How Do You Define Yourself?

I was connected to a woman named Sue who owned two horses. Since I love horses she invited me out to her barn to show me around.

Her two horses were very different from each other. Tobi was a gentle paint who graciously accepted the carrots I offered him and then stretched out his neck and curled up his lip to give me a big smile.

Daisy had been physically abused. She was small, beautiful and very frightened. Even though she paced back and forth with her ears back certain she was going to be hurt, she still found a way to snatch a few carrots from my hand, but she certainly didn’t smile.

Like people, horses each have their own stories that inform their attitudes and their behavior.

What was my story? I wasn’t as silly as Tobi or as damaged as Daisy. That day my story was much simpler. Riding horses had been part of my identity for many years and had even saved me during the years I felt so lost. I was concerned that once I reconnected with horses, even for this short period time, it would be hard for me to drive away. Yet leaving the barn that day was easy.

What had changed? Maybe I had a different sense of what defined me. Maybe that new sense began in the midst of my divorce when so much of what had defined me instantly disappeared. My marriage was gone and along with it went my financial security, my home, and some friends.

To find a way to define who I was that didn’t rely on outward circumstances left me only one option…to look inside myself. And what do you know? There I was!

Maybe I didn’t need things or activities to define me. Maybe what defined me was already inside of me: the willingness to grow, to stumble, to try again, to be able to move from fear to trust, from doubt to hope and at times to be courageously uncertain.

Though I will always love horses, it was time for me to love myself.

Reader Interactions


  1. says

    I sure resonate with this column, Barb! In fact I have come to realize that the biggest gift my departing husband gave me was a space to discover who I was, all by myself, an amazing, survivor-become-thriver!
    Thanks for your articulate words and the connection you share with me and every other woman who has experienced the end of a relationship! Ellen Saul

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