Sisterhood Spotlight with Unbridled Alum, Sarah
This month’s Sisterhood Spotlight is Sarah from New Hampshire. Sarah, who has been to four Unbridled Retreats, is 70 years old but says she doesn’t feel that way. A retired nurse turned baker (her dream job), Sarah is living proof that when you are Unbridled, life just keeps getting better.
When did you go on your first retreat? And what made you decide to go?
I had gone on a women’s cowgirl trip at the White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, as well as a retreat in Montana a couple of years before. So, in 2020 I was looking to do something again, preferably in the desert because I love it so much. I got on the White Stallion Ranch Facebook page and found Devon’s Unbridled Retreats. I was enchanted by the description, so I signed up!
In truth, I was pretty nervous about my first time, but I think everybody at my first retreat was a first timer. Maybe one or two people were there for a second time. So, we were all a little nervous but totally accepting of each other. It felt very safe. Devon lays the foundation that respect and confidentiality are important within the group. It’s a common bond we all feel once we meet. It just becomes a sisterhood almost immediately. It’s amazing.
Are you still friends with any of the women you met at the retreats?
I met my soul sister at an Unbridled Retreat in 2021. We just sat down to breakfast together one morning, and the connection was immediate. We were immediate friends. It was just amazing to meet somebody that’s on your same vibe. I do stay in contact with women from other retreats. There’s this bond because we’ve all been through some turmoil that’s common to all of us, even though it may seem different. Some past or present trauma is shared and understood by everyone, because we’ve all been through or are going through something.
When you did your first retreat, it was partly because of your love of the desert and being drawn to the horses. Was there any element of self-care at that time?
No, not at that point. I had retired from nursing in 2018 and was going through quite a bit of family turmoil. I didn’t even consider it as self-care because I didn’t know what that was. I thought all those years dealing with my family that I was really taking adequate care of myself. But once I went to my first retreat I realized, oh, this is what self-care is.
That’s an amazing realization. How did you come to that?
We were in our morning coaching session, and Devon asked who wanted to get on Clyde bareback, and I volunteered. I didn’t realize that I’d have to sit in front of the group and talk. It was hard for me because I’m not good at sharing in groups. But somehow, I found myself sobbing and crying and getting everything out. And then she said, “Let’s get up on Clyde.” She led me through the exercise, and then she said, “After all you have been through, you’re still standing.” And I said, “Yes.” And then Clyde took a step forward, and she said, “That’s amazing that he’s stepping forward with you and telling you it’s okay to keep going.” At that moment, I felt like I exploded inside. I knew it was all going to be okay, and it was okay to take care of myself.
That’s why I keep going back to Devon’s retreats. Every time I go, I release more and more. This last retreat I even got a massage. It’s just little steps that I take. At White Stallion Ranch, they have a heated swimming pool, so I would go first thing in the morning. When I told Devon about my swimming she said to the group, “This is how Sarah does self-care.” I had never thought of it that way. I just thought I was going for a swim. I understood then that it’s okay to take care of myself and to admit that I can. Admit to myself that I deserve it. And it can look different for different people. Returning again and again to retreats is a way I practice self-care.
How else do you incorporate self-care into your life now that you’ve realized the value of it?
I’ve always kept a journal off and on, especially between 2016 and 2020. During that time, because of what was happening in my family, I put a lot of anger, frustration, and sadness into my journals. And then I just kind of petered off for a while until I realized what a huge release it was for me. So, I started again. I usually sit down, and I just write what’s going on in my head, and at the very end of every day I write what I’m grateful for, and that has helped me stay focused on taking care of me. The more I’m thankful for, the better the person I am.
As a retired nurse, I took care of lots of people over the years, and I felt that I was serving a purpose. When I retired, I felt like I had no purpose other than to worry down the rabbit hole into this deep, dark vortex trying to take care of my family. The retreat just totally blew that out of the atmosphere for me. I realized it wasn’t necessary to go down that rabbit hole anymore. In fact, it’s hardly even a little ditch now. It’s not very deep at all anymore.
Every time I come home from a retreat, I wonder how long the amazing feeling will last. Because it is quite euphoric when you’re there. You have all that support, and you’re with the horses, and you’re outside in the desert. Now, instead of letting the good feeling end when I come home, I remind myself it doesn’t have to go away. Good feelings about myself last longer and longer. I go deeper and deeper into my kindness and my self-love.
That’s beautiful. And it’s especially significant because you were a lifelong caregiver as a profession, and then it sounds like you had to do some caregiving in your family as well. You have this identity as a caregiver. That’s a big shift for you.
Yes. And now the family turmoil has resolved quite a bit, so suddenly, I’m an empty nester which feels like another hurdle. Because if I don’t have to worry about my family anymore, what am I? What do I do?
I just got a dream job at a bakery, and when I interviewed, she asked me what my goals were. I said, “Well, I’ve served all my life. I know it’s kind of corny, but I feel like that’s what my purpose is: to serve people, whether it’s with a blood pressure cuff and medicine or a croissant.” The minute I said it out loud I knew that’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to keep serving people, but to reinvent myself to serve in a different way now.
What is it that you feel when you are around the horses? What do they bring to your life?
It’s almost an indescribable lightness. I feel like I’m all right when I’m with the horse, whether I’m on the back of the horse or talking to one. They see you. They’re very intuitive, and there’s not a lot of that in human communication. It’s just so pure with the horse. I think that’s what it gives, that pure recognition of my feelings and without me having to say anything. It’s just a lightness inside of me.
What would you tell a woman who might be considering going to a retreat?
A lot of people are afraid of change. They are not comfortable where they’re at in life, but they don’t want to delve into anything that might change their outlook. Life is changing. You change. That’s what life is. You just change as life goes on. The horses can help. They open that gate for you. They let you know it’s okay to feel what you feel. And it’s okay to move on from that. Before we start the coaching sessions, you go brush the horses and talk to them and just move around them, and that’s when I feel the gate just open. They’re listening. Something just opens in me from that horse, no matter which horse I am working with. Horses are totally intuitive about how you’re feeling, and they’ll react to what your emotions are at that moment. You can change their reaction by changing what’s coming from your heart.
You have so much experience in your life, so much depth and wisdom. You are very resilient. What have you learned through it all?
Let go or be dragged. That’s pretty much my mantra. You can’t hold onto things that are already done. You have to move on. You have to be present and look forward.
So, is that what being Unbridled means to you?
Yes. Being Unbridled is like being untethered from the feelings I used to have of being so inadequate because I was always looking in the past. Becoming Unbridled encouraged me to look forward, step forward, and open the gate and run free. Just be whoever I want to be.