I don’t remember where I heard it the first time… I think it was in an old book of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes that my Oma gave me when I was very small. It’s always stuck with me…..
If wishes were horses, the beggars would ride.
Here’s the thing with nursery rhymes: they’re not typically just whimsical little pieces of word play. “Husha, husha, we all fall down” was originally “Ashes to ashes, we all fall down” and was written about the Black Plague of the 1300’s.
Ring a ring of roses
A pocket full of posies
Ashes, to ashes
We all fall down
A ring of roses typically marked gravestones. A posie is a small satchet of pungent herbs, flowers, and clove that you’d wear around your neck and press under your nose to block the smell of rot and sickness in the street. Ashes refer to the burning of the mass piles of bodies in an attempt to keep the plague from spreading. And everyone fell – it didn’t matter your station, your social standing, your breeding. The Black Death did not discriminate and killed without any regard to social structure.
And it’s a skipping song sung by children. How twisted is that.
The Learned Bits: I’m struggling today to translate what I’m thinking into a cohesive piece of writing that makes any kind of sense.
If wishes were horses… if one could simply wish hard enough. If one could simply need hard enough in those moments when you’ve reached the point that you have nothing left, when everything around you has come crashing down and you feel like you’re sitting with a cup in your hand and relying on the charity of others dropping in a coin or two.
For myself, “if wishes were horses” is my moment of feeling right on that edge where my reality and what I wish are so far separated that I’m drowning in that reality. I bulldog my own life a lot. I challenge myself, others, expectations, barriers, and boundaries. I suck at accepting the status quo, I really do. I throw myself at life with everything that I have and the costs are as high as the gains.
I believe that wishing is only the very first baby step in a long line of steps. Daring to dream, to wish, to hope… they’re the tiny first spark of light in the darkness. That flare of heat so small, so unsubstantial, that you hold your breath out of fear of blowing it out by accident if you exhale. Most people are pretty good at making wishes.
I don’t just dream. For myself, dreams and wishes are that first step toward staying dynamic and growing as a person. The steps between dreams and reality involve a lot of willpower, dedication, commitment and work to make the one manifest into the other.
When people think of “beggars” the typical image that comes to mind is someone who is homeless, on a street corner, dirty, hand out and begging for charity. People with nothing. People worth nothing. Without pride, without respect for themselves… broken. People good for nothing. Personally, I think that there are a lot of people who appear to have everything and inside are nothing but beggars: people who on the inside have nothing. In the context of the nursery rhyme, for me, “beggars” is a broader concept in regards to who we are as individuals on a personal level.
There are a lot of successful people who, at their core, desperately have their hand out in regards to their work, their intimate relationships, and their relationships with themselves. You can appear to have everything and still be in that place inside of your heart and your head where when it comes to the things you need to make you happy, you have nothing… and all of the wishing in the world has no power to alter your reality. You’re a beggar trapped within your own skull on the street corner of your own inner landscape.
For myself, “if wishes were horses” is my verbal acknowledgement that I believe that I’m wishing for the impossible given my current reality. That I feel like I’ve got nothing left and I’m cup out, relying on the charity of others because something important is broken that I can’t wish hard enough to fix all by myself. That I feel like, in that instance, I’m good for nothing. Of little value in that moment in regards to the reality I’m dealing with. Powerless. In that moment I feel like trying to keep wishing is as ludicrous as beggars wishing for what amounts to a fast car when what they really need is food, a safe place to call home, clean clothing, and a way to support themselves. For myself, “if wishes were horses” is that spirit crushing moment when that little spark of light I’ve so carefully tended is going out and I’m left in darkness.
That’s a lot of weight for a whimsical little piece of word play.
I have too much pride to say “I give up.” I choke on “I can’t.” I’m aggressively stubborn over lending the power those phrases carry to anything in my life. I will not allow them providence. I have to believe that giving up and quitting simply are not options, especially in regards to my dreams. I haven’t gotten to where I am now in my life by allowing either option any level of viability.
So, in those moments of internal darkness, you’ll hear me softly say: If wishes were horses, the beggars would ride… because in those moments, that’s how I feel inside my own skull, even if that’s not how my world appears on the outside.