I’m Actually Covered in Horse Hair

There are three really big hills here on the island. There’s Turkey Hill, which we don’t take tour carriages up or down. There’s Mission Hill, which is off by the east bluffs and which I’ve only driven down once. And there’s Grand Hill, which goes up past the Grand Hotel and which we drive multiple times a day.

When we take our horses up Grand Hill with full carriages, we give them multiple breaks, just because the carriage is so heavy and because we want them to pace themselves. They are nowhere near overworked, but we’re still careful. (Actually, they just get diva treatment all the time and can I please have their job instead of mine because oh my goodness.)

I think that, more than learning how to give a tour of Mackinac or learning how to drive a carriage, this summer is going to be about learning to pace myself.

All this week I have been going full throttle, throwing myself into the work and finding a new task as soon as I finish whatever I’m doing. And I don’t regret it, because I’ve proved to my superiors and peers that I’m both dedicated and competent, and I’ve moved quickly through training and should be done sooner than later, but oh boy am I tired.

I didn’t even fully realize how exhausted I am until I was stripping harnesses off horses at the end of today and met eyes with a quiet old gelding.

Horses’ eyes are actually magical, and they can plumb the depths of your soul without even trying.

So when our gazes locked, suddenly the lack of sleep and the trying so hard and the lurking anxiety and everything else just washed over me and my whole being acknowledged my weariness and tears rushed to my eyes and all I could do was burrow my face in the horse’s neck and focus on keeping my breathing steady. Believe it or not, I’m not a fan of bursting into tears in the middle of a barn of people I’ve worked with for less than a week.

Horses got cared for and I clocked out with dry eyes, but as soon as I got back to my room, I just let myself fall onto my back on the floor and lay there as I felt the tears trickle down my cheek to my hairline.

I legitimately love my job. I love the horses and everything that caring for them entails. (Except maybe the getting hit with overspray during morning baths. Because that’s freaking cold.) I love the driving and how I’m learning to keep the carriage where I want it at the speed I want it. I love the tour and discovering all the fantastic history of this island. I love my roommates and how we laugh and commiserate and explore. And I love the lake and the trees and the wildflowers and the quaint little buildings that are older than I can quite comprehend.

But I am so tired.

Part of me feels weak for needing tomorrow off, even though the day was just assigned to me; I didn’t have to ask for it or whatever. I want to be able to work harder, longer, faster than expected, to keep pace with the people who’ve been doing this for years. I want my tour to be spectacular, my driving to be flawless, my harnessing to be seamless right now.

Like the team I drove yesterday, Elvis and Hogan, I want to throw myself into the weight of the load and just push it until my heart gives out and I fall over.

Being paced is hard. Pacing myself is proving even harder.

And yes, I have lost count of how many of my coworkers have told me to slow down, catch my breath, and take it easy this week. At one point, I got sent out to the wash rack to cool off because I looked so frazzled and overheated. Oops.

I’ve lost the concentration necessary to bring this to any cohesive conclusion, because it’s after 7pm and way too close to fall-into-bed time. So suffice it to say that my goal for tomorrow is to rest up, and my goal for my next week of work is to strike a balance between giving it my all and not overdoing it. Because if I hit this tired again and providence doesn’t provide a day off the next day, I’ll end up sobbing or sick or both. And everyone up here tells me that it’s next to impossible to get healthy again once you’re sick.

Also, if you need a summer job, check out openings on Mackinac. They’re still hiring at a lot of places, and the island is fantastic.

Sleep well, my people. I know I’m going to.

– Melissa

P.S. This week I’ve spent a lot of time meditating on the words to Whatever Comes by Rend Collective, and it’s been such an encouragement. Check it out here!

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to the rhythm of hooves outside my window

Monday, May 15, 2017 – 8:05am

Well, it’s been twenty-something hours since I landed on Mackinac Island, and the truth is that it’s been a beautiful whirlwind. (Notice that I didn’t misspell “whirlwind,” which I did during my freshman year when my hashtag that I used for an entire weekend home was “#whirlwhindweekend,” and I probably will never forgive myself for that idiocy.)

If you’re not up with my latest adventures, I’m going to be spending the summer here, on Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) Island in Michigan, working for the local carriage company as a driver. Mackinac Island is known for banning cars back in the early 1900s, so now transportation on the island is limited to bikes and horses. Hence the carriage thing. It’s quite the tourist destination, which I’m sure will get old but yesterday just meant seeing a lot of happy people.

The fact that I’m now in Michigan implies that I somehow got from Texas to Michigan, and let me tell you, that was quite the trip. On my way home, if my fam doesn’t manage to come out to visit and give me a ride home at the end of the summer, I need to find some stretch of the trip to manage by train, just so that I can say that I’ve used every mode of transportation in one trip. This time I only managed car, plane, and bus on day one, and ferry on day two. Yesterday actually started off with a ferry ride, and that was absolutely amazing. I have plenty of friends who are pretty sure that, deep within their souls, they’re actually mermaids, and while I can kind of relate, that’s not really the type of love I have for wide expanses of water.

I personally think that I’m secretly a pirate (though someone tried to argue yesterday that “sailor” was a more appropriate label, which I think is dumb.)

Between the wind in my hair, the spray of water on my face, and the feel of Lake Huron surrounding me on all sides, I almost started weeping for joy as soon as we left the dock. Like, I was blinking my tears away so that I didn’t look like a complete idiot amongst all the tourists.

As expensive as island life might be (which is fair; all goods have to come over by ferry and get transported to the store by horse-power) I think it’s really going to work for me. The weather so far has been exquisite—which won’t be a constant, but is worth celebrating today—and the fact that I’m never more than a few miles from the lap of waves on the shore is so comforting.

Also, the view.

Oh. My. Word.

It more or less takes my breath away every single time.

(You are welcome to remind me of my prior enthusiasm when a few weeks have gone by and I’m tired and grumpy and homesick.)

Orientation starts today, and my roommates and I are all grateful that it starts at 9am. Generally we’ll have to be at the barn around 7am, so sleeping in is a rare treat. Granted, I didn’t sleep in because I’m way too nervous about the first day of work to have slept well, and the sun woke me up around 5:30, but the thought was nice.

Also nice was having the time to read the Bible. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but staying in the Word is my Christian Achilles’ heel, so to speak. God is gracious, though, and two days in a row I’ve ended up with mornings where I had nothing to do but curl up with my Bible. This morning I ended up in Psalms 117 and 118, which are both emphatic praises of God’s love and might. Psalm 117 makes me smile because it’s so short: only two verses! I can just see the Psalmist having scribbled down a few words of his morning prayer, and someone picking it up and saying, as we do in Life Group, ‘Woop, Jesus!’ and deciding to put it in the Old Testament Canon.

Okay, so no one would have said exactly that back when the Psalms were being written, but I think the underlying sentiment remains the same: the idea of celebrating God for who he is and what he’s doing/has done, and doing so with gusto.

Overall, it was a really refreshing start to the day, and my echoing heart-prayer that I’ve chosen for today comes from Psalm 118:1.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Things I’m looking forward to about today:

• Finally finding out what’s expected of me and what I can expect from work this summer
• Getting the WiFi password so that I can actually post this…
• Maybe finding some more time this evening for exploring; there are so many hiking trails and locations to explore
• Dinner
• Going to bed tonight, because sleep is just so fantastic

All in all, I have been a heady combination of excited about and terrified of this summer for months now, but now that I’m here I’m finally relaxing into it. It’s weird to think that I’ll be here for so long; one of my roommates mentioned Fourth of July fireworks last night, and that didn’t quite compute in my brain. I’ll celebrate the Fourth here, and my birthday, and miss two family members’ birthdays. When the months seem long, though, and home seems far, I keep reminding myself that this stretch of time isn’t that different from my first semester at HSU, and surviving and thriving is just as doable.

By the time I can post this, all these first-morning-thoughts will be outdated, but they’re still me and you’ll still get to read them. Perhaps I’ll even get to where I’m posting with some consistency, and we can both track how this summer grows me…and maybe I’ll grow wings and spend my hours swooping gracefully about above the island. Both are equally likely.

In the meantime and in-between-time (I just love that phrase!) keep celebrating, keep growing where you’re currently planted, and, for goodness sake, keep dancing!

– Melissa
P.S. Rend Collective is currently my jam, and I have a feeling that I’ll be posting a lot of their music this summer. For my first selection, check out their song Come On.

this place cannot be Home

Do you ever focus on the things you most would like to ignore? The facts that are most unrelated to reality or the most likely to cast reality in a dim light?

I do. All the time.

Like, I almost just threw my phone across the room and nearly burst into tears because my fingers had the great idea to pull up my calendar app to see how long it’s been since I didn’t spend every evening alone in my room. Why borrow that pain? Why not focus on the days where I’ve had really great days and come home to happily curl up on my futon to recharge because I was peopled out and didn’t want company?

I’m actually an optimistic person. I think. I see the best in people and events. For the most part.

Yet negativity is such an easy spiral to get sucked into. And you try to work through it on paper, because that’s the easiest way for you to figure things out, and it just gets worse. You work yourself into a frenzy and you can’t wrap it up because you don’t know how. You can’t scream at the people who have broken your heart because a public attack doesn’t allow them to defend themselves and that’s too innately infair. The fear is spread out on the table but goes unaddressed, and all the pain of the semester is documented like the video I took of the filth of my kitchen this afternoon.

I want to scream, but even my paper scream gets swallowed.

Because as much as I want to scream, I’m afraid to be heard.

Because if I am heard, someone might say something.

And I don’t think I can believe their love.

It’s not that I feel unlovely. It’s that I feel unseen.

Like, I think you could love me if you knew who I really was, but I don’t want your hollow allegiance to this mask that I wear. The mask that I am so ready to set aside if you ask.

Ask me, and I become real and vulnerable. Heck, you don’t even have to ask. Just notice the freaking mask, raise an eyebrow, and I’ll slip it off with a sheepish, ‘you caught me, but are you sure you’re ready’ kind of a smile.

So why wear the mask at all, if all I want to do is take it off.

Because when people don’t bother to see the mask, at least they’re not ignoring the real me.

Does that make any sense? I know it doesn’t have to; I’m just writing what I feel. But still. Does it?

When we play hide and seek as kids, what’s the goal?

It’s to be found.

If you leave a kid in hiding for long enough without finding him, he’s going to get antsy and eventually reveal himself. Maybe not give up his hiding spot, because the other goal of the game is to be the best at hiding. But still. Being found is central.

Plus I don’t think I even started out hiding. Sure, I started out college painfully shy and crazily overwhelmed. But I did come out of that shell. I did make an effort to meet people. To see them.

I even think it’s safe to say that I’ve seen people. I’ve found them, whether they were hiding deep or were wandering around without a hiding spot.

And not everyone’s going to be a match, I get that. Not every friendship becomes a David and Jonathan.

Actually, most friendships won’t be David and Jonathan.

But, like, could we actually be friends? Could we take the time to consistently see each other, rather than just off-handedly noticing each other once in a while?

I am so. Freaking. Lonely.

And I am so tired of feeling guilty for feeling lonely. I am tired of the arguments with myself over whether I am allowed to be disappointed by people’s behavior or whether it’s my own fault for expecting more of them than was realistic. What does friendship really mean? Is friendship, at its most basic, noticing when someone’s hurting, or is that something deeper than just entry-level friendship? Is my definition of friendship just way out of sync with reality? Are we really even friends, or are we just friendly acquaintances?

I know that I’m no model human. I know that I aggravate the heck out of people and I come across as aloof or as clingy far too often, which is ridiculous because those are pretty much opposites. I don’t always play well with others, and you probably won’t find a more opinionated person between here and the Rio Grande, but I do try. And I do care.

And if I didn’t care, then no one would have the power to break my heart.

It is the end of my second-to-last semester and I am ready to get the heck out of dodge.

I am ready to be back with the people who truly see me.

This semester I have sung. I have laughed. I have danced for joy in the sunshine and the wind. I have smiled at people and they have smiled back at me. I have embraced others and felt their arms enfold me in return.

Even so, at the end of the day every day, I still end up here. In my room. Alone.

And the thing is, it’s kind of too late for you to join me to make it all okay again.

Because I don’t believe you. Not anymore.

In 225 days, I graduate, and then I’m gone. Because this place—this dynamic—can’t be home.

– Melissa