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Life is Short. Enjoy the Ride!

Published: 2/10/2011
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By Sonia Theobalds

Last year I made a Bucket List, a list of things I want to do with my family and my horses before I kick the bucket.  I have a bum knee and an arthritic leg and I just turned 50.  I'm not complaining.  I was spurred on to write out my Bucket List because one of my oldest and dearest horse friends passed away just over a year ago.
We have been super close for over twenty two years.  She was about to turn 54 when she died.  Today is her birthday.  When you lose a close friend it really changes your whole life.     
Bonnie was suddenly diagnosed with cancer and it took her quickly.  As we all do, she had been casually putting things off for several years:

  "Aah, I can't leave right now, I'll go to the Equine Affaire next year"

 "Ooh, I'll ride that trail in the spring"

"We should go there with the horses someday"
Someday never came for Bonnie.  Suddenly, she felt ill and her whole life was ripped from her grasp.  It was traumatic enough that she was told she had so little time left to live, but the saddest part was that for the last few months of her life she felt extremely regretful she didn't do the things she kept saying she would do with her family and her horses all those years.  Her life revolved around both but she told me, in those last few weeks, she always got caught up in other menial things and hadn't MADE the time.
When I would go to big events, I would call her; she loved to feel the energy of the crowd through my cell 'phone.  We'd giggle over the roar of the people in the background because she wanted to be there so much.  She always said, "I'll be there next year".
The day Bonnie called me and told me she was terminally ill, with only weeks to live, we had a long cry and then we made a pact.  I promised her I would get my butt in gear and go places for both of us.  I'd been putting things off too.  I am not good at stretching out of my comfort zone.  But suddenly I started realizing, yikes, all those excuses we make:

- it's too hot
- it's too cold
- it's too windy
- I'm too tired
- the horse is too frisky
- the deer flies are out
- it's too icy/snowy/muddy
- I'm nervous
- blahblahblah, etc.
Too many reasons not to LIVE.
Writing a Bucket List made me stay on track.
So I got my butt in gear last year.  First of all, it felt good eliminating all the stuff that made me stressed.  Saying NO to things that put pressure on me eased my anxiety.  Then I put pen to paper and started writing down the Bucket List.  What would you do if you only had one year or less to live?  It is a mind-blowing experience.
I found a comfort zone I could deal with.  I joined ACTHA and went on several of their rides.  My family and I also hosted an ACTHA ride at our farm.  At every opportunity, I rode and worked with my horses.  Why have 'em if you don't use 'em and enjoy 'em?  We broadened our horizons.  We trained with my hero Lige Moore, we went to his farm and learned how to work cows, we attended several clinics, we went off for horse-camping weekends away.  Our family and the horses went several times to our favorite place, Popham Beach, to let the horses "romp and roll".  My daughter and I rode for hours on the sand.  For decades, there has been a book inside of me, so I began to write it down.  Thanks to my husband who made it possible, I went with friends to The World Equestrian Games in Kentucky and had the time of my life.  Last year, I rode my two horses every chance I got from frost to freeze and realized, by the time the snow started to fly, that I had ridden more miles in 2010 than I had those Summers when I was a teenager.  It's that Bucket List thing.    
Some days I felt guilty for not working or for not doing the housework.  But then, I get over it.
Because, after all, that's what The Bucket List is all about.  It's a list of what you want to do before you can't do it.
I got back to the work and the housework.
I am sure you have heard this somewhere before, but you only have ONE LIFE.
I am so grateful to have had the opportunities I have had and I thank my family and friends for supporting me.
And, as this New Year of 2011 embraces us, I hope you will take an hour and tap out on your keyboard your own Bucket List.
Get out there. Explore. Enjoy.  Spend that extra hour brushing your horse and breathing in his peaceful energy.
And, while you are embracing those soft sighs and silent moments, say a prayer for someone who can't be here to do that.
We all have the opportunity.  Don't wait.  Don't put it off.
The next time I go to the beach, I am going to breathe in deeply and be really brave and canter with my horse in the sand like Bonnie and I did when we were younger and braver and clinked stirrups every chance we got. 
And if you see me planted face first in the surf, please know that I was smiling when I hit the dirt 'cuz I crossed that challenge off my Bucket List.

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2/11/2011 Molly Stark
oh Sonia - your story doesn't need any comments as it says it all! why do you make me weep so...? Its all good and you've enriched my life more than most - keep the stories comin....
2/11/2011 Martha
Lovely essay, Sonia. I am so sorry for your loss, and so impressed at how you have used that heartbreak to enhance your own life and the lives of your family and horses. I'll pass this on, it's very thought- and action-provoking.
2/11/2011 Jessie
Being the extrememly blessed recipient of sharing some of the items on your "list" last summer with you, I can't find words to say how much you have inspired me. I know Bonnie's beautiful spirit will be clinking stirrups with you every time you ride.Thankyou my dear friend Sonia.
2/11/2011 Ali
Sonia...that was beautiful and so true. Meeting you up at your ACTHA ride was the highlight of my season as you and your family were the most kind and welcoming people I have met in a very long time.Your insightful words should inspire all to get out more and take it all in. Happy trails to you my friend...until we meet again.
2/11/2011 Liz
Oh, I am sooo glad you shared this with us. I am moved and inspired to work on my own Bucket List. Being an older rider, back to horses after many years absence, I know how important it is to go for it. At 63 how many more years could I put off the horse and horse trailer of my dreams? Zero. Thanks for sharing the ride with me.
2/11/2011 Darren
Very touching article Sonia, I'm glad you wrote this. My mom would love this article and you truly do describe how she felt near the end of it all and her regrets. If there is one thing I learned from all of this.... It's to live now, not tomorrow
2/12/2011 Vince Mahany
Sonia, Many thanks for posting this. It is a wake up call and a reality check.
2/13/2011 Margie
Sonia, it is so beautiful, brought tears to my eyes. I think of Bonnie often and miss her so much too. I know this would make her smile!
2/13/2011 Johnna
Yes, Sonia, I did cry.Great advice as always. I know that Bonnie is up there smiling on you every day!
2/13/2011 Bill and Barb
Thanks Sonia for honouring Bonnie , not only was she a good horse woman but also a good friend to our kids as well , not to mention her hair cutting skills , fondly remembered
3/18/2012 Chris
Beautifully written Sonya. Sorry for the loss of your friend but so happy that the result has been making some positive changes for you and your family.
7/17/2014 Barbara
Dear Sonia, what a lovely attitude and so true. We must make the most of every day and too many of us dont allow ourselves to enjoy life the way we dream of living it...up until recently I too was always putting things off and pretty much next year, next week and a tomorrow type of girl. No more, I too have had some veryhard life lessons in the last several years, as many of us do. It took me 6 years to say to myself..DO IT ALL..thank you Sonia for pushing us all....

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