October 11, 2009

No Faking It on a Horse

Harry Burns: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.
Sally Albright: Which one am I?
Harry Burns: You're the worst kind; you're high maintenance but you think you're low maintenance.
Sally Albright: I don't see that.
Harry Burns: You don't see that? "Waiter, I'll begin with a house salad, but I don't want the regular dressing. I'll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce on the side." "On the side" is a very big thing for you.
Sally Albright: Well, I just want it the way I want it.
Harry Burns: I know; high maintenance.

Meg Ryan & Billy Crystal, When Harry Met Sally

Sally Albright and I have this high/low maintenance thing in common. I toodle around my life feeling like I'm a fairly logical, easy-going person. I'm not particularly picky. If a waiter brings me fettuccine instead of lasagna, I'm likely to just eat the fettuccine rather than make a fuss. I don't usually wear make-up, have to remind myself to brush my hair, and have been seen wearing the same pair of jeans four days in a row. I don't even shout at other drivers anymore. Low maintenance.

But I will scour the market for a loaf of bread baked without high fructose corn syrup, and I get really peeved if I can't find one. I used to shout at TV commercials, too, but now I just refuse to watch them. I will not shop at Wal-Mart. High Maintenance.

I don't feel like I'm stressed, but my body is telling me otherwise because I've developed TMJ disorder from clenching my teeth while I sleep. The temporal mandibular joint is the place where the jaw connects to the skull, and mine is not happy with me. It mostly aches, and the pain radiates up along the sides of my head. It's difficult to open my mouth in the morning, sometimes I can't chew my toast and when I do my jaw cracks loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.

Obviously I need to mellow out but the problem is, like most people, I don't notice when I'm tense. Before I go to sleep I remind myself to relax my jaw, and then I realize that my toes are curled tight and my hands are balled into fists. Just when I let that tension go, my mind wanders, and before I know what's happened I'm a taut rubberband all over again.

Then I got on a horse. One of my Honey Mama friends arranged a field trip for us. I've been trail riding before, but I've never really had anyone give me any horse-riding tips. Pam Houston wrote that horses are like dogs in that they react to people's emotions, so I climbed on Cinnamon, my horse for the day, making an effort to be totally relaxed, and I thought I was doing pretty well.

Then our trail guide pointed out that I was white-knuckling the saddle horn, which indicated to Cinnamon that I wanted to trot. I did not want to trot. Apparently, one should hold the reins with one hand (western style) and rest the other hand casually on her thigh.

"What? Let GO?" That's when I realized it's not in my nature to let go.

Not only did Trail Guide want me to let go, he wanted me to reach back and pat Cinnamon's bum. Ha! I said, "That seems a little advanced for me."
"That's how we teach the little ones," Trail Guide said.

We went 'round like that for a while-- truly. I walked Cinnamon in circles around the stable while Trail Guide encouraged me to relax. When Cinnamon started to trot again for no apparent reason, Trail Guide pointed out that I was probably squeezing my thighs, signalling her to go faster.

We did eventually make it out to the trail, and I stayed as relaxed as I could be while riding a giant animal up hills, over rocks, and through mud, and Cinnamon let me know every time I went tense.

If only I could live my life on a horse; maybe I wouldn't need a night guard, acupuncture, medication, jaw surgery . . . whatever might be in my disordered jaw's future.

Plus, what a workout! My thighs and tushie were so sore the next day I hardly noticed the pain in my jaw.


Anonymous said...

I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. -R

Anonymous said...

Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash.

Anonymous said...

But I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the thought of you shopping a Trader Joe's on your Seeing Stress Eye Horse, one hand crandling your basket of organic, non Walmart goodies, and the other patting your assistant animal's ass.
All-natural bread - $3.69,
Custon saddlebags for Buckaroo and Bella - $139.95,
This image for me - priceless.

Patricia Caspers said...

R- Sorry about harrumphing over the dearth of cream in my tea today. You know I love you.

FMF- I aim to please.

Anonymous said...

I've read and re-read your blog. I love this one - I think it's my favorite. I'd like to have all your blogs bound in a book. I would flip through each one and reminsce your trials and triumphs. I hear your voice so clearly in my mind. Your talent is so apparent in everything you do. I love you because you are who you are; a beautiful person. Love, Mom

Kristen said...

I love this entry, your self-exploration and insight. I think we all struggle to find that perfect balance between letting go and holding near and dear.