I’m always surprised at life’s little twists. Like you’re going around a sharp turn, only seeing a little bit of the road at a time and then out of nowhere, just around the bend, there’s a cow. A giant cow, right in the middle of the road.
You know cows exist. You know cows sometimes wander into the road. You just didn’t expect that cow to wander onto this road.
Even though you know it’s possible, it still surprises you.
Well, this cow wandered onto my road. I didn’t even know it was a cow at first. It was a big dark object I couldn’t quite make out. But the more and more I stared, the clearer it became.
The cow was my own unhappiness. The cow was the looming divorce I didn’t yet know I wanted, and he followed me home.
Quite the cow, huh?
Making Eye Contact with the Cow
Over the last year or so, I’d been unhappy. The kind of unhappy where you get off work, eat bad food, and watch too much Netflix. The kind of unhappy where you try to distract yourself from your own life.
I didn’t know I was doing that at the time. I just knew it was all I wanted to do. I wasn’t writing as much. I wasn’t dreaming as much. I wasn’t smiling as much. I was in a funk.
From all the married people I know, I’ve heard a common theme. There will be highs and lows. So maybe this was just a low. I could work through that. Or… I could just ignore it until it went away. Because that always works…
The cow was prepared for me to ignore him, and would stand there and stare at me. He was waiting for me to pay attention. But I didn’t want to. I tried to pretend the cow wasn’t there. I decorated the cow for the holidays. I put a Santa hat on him and everything.
But cows are patient animals. They’ll just wait. And wait. And wait. Until it drives you crazy! Until you have no choice but to pay attention.
What do you want, cow? What do you want from me?
The cow was the big issue I was trying to ignore. I was trying to pretend I was happy, that things were fine. But the more I tried to ignore it, the clearer the issue was becoming.
Until the moment I had no choice but to look the cow in the eye, and say hello. Hello unhappiness. I see you. Hello big issue, I see you’re here to stay.
My Pet Cow
You can’t un-see the cow. So, I had to admit to my husband I wasn’t happy. I felt a giant (cow-sized) weight lift from my shoulders. But in doing so, I made him paranoid, jealous, and sad — which brought the weight right back.
We tried talking. Date nights. We even went to a couple’s retreat to work on things. The cow tagged along, dropping cow pies everywhere.
During the retreat, I felt panicked, like I needed to run away. I felt trapped. Those aren’t the usual feelings when you want to work on your marriage. Those are alarm bells going off.
One of the guides at the retreat asked, “What three things do you need in life to be happy?” I immediately said, “Freedom, adventure, and happiness.”
Freedom and marriage don’t really go together. And happily married people aren’t usually seeking freedom.
Despite this big revelation, I stayed about a year longer, trying to work through it.
The cow and I had become pals. I fed him, I watered him, and I named him Fred.
Setting Fred Free
Even though Fred and I had an understanding, it still wasn’t fun to live with a cow. I couldn’t help but notice life would be so much easier if Fred weren’t there.
It was affecting my whole life. I was cranky towards my kids, towards my husband, towards my coworkers. I didn’t want to do anything fun. I felt uninspired, tired. I wasn’t doing any great writing.
Eventually, you get to a point where you can’t keep going anymore. Where you know you have to make a change to get to that next level of your life. You have to make a change to be happy.
You realize life is too darn short to keep a cow in the house. You have to say goodbye. I had to say goodbye to my husband, to my life as a married woman, to Fred the cow.
It’s the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life. There were so many reasons I shouldn’t do this.
One of the biggest I kept hearing from everyone is that my husband was a good man. You don’t just divorce good men. That’s crazy! What could I possibly be thinking?
We had a house, kids, stability. We had a whole life that I shattered into a million pieces. Just because I wasn’t happy.
But you only get this one life. Just this one. Your own happiness is important. Even if no one else understands.
The Gift of Fred
If I’d never encountered Fred, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I’m a finalist in a blog competition. I have three paying clients. I’m writing like crazy. It’s like a dam broke and my creativity came flowing through. That’s amazing to me! I’m smiling. I’m happy.
It’s not every day you learn something from a cow. And I learned a lot about writing and life from this particular cow.
I learned it’s okay to do something else if things aren’t working. I learned not to ignore the hard stuff. I’ve been trying for several years to change my career to writing. But I was lacking the gumption.
I’ve been held back by the stability of my day job, by the pay, by the insurance. It felt big and scary to walk away from that.
But it was much scarier to get a divorce and dismantle my entire life. I lost a husband. I lost friends. I have to share my kids. I had to sell my house. I had to completely change everything.
Parts of that hurt, badly. Parts of that still hurt. But you know what? Changing jobs doesn’t seem like such a big deal in comparison.
If I can end a marriage to find my own inner happiness, then I can be a writer. I am a writer. That’s all I ever wanted to be. That’s what I was meant to be. It’s who I am at the core of my being.
No one is telling me who to be, or what to be, or how to be it. I get to just be me. And “me” is a writer.
I don’t know what the ‘cow’ is in your life. But I do know it’s hard to admit it’s there. Take a look at it. Be honest with yourself. You don’t have to name him Fred, but you can’t ignore him forever.
And admitting he’s there allows you to change, it allows you to grow. Growing doesn’t always feel good. But it’s worth it.
So, I’m thankful for the cows in the road, for the cows that come home to stay. They give you the gift of truth. They give you the gift of moving to that next beautiful place in your life.
The cows teach you about yourself and the person you want to be. Thank God for Cows.