freak out in the orchard? Well, it’s part of the narrative and a necessary one at that. We need the space to panic, to freak out, to shout and cry, because not only does it make us human, but it’s oddly comforting. I can’t explain why, but it is.

And in my retellings of my hard mornings and yesterday afternoon in the orchard — of which I know there will be many more, in slightly different forms? I laugh. Because really, that’s all you can do.

And, it is sort of funny.

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5 thoughts on “Tindur and the Orchard

  1. Kiara, as much as I love you and am so fond of your spirit, I completely understand the need for space to panic. I’m a sounding board for another with stage iv breast cancer; she is in incredible pain because one of the mets sits on her cervical vertebra right above a lymph node that has metastasized and nothing is helped by the lymphedema in her arm. It amazes me how people are so afraid to listen to her; to be there. You know me, and know I am NO nurse, but for the past two days, after her last infusion, I have been thrown up on, held hands, tried to jolly her out of a depression (disease and medicine induced), brought her funny movies, peppermint (helps the nausea) and corralled the dogs so she could pet both of them (hers — a piece of cake — and my wild man, Se, whom she adores). I’ve shown her the link to this blog, but she can’t read it right now — too hard, but believe you me, your astute observations definitely help me find patience, and empathy. I ain’t gonna say “you rock” because everybody else does and sometimes I wonder how much they really mean what they say, but I will say THANK YOU, and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of you. You keep hugging that big Northern, hairy neck — one thing horses do very well is understand. Love, ./c

  2. I am SO happy you have your Super Pony! Horses are the perfect therapists. And if you need someone on the line at an awkward time of east coast day, feel free to call me. I can offer all the love and support and comfort I have to give. Always.

  3. I wish there was a stronger phrase than “this sucks” — something that conveyed the concept “this is hellishly awful and also unthinkably unfair and beastly painful and basically more than anyone should have to bear.”

    This schmfucks. Big time.

    in Ireland they have a custom called “keening,” where old ladies (think Granny Licia) come dressed in black to local wakes (I’m sure you’ve heard of this) and wail like banshees (another fine element in your heritage), lamenting the dear departed. So you are in good company, my love. You have a strong and respected tradition to channel if need be.

    And God bless solid little Tindur. Thank God it wasn’t Pokey or Molly you were panicking on in the orchard. I can only just imagine what might have happened.

  4. I’m a big fan of this sort of validation. I’m also a big fan of animals and still have my first pony, Shadow. He’s about 37; I adopted him when I was 9, I think. I’m glad you have Tindur. 😊

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