You are as natural as the night,
And all that springs from you is good
Don McLean – Winterwood
Eileen Bennett came through much of her life carrying the belief that she wasn’t qualified to earn a decent living: a self-fulfilling prophecy that sabotaged any hope of recognition and adequate remuneration for her ability to perform miracles for businesses as well as for people from all walks of life.
Coming upon the final chapter in Eileen’s book, ‘Hard Won Wisdom’, I stopped and read it again, just to be sure that I hadn’t written it! This was my story too! Indeed, I’m sure will ring bells for many others:
This is how I treated her;
When she was tired I forced her to keep working.
When she was hungry I wouldn’t let her eat,
When she was thirsty I made her wait,
When she was sad I insisted she put on a happy face,
When she was playful I told her to be sensible,
When she was sick I wouldn’t take care of her.
When she was on her knees and still trying her best I told her she was stupid and worthless and lazy and shouted at her to get up and keep going.
I never praised her for any of her accomplishments or acknowledged any of her good points.
I was cruel, heartless, thoughtless and hateful to her.
I was ashamed of her and disgusted by her and the more she did for me, the more I detested her.
I didn’t appreciate the gifts she brought – a wicked and irreverent sense of humour, honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, loyalty, vision and, most of all, love.
I berated her body for not being thin enough, tall enough, beautiful enough.
For many, many years I tried to disassociate myself from her, to pretend I had nothing to do with her because, as far as I was concerned, she just wasn’t good enough.
I didn’t like anything about her.
I didn’t like her hair.
I didn’t like her face.
I didn’t like her voice.
I didn’t like her body.
I didn’t like the way she moved.
I didn’t even like her name.
Everything about her disappointed me.
And with good reason.
She forgot how to be a child at a very young age and made a total mess of trying to be an adult.
She was always on the move, always wanting to be somewhere else, somewhere better.
Everywhere she went she attracted lame ducks and stray dogs and was always surrounded by an assortment of people in need of something – and she loved them all!
She left school early and never managed to acquire any significant and useful qualification.
She never had any money and always lived in a state of lack, making do on very little and never achieving any kind of financial security.
She was nobody, nothing and I despised her.
Then one day, as she was going down for the third time and I was so angry with her for not being perfect, something made me see the utter futility of what I was doing to the amazing, talented, precious being that is Me.
– Eileen Bennett, ‘Hard Won Wisdom’ (2012)
But in recent years, things have changed; a shift has taken place. Eileen is a writer, and an accomplished horsewoman for whom a new story has begun. In this one, the main character brings all of her innate skills, her experiences – and challenges – her learning, her professional development, her expertise, her hard-won wisdom and an undiminished, life-long desire to contribute to her community – and beyond – to a new business.
Not just a business (although business people also enjoy its benefits), Horses Connect is a social service, provided with heart, thus far on a shoestring, by a woman who genuinely understands what it is like to face life with a set of broken tools.
A courageous, inspirational example of the old adage, ‘it’s never too late’, Eileen recently had an opportunity to share some of her story on radio.