It was a hot July day circa 1994 as my mom dropped me off at SanRose Stables on the outskirts of the city for a day with my horse. The barn wasn’t fancy, but it was quaint with its rickety, wooden outbuildings with chipped paint, wandering dirt paths and well-loved saddles smelling of sweat and old leather in the darkened tack room.
Despite the soaring temperatures and blazing sunshine at 7 o’clock in the morning, I was dressed in jeans and sturdy leather boots – my horseback riding uniform. My lunch was already a bit crumpled in its paper sack and my water bottle was sweating as the ice melted. The dust swirled around me as my mom drove away, leaving me to my own devices until she picked me up that evening. (Hey, it was the 90’s…)
Depending on the day, I might have a lesson with my instructor to perfect my dressage routine or try a new cross rail combination. Other times, my horse and I would take to the rolling hills surrounding the farm to gallop as fast as I could brave. My heart in my throat, always wondering if I would be able to stay in the saddle. But not really caring, as it was worth the risk to feel the wind streaming across my face as we ran simply for the joy of it.
I loved those rides. I loved those days. I loved that summer. It was magic.
Most of the formative years of my childhood happened in the 90s when it seemed parents were able to have a relatively loose reign on their kids during the long days of summer. And when I look back on that summer, pulling the memories from the folds of my mind, they sparkle and shine – filling me with a warm glow that is nothing short of pure joy and happiness.
Recently, on one of these strolls down memory lane, something profound came to the surface of my memory…
In reality, not ALL days were perfect at the barn. There were, in fact, rainy days. Days I probably didn’t feel that well. Days when the heat felt like too much. Or I fell off my horse, hard, shaking my confidence and rattling my teeth.
And do you know what was a daily drawback? The very basic human need to use the restroom. Because at the barn the only option was a porta potty in all its brown, plastic walled glory. Without fail, I would be required to use it several times a day. Stepping into that putrid hot box of humidity, flies swirling about (alighting you know where), no sink to be found…but I simply didn’t care. Because somewhere along the line, I had unconsciously accepted the fact that in order to get to the really good parts of the day, I had to deal with the porta potty.
If you had asked me at the time if I enjoyed using the porta potty, I would have said no. Obviously. Gross. But now? I don’t know…Now, I recognize how the inconvenience of that part of my day actually enhanced the good moments. In fact, when thinking back over those magical summer days, I realize how that sweltering porta potty helps tell a fuller, truer story of the experience. I learned to recognize and acknowledge the “hardship” … and then make a conscious decision to push through to the other side.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
Now decades later, when I am at the park with my kids and nature calls, forcing us to use a similar outhouse, instead of cringing I can’t help but smile. Because that one summer taught me so much: that life is filled with good and bad, light and dark, the easy and the difficult, laughter and tears. And the best times of our lives are usually highlighted because of the hard times.
Or in this case, a porta potty.