A Light From Within
Guideposts|October 2020
The only one who’d ever been afraid of me was me. Then came Bronwen

HAD I MADE THE RIGHT DECI-SION, getting these horses? I paced in our home near Norfolk, England, waiting for the horse whisperer to pull into the drive. I’d found his information in an equine magazine. He claimed to help people with difficult horses. I was desperate. My two horses ran from me or lashed out. What if I couldn’t make them feel settled? What if I failed with them as I had with so much in my life?

My son, Richard, then 11 years old, had convinced me to adopt a small pony, Gus, several months earlier. Richard had a Saturday job tending horses for a neighbor. “Please, Mum, please! I’ll take such good care of him,” he pleaded.

We had the land, and Gus had been abandoned. He needed a home. My friends, after they got over the initial shock, insisted that I adopt a second horse. “Horses only feel safe in a herd,” one said. So we got Bronwen, a dark bay mare, to keep Gus company.

What did you think would happen? I asked myself as I looked out the window for the horse whisperer. Perfect harmony? I wanted so badly for us to all get along. I’d always loved animals. But Gus, fiery little thing, kicked and bit. And Bronwen, who had been so loving and well-behaved in her old home, bolted for the farthest corner of her paddock whenever I approached. What could she possibly be afraid of? I was so small and meek. The only person who’d ever been afraid of me was me.

Fear had controlled my life for as long as I could remember. Fear of God.

Of sin. Of my own nature. I’d been raised a vicar’s daughter. My family was Church of England clergy for five generations on both sides, very serious—almost puritanical—about religion and God. Every Sunday of my childhood, I heard my father preach the terrors of sin and damnation.

“Sin is intentional disobedience and rebellion against God,” he would tell the congregation. “Saint Paul clearly states that all have sinned and fallen short of God.”

I was horrified. I must be very bad, I thought. I’m full of sin. Why couldn’t I be better? Why couldn’t I be someone whom my father and, by extension, God, could be proud of? Someone they could love?

To punish myself, I started rationing food in my early teens. This was the mid-1970s. Nobody knew what to do with anorexic girls back then.

I COULDN’T IMAGINE THAT SOMEONE as worthless as I was deserved pleasure, and certainly not happiness. I felt so bad about myself that I just wanted to disappear. I got smaller and smaller, thinner and thinner. My mother, fearing for my health, sent me to a psychiatric hospital.

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