The goats were delivered to me in the cutest of packages. Round little bodies. Curious, cherub faces. Voices of silk that tickled my ears. But these packages were harboring a secret that would spring up at me like the coiled thing inside of a gag party favor can of peanuts.
Their vocal cords and lungs, not yet matured to full capacity, offered no hint of the loudmouths they were to become. Then, they settled in and grew. Their bleating changed into the sound of two car horns of differing pitches morphing at the honk’s end to the sinister sound of “o” that gets emphasized when someone at the end of their rope shouts “no!”
Leo and Orion are living and breathing feng shui, reflecting what I keep missing over and over; the clutter and messiness in my emotional household; the trail of unfinished business. Without these bullhorns of the reminder world bleating out their message in the highest of decibels, I just wouldn’t face the inner crap that barricades me from that “next step” I so obviously need to take.
I’ve failed to speak up, generally, until now. And still, outside of these little essays, I unconsciously mirror the opinions of those I’m with; because I know somewhere in my deepest recesses, that it makes life a little smoother. It lubricates the sides of me that need to slip in amongst and between those with their own opinions, who might boot me out of their circles if they were to discover our differences.
In my early years, my independent way of thinking was not only discouraged by the adults around me, it labeled me as “impossible” and put me square into an emotional no-man’s land. This was life’s equivalent of being banished to the moon for a behavioral “time out” where you need older people to survive. When I learned that just having an opinion was a little dangerous, I started keeping those opinions to myself.
Goats—at least the two I know–aren’t ridden with early learning about being seen and not heard. They aren’t embarrassed or guilty at all when all attention is on them. Just the opposite. They know it gets them what they want, and use these interactive mechanics to their advantage. Foghorn-like cries equals get the ball rolling in their world: putting hay in the manger and feed in the bucket. And maybe several sticks of spaghetti tossed onto the milk stand on a good day.
Goats never deny their needs from a place of avoidance. When I walk outside for their morning feeding, they yell from inside the garage in a tone that says, “thirty seconds from now we will have died of starvation!” When I put the feed down and open the service door, they barrel though in a “where’s the fire?” fashion, trampling the chickens and heightening their reactive shrieking. They know what they want; and they make their point with verbal succinctness and direct physicality.
The evidence that the goats are my messengers seems to be this. I bristle at a bleating show of confident self-promotion all around me. Making my way through a end-to-end array of Facebook postings and other self-promotional blurbs is a little trying to buy whole wheat bread in a bakery filled with poppy seed muffins and raspberry brownies. I need the nutritional sustenance of self-acceptance that gets created from within, but I want the quick emotional fix of positive feedback that can be found in those sweet-smelling grease-stained bags people are carrying out the door.
Leo and Orion don’t try and slip obliquely self-promotional posts into Facebook. They say, simply and with full vocal force, “Pay attention to me, damn it!”
I want what they have, so I watch what they do; how they go about their day unhurriedly, but with purpose. Then I observe me—my neurosis-ridden thoughts and my feeble attempts to untangle them and change my approach. I write, and then I don’t. I write a little more openly, and then I don’t write for a very long time. I practice my own brand of wellness, but avoid talking about it. Or if I talk about it, I so avoid the disgruntlement that may get stoked by my unconventional beliefs, that I fail to get my point across.
My black yearling with white spots offers some illumination, just like the Orion in the sky, the one he’s named for. On most days, the consistency of my ability to utter “my truth” mirrors the consistency of Orion’s relationship with the compost bin. Sometimes he’s all in, eating it up; other times he bypasses it in a hurried pursuit of some shiny thing just beyond it.
I recently wrote an email to a local oncologist’s nurse saying what could be paraphrased as “I treated my own cancer, and I probably won’t follow your treatment suggestions, but can we schedule a visit so that you order a PET scan for me?”
Trying to call the shots in the world of health care while hiding the fact that I’m doing it proved two things. I have an exaggerated fear of truth-telling, and there is a complete ineffectiveness in my self-invented faux-benign approach. Thirteen emails later, I abandoned my efforts with a deflated “Hey, who needs a PET scan anyway?’
Sometimes I give my goats the stink eye when they hit the peak of their volume. Sometimes I smile at their vocal theatrics; I see a thread between the words “Ma” uttered over and over at a high-decibel output, and the utter loveliness of the feeling of being needed. And beyond that thread, I see another, stretching out to what I imagined is a more enlightened future.
In this future my dream is realized: easy breath in, easy breath out, direct eye contact, and the words I long to say uttered without any hesitation. A string of these four things, end to end, stretching to the rest of my days. Leaving what is known and secure, and making just a little more room for the stumbling onto even greater accuracies and peace and the beauty that can be found in the midst of fear and the unknown. The channeling of my inner-goat.