As a child, I cultivated an obsession with horses. I read every book written for horse-crazy girls. I imagined myself as a horse (or on the back of one) to pass the time on long car trips. A city kid, I rode whenever I could: on my uncle’s horses in Ohio, my cousin’s horse in Pennsylvania, the horses at Girl Scout camp.
Often these were plodding rides, but what I remember best are the times I let my horse run. Looking back, I can see that the galloping horse became a motif in my life.
At camp one summer, we were cantering along in the woods happy as could be when a branch swiped the glasses right off my head, leaving me blind the rest of the ride.
Another time, I fell off runaway Thunder, my cousin’s horse, and broke my wrist.
In my 20s there was an exhilarating trail ride through the New Mexico desert, just me and Judy and two cowboys, scaling ridges at top speed, galloping through arroyos. Somewhere there’s a photo of the two of us on top of our horses, with the blue New Mexico sky behind.
Then at age 32, I fell off a state park horse. This sent me spiraling into a health crisis that took years to resolve.
Horse happens to be my “sign” in the Chinese zodiac, something I found out as an exultant preteen. The Chinese restaurant’s placemat said so.
I forgot about this for a while, or discounted its significance. But recently I learned that not only am I a horse, I’m a fire horse born in a yang year (vs. yin year). Signifying great power and energy, coupled with an adventuresome and headstrong nature.
Also signifying something historically unwanted. Fertility dropped in parts of Asia in my birth year, 1966, because no one wanted to bring a girl-child in that would embody the power of that sign. While men embodying the power of the sign were lauded as leaders—go figure!—the women were reputed to be rebellious, bitchy sorts who henpeck their husbands to an early grave. (I’ll leave it to my spouse to say yes or no to this stereotype.)
“How to rein in that spirited animal?” was the question troubling potential parents (and mates) of fire horse girls born in yang years.
I’ll tell you how, in my case. You give the 1966 baby a lower-than-average level of inherited qi, or life force. TCM posits that we are born a certain amount of qi which is our base, which can be used up (and usually is by the time a woman reaches 49). Yikes.
So if you start off with less, as I did, you have to learn how to marshal and save your qi—and acquire more qi.
I have not always been great at conserving my own energy. But life has shown me the importance of that. Falling off a horse taught me that.
Meantime, the impulse to run like crazy, to learn it all, try it all—I see now that this might be the fire horse wanting to gallop. I’m learning to acquire more qi* so I can follow these impulses!
I’ve always been driven, but it seems like it would do me good to act more like a fire horse born in a yang year, now that I know this dimension of myself. Even if my adventures are mostly on the page or in plumbing the depths of the human soul.
And rebelliousness? The funny thing is that while I have always embraced a certain, shall we say, intensity, I also saw myself as rather meek, passive, and compliant.
But meanwhile a secret rebellion simmered inside.
When I was 21, a mentor said he appreciated my reformist spirit. Perhaps my rebellion was less secret than I thought.
And perhaps I rebel daily through the way I live, rebuking some of the edicts of society, like “you must climb the ladder” and “you must buy all the gadgets and live in the biggest house you can afford” and “you must only look at the material world when making sense of things.”
In such a society, even the act of tuning in to my own sensations, reflections, and inner knowing constitutes rebellion.
So if you see me sitting still and looking contemplative, I just might be galloping!
*Through the Dragon’s Way program, locally taught by Melissa Laborsky, MD. Highly recommended!