I was meant to join a gaggle of screaming children at the kids' table. But Gatsby, my ex-race-horse-turned-ungrateful-teenager, had just spiked a 105-degree fever. I was in for a long night.
I hurried back to the barn, parked, locked my car, and started heading in. But something stopped me in my tracks: a familiar, gravitational pull which begins as a small thought in the back of my mind, and pushes its way front and center within a matter of seconds. The sum of all its parts become greater than logic, evidence and truth.
I walked backed to my car and started the ritual. Tap each window five times. Stop. Go back, and do it again. Check the door locks. Pull each handle up five times. Stop.
Move to the trunk. Open. Close. Check the lock five times.
The last trick is to move away from the car without having any "bad" thoughts. I had to keep only "good" thoughts in my mind, because if I didn't do it correctly, a catastrophic event would occur. A friend would suffer a heart attack. My neighbor's dog would get hit by a car. The tree above my bedroom window would come crashing down. But the good news is, I could prevent it all from happening, if I "secure" my car a certain way.
Am I nuts, you ask? Perhaps. But this is just another day, living with obsessive compulsive disorder, known as OCD.
Here's a shocker. I missed a tap that night, and absolutely nothing happened.
Home is where the horse is
Gatsby was my dream horse.
Correction: Gatsby was my idea of a dream horse.
Growing up, my horses were teachers, baby-sitters, co-conspirators and confidants. There were haughty and naughty ponies, and mares who ran through sprinklers with me in the summer.
But a beautiful thoroughbred with natural athleticism and a born-to-be-bad attitude -- now that was my type of horse.
But then, life happened. I moved away to college, joined the workforce and started navigating life in Los Angeles, where the pace is always set at a medium-high.
For years, horses weren't within the realm of possibility.
But in 2012, I got back in the saddle, and eased back into life at a barn. I befriended a young mare, who was rescued on her way to slaughter outside the United States. She only knew how to do two things: speed-walk, and gallop with her hair on fire.
Misty quickly became my partner -- we spent our days trail riding, sharing watermelon and developing our own language where words aren't necessary.
People often ask me why I love horses. This is why.
Misty was nervous and shy, but what I saw in her was the most soulful being I'd ever encountered. She still is.
But the dream horse -- a tall glass of water with a confident spirit -- that dream lived on.
Under lock and key
My earliest memories of OCD date back to when I was 7 or 8 years old. I lay in bed at night, my mind whirling with thoughts about whether the doors and windows were locked. Mind you, we lived in a safe, rural neighborhood in Encinitas, California, during the glorious 1980s. As kids, we'd ride bikes to the beach after breakfast, eat ice cream for lunch, and return around sunset.
But when the lights went out, the negative images played on repeat. A home invasion robbery. Broken glass. Gunmen wearing ski masks. Serial killers would finish us off, a