Animals are my jam, but if I’m honest I don’t think I ever thought about having quite such a zoo – 4 dogs, 6 cats, 4 horses, 2 donkeys. (Not to mention the scads of wildlife around here – hummingbirds, barn swallows, leopard frogs, and jack rabbits galore.)
If you follow my Instagram feed, you’ll see all sorts of fun animals pics – from the frog riding around on a pool thermometer to Max the dog sporting glasses to horse and donkey antics. Every single one of our critters has their quirks (don’t we all), and every single of one of them is part of the family. That means they are here to stay.
I’ve had folks tell me, “You’re living my dream.” That is beyond sweet and kind words are always appreciated. (We could all do with a few more kind words. Am I right?)
But there is another truth. There are moments when the fur and the feeding duties and the poop scooping chores and the vet bills are not so Insta worthy. There are moments when I have thought, “What in the world was I thinking with all of these critters?”
Everything in life is a trade off. Unlike the story that the media likes to tell us, we cannot have it all. Something has to give. And that’s not a bad thing; it’s really just simple math. There are only so many resources – time, money, space (physical and mental) – a girl has, and so you make choices.
Some choices last a LONG time. (Did you know horses can easily live into their 30s? Seriously!) Some choices don’t seem long enough. (Why can’t our best dog pals live forever? Maybelle, I’m talking to you!) We all make choices – whether to marry, to have children, where to live, where to work, what to risk. And some choices get made for us – what family we are born into, what physical abilities we have or don’t have, what natural gifts we have, the challenge of loss. It’s part of this great big life adventure we are all on.
Now nothing I’ve said here is new; we all know this stuff. We just don’t generally stop and think about it. So why am I sharing it?
Well if you’re like me, when you find yourself looking at folks’ social media personas (and let’s face it, that’s what they are, the version of us we are all putting forward), it’s easy to forget that choices have been made, which inevitably means sacrifices, compromises, and unrealized dreams are likely heaped in a pile somewhere. We just don’t share them. (And that’s cool. No one needs to see someone’s drama blasted all over the Internet, although it wouldn’t hurt us all to be little more vulnerable. Balance, my friends!)
So as a girl who is living on a farm and working in technology by day, what don’t you see in my Instagram feed? You don’t see buckets upon buckets of horse poo. You don’t see the travel dreams I’m longing for, as being away from the farm is hard. You don’t see the daily vacuuming and sweeping in a (losing) battle to keep the fur under control. You don’t see the mile long list of things that need fixed or tended to. You don’t see the moments when I think, “Dang, living in a condo sure sounds nice.” You don’t see the hay bill to keep my equine babies fed for a year. You don’t see the heaps of sand we’ve brought in (yes, we paid for sand!), to try to deal with crazy boot sucking mud when it rains buckets.
Would I trade my farmgirl life? Heck no. It’s what Cowboy and I chose, and we are grateful. We feel lucky to have this adventure. But it’s also okay to have those moments when you sit down in a pile on the floor and ask yourself, “Holy cats, what did I choose? Did I choose the right thing for me?”
And here’s the really beautiful thing about life. You cry, you think (and lordy can this girl spend some cycles whirling around in her own head), you get frustrated, and then you get up and keep going. If something’s not working for you, you can continue to shift and twist and turn and make this life your own.
So when you see all of my adorable critters (and yes, they are adorable), don’t forget there is a whole lot of work and choices and compromises going on behind the scenes. None of us gets to escape that, no matter how Insta perfect the story appears.
P.S. – As I was lamenting about all of the critter chores to my momma the other day, she reminded me that, “It’s never a bad thing to save an animal.” And you wonder why we have 16 critters? Seriously, I come by it honestly.
P.P.S. – There are those amongst us for whom making choices seems a far reach. They are truly working so hard just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Let’s remember that we don’t all get to start from the same place in life, and as often as we can we should offer compassion. You truly never know how someone’s story has impacted their available choices. Let’s love each other.