The Six-legged Cow

(This is another spin on imperfectionism. If you haven’t read “Imperfectly Happy”, it’s in the blog and chronicles one of my more shining moments.)

If there are two things for which I can truly thank God, it is the fact that he did such a great job at making me not only imperfect, but gave me the ability to look back and laugh at my blunders.

When you’re an imperfectionist like myself (and this is not the ultimate achievement that I have strived for all my life, but rather it is simply the natural status of who I am), you quickly come to realize that given a second chance, you wouldn’t want it any other way. But for some it takes a lot of deep digging to crank up a smile. And some just can’t dig deep enough.

During my days as a UPS driver, I’ll never forget the time I was delivering to some homes nestled along the roads surrounding a golf course. A scattered rain shower had just passed through the neighborhood. As I stopped my truck and got out to deliver a package, I couldn’t help but stare at a man next door. At first, I thought, Naw, this can’t be happening. Then I thought, Nooooo way! And then I had this third thought that went like this: If what I’m seeing is really real, and this man thinks his behavior is normal, and other people think it’s normal, and I’m simply missing the boat, then, please, take me out back and shoot me.

You see, before me, was a man riding a lawnmower ‘round and ‘round on his driveway. If I had just been driving by, I wouldn’t have put much thought to it. I would have seen a man riding his mower over his driveway to get to another part of the yard to mow. But that wasn’t the case. He was truly riding it ‘round and ‘round. Seeing that the driveway was wet, except for small patches of dry spots, I wondered if he was honestly out there trying to dry his driveway. So, I asked him.

“Excuse me sir.” He didn’t answer, so I yelled above the deafening harsh and rattling clamor of the mower’s engine. “Excuse me!”

He had on those big ear protectors like airport workers wear when they direct airplanes. He didn’t cut the engine, but jerked his head upwards while raising his eyebrows, all with a look of impatience as if to say, “What, you can’t see I’m busy!?”

So we had a nice yelling conversation to stay above the sound of the mower. “I’m just curious!” I said, “What are you doing here with the mower!?”

“I’m drying the driveway!”

Pause. Very long pause. I had a quick group meeting inside my head with me, myself, and I just to make sure we all heard that correctly.  It was confirmed.  The man did indeed say he was drying his driveway with his mower.

“Huh!?” I said. (Nothing like yelling a “Huh”. Makes you cringe your entire face like you’re trying to focus on something in the distance.)

“I’m drying the driveway!”

It was said in such a way that you could tell he wondered why was I asking such a ridiculous question. In fact, the way he said, “Drying the driveway!” it soon ranked up there with such obvious facts as, ”Grass is green…duh!” or, “Dogs bark….duh!” or “Carrots don’t talk…duh!”

“I’m drying the driveway…duh!”

“But isn’t it supposed to rain again, sir?”

“Yes it is.”

I smiled and chuckled. He didn’t. He was stone-faced, staring at me with that rackety, ear-shattering engine blaring like it was expressing whatever irritated thought must have been in his head.

I got back into my UPS truck and drove away. I was in sheer disbelief, like I had just witnessed something as freakish as the birth of a six-legged cow. You know the feeling, when you’ve witnessed something so utterly unbelievable that your mouth hangs open for a full hour. And just like feeling sorry for a six-legged cow, I felt sorry for this man as well. I felt sorry most of all because he was so serious about what he was doing. He was a perfectionist beyond definition, and had no way of seeing the absurdity of his act. The difference between a man drying his driveway with a lawnmower and a six-legged cow is that the cow was never given a choice. Otherwise the conversation between Creator and cow would have gone like: “Would you like four or six legs?” asked God to the cow. “Oh, four please! Go for it!” replied the cow, “I can’t imagine my life any other way!”

I’m not sure where all of this human perfectionism stuff started. To me, it’s as catastrophic as small pox, polyester shirts, or just plain bad in-laws. It leaves empty pockets in your mind that should otherwise be filled with the ability to recognize and make light of the errors that make us human. (Yes, drying your driveway with a lawnmower is an error. No ifs, ands, or buts. The jury has returned the verdict quickly on this one. Guilty. Life without parole. See ya chump.)

You sink yourself into a life of what you think is perfect and you will be exactly that—sunk. Oh, sure, we all need to have some order to our lives, and, yes, the rules and regulations of society’s laws help maintain that order. But the laughter—those chuckles that recognize our self-made comedy— makes it all worthwhile. That’s the stuff that must flow freely.

And the only way to make that happen is to loosen up by accepting and embracing the obviousness of our prized blunders.

Especially those on a lawn mower.

Copyright Ros Hill 2015



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