I remember the first time I got on a horse. I was two years old and we were watching a friend of the family ride. My mom agreed to let me take a short ride around the arena1 with the friend and that was it! I was horse crazy. From then on, I drove my parents insane begging for a horse. Whenever I saw a horse, I would beg even harder.
When I was four years old, my life as I know it now began. I have Selective Mutism. This is a rare childhood disorder2 in which children stop speaking in certain social situations, many times at around the age of four. I spoke3 normally to my parents, my brother and certain other people, but was silent at school and in social situations. I went days, weeks, months without a sound at school. At most, I might quietly whisper to a friend.
Often, children with Selective Mutism will not speak in the presence of others; even to a person they normally talk to. There is a lot of whispering in ears, so that others cannot hear. We have normal or above average IQs and usually no speech pathology. The most important factor in this disorder is, we cannot speak. We do not do this purposely or willfully, it feels impossible to speak. As you can imagine, many children are blamed, punished and traumatized, especially at school. The disorder is believed to be anxiety related and treatment is difficult, but not impossible. We have so much more to learn.
My parents searched for a cure. At that time, we did not even have a name for what I had. I suffered silently through school until I was ten years old when one in a long string of psychologists had an idea. Having discussed his plan with my parents beforehand, one day in my therapy session I was asked by the psychologist what I wanted more than anything in the world. He explained that I was going to be given an opportunity to work for what I wanted. I couldn't believe my good luck, but I could not answer. I just stood there struggling to verbalize what I wanted more than anything else in the world. Finally, I was permitted to whisper the answer in my mother's ear. "A horse," was all I could say.
I was to get a pony5, but before we could even start looking, I had to live up to my end of the bargain. I had to try to talk. I had a chart of weekly tasks I had to accomplish. I had to answer the phone five times per week, something I had never done before. I had to make five phone calls to my friends. I had to say one word to my teacher at school and the list went on. For a child with Selective Mutism, saying one word to someone can be like climbing Mount Everest.
I did everything that was asked of me and the day came when my parents found a local riding stable that had the perfect pony. His name was Sequoia6, a strong little chestnut7 with some roaning and a tiny white spot on his rump. He was perfect, of course, and I fell in love immediately. We boarded him at the riding stable and I began taking lessons. I wanted to be the best I could be and I swelled8 with pride every time I got on Sequoia. It truly was a dream come true. I learned to brush him, saddle him, pick his hooves out. Each week I could not wait for Saturday and my lesson, then my free time with my Sequoia. When I was in Sequoia's presence, I forgot all about my problems and felt strong and secure.
As I see it, horses are silent too, but they are fast, powerful and free at the same time. Horses give me the strength I lack. They give me a reason to push myself, when I can find no other. Horses have been part of my life for well over twenty years now, all the while helping9 me deal with an isolating10, frightening disorder. When things get difficult, as they still sometimes do, I go to my horses. With them, I can be silent, but I can hold my head up and have dignity and freedom. By connecting with them, I have learned to embrace what I was once shunned11 for and I found my voice.
I am a fully4 participating member of society these days. My horses and I made it through a master's degree and then law school. I am a practicing attorney, I even make court appearances. I may have made it otherwise, but I'm not sure. I feel I owe my life to the horse and I try to give it back to them every day. I am fortunate that I can look out my back door and see my beautiful horses looking back at me. I am so grateful that I get to watch them run in their mountain pasture every day. I hope I never stop learning from them. They have given me the best gift I could ever imagine, my life.
Make sure your love is unconditional1. Make sure you love people in all kinds of "weather". Or else what is the use if we love a person only when he is good or she is nice? When I need the people most that's when they leave me. All the time. So please, I hope you won't be like that. We always have to consider the other party, your companion's situation and mood. Maybe he's in difficulty2 right now. That's why his mood is not so sweet.
Maybe she has so much work to do and so many headaches, so she cannot be so darling like usual. That time is the time when we need to show our most noble3 quality, the way we want ourselves to be.
It's not that if you are sweet to that person then he will love you more. Maybe he will, maybe he won't. But that is not the point to be good and to be noble. To be good, to be noble is for ourselves because we choose to be that way, we want to keep being that way, and we feel good about it. It's not because, "Okay, now he needs me more. If I show more sympathy4, then our love will be stronger"; It's not even to be considered.
But most of the time we fail the test. When people are in most difficulty, we just leave them, or we are cold and indifferent5. "Oh, you're not nice to me. All right, all right.";"You'll come and need me soon."; Of course they will. When they're in a better mood, when everything goes better, of course they'll come around. But then it's too late. Then it is not love anymore. It's just a need for each other. That's different, because you are used to each other and you need each other sometimes out of habit, out of convenience, out of financial security6 reasons -- anything. But it's not true love.
True love is we stick together in "thick and thin". Especially when it's thin, when it's troublesome. Then we should really bridge over the "troubled water". That's what they say in English. But most of us fail the test, to ourselves, not to our partners. He might leave you, he might stay with you, because you're nice or not nice. But you fail yourself. You leave yourself. You leave the most noble being that you really are. So we should check up on this to our family members or whomever that is beloved and dear to us. Most of the time in critical situations, we just turn our backs and that is no good.
Of course we have our anger, our frustrations1, because our partners are not as loving as usual, or whomever that is; but he or she is in a different situation. At that time, she or he is in mental suffering. It's just as bad or even worse than physical suffering. Physical suffering you can take a pill or you can have an injection and it stops or at least temporarily stops, and you feel the effect right away; or at least if people are in physical suffering, everyone sympathizes with them.
But when they are in mental anguish2, and we pound them more on that, and we turn our backs and become cold and indifferent, that is even more cruel, even worse. That person will be swimming alone in suffering. And especially they trust us as the next of kin3, the next person, the one that they think they can rely on in times of need; and then at that time, we just turn around and are snobbish4, because they didn't treat us nice so we just want to revenge. That's not the time. You can revenge later, when he's in better shape. Just slap him.
Actually, at that time, the person is not his usual self anymore. He was probably under very great pressure that he lost his own control. It's not really lost his own control, but for example, when you are in a hurry, your talk is different. Right? "Hand me that coat! Quick! Quick! Quick!" Things like that. But normally, you would say "Honey, please, can you give me that coat." Is that not so? (Audience: Yes.) Or when you're in pain -- for example stomach pain, heartache or whatever -- you scream loudly; and anyone who comes to talk to you, you don't talk in the usual way anymore, because you're in pain.
Similarly, when you are in a mental or psychological pain, you talk also in a very grouchy5 way, very cross. But that is understandable. So if we -- any so-called loving partner or family member -- do not understand even this very least, very basic concept, then we're finished. Then we are really in a bad situation. It's not that the partner will do anything to us. Whether he does anything to us later or not, that is no problem. The problem is us. The problem is we degrade ourselves, that we make less of a being of ourselves than we should be, than we are supposed to be, or that we really are. So do not make less of a being of yourselves.