Empty Cup

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The Relatable Rider

By April D. Ray 

There is a saying that you can’t pour from an empty cup. The idea is that if you take care of yourself first, you are better able to take care of those around you. It makes me think of the pre-flight announcements when we are reminded to put our oxygen mask on before helping anyone else. If you can’t breathe, you certainly aren’t going to be able to help anyone else. Yet here I am, feeling a little like I can’t breathe.

In the equestrian world, it’s typical to be busy, it’s even expected. There are long hours, long days, long weeks, and lots of work to fill it all in. For many, being able to afford to ride means working. A lot. For that reason, and possibly a few others, I have a full-time job, I write, I teach, I train, do barn chores, all so that my horse can have a better life. Admittedly, I also have champagne taste on a beer budget. I often commiserate with a friend and fellow professional who is in a very similar situation, about how tired I feel and how I have no time to enjoy the very thing I work so hard to have.

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Photo: Kristina McKinnon

As a self-proclaimed people-pleaser, saying no is akin to a fish trying to walk on land. Following the logic of not pouring from an empty cup, I know something must change to allow my cup to refill. So, with that in mind, I am starting to learn to say no. There is something very empowering about finding the strength to say no. I’m also letting go of the notion that my self-worth is tied to being busy. There is this misconception in my brain that if I am not working, I am not valuable or worthwhile, or that I am not earning my keep. I’m not sure where this comes from, but if I’m going to be the best version of myself, I need to figure it out. The first step in changing something is the realization there is a problem in the first place.

Starting now, I will take one day off a week. I will say no to the things I don’t want to do, or that won’t serve me. I will teach and ride at a rate that is worth my value. There is no shame in not being a superhero. There is no pride to be taken in working yourself so hard you have no time to live a life, and there is no point in doing any of this if you are left with an empty cup. 

Your worth is not measured by your productivity. ~Unknown