She came into the world pink, sweet and vulnerable,
Full of light.
Her memories of the first years of life
Were largely those of a victim.
Disappointingly weak, easily put down.
When she was seven, she learned to ride a horse,
And was transformed.
The pink and white victim-child went into hiding.
A tough kid came out.
Thick armor hiding all weakness, taking on the world.
The Tough Kid willingly rode bucking calves,
All eyes on her,
At the neighborhood roping arena on Sunday afternoon,
Not minding the whip-lashed spine nor the
Grit in her mouth when she landed on her face in the sand.
Not only did she grow up tough, she had a mean streak,
And was proud of it.
The toughness, the pride and the thick armor
All grew up with her,
Protecting the vulnerable child within.
The child had enough of hiding.
She wanted her light to shine.
The protective armor smothered her.
She grew strong enough to come out.
Right through the Tough Kid’s heart, which broke.
A broken heart was nothing to the Tough Kid.
On those long-ago Sundays, she got up, spat out dirt,
Glared at the laughing men and boys around her,
And marched out of the arena.
This time her broken heart was in her hand.
I come to honor this dark part of myself,
When I stand in awe of the difficulties I've endured,
And the strength with which I withstood them,
I am deeply grateful for the Divine gift of the Tough Kid.
Thus begins the final chapter of Passage: Illness as Initiation. Now to get it out into the world. That's even scarier than riding calves as a seven-year-old.