Compassion Fatigue?

I sat in session today talking about how “this” (what I do) doesn’t resonate with me. When did that change? When did I stop giving a shit. Did it drift away long ago? or is it something new? As I think, long and hard, about it, I think it has been a more insidious process. Slowly and surely chipping away at my resolve. I do not think it happened over night. I’m sure the never-ending financial pressure hasn’t helped, but it is more likely a cumulative effect. With each horse we put in the ground,having fought for and loved. With every fiber in our being, we loved them. and we lost them. That takes a little piece, makes it hard to come back. Somewhat like a boxer getting clipped with a straight jab. Makes them less likely to step inside. The jabs hold the perimeter, and allows the other boxer to win. I think that is what has happened. We have laid ourselves out there, not ever holding back. Never putting our hands up. We are defenseless when fate lands that jab. When we lose one, it is like taking it flush on the chin. I knew things were changing when I couldn’t name the mare that came in this past June. They come to us like ghosts, no past, no nothing, not even a name. Just a number stuck on their hip. That is their identity. We have always named our horses, often within a short time of meeting them. They speak to us, in their own way. I could not name this mare. A horse I had laid my head on and cried into her mane. A horse I tended to, and treated with antibiotics. I have spent time with her each day, but she remained nameless. I know now why that is, I don’t want to walk into that jab. My hands are up and I am defending myself. A horse with no name is far harder to fall in love with. They are just another number, not an individual. I couldn’t bring myself to name her. This is fatigue. Compassion is something close to breathing for people like myself and my partner. The ability to empathize, and to love enables us to engage fully with these animals. It also allows them to thrive. Those that knew only fear, learn about a kind word and a positive experience. Those that went hungry, know we are there every day at the same time, with the same amount. It never varies. It gives them security. But for us, it takes its toll. We are their lifeline. We provide all that they need. In times of illness and disease, we must provide unflinching and steadfast support. There is no running for cover, or looking the other way. It isn’t an option. That is a huge responsibility. It makes our lives hard. I’ve never been one to turn my back, or withdraw from a fight. Here I stand back against the ropes, flinching from a feigning opponent. No jab, but still I flinch. How do I get back to that confident place? A place of love and compassion, a place where horses get names, and get loved. Where an incoming blow is blocked aside and easily handled. The match won with a return flurry- an animal rescued with kindness and love. There is no living when you are in hiding. There is no rescue if there is not 100% commitment.

I don’t know how to rekindle the passion for what I do. Nor do I know how to get past the pain and the loss. I don’t think the answer is getting hardened and shut down. It is far too easy for me to hide behind a rough facade. That isn’t the answer. I don’t want to change anymore than I already have. I don’t want my partner to change anymore than she has. There has to be a way to do what we do without shutting down. I know we are fatigued and burned out. I just don’t know how to remedy that while still keeping all the balls in the air. We can’t just drop everything and leave. There is no easy answer.


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