14: Caged

14: Caged

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive


It is precisely the possibility of realizing a dream that makes life interesting.

~Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Defining moments are not supposed to occur in the local fish market. Rather, they should be created on a wedding day, during the birth of a child, or at a long-awaited graduation. In addition, these life-altering experiences are supposed to be planned for, anticipated, or at least somewhat expected.

However, as I walked to our neighborhood fishery with my husband of twenty-five years, a sense of foreboding hung over me. I kept thinking, “Something is up, and I don’t think I want to hear it.” As seagulls squawked overhead and water lapped against the shore, my husband told me that he wanted to leave his job. Even though he was concerned about leaving the security of a pension, health benefits, a terrific staff, an expense account, and other perks, this was something he had to do.

My stomach churned. At fifty-something, I had assumed we were finally at the point where, financially at least, things had eased up. For two decades, I had paid my dues by clipping coupons, shopping sales, and taking public transportation. Over the years, I had also pre-paid our mortgage, kept a tight rein on our credit cards, and funded our IRAs. Finally, I could treat myself to a manicure without guilt, hire a cleaning service for the heavy household chores, and employ a local teen to maintain the lawn and shovel the snow.

Standing in that fish market, I could see my carefully constructed life begin to evaporate, just like the steam escaping from the enormous pots of chowder. Then, my eyes traveled to the lobster tanks against the wall. Like the unfortunate inhabitants, I realized I too would be imprisoned within my current career as the primary breadwinner. I would also be responsible for providing our health benefits. I resented my husband for putting me in this position.

The look on my face must have been telling because he suddenly looked like a remorseful five-year-old kid. “Oh, no, I’m sorry. Forget I even mentioned it,” he said. “It was just a stupid dream I had. Just forget it.” And he tried to force a smile.

But somehow I knew it wasn’t just a stupid dream. It was real. And it was something he had been working up the courage to tell me for quite some time. I looked at him carefully. I knew the way I handled the next few minutes would have an impact on the rest of our life. I tried a weak smile.

“I’ve crunched some numbers,” he said tentatively, “and while I know that initially, the financial burden will fall on you, I really believe that in one year, I’ll recoup my current salary. Then, I’d like you to cut back. Maybe part-time?”

Part-time? That did sound nice. Before I could respond, the clerk behind the counter was asking for my order. “The usual right, Ms. B? Two pounds of flounder and a quart of chowder?”

“No, give us two of your best lobsters, and throw in a dozen shrimp.” I smiled. “I have a feeling we’re coming into a windfall.”

And somehow I knew we would.

~Barbara A. Davey

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