Lost in Translation

I am actually a little disappointed to be posting this with the title “Lost in Translation” when I realize that “A Foreign Language” would have actually fit it perfectly. But alas, that was the name of my last post and of course hindsight is 20/20.

Oh well. Anyways.

I believe I mentioned at the start of the year that I rented a violin in December and was playing around with that and having a lot of fun with it. Well, it actually worked out that a barn friend of mine had a violin from when she was learning as a kid and she generously gifted it to me, which was pretty amazing. It’s a gorgeous instrument and I am very much in love, and after fixing up the strings and buying a new bow (and learning just how painstakingly difficult it is to apply a new brick of rosin to a brand new bow–it took me two days), it really feels like my own.

Actually learning how to play it though?

That’s been an interesting adventure.

I mean, I’ve learned how to make it sound like something resembling music and not a horrible hybrid between nails-on-chalkboard and dying-animal-sound, which is good, and I’ve learned to play a couple short and simple songs that actually sound like the songs they’re supposed to be, which is great, but wow what an instrument.

What an instrument, truly.

It’s quite interesting, because music is something I’ve always loved from a listening standpoint, but is something I never really felt a part of from a creating standpoint. I mean, I did take a mandatory music class in eighth grade so I did have some exposure to music, but learning three notes on the flute in order to play Hot Cross Buns doesn’t exactly equate to understanding and grasping music. And seeing as how I got a B in that class, I clearly wasn’t any kind of musical prodigy.

So jumping into the violin (which is on its own a much more difficult instrument to learn than most) without any real prior musical ability or knowledge has been a little bit disorienting. I mean, I couldn’t read a lick of sheet music a month or so ago, so trying to figure out how the little sticks and circles on the page are supposed to transform into sounds feels like trying to understand ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Lots of confused faces and question marks, let me tell you.

And what the heck is with this whole “an A note could either be an open A or the fourth finger on the D string or the third finger on the E string or the first finger on the G string” nonsense? Why couldn’t we come up with different letters for each? I am so confused????

But I’m slowly piecing it together and am actually making music. Which is. Wow. It’s really wow.

I mean, I’ve sort of got Mary Had a Little Lamb and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:

Which are two songs that would really only entertain infants (and even then they would want me to be a lot better at violin first) but hey. It’s certainly a start.

And, and! I’ve also got a classical song by Beethoven in my musical repertoire. Yeah that’s right, I learned how to play a snippet of Ode to Joy. I actually only learned it yesterday, so I have a clip from then and a clip from now, which already shows a little bit of improvement (such as actually being able to remember the tune of Ode to Joy).

Warning: this song sounds a little torturous. Sorry not sorry.

Personally, I think it sounds a little more impressive than Twinkle Twinkle. I actually was a little surprised that Ode to Joy was in my learning level. I mean, I guess I never realized it was actually fairly simple in practice? And I guess when you think of Beethoven you don’t really think “beginner”. So it’s kind of cool to me to see that making music isn’t quite as astoundingly, impossibly difficult as I previously thought.

Although, that being said, I’m not finding every song quite so easy to get a grasp on. The song that is my kryptonite? Jingle Bells. Yes. Jingle Bells. I attempted it four times in the following clip and boy oh boy was that fun.

Yeeeah. Not very impressive.

I think perhaps the most fascinating part of this whole experience thus far though has been actually learning the music. I mean, I still don’t really know sheet music, but I learned how to do Auld Lang Syne using tabs and that’s actually a song I’ve memorized. And it’s really interesting to me, because to some degree I’ve got the finger positions numerically memorized (0 3 3 3 1 0 3 0…) but when it comes down to really playing it, I’ve actually got it memorized more by sound than anything else. I know the tune of the song, I know whether the next note will be higher or lower, I’ve learned the finger position associated with the different notes, and so playing Auld Lang Syne feels a little bit like speaking a fluent sentence in a foreign language.

Learning music feels like learning a language.

Because with this song in particular, I no longer have to sit there and think “okay what’s the note that comes next?”, my brain just knows it, and knows how to make it. I’ve got it memorized to the point where it feels intuitive and natural and it’s such an incredible feeling. This is why I wanted to learn an instrument–I wanted the feeling of music being an extension of myself and I wanted to feel the sound pour from my hands the same way the words pour from my mind.

I mean don’t get me wrong, you can hear plenty of mistakes when I’m playing it (I am so impatient and you can totally tell, ahaha), but it just feels so amazing to play and agh I love it.

I have a hell of a long way to go with violin before it’s quite what I hope for it to be, but I’m just so grateful that I get the chance right now to start to integrate something so amazing and meaningful into my life. The fact that I’m learning this new language, that I’m finding a new way to express myself, a new extension of my soul? It’s inspiring and powerful and breathtaking and I love it.

Y’know. When I’m not struggling with Christmas songs.

-Alex

The Good, the Bad, and the Doubtful

Oh, crippling doubt.

A very familiar presence.

I’m pretty sure that the very second you begin to even faintly consider yourself anything of a writer (or any type of creator, really), you automatically sign yourself up for daily/weekly/monthly deliveries of doubt. Doubt that you’re any good, doubt that your work is inspiring or meaningful, doubt that you’re doing the best you possibly can. That little voice at the back of the head nags you, telling you it’s pretentious or passionless or clumsy or juvenile. And from what I’ve gathered, doubt isn’t really the sort of thing that goes away, even after years and years and years spent creating.

And doubt is exactly the thing that came creeping up on me not long after I’d published my last blog post, Infinite Imaginings.

I doubted that it was inspired enough, I doubted that it was written as well as it could have been–I doubted that I did justice to the message I was trying to convey. I felt like maybe I could have been more creative and imaginative, creating deeper, more unique stories for the things I talked about. I felt like maybe if I’d spent more time and really pushed the message, really polished it up, I would have made something so much better.

Of course, there’s the catch: it would have taken more time.

As you’ve possibly noticed, I’ve been trying very hard to blog on a more reliable schedule. I’m aiming to get a post up every Wednesday and Sunday, which means that I’ve been keeping myself busy writing blog posts and juggling this with some of the other projects I’ve been working on. Right now, I don’t have a queue–I’m writing most of these posts the day before they’re due, allowing me to do a quick edit on the posting day and to add any last touches I might think of. I also don’t really have a backlog of ideas–again, these ideas are being thought up one or two days before I’m actually posting them.

It’s not as tight a schedule as when I used to blog every other day (how the heck did I manage that?!), but it’s still a lot tighter of a schedule than, say, posting once every three months. I have to keep coming up with ideas, I have to keep writing them, and I have to keep moving on to the next one just as soon as I’m done.

That means that there’s not too much room for doubt.

I would love to sit down and spend a week or two working on a blog post, carefully crafting it into the best possible content I can produce, and I hope that if I come up with an idea that really inspires me, I will, but if I did that for all my posts, I wouldn’t be able to keep up this schedule. And of course there’s always the risk that if I let the doubt get to me, if I let myself believe it’s not good enough, I need to do better, I might just end up never posting it at all. I might never think it’s good enough to share and then what’s the point of writing it at all?

It’s a really tricky balance, I think, trying to push for the best you can achieve while also allowing yourself to just create.

You really have to be okay with making mistakes, or with producing things that aren’t the best.

I mean, obviously in 20 years I’ll have a different writing style and maybe it will be “better” than the one I have now. Obviously in 20 years I’ll have learned some things and will have more insight and experience to offer. Obviously in 20 years I will be more capable of many things than I am at this very moment. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write and create things now, even knowing that it won’t be the best I’ll ever achieve.

Because sure, if I look back at all the things I’ve written on Valourbörn, I can find lots of examples of posts I’m admittedly a little embarrassed about. Ideas that weren’t as meaningful as I thought, concepts that I wasn’t very passionate about, messages that just came across clumsy and shallow and not at all what I wanted to be. That tends to happen, when you create things–you make a lot of bad content, you make a lot of mistakes and misjudgements.

But I can also think of lots of posts that I am still really proud of.

Posts that ended up being more inspiring than I first thought, posts that were very significant and personal and honest, posts that made people laugh and smile and feel things. I’ve made plenty of “bad” posts that in hindsight I would have scrapped, but I’ve also made so many posts that remind me why I started blogging in the first place.

I mean, one of the first ones I think of it The Shadow’s Heart, which is a post I wrote on a whim that received a lot more love than I expected. There was the one about not eating dog poo that I thought was pretty fun, and the whole caramel pears debacle that everybody else thought was fun. There’s the story of The Christmas Slug that my mother brings up every year, and The Warrior Within, which holds a special place in my heart. And then, of course, there is the Epic Saga of the  Quest for the Styrofoam Balls. All of these posts make me smile when I recall the passion and energy and heart that went into them.

But the only reason I even have those good posts is because I wasn’t afraid to write the bad ones.

I wasn’t afraid to follow an idea, to take inspiration as it came, and write as honestly and freely as I could.

I wasn’t afraid to tell doubt to shut up for a minute and let me work.

It’s kind of another reason too why I won’t let myself delete any of the old blog posts I’ve written that I’m not fond of anymore. If I let myself delete them, if I deem them “not good enough”, then I’ll be less confident about letting myself make those mistakes. I’ll be thinking “Is this a post I’m going to delete in a few months?” and it will make things worse.

(Plus, it’s always nice to have contrast–it makes my good posts look that much better next to the mediocre ones.)

So sure, maybe I still think that perhaps my last post could have been a little bit better, but at least it’s out there. At least it’s been written, at least it’s been shared. And I mean if you think about it, the only reason I’m writing this post is because I wrote the last one. So it’s provided me with inspiration and more content to produce.

And of course, as is often the case, it applies to more than just blogging or writing or creating.

To do anything good, you can’t be held back by doubt.

You gotta just go for it.

-Alex

A few horses, a lot of life lessons

Hooray, it’s August and that means the Your Story project has officially begun! The responses I’ve gotten have been nothing but fantastic, and I am so excited to share them with you! We’re certainly starting off with an inspirational and heart-warming one from Heather over at yourhappyplaceblog. Her blog is always a joy for me to read, full of inspiration and motivation to find happiness in your life. I hope you enjoy reading her story as much as I did :D

(P.S.:It isn’t too late to submit a story–if this inspires you to share your own, let me know! I would love to help you share it with others.)

And as per usual, all comments are welcome and appreciated! I’m sure Heather would love to hear what you think :)

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A few horses, a lot of life lessons

photo from thelove4happiness.com

“I had an amazing experience last Friday, I got to spend a day with beautiful horses learning about myself, energy, leadership and finding a deeper part of myself.

I am definitely a follower of my own intuition. I have tried to listen to any prompting, inspiration to try something, a book that seems to keep jumping out at me…there are always gifts and signs that can guide us to situations that will help us grow beyond our current state. I was listening to a podcast of Koren Motekaitis (she has a great podcast show) and she was interviewing someone named Renee Sievert who was a Equus Coach. I had no idea what that was, but I was drawn to her passion and excitement and then she mentioned working with horses. Deal breaker!! My interest was even more heightened, because I have always had a thing with horses, their wild essence, their spirit, watching them run…whenever I have had bad dreams throughout my life, I envision wild horses running and it seems to calm my soul. Not sure why, so a coach who worked with horses was very interesting to me. I listened to the podcast, immediately after I began to scroll my phone for anyone in my local area who did this type of coaching. I was hooked!! I instantly signed up for a class & was scheduled for a week later. Here we go!!!

I wasn’t sure what to expect from my experience, but I went with an open mind and heart, ready for anything. I met up with a great coach, Erin Cutshall who was within about 15 minutes from my home & we began our day with hugs & a walk through the ranch to grab our first horse, Ginger. She was a spirited, cinnamon colored horse that I openly admit was a little intimidating. She entered the round pen and began to kick and neigh, running in circles and bucking with spirit. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with her. Erin began to explain how horses have a “Leader Mare” they follow in a herd. She has to earn the respect and leadership with every horse that is present. Erin ran through some of the steps horses go through when testing one another for leadership and then the signs when they begin to give in and follow the leader—to be friends, to want to have a meal together.

Now, this whole experience was primarily for me to understand myself and seek answers to why I have felt so disconnected to people. I have struggled gaining trust in friendships and have not had the energy to engage with enthusiasm, so I have no friends. I explained how I didn’t like feeling like I was trying to learn and grow spiritually, but everything I read or watched emphasized the need to have close social ties or connections. It was so frustrating to feel so disconnected and not feel a need for others in my life. I did not understand.

She began training me in how horses are able to “mirror” people & will let off the energy they are feeling within the round pen. She explained how if you don’t hold a high energy or an “inviting” energy, the horse will not follow your lead. She talked about how intuitive horses read the energy we carry & if it is not a leadership, or your best self that is being shown—they will not be interested in you. Erin began asking me questions about me, my needs, my disconnection issue, my alone time, if I enjoyed being around people or if it felt like a drain…She helped me to understand that I have a very ‘Introvert’ personality and being alone is very vital to my personal needs. She helped me see that it was okay to not enjoy being around lots of people and that conversations can be very draining. She expressed how I was energized by being alone and social situations were draining to my soul. I cannot tell you what a weight was lifted in truly understanding my feelings. I had felt all those things, but having someone see it outside of me, hearing my needs and allowing me to be—was freeing. Erin helped me see that when you understand yourself, what your needs are and being able to take care of those needs, then you will be your best self—the leader that lies within.

She then invited me into the round pen & began giving me cues of where to stand to make the horse do what I wanted (to move, to run…) it was harder than I thought. I LOVE seeing horses run, so of course I wanted to see the horse run, but when I tried to get her to move, she didn’t listen. My energy wasn’t strong enough for her to listen. It took some practice & finding my playful energy to send her into motion. It was amazing. She ran and ran & then when my energy began to drop she would slow (like me). I stopped & wanted the horse to follow me. Erin walked me through the final steps to win the horse over & she followed me step by step around the round pen.

We worked with three different horses, all with different personalities & it was exhilarating. It was a craft that took time, learning to angle my body, getting over wanting to lead like I would with a dog. That was another aha moment for me. Erin explained how most people are used to leading like they would a dog, but Erin quickly got out in front of the horse and began to say things like, “please come over and love me, follow me, be with me, listen to me.” the visual was so pathetic and disempowering that I instantly imagined how in our own relationships we could be like that with people. BUT, if we learn to be our best self, take care of our needs, then people (horses) will be drawn to us. The energy we carry will free us from the bondages of being small, acting small & will allow us to be who we are meant to be–to shine, to radiate, to be strong, to lead and guide. It was even relevant to parenting. Think of almost begging your children to spend time with you, to listen, to respect you with a tone and action of leadership and love vs begging. You want those around you to admire and love you, to want to be around you because of the good energy you send out.

Watching Erin was even more amazing because she has been able to master the art. She put me in a large arena with one horse & had me try to get it to go through different sets of cones, but the one caveat, I could not get it to follow–I had to lead it. It was harder than I thought. A couple rows near the fence–easy, but when I was determined to get the horse out into the middle and have it go through an aisle of cones–no can do!! I tried a couple different tactics, but my reasonable brain couldn’t problem solve because I figured I would have to go one one side of the horse and then run over to guide it the opposite direction. I finally gave in & just walked through the cones and had the horse follow. Erin smiled & was happy that I had at least finished getting the horse to go where I desired. I explained my only reasonable thought of how to get it through the cones & threw her a challenge to see if she could do it. She smiled and agreed to the challenge. She right away led the horse through the cones—I couldn’t believe it. She explained and showed me how when she began to give the horse space, it would then come in closer to her & that ended up putting the horse right where she wanted. It was an art. I couldn’t believe it.

I enjoyed learning the parallels of life and the energy we carry. Horses are definitely a mirror, when I got calm, they got calm, when I got excited they would run, when they were confused by my needs and wants they did not follow, one actually began leading me by sticking her head out in front of me, so I was behind. When you give them space, they want to follow. It’s a balance, a dance, a harmony between two spirits. It was a beautiful experience that I will always cherish.”

Here is an amazing Ted talk by Koelle Simpson who trained my Equus coach & is very passionate about her work. It is definitely worth a watch. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lbKF9qCGHg

-Heather

Brave on Horseback

Last week, I was taking care of a horse named Dom for a friend of mine. It entailed me going out every day to ride, clean his stall, and provide lots of treats. I’ve taken care of this horse for a long time, whenever my friend goes away, and I even used to ride him before my friend bought him, when Dom was just a school horse at the barn. So I’ve known him plenty long enough to begin to understand his quirks and personality.

I’ve also ridden him long enough to notice my growth as a rider.

I’ve fallen off Dom at least once… probably two or three times, really. And I’ve been on his back when he’s spooked and run around like crazy before I could settle him. But the scariest time I’ve ever had to ride him was while doing cross-country jumping out in the field. There were two key problems with that situation:

  1. With his original owners, he was taught to fly over jumps as fast as he physically could. That in itself is terrifying.
  2. He’s also a very shy horse and is nervous out in the field, where a rabbit could jump out of the bushes at any time. Being on a skittish horse’s back in a place that makes them scared is also terrifying.

Combined… it was the jumping lesson from hell. Seriously, I have nightmares of that day. I remember one jump in particular, made of car tires lined up and standing upright, that he was afraid to jump. So not only did he reach a breakneck pace approaching it, but he also unexpectedly tried to swerve away from it. I miraculously didn’t fall off, but there were a couple times when I was clinging to his neck, staring at the ground with horror and struggling to stay on his back.

But that was years ago, and even though he’s still very much afraid of being out in the field and still tries to speed over jumps, I’m not afraid to ride him in those situations. Because I’ve learned what he does and how he handles his fear, and have subsequently learned how to deal with it.

And I expect I’ve become a little braver too.

I’ve been riding for nine years now, almost a full decade of my life, and I started when I was in grade three–just a small little bugger clinging to a massive horse’s back. I remember being so afraid in those days. I didn’t like cleaning the horses’ hooves because I thought I’d be kicked, I didn’t like putting the bridle on because I was afraid of being bitten, and I was afraid to canter or jump because I thought I’d fall off. And when you’re scared, the horse becomes scared as they sense your unease and are wary of it.

But after nine years, you learn a lot of things. You learn to watch the horse’s body language, so you don’t get kicked or bitten. You learn how to keep centred and balanced, so you don’t fall off. You also have to learn to trust yourself. You must stay calm and collected, you must conquer your own fear, so that your horse will be a little braver.

I’ve done all sorts of wonderful things, too, like riding bareback and sidesaddle, and vaulting (gymnastics on horseback), and riding through trees and creeks. Things my eight-year-old self would hate to imagine.

So riding Dom in the field last week, feeling his nervous energy, I stayed calm. I knew he wanted to run but I knew he was obedient and sweet–he would do most anything I asked. I knew that if a bunny spooked him, he would run towards the barn, and I knew that I would be able to sit it out, like I had many times before. Dom had taught me to trust myself, and I had learned to be braver.

I often criticize myself for not being brave. In a lot of ways, I’m right to do so. But it’s encouraging, to see a part of my life where I’ve got this bravery thing figured out. Where I’m able to trust myself as much as I trust my horse.

I’m glad I started riding when I did, partly because it’s a really cool hero-ish thing to do, and partly because I would never have had this opportunity for bravery. I would never have proved to myself that I can do it, that I’m capable of conquering my fear.

Perhaps there’s hope for me after all ;)

What makes you feel brave?

May you never lose hope in being brave.

-Alex