Giving up the Goat

06/15/2015 03:40 pm ET | Updated Jun 14, 2016

In one form or another we all have to let go of a Leroy Brown Goat. It is that one thing that signifies a life you built with someone and have divorced. You shared a dream that it is no more and yet you still have the house, the season tickets, the dog, the scuba gear, the wedding gown. Whatever. Perhaps it takes up a corner of your closet. Everyday there is a ritual. You choose which clothes to wear to work while you consciously try to avoid looking at that thing left behind by whatshisf/her face. You put it on the to-do list to get rid of it, every time you make a to-do list.

The reasons for holding on to that "thingamabob" are very rational, at least to you. Maybe holding on will bring your partner back. Maybe you hold onto it because it signifies your anger and hurt. Never a winning proposition. Perhaps you hold on to it because it reminds you of a happier time. The reality is that your ex-partner didn't want it. You have it and it serves no practical use. It might even cost you precious resources to hold on to it.

In my own case it was a goat. His name was Leroy Brown Goat. Our first spring living in the country was a heady one. Our little boy celebrated his first birthday. I was planting my first large garden. We were investing in tools of self-sufficiency: canners, scythes, and books. Lots of books. Animals began populating our little homestead: first chickens, then a little piggy, some free sheep, and finally a little three week old goat.

Looking back on it now it seems ironic that just as my own baby was finally sleeping through the night we took on a goat who needed bottle feeding every four hours. Soon enough this little goat was testing our mettle by jumping over increasingly higher fences. He served no actual purpose for our homestead. Our intention was to use him to haul stuff in a cart. He did something like that just once. Sheep can't live alone so he became a companion to our ram.

After my husband moved out of our house I should have immediately assessed whether it was practical to keep the goat and remaining ewe. After all, I was going to have to go back to work. In the summer the critters ate grass but during the winter they were an expense in hay and feed. There was the work of mucking out their pens, fixing their fencing and; in the case of the ewe, shearing her wool in the spring. But this was not a time to be practical or rational. Maybe my husband and I could work it out. The heat of our disagreement had cooled and we were becoming friends again. My son was very attached to the animals. The velocity of change from separation to divorce can give you whiplash; causing a person to second guess any decision she should make.

It was weeks before our divorce was final. Money was really tight. I was back to work but by no means making enough yet. Then one day I came home to find a goat in the garden eating my kale. Kale may be a trendy food for some folks. But for me it is a workhorse of production in the garden. The goat had nibbled his way down the row until there was not much left to identify it as kale. Thoughts of filling my freezer with goat were not just a fantasy. Leroy stew figured prominently in my future menu plans. I made phone calls to a local butcher. When ....Hark! Providence shined down on Leroy. His life was spared by a local farmer who needed a goat to keep his flock company. In exchange for my goat and ewe I received a small flock of laying hens.

As Leroy was loaded into the back of the truck I felt a huge amount of sadness. This life my husband and I created together close to the land, growing our own food was unravelling bit by bit. Homesteading was a dream we shared on our first date, now it felt more than a goat was loaded into the back of a truck.

Doubts as to whether I can keep it all going still creep in from time to time. I am, after all, only one person and there are; unfortunately, only twenty-four hours in a day. Yet this is what I have learned. Sometimes the things we hold onto hold us back. The term "letting go" is easy to say, but it is a process of fits and starts. It is a courageous thing to let something go. It is a moment of acceptance that provides its own sense of release. Something better will take its place, even if I don't know what it is. In my case letting go of Leroy Brown Goat simplified life and allowed my kale to grow. Each morning I walk out to the coop to gather,in gratitude, the small clutch of eggs our feathered ladies have provided for us.