138 Transcript: Letting Go of “What If” During the Grief Process (with Christine Benintend)

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J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 138. We're talking about asking empowering questions, what does that mean? Well, we need to stop playing the game of ‘What if?’ or ‘If only’ and ask the questions that help us to stay in action and stay out of the energy of victim thinking and stay in the energy of taking action, stay tuned.

Intro: Welcome to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, stories of vibrant women living happy lives. And now, your host, Jen Riday.

J: Hey there, everybody, what's shaking? What's happening? Jen Riday here, and thank you for tuning in to another episode of Vibrant Happy Women. I'm as always so glad you're here and I want to share my love for you. Thank you for showing up for you, thank you for valuing yourself enough to show up and do what helps you feel good, learning the strategies that help you to love yourself more and to live a more empowered life. As you show up for you, your kids will learn to show up for themselves. You're passing on an amazing legacy of, you know, valuing you, taking care of you, loving yourself, so what a great gift you're giving to everyone around you, not just to yourself. Well, I am going to be bringing on another great guest today, Chris Benintend and we'll talk more about that in just a moment. But first, I want to give a shout out to our review of the week which was left by Savvy 9613, Savannah, she said, “Jen, I love your show. I cannot thank you enough for the knowledge and the positivity that this podcast has brought to my life. The Vibrant Happy Women podcast has really helped and motivated me to soothe racing thoughts, accept myself, and truly be more happy. You and your guests have given me so many outlets to relieve stress and to find my true purpose. Thank you, please keep doing what you're doing- Savannah.” Savannah, thank you, thank you for taking the time to leave that review. It lets me know what resonates for you and I'm so glad that the show is making a difference in your life; that's why I'm doing what I'm doing, so thank you. Everyone else, if you would like to leave a review, I would be so grateful. It helps our show to grow, it helps us to get the word out there to other women and it makes this Vibrant Happy Women movement bigger and better and more effective. And you can leave your review by going to jenriday.com/itunes.

Before we dive into today's interview, I want to talk to you about personality tests; I've been into them lately. You know, back in episode 116, we talked about the 4 tendencies quiz with Gretchen Rubin, I just retook the Myers-Briggs, there's so many great personality quizzes out there. And it got me thinking, I wanted to create a quiz that measures how much we love ourselves. So I spent a lot of time, I looked into the research and I came up with an approximately 20 question quiz that will help you to identify, “Do you love yourself? How big is your self-love score?” and, “What can you do to make things better?” So I want to give you the chance to take that. You can do it really quick now, I think it would take you about 3 minutes to go through those questions that is at jenriday.com/lovequiz; jenriday.com/lovequiz. Take that, get your results, I would love to hear your results actually. If you want to email them to me, go ahead, that would be fantastic, but I want to know, you know, how are we doing how much do we love ourselves. So, again, check that out at jenriday.com/lovequiz and be sure to post your scores and send me your score. If you want to talk about it, I would love to hear.

Alright, well, let's talk more about our great guest today, Chris Benintend, who shares her story of learning to ask empowering questions through a difficult situation. Chris's husband died about a year ago or a year and a half ago and, at first, she was really stuck in a major amount of grief, but then she learned to stop asking, “Why me?” or, “What if?” and to stick to the more actionable questions like, “What is my next best step?” Oh my goodness, she is so inspiring because she's doing amazing fun things like playing polo in Argentina and rescuing cats and just serving and making the world better and she chose to ask those empowering questions, “What is my next best step?” You know, that's a lot of what this podcast is about, letting go of any thoughts or statements or internal self-talk that disempower us that give our power away to other people that cause us to say, “Well, I can't be happy if they did that,” or, “I will be happy when they start treating me this way,” we give our power away. You know, that word empowering is so overused, but empowering means we take our power back and we say, “I will be happy no matter what. I'm going to do what I love,” and that is what Chris Benintend is doing with her life and I talked to her about that in this interview. So without further ado, let's go ahead and dive into this really beautiful story.

Welcome, everyone, I'm talking with Christine Benintend today and she's a widow whose husband, Larry, was killed in a car accident in May of 2017. After Larry's death, Chris returned to her job in the legal department of a real estate development company in the Columbus, Ohio, and she's been searching for her true purpose in life. She has been enjoying polo with her 2 polo ponies, Pompita and Rico, and she enjoys relaxing at home with her 2 kitties, Whitney and Kathy. Welcome to the show, Chris.

C: Hi, Jen, thank you.

J: Yeah, I'm so excited to talk to you. I already know you pretty intimately from the Heal Your Heart Program. So I think you're amazing, which is why I knew I had to ask you onto the show to tell your story. But let's start off with your favorite quote first.

C: Okay, well, thank you. So this is something I heard pretty recently and I've been able to apply it to a number of situations in my life and kind of fall back on it a bit, you know, in the last few weeks, and it is, “Don't beg anyone to get on the ark, just keep building and let everyone know the rain is coming.”

J: Mm, so how do you interpret and apply that one in your life?

C: I kind of feel like this is a good one for me because sometimes I want to help people or I want them to, you know, participate in something or do a particular behavior, read a particular book or do something because I'm wanting to help them and I'm realizing that I need to meet people where they are, that I can't keep selling that ark or pushing or dragging you're begging people to get on that, that I just need to keep doing my own thing, keep building, keep working my plan, keep doing what feels good to me and sharing that, and let them know that rain is coming. And once they see that or than once, you know, they're in their own timing and things feel good to them, then maybe they'll get on the ark.

J: Right, right. So do you like to help people?

C: I do, I am very much a people pleaser, but I’m also very compassionate. I love helping people who are struggling, people that are struggling financially, people with disabilities, people the illnesses, single moms, you know, just people that kind of need help, and I also love animals and love helping them too.

J: Mm, so a big heart, but I already knew that about you.

C: Yes.

J: Everyone, Chris has a big heart; she's amazing. Well, Chris let's go back to your low point.

C: Yeah.

J: The story of Larry's death and, you know, what you've learned from that process, what you experienced through that process.

C: Well, that was where my big heart broke, I'll tell you.

J: Well, maybe we need to go back even further. Tell us where you and Larry met, that might be interesting to know.

C: Oh yeah, so Larry and I met, we were volunteering for the Jaycees organization here in Columbus, Ohio, and I had gone to a meeting a friend had asked me to go. And this guy came in a little bit late from the meeting, but he had these amazing chocolate chip cookies that he had made and he was waiting for them to cool so that he could bring them to the meeting, so he was a little bit late.

J: Aww.

C: So I got to go over and say hi and he had these gorgeous blue eyes and the best smile ever. And I took a couple cookies of course and we chatted for a minute or 2. And then the following Saturday, we both ended up at the Columbus Zoo volunteering and we were supposed to work some concession stands, but it was a very cold rainy day, so they had us working in some storage rooms and helping out dusting and cleaning and folding stuff and organizing the storage rooms. And after we finished that, they told us to go and work around the zoo.

J: Hmm.

C: So when Larry I got to the flamingo exhibit, he and I ended up standing next to each other, and I of course love all the animals, but I got a kick out of the flamingos just because they're so beautiful and I love that their legs kind of go backwards. And, you know, there was probably 50 of them in this enclosure and just watching them interact. And so that’s where Larry and I met and where we got to talk, you know, for the first time. A big group of us went out to lunch afterwards and I sat next to him and we chatted. And so the next day, I sent him an email and I said, “Hey, you know, I enjoyed getting to know you a little bit, would you like to meet for coffee sometime?”

J: Ooh, go Chris!


C: He wrote back… Mr. Larry was very, very liberal, so he wrote back, “Thank you, I don't drink coffee.”


C: So then he thought about it for a moment and he took it to some of his girlfriends and he said, “Hey, I think this girl Chris is asking me out.”

J: (Laughs)

C: And they said, “You idiot, yes, she’s asking you out!”

J: That’s so funny. (Laughs)

C: So he made it up to me by taking me to one of the best restaurants in town for our first date. And it was instant attraction and I knew that day that I was going to marry him.

J: Really?

C: Something just told me I was.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: It was amazing. We never broke up, we never dated other people, we're always together. And Larry was amazing, he treated me like a princess, he was extremely affectionate and so much fun to be around. So we met in 2004, in May of 2004, and we got married in July of 2006. And then we wanted to start a family, we were both 38 at the time so we knew we needed to kind of get going on things. But about 2 years into our marriage, Larry started having some fevers of undiagnosed origin and just wasn't feeling well and… and stuff. So it was a very long process to try to figure out what was wrong, but he was actually struck with lupus, which is very, very rare for men, and particularly for Caucasian men. So at the age of 41, he was diagnosed, you know, with the lupus and we didn't really know if it was going to go after an organ or skin or what it would be. And unfortunately, it was his blood.

J: Oh.

C: So he developed a rare blood disorder that caused a lot of clotting. So my poor sweet Larry had 6 strokes and 4 brain surgeries.

J: Wow.

C: We got him through all of that, which was certainly me being in a caretaker role and some amazing support, both financial and otherwise from family and friends and people helping to take care of him and just a lot of people giving us a lot of breaks. A lot of his co-workers donated time when he ran out of leave so that he could get a paycheck and people were just amazing, you know, to us and to help us. And this guy was a miracle. He went from being blind, not being able to dress himself, needing to be bathed and dressed and fed, to completely 6 years later making a remarkable miraculous recovery. And he got to the point where he did retire under disability from his job at the State, but he was volunteering at a local food pantry, he was going to art museums with friends, he was traveling. He couldn't drive, so as long as somebody could pick him up, they were often going out to eat and going to do fun stuff. He and I traveled, we hiked we, you know, did a haunted walk in Charleston South Carolina, we, you know, went on cruise, we did all this amazing stuff.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: And he made an almost complete recovery, until May 24th of 2017, we had a caretaker, care company, that was transporting him and taking them to appointments and stuff. And he was coming back from a dental cleaning, of all things, and he and the driver t-boned and the car rolled over and Larry was hurt very, very badly. He ended up living about 3 hours and 24 minutes and then he passed at the hospital. So he was critically ill and then it became, you know, a fatality. So that is life-changing to get that phone call, which sort of unfolded in a really interesting way. I was just given little bits of information, kind of just as much as I could handle at the time. And, you know, I was first told that they were sideswiped and so I thought they were just bumped, that they were maybe standing on the side of the road. And then the paramedics called and said that they were trying to get him out of the car and that he had had a heart attack, but they were able to resuscitate him.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: So at that point, I knew things were pretty bad, but then I was told when I got to the hospital that if they could get his blood pressure and his heart rate and everything straightened out, then he'd be, you know, admitted to the trauma unit and that that would be a good thing. So we did get to get that point, but then he coded rapidly once we were in there. But it at least gave me a chance to get to the hospital safely and to get to see him. I feel that he knew I was there, he opened one eye that was not injured at one point. I just sort of leaning over him and hugging him and getting people on the phone and everybody was saying, you know, “Come on Larry, you can do it, we love you. You know, got to pull through, you've been through so much already. You can do it,” and then he passed…

J: Hmm.

C: … which in hindsight was a good thing, I didn't have to make any decisions about resuscitating or not and just how that whole thing unfolded. So it's sort of in God's hands and it sort of unfolded in a way that allowed me to deal with each piece and, you know, in its course. So…

J: I love how you already in the story are seeing, you know, good things in how it happened.

C: Yeah.

J: It's so interesting. Were you able to do that from the beginning or were there steps or situations after that helped you do that, you know? I mean, obviously so tragic, it's… there's just so much emotion for me right now hearing you talk about it.

C: Ah, thanks.

J: I can't imagine you… you know, tell us more about it, keep going.

C: Yeah. I would say the first 10 days, I was completely in shock, you know? I'm a pretty tough cookie, but I, you know, just couldn't process things, everything feels like it's in slow motion and things are pretty wild. His family was on their way out here as was my dad and he died before anyone made it into town, so then we kind of just all met at the house afterwards. And after caring for him for so long and always kind of holding his arm or pointing out to him, you know, because he had low vision like, “Oh, there's a curb,” or, “There's a step,” or, “Step up,” or, “Step down,” and all of this, it was so weird to leave that hospital to just be like, “Wait a minute, I just leave by myself, this is it?”

J: Mm-hmm.

C: So that was really hard, we decided… Larry wanted to be cremated and so I honored that wish, and we decided to do a celebration of life for him. We had a very nice Catholic funeral, Mass at the church where he and I were married, but then we went and had a party, which is what he would have wanted. He would not have wanted to be at a funeral home with everyone tiptoeing around and crying and handing out prayer cards. So we ordered all of his favorite foods from one of her favorite restaurants and had them cater it and we put together a beautiful video of hundreds of pictures of him and how important he was to everyone and all the lives that he had touched, and we celebrated Larry. And I know you're not supposed to really do this, but we did by environmentally friendly balloons and we did a beautiful balloon release outside and sent up hugs and love for Larry. So I can honestly say that I'm… I'm doing pretty well. I still miss him as much right now as I did the day he died.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: I had sort of in my head that after that first year, people were ready to move on, and I'm seeing that's not the case. But got some good grief groups and a lot of support, there's been lots of books and lots of the things that I've, you know, been able to kind of rely on. And I know that staying in the present is something that helps a lot. I promised myself I was not going to play ‘If only’ or ‘What if?’ I just wasn't. I wasn't going to look back and second-guess anything about that day or about the accident or about anything because that's just not a way to live. And I could have come up with 100 scenarios to worry about or to be sad about or feel guilty about and I just wasn't going to do that to myself. So…

J: Well, so first off, that advice, “I wasn't going to ‘If only’ or ‘What if?’” wow, that advice could apply to anyone, but it's so much more powerful coming from you because, you know, that's a lot in a…

C: Yeah.

J: … you know, yeah 13 year period from the time you married and then his strokes and surgeries, my goodness, you are so resilient, Chris.

C: Well, thanks. I’m a… like I said, I am a tough cookie, I get that from my mom and dad and all 4 grandparents. Good work ethic, a good head on my shoulders, and…

J: Mm-hmm.

C: … you know, an ability and a belief that I can do pretty much anything if I set my mind to it.

J: Hmm. So tell us more about your grief process, and I'm thinking right now, you know, you said it hurts as much today as it did the day he died. And…

C: Yes.

J: … there are so many silly pieces of advice out there…


J: … about grief, right?

C: Right.

J: Tell us some of the silliest ones you heard and then what your actual grief experience has been.

C: Right. Well, I've had a lot of people who… you know, people just don't know what to say. I had somebody on an elevator at work who, you know, that I know pretty well and have a very friendly relationship with. And I got on and she said, “How are you doing?” and then I, you know, kind of said, “Hanging in there,” and then it just got quiet and a little awkward. And she said, “I'm so sorry,” she said, “I… I wanted to say something about your husband, but I didn't want to remind you that he had died.”

J: Oh no!


C: And I thought to myself, “Oh my goodness, I am living his death and trying to get through this free process 24/7. I did not ever forget that he died,” but I understand she was probably more meaning that, you know, right now, I'm a little distracted or thinking about going to get some lunch or maybe thinking about something nice or better and I'm not sad, and she didn't want to make me sad. So… so from… anything from that to, you know, people just deciding at the 4-month point that, “It's time to be moving on,” and, “Other people have problems too,” and stuff like that, which is… is just preposterous. But…

J: Have you had people say that that…?

C: Yeah, I have.

J: Really?

C: Yes, so I…

J: Oh my goodness.

C: … had someone at work say that, you know, that other people have problems too.

J: (Gasps)

C: And he was referring to some people that had we're dealing with some things. One girl had a flat tire on the way into work and another girl’s water heater was leaking.

J: (Laughs)

C: He was explaining to me that, you know, that, “We all have problems.”

J: Oh no!

C: Yeah.

J: Oh my gosh. I mean, I hope you were able to find a laugh at that because it's so ridiculous. (Laughs)

C: In hindsight, yes, but at the time, it really…

J: Yeah.

C: It was so shocking and so, you know, kind of just blew my mind. I don't think I was even to the 4-month point at that point.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: But the thing that I learned in my grief support group and the thing that I relied on the most and that I had the most success with and still use every day is to just do the next thing.

J: Hmm.

C: So sometimes the next thing is getting a sip of water, sometimes the next thing is getting the mail, sometimes the next thing is, you know, a project at work, it can be big or it can be little. But when you're kind of stuck or you're just sitting on the edge of that bed or sitting in the recliner and thinking, “I'm so overwhelmed. I don't know where to start,” or, “I'm so sad and I have no energy, I don't know what to do,” to just pick the next thing. And sometimes it's throwing the covers back or taking the comforter off, and sometimes it's closing the recliner and you just do that. And you think, “Okay, what is the next thing?”

J: Wow.

C: And that really… breaking it into those tiny, tiny little steps has really helped a lot. So…

J: Well, tell us more how grief support helped you. I remember you mentioning to me that it was super helpful for you.

C: It really was. So I did a program that began in January and then ended in May, which was pretty good timing for me because it's sort of the beginning of the year, you know, this year, I hadn't yet hit the 1-year anniversary of, you know, of Larry's death, so the class was ending up it I think in early May and then then the anniversary was the 24th of May. And the program I was doing had an element where it had a workbook and a video and group discussion. And I met 7 or 8 ladies, our group just happened to all be women, and we had, you know, some people had lost a parent and some people had lost a sibling and 2 that had lost adult children, and then the rest were widows. So it was a good perspective. For example, I was struggling with dealing with my husband's parents, how my in-laws were handling their grief compared to mine, and there was a lady in the group who had lost her daughter and she was struggling with her son-in-law and… and that element. So that would have been, you know, the surviving spouses in-laws also.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: And she and I really connected and really had a chance to give each other the perspective should say, “Well, he never calls me,” and I… you know, and I'd say, “Well, sometimes, you know, I don't have the energy to call my in-laws, you know, I’m just doing the best I can.” And so it was kind of a nice way to see… or if she would say, you know, “Oh, I'm so hurt because I, you know, I haven't done this or this hasn't happened,” it would give me the perspective to say, “Oh, wow, you know, Larry's mom and dad lost a child, you know, they… they are grieving.”

J: Wow.

C: So… so the group was great and I actually started up just last week to take it for the second time because I had gotten so much out of it. And… and what it ended up being the workbook was a few exercises or questions or Bible verses or some journaling, journal questions. And when you're doing that every day, it really helps you process stuff. And I'd find, when I'd get away from it or not do much during the week, that it really did make a difference. So…

J: Right. Well, so when I met you in Heal Your Heart, one of the things I was so impressed with about you is all the ways you're filling your life with fun and… and still owning your happiness. And I want to come back and talk about that after a quick word from our sponsor, but especially, I want to talk about polo, I think it's so intriguing; so we'll be right back.

Welcome back, Chris. So you made it through the anniversary of Larry's death and I could still feel your sadness. And I know many of our listeners are grieving in a similar way about something. And I know for myself, I had to grieve a bit this year, not for death necessarily, but for behavior from my kids or maybe others might be grieving for behavior of a spouse. And really it's just… I think the grief at some levels just when our expectations for our life aren't happening and then the reality hits, and the gap can be so overwhelming. Obviously, for you, it's beyond all of that because you lost your favorite companion…

C: Right.

J: … and you lost to so much more than an expectation. But what would you say has helped you the most to still grab onto the happiness that you can and in between those moments of grief?

C: Well, Larry and I used to joke that… I think the acronym was DINK, D I N K, and it was Double Income No Kids.

J: (Laughs)

C: So Larry and I married late, and when… when he got sick, we realized that we weren't going to have a family. And as much as we loved watching all our very dear friends here, you know, in town and our siblings watching them grow and get married and have children, we also realized that there was certainly some advantages, that we had more disposable income or more time. You know, not everyone can just decide on a weekend that they want to go play polo on their polo pony or that they want to go to Argentina for 3 weeks to learn to play polo and volunteer in an orphanage and poor South America.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: So there's a lot of good things about that and I've decided to focus on those good things. I keep myself very busy, I play polo a number of times a week. I used to do some ballroom dancing, but was having too many knee and foot injuries and issues to continue doing that, so I'm on hiatus from that right now.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: But I love my crime shows and I love to read and I love to do crafts and I love to hike and bike and do everything, and there's a lot of opportunities for me to do that. And as much as I miss Larry and wish that he could be there for that, some of that stuff has always just been mine. You know, he never… he didn't care for the horses, he met them once, but was not at all interested in riding.

J: Yeah.

C: He just thought they were big. And I remember telling him one time that I was going to the equine fair here in town and he said, “What is that?” he said, “Is it like 1000 horses walking around, pooping all over the place?”

J: (Laughs)

C: And I said, “Well…” I said, “That’s not how they listed in the brochure, but that’s pretty much what it is.”

J: (Laughs)

C: He just could not get past… Larry didn’t grow up with a lot of pets. He had a hamster and then he fell in love with our kitties. But he knew the kitties went and used their litter box and covered it up, and he just could not get past the fact that some animal walked and just pooped as it was walking.

J: (Laughs)

C: And the horses did that, so he has never got past it. So the horses, to him, were just pooping machines, and if they would ever misbehave or bite or nudge or do something to me, he’d always say… you know, I’d come home and he’d say, “What's that bruise on your hand,” and I’d say, “Oh, you know, a little bruise from the horse or something,” he'd say, “I want to go punch it in the face!”

J: Aww. (Laughs)

C: I’d be like, “Larry, you can’t punch it in the face, just let it go.”

J: (Laughs). Oh my goodness.

C: So he was so silly with that. He just… just was never on board with that. So it's nice that I kind of had some independence and had some of my own activities, even while we were still married, and he did too. So that helped a little bit, this transition into, ugh, widowhood and finding things that are enjoyable to do. And like I said in the intro, in my bio there, I'm still trying to find what I was put on this earth to do. I thought it was to take care of Larry and to be his wife and to have him in my life, and I think that was part of it, but I think there's something bigger out there. And I have a lot of resources and a lot of abilities and a lot of courage and a lot of strength and I want to help people and animals and find my niche.

J: Ooh, maybe there's just this one person or organization listening who has the thing for you and this will be the impetus for the purpose; I don't know.

C: That would be wonderful.

J: Ah, okay, say it again you want to do what? And we'll make sure they're very carefully listening. (Laughs) You said animals and… (Laughs)

C: Yeah, I work right now for a real estate development and it's a great job and I'm well respected and I'm good at it and I'm paid well. But I put a lot of money into our shareholders pockets, and not a lot of that is very philanthropic or very, very helpful. So the company is great, they do allow us to do some volunteering for meals on wheels and to do some fundraising for some amazing organization, so that part of it is great. But I just feel like there's maybe some other widows out there who need some help with the whole process, you know, the forms and the insurance and the documents and stuff like that or… or maybe there's some children that need some help, need a tutor or need somebody or maybe there's some animals that need fostering or need some help or need some healing through energy work or maybe there's a single mom that needs a little help running her household or figuring out what it's like to now be single again. So somebody out there is in need of something and I feel like I've got what they may need, I just need to find it.

J: Ooh, that's beautiful. Well, tell us more about polo; this is so intriguing. So I think most people don't know a lot, but what's it feel like to be on that horse in a stampede of horses hitting a ball? (Laughs)

C: It is amazing. My only exposure to polo before getting a groupon and going and taking my first discounted lesson was seeing it on TV a little bit when the royal family would be playing. And I always thought it was something very genteel and very calm and very proper, and it is not; it is total craziness. People tell me that it's the most like hockey, in that so it's played 4 on 4, so there's 4 of us out there, and the ball is 3 and a half inches wide or 3 half inches in diameter, and we have either 52 or 53 inch mallets. So we are up on our big horses and we’re standing in the saddle and we go running at 28 miles an hour towards the ball.

J: Wow.

C: And first one there gets to be on the line of the ball or it gets to have the right-of-way and it's their shot. And there's a lot of rules to keep people safe, lots of, you know, things about when you can contact and from which side and things like that. But it's played in 4 quarters, they call them chuckers, and those are only 7 and a half minutes long, so it is fast.

J: Mm.

C: So the horn blows and we go out for 7 and a half minutes. After 7 minutes, they squawk the horn or ring the bell to let us know there's 30 seconds left.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: And those horses know what that means.

J: Really?

C: If they’re a little tired or a little warm or feeling a little… a little cranky, they start wanting to turn around to head back to the trailer.

J: Oh. (Laughs)

C: So I always say, “No, no, no, 7 and a half minutes is what we’re playing.”

J: Oh, that’s so funny. So how are polo ponies trained? Are they trained from the time they’re colts or later?

C: They usually wait until they're, you know, a little bit older, maybe 2 or 3.

J: Oh.

C: And they're called green their first year. And for the polo ponies, they shave their manes down to just stubble, and that's because we couldn't see the ball with all that long beautiful flowing horse hair on their manes.


J: Mm.

C: So when they're shaven, you know that it's a trained polo pony, but when they're still green for their first year, you're not allowed to shave them, and that's so that other players and other people can recognize them as a horse who's still getting used to mallets swinging by their head and still getting used to, you know, there's a lot… defenses played by lining up with each other and kind of trying to shove each other off the line of the ball or out of the right-of-way. So it’s a lot of shoving and a lot of bumping and a lot of, you know, kind of hitting each other's mallets to play defense, that's how you… you know, you try to use your mallet to stop somebody else's mallet from hitting the ball and stuff. So it's a lot for the horses, they need to, you know, kind of just get used to all that craziness that's going on. And Pompita is 31 years old, which is very, very old. Normally, people always say, “What's the lifespan of a horse?” and I say, “32,” and they kind of look at me like, “Oh my goodness!” But she's an Argentine criollo, which hopefully it will give her a little longer life span. She's got amazing genetics and an amazing, amazing build and amazing health. So we're hoping she lives to be well into her 40s.

J: Mm, nice.

C: But she was one of the best polo ponies around back in her prime and she's amazing. There's times that I can't find that ball and she knows exactly where it's going, she knows who we can bump and what line we can cross and, you know, when it's a foul, and who she can push off of which line and everything.

J: Wow.

C: And then what I was just learning on her, she could tell by my body position and how I was swinging and what she could feel on her back whether I was going to miss the ball or not. So before I would even miss, before the mallet would even get down to miss the ball, she would start turning around so we could go back and get the…


C: I used to be like, “Hey, wait a minute, Pompita!”

J: Oh, that’s amazing, oh my goodness.

C: Yeah, so she’s always… you know, I could just see the look on her face with her going, “Oh boy, she missed, you know, we got to go back around and go try again.” So…

J: But you're a really good player, aren't you? Because, I mean…

C: I've got a really good hit. I am far less experienced in the riding than almost everyone else. Most everybody came from a hunter jumper or dressage or barrel, barrel racing or some sort of other horse discipline, so they all ride very, very well. So I was just learning to ride as an adult (which is a whole new ball game). So my riding is holding me back a little bit, but I do have a very good hit and everybody always compliments me on that. And I always say, “Well, it's nice to have a great hit, but unless you're the first one to the ball, it doesn’t matter.”

J: Right, right.

C: So I'm taking some extra lessons and doing some extra horse training and trying to just find my balance and get my… into my seat a little better and get more confident on the ground and in the saddle.

J: And I would imagine good riding requires a lot of core muscle, am I right?

C: It really does. In fact, I'm even working with a personal trainer now, they were telling me at my last little lesson that, the way our bodies are built, your glutes, you know, are the last thing to kick in. That was from back in caveman times when that tiger, you know, jumped right in front of you, you know, everything else fired first, maybe the calves and quads, and then when those glutes fired, that's what got you the strength and the speed to run and to get away.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: So kind of biologically, our bodies are set to do that. But in order to pose properly or stand in the saddle or do some stuff, I've got to get those fire a lot earlier than they would normally.

J: Ah.

C: So doing some special exercises to try to just get the body mechanics to work a little better and trick my brain and my genetics into realizing that I need some specific muscle movement…

J: There you go, there you go.

C: … and stuff.

J: Yeah.

C: So I'm working on that right now, so it's a lot of fun.

J: Do you always ride on Pompita or do you also ride on Rico?

C: I do ride on Rico, he is new to me. I just got him in, I think at the end of June or beginning July, and he has a very different feel to him. He's very strong and much faster than Pompita is. So he's a little bit too fast for me sometimes.

J: (Laughs)

C: But he's nice and strong. He's a quarter horse so he has big broad shoulders and big thick neck in a big chest like a… you know, picture him looking like Superman or Aquaman, you know…

J: Uh-huh.

C: … like with that big chest and shoulders. So he's a nice strong boy which means, when my balance is a little off or I get a little too far forward or something crazy is going on, you know, up in the saddle, he's able to counter that and handle that weight and handle that balance misstep or whatever I'm doing; so I'm very grateful for that. He just doesn't feel like Pompita. Pompita’s like a little ballerina, turns quickly and moves very, very easily, and he's more like a linebacker.

J: (Laughs)

C: So they feel very different.

J: Does Rico shove other horses out of the way better than Pompita?

C: He does.

J: Ah.

C: Yeah. So Pompita, because she's older, she has sort of a different place in the herd, in the mentality. She is not one of the boss mares, but she is very well respected because she just is so sweet. So any new horses that come to the farm or anybody that's hurt is always paired up with Pompita because she's so gentle and so sweet, she kind of teaches them the ropes and, you know, just the way things work at the barn and in the fields and everything.

J: Oh, that's so great.

C: Yeah. So it's really cute. So she's very well respected by the other horses in that regard. But sometimes, I mean, once in a while, a younger boy will come along or maybe at a boss mare and kind of see her as, not as much of a threat, but maybe a little bit of a pull on the resources, you know, she's old and she's, you know, she's getting extra green because she needs it, you know, she needs extra calories and to keep her weight on and to… the extra nutrition and the extra supplements and stuff. So sometimes she gets a little bit… you know, a little bit picked on because she's older and just how herds work, you know, they want to be strong, they want the fittest and the strongest and the most virile. So sometimes, she gets picked on a little bit, but it's only really happens about 2 times in the last 5 years. So she's well respected and she's sweet. Rico is… everybody just tells me he's like, just like a good old farm boy. And horses like peppermint and I didn't know that.

J: Oh.

C: So Pompita loves candy canes and peppermints and so that's always her treat when we're done. And I said when I got Rico, I said to my instructor, “Does Rico like peppermints?” he said, “Oh my, gosh Rico would eat a cheeseburger if you gave it to him. I mean, this this guy is like… he's like a teenage boy, he’ll eat anything. All he loves to do is go around and look at the girl horses and munch on some snacks,” so he’s hilarious and very sweet.

J: That’s so funny. I love how you talk about personalities, but also that herd mentality.

C: Yeah.

J: I spent time around horses, but I was only a teen and maybe it wasn't too attuned, but…

C: Right.

J: … I'm guessing you are more attuned to all of this stuff than the average rider, am I guessing correctly?

C: Yeah, yeah.

J: That's your gift to see all this?

C: I definitely have a sense of things. And I may not have known much about horses when I first started, but I sure could recognize dynamics and…

J: Really?

C: … you know, they have a… you know, just a language to a degree, but they show a lot with their ears and their head position. So once you learn what is attention or hyper-vigilance or comfort… you know, in the grief process too, I used to, you know, go up to Pompita and horse energy it's amazing energy, that's why they have autistic kids and kids with disabilities and, you know, adults that struggle, addicts, you know, why they go and work with horses.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: I couldn't figure it out. I've spent an hour with my therapist and 150 bucks and I feel pretty good and I'd spent 10 minutes with Pompita and I'd be like, “Oh my gosh!” you know, “I feel amazing.” So what they are doing, which I didn't even recognize, but they are so vigilant that because they have that, they are prey animals, which still blows my mind because I feel like they're so big and strong.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: But they are able to tell, if we're walking towards them, they're able to tell what our breathing rate is, what our heart rate is, whether our blood pressure is up or down, and how many times a minute we are blinking. And they can pick up on all of that because then they’ll be able to tell if we're a cougar or a coyote or, you know, something, a bear or whatever that is coming to get them, so that's how perceptive they are. So when I would go and see her after Larry died, she would kind of nudge and she'd blink at me and lick her lips and, you know, kind of mouth a little bit, you know, just move her mouth and yawn and everything. And I later found out, that's what they do when people are stressed out, that's how they help them process their energy or calm them down or cheer them up.

J: No way.

C: So this poor little girl, she was just blinking 100 times and making little mouth noises and bobbing her head and snuffing and chuffing and stuff, and that's all her trying to help me get rid of that anxiety and that sadness and that grief. And it's amazing what they do; I had no idea.

J: Oh my goodness.

C: Yeah.

J: I didn’t know that either, wow.

C: Yeah, I'm just learning that here over the last month or two. And sometimes I just walked up and I just want to like lay on her back, you know, just stand next to her and just put my arms out and bend at the waist and put my head on her back, and it's… oh my gosh, it's like I don't know what, it… it's like a nap or I don't know what else feels good, a massage, you know, how you kind of just feel loopy and amazing after yoga…

J: Yeah.

C: … or after a massage that's what… it's that same feeling.

J: Oh, I want to go back and go find a horse right now. (Laughs)

C: Yeah, they’re amazing, and especially those that, you know, kind of can tune in and understand what the grief process is and know how to help with it, so…

J: Wow.

C: … she’s great, 10 minutes with her and I’m like, “Ah, I feel good!”

J: Ah, well, you know, I've noticed good energy from trees, and it sounds weird, it sounds like a tree hugger.

C: No!


J: And then I've heard people talk about dogs, I mean, they could almost pull off some of the negative energy you might have; I’ve heard people talk about that. But horses, yeah, I remember how much I loved my horse when I was a teen; oh, man.

C: They have big huge energy field and they are just waiting to do something with it, so yeah, they are great. But I never really understood why, you know, autistic children or kids with disabilities or, you know, maybe people dealing with trauma or PTSD, you know, they always kind of do horse therapy with them and I never really understood what it was, but it's just that energy that they can bring and help you process; they're amazing.

J: Mm, and now if only we could all be that kind of human for other humans, you know?

C: Yeah, exactly.

J: Well, I'm sure there were humans like that, you know, Jesus or…

C: Right.

J: … you know?


C: Not many of them, but yes.

J: Yeah, yeah. Well, so I could go on all day talking about horses, but let's jump over and talk about a few of your favorite things. So what does your morning routine look like these days?

C: My morning routine is a hot mess.

J: (Laughs)

C: I’m just going to say of some of the things that I might be able to lend to somebody or some advice or some things that I might bring to the table, my morning routine is probably not it. I am a night person in the true sense of the word. If it were socially acceptable and I could still work a regular job doing it, I would go to bed at 3 in the morning and get up at 10, and I get that very honestly, come by that honestly from my mom and her dad. But since that's not how the working world goes, I force myself into bed by 12:30 or 1:00, and I am very grateful that I am able to go into work at 9:00 or 9:30, so that's the only reason this works. But I am a snoozer and I do not do breakfast and I run around like a maniac, watching the clock and wishing I had done things differently. So that is probably not my strong suit and probably something that I might decide to work on just to make life a little easier.

J: Well, what about your night routine then? You know, both are good.

C: So my night routine is amazing.

J: Yeah.

C: When I… you know, shortly after Larry died, it was very hard to come home, I decided to stay in the house. He had built it himself, you know, he was the original owner and then it was just, you know, just very plain we… you know, he hadn't really painted it or decorated it or done much and that's… that's what we did together. So there's a ton of good memories here and good energy here and it feels good, but it was still hard to come home to the quiet and, you know, missing him so much. But now that I've gotten used to that having kind of things set up my way, I joke that there's no more arguments about the thermostat, there’s no more… there’s no more arguments about the cupboards. (Laughs)

J: Yeah.

C: There’s no more arguments about what time we’re eating and how healthy it’s going to be.


C: So there are some bright spots in living alone, but I would… I would do anything to bring it back and have all of those concessions to make again, I would do it in a heartbeat.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: But there are some things that are better. But I usually work out after work and maybe run to the grocery store or pick up a prescription or run an errand on my way home.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: And then once I'm in, I love running up stairs and putting on my jammies and getting comfortable and coming down and I have the 2 kitties here, Whitney is 7 and Cassie is 7 months. She's new, I just got her on the 4th of July.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: So the kitty's here and I am a big TV watcher, I know lots of people who are… you know, don't watch TV and they're very proud of that and they think that that's some sort of wonderful trait. And I love TV, I cannot get enough information from people on what they're binge watching or what show is good or what's the next best new thing. So…

J: Ooh, well, let's add a new question I've never asked before, you can break this one in.

C: What’s that?

J: What's your favorite TV show, Chris? (Laughs)

C: So right now, it’s an oldie but goodie, it is Criminal Minds.

J: Ah.

C: It is one that has been on I guess since 2003 or 2004, I never watched an episode in my entire life.

J: Uh-huh.

C: But I do… I studied criminology in college, I thought about going into the FBI or in the… you know, kind of the crime lab or something like that, but ended up in the legal field, legal real estate, but I love crime shows. And somebody said to me one time, “I cannot believe you have never watched Criminal Minds.”

J: (Laughs)

C: So I thought, “Well, I'll have to see what it's like,” well, now I am hooked. I think WE tv is running them from… from day 1, season 1 episode 1, all in order, and they're on I think all day Saturday and all night Monday night. And so I have about 30 of them on my DVR on demand and I'm just enjoying them. And I like shows like that because I like it to have an individual story and end in an hour and be done, but I like the ongoing interaction between the characters or, you know, whatever backstory is happening. And it really is a total escape for me. I have always loved crime shows from Cagney and Lacey back in the day to all the Law and Order and all the iterations of that and my Nancy Drew books when I was…

J: Oh yeah.

C: … a preteen, I read every single one of them, my parents couldn't even keep up with getting them from the library, I was reading I think 2 or 3 a day.

J: (Laughs)

C: So I just always liked stuff like that. So I am loving watching Criminal Minds and watching it from the beginning and see how much technology has changed.

J: Oh yeah.

C: First episodes, they all have their flip phones and they’re faxing information back and forth…

J: (Laughs) Yeah.

C: … to each other it's cracking me up, so….

J: Oh, that's great

C: … that's a good one and then just, again, kind of Quantico is one and Blind Spot is another kind of crime FBI show.

J: Oh, you do like your crime shows, yeah.

C: I do like my crime shows.

J: Yeah.

C: So I do that. I'm a very good cook, my mom's an amazing cook and her mom was a short-order cook back in the day. So I miss cooking for someone because that was a lot of enjoyment was making things that I knew Larry would like. But I cook for myself and enjoy that. It's not always really relaxing for me as other people say, but I like good food and I'm pretty particular about it. So when I cook at home, it can be seasoned the way I want and the steak can be done the way I want and the… (Laughs)

J: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

C: You know, it's exactly what I want. So I make a heck of a burger.

J: Oh, yum. What's your favorite kitchen gadget, since you love cooking so much?

C: So my favorite one is definitely my Instant Pot. I don't know if you guys have…

J: Yeah, yeah.

C: … played with those yet, but I was terrified of the thing at first and then decided that was ridiculous, the house was not going to blow up if I, you know, did the Instant Pot.

J: Right.

C: And it's great because I can cook any volume of food that I want. If I feel like only having it once, I can do, you know, a ½ cup of rice and 1 or 2 chicken breasts, but if I want to cook something and then, you know, use it to modify and have it a couple times later in the week, then I can just throw a whole bunch of stuff in there. And it's fast and it's easy and it's safe and I love it.

J: Mm, yeah, Instant Pots are pretty cool, I agree.

C: Yeah.

J: What about your favorite book?

C: So my favorite book, I think… I’m trying to decide. I’m doing a couple of them on Audible right now, some kind of self-help stuff and some just for enjoyment. But I think what really resonated with me was Sheryl Sandberg's ‘Option B’, and that was… she lost her husband very, very unexpectedly too and it really resonated and her talking about resilience and fighting back and being strong and getting through it was really good stuff.

J: Mm, Sheryl, who?

C: Sheryl Sand… I think it's Sandberg.

J: Oh, Sandberg, okay, yeah, I've heard her name.

C: Yeah, yes.

J: Okay, ‘Option B’. Well, I'll let our listeners know, we'll have links to your favorite books and shows and anything else you mentioned on our show notes page at jenriday.com/138. And, Chris, what does it mean for you in your life to be a vibrant happy woman?

C: I think, for me, it's not been real vibrant or happy through the grief process, but I think it's about taking each day, being grateful for it and really just putting that smile on your face, putting on a nice outfit, feeling good, taking care of yourself and, you know, a little bit of yoga or a little bit journaling, grabbing those vitamins in the morning and those supplements and trying to eat, you know, a little better and just taking care of yourself makes the hugest difference.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: And then, you know, I kind of look in the mirror and I see myself and I go, “Wow,” you know, there's some light there, there's something good there. And then and there are other days where and it just little grayed over or a little… a little more muted or a little more… kind of just a little more down.

J: Mm-hmm.

C: So I'm focusing on making each day, you know, a little better and focusing on the positive stuff.

J: Good for you, yeah.

C: Yeah.

J: Well, this has been amazing. I love your story, I love how you're trying to fill your life with light and move forward and not… what was that, not stay in the ‘What ifs?’ or the ‘Could-haves’?

C: Right, I refused… what is it, ‘If only’ and ‘What if?’

J: Yeah you're not going to play though ‘If only’ and ‘What ifs?’, yeah.

C: Right, so I could do all day, “If only I had driven Larry.”

J: Yeah, yeah.

C: “If he only hadn't missed his…” his appointment was the week before and he missed it. He did not pick up the message and so he missed it so it was reschedule. And, you know, “If only they would have gone to a different place for lunch. If only they would have been 2 minutes longer at this place or, you know…”

J: Exactly.

C: “… the appointment had finished 5 minutes earlier.” And you can't do that to yourself, you got to stay in the present, you've got to focus on the good stuff and just know that this is not our plan, there is a purpose and a plan there and what will be will be; que sera, sera.

J: Right, right. And I find thinking that way also helps you to avoid anxiety in the moment for things like that could happen any moment and you have to believe there's a plan and a purpose or you would be paralyzed with the ‘What ifs?’, you know?

C: Exactly.

J: Yeah.

C: Exactly.

J: Well, let's have a final challenge from you to our listeners and we'll say goodbye.

C: Okay. Well, I think, you know, kind of going back to my quote from the beginning about not begging people to get on the ark, I think I'd like to challenge everybody this week to just keep building, keep letting them know the rain is come, keep doing your thing, and they'll come on board eventually.

J: Mm, beautiful. What a life story and so much left to live and so much good you’re doing, so thank you so much for sharing your story with us today.

C: Well, thank you, Jen, it was great talking to you.

J: So there you have it, another example of a woman taking a hard difficult situation, many, many layers of difficulty she's experienced over the past several years, choosing to say, “Hey, what can I do that feels good?” She likes watching her TV shows and her pets and helping other people and doing polo, those are empowering actions where she stays in that energy of, “What is my next best step?” choosing to do what feels amazing rather than asking those questions that lead nowhere like, “Why me?” or, “What if?” And I want to challenge you to do the same. Let go of questions like, “Why me?” or, “What if?” and ask, “What is my next best step?” Also, don't forget that questionnaire I created for you guys; the ‘do you, love yourself’ quiz. You know, we all think we love ourselves, but where does your self-love score fall? Now, some people don't love the term ‘self-love’ because it sounds so, I don't know, cheesy, but the fact is, the way you value yourself and the way you show up for yourself is how your kids and your loved ones are going to show up for themselves. As you take care of you and love you, you give other people permission to do the same. So I want you to ask yourself, “If my kids grew up to feel about themselves the way I feel about myself, is it adequate?” And you can get more answers about that by checking out the ‘Do you love yourself?’ quiz at jenriday.com/lovequiz; jenriday.com/lovequiz. Find out what your self-love score really is. I'm going to be posting about the ‘Do you love yourself?’ quiz on my Facebook page and on Instagram, so if you want to comment with your score, I would love to hear about it. I will have links to that quiz and everything else I've talked about on jenriday.com/138; jenriday.com/138. I want to thank you so much for listening. You are amazing, you're strong and powerful and empowered, learning to ask yourself all the right questions and let go of the questions that don't help. And I'll be back again later this week, and until then, make it a great week. Take care.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the Vibrant Happy Women Podcast at www.jenriday.com.