Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Relative Size

Last week I had the great good fortune to spend some time in the company of one of my sisters. What was so rare about this event was the fact that we were together as equal working professionals attending a conference on a topic we both have huge interest in: horses healing people. She is the Editor and I am the Art Director for the magazine published by one of the leaders in the field of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning. Our experience included witnessing applied theory as several equine assisted psychotherapy 'appointments' were conducted as part of the formal learning sessions. This is amazing work with an ever increasing record of creating impactful break-through "Aha!" moments for participants. You can't help but be affected even if you're merely an onlooker, which we both were.
Part of one of the more noteworthy sessions had two volunteer 'clients', a mental health professional, an equine specialist and 4 equines; two big, and two miniature horses. To make a sort of complicated story succinct, let me just say that the people in the arena all but ignored the hilarious, action packed antics of the minis as the people concentrated their efforts on interacting with the bigs. I was astounded. The wee ones were racing, spinning, biting and kicking! One even fell right in between and in front of the humans and never a once was a comment made while they worked to maneuver a big into a particular position. I couldn't believe how invisible the littles were to the people already occupied with the bigs. This therapy is all about metaphor, and this particular metaphor spoke loudly to me.

Later as I mulled this over in my subconscious, my sister whom I was at that point having dinner with as a sideline mentioned that she felt she would always occupy the role of big sister. This statement dumbfounded me. Sure, I could see the significance of that role when we were both about 40 years younger but what relevance was it now that we are in our fifties? That we're sisters, and quite close ones at that, is a relationship I celebrate - but I haven't considered myself any one's "little sister" -- little anything(!) -- for many many years. I was surprised she was hanging onto that role. I thought she too had embraced the unqualified sisters relationship as I had.

Which brings me back to that arena. I had noticed the minis. I had even been transfixed by them. It had driven me to uncomfortable levels of frustration that they hadn't even been much acknowledged. Is this an artifact of having grown up as a little sister? Can the fact that I have been on the side of the under sung, the underdog and the under-the-radar for a long time now be explained by these strangely unifying experiences? How do I feel about someone who knows me quite well still seeing me as little anything?

Part of me thinks it's a big mistake. Like those minis, I am every bit as significant and viable as the bigs. Unlike those minis, I'm pretty much the same size as my sister - I'm not smaller in any way. How is it she feels bigger? What is this bigness? And even more importantly, is it an unnecessary burden? My wish for her would be to let go of the size qualifier (or age qualifier, or any other adjective she'd care to attach) and just stick with the sister part. That's what I intend to keep at.

Another part of me thinks there's something really good there because I keep thinking about those minis in all their celebratory glory - as though just being little (underdog, under sung, under-the-radar) is its own gigantic reward and must be acted on in wonderfully unfettered joyful ways. As though bigs have some dictated duty to set forth the standards of dignity and refined grace in horses leaving the minis to go haywire with joy building on the notion of what it is to be horse -- expanding the concept in other ways freely shaking off the encumbrances of size replacing that with something else, in the case of the minis, raw, creative experience.

So here's what I have right now: At first when she said that I wanted to nip and kick out at her and tell her I hadn't been 'little' anything to anyone since going to college, Hmph! But as I reflect and reconsider where I'm leaning now is maybe she's been feeling much like a draft horse still pulling that heavy weight from our younger days - that now, in some ways, she's both comfortable with and even proud of. I would invite her to unharness herself and frolic in the daisies - at least for a little while, taking the yoke back up only by intended choice, not born-into situation, should she still then desire to do so.

1 comment:

  1. Love your story! we have a non-profit in San Diego, Equine assisted Therapy, and it is amazing what will come up in the arena...right away. It is such a great tool to help people!My area is autism...and the kids relate so well to this!