Tick Tock

Tick Tock

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress


Tick Tock

11:25 P.M. Sleep doesn’t come readily these nights. Quite a conundrum considering that the days go by without any rest or downtime. By the time I haul my body up the two flights of stairs to our bedroom, I hunger for sleep. I brush my teeth with the energy of a slug. (Thank goodness for electric toothbrushes.) The anticipation of a deep slumber is the only thing keeping me vertical. I literally crawl into bed as my husband, John, is already there lying in the dark. His gentle snoring guides me to my side of the bed. I am there, horizontal, smiling at the sheer thought of motionless sleep. My eyes close.

11:35 p.m. Eyes wide open, my body tenses as I listen to John’s not-so-gentle snoring. My thoughts begin to race. I am all consumed by the minutia of everyday chores. At the same time, I am wondering why no one has called me back regarding employment. Over the past two years, I have sent résumés that now lie in a stack two inches deep on my desk. Who knows how many ads I have answered? I lost track last year when I realized that counting unacknowledged résumés was counterproductive, definitely not an inspirational way to spend my time. Maybe I should count them at night, instead of sheep. One to a museum in Brooklyn, two, to a nonprofit film school in New York, three, to an adult daycare center in Rye…. No such luck. Still awake.

12:40 a.m. I am thinking about the money we saved to buy a second home that would serve as a college fund for our two children. Over the years we congratulated ourselves on how clever we were, having the house on Long Island that forced us to save for college, and a home in Connecticut as our retirement fund. We had a nice stock portfolio. We were set. We often commented that in our shared security, the only way we could lose would be for the entire country’s financial status to crash.

1:15 a.m. I’m thinking about the bills on the table and those yet to arrive. I think about the color red that, for the first time, finds a place in my checkbook as I try to balance it daily. I’m worried about John’s health. Since the company he worked for closed, he has been working hard trying to recreate himself through his own company. Starting his own business has affected his health, inducing sleep apnea and heartburn. I worry about the substantial health insurance bill hovering at the top of my bills-to-pay pile. The bill that more than doubled when we were forced to find our own insurance. I listen carefully to John’s interrupted breathing.

1:40 a.m. I sit up, letting the night breeze cool off my sweaty body as hot flashes run up and down, making me a little nauseous. This is heightened by the realization that my son’s college tuition is due at the end of the month. With John self-employed and me still looking, we don’t have the luxury of a regular paycheck. Despite my frugality, we haven’t been able to keep up with the monthly bills that continually invade our mailbox, let alone rebuild the six-month emergency fund we lost to the present economy. I feel my heart race trying to keep up with the continual hot flashes and John’s deafening snore.

2:15 a.m. I’m thinking about the latest job I applied for, wondering if maybe I should call and make sure they got my application. It is quite disheartening, to say the least, to not even get a call or an interview. I would like to think I am overqualified as opposed to saying it’s my age, but I feel my age has disqualified me from the final picks. My mother always said that once you turn fifty, you are less marketable. I never wanted to believe her, but it could be true. I love working, learning something new, meeting new people and realizing I’m not a stupid, tired woman. Well, maybe tired.

3:00 a.m. My mental list begins to grow for tomorrow’s (today’s) domestic needs. Since I’m not bringing in money and the kids are out of the house, I need to make sure I’m doing enough to justify myself. Sick. All this self-imposed pressure. I think about our now dwindling 401K and how I had happily contributed to it in the past.

3:28 a.m. I am thinking back to when John and I were young. Newly engaged and looking to be married at a local church. It was a tiny white church beside the water on Long Island, down the street from my parents’ home. When we met the pastor, we were thrilled to find a young woman, Cynthia, who literally greeted us with open arms. We introduced ourselves, telling her how we met, where we worked and lived. After our romantic reviews, Cynthia looked at us and asked, “Which one of you will be handling the checkbook?” I was taken aback. In preparation for our meeting, I had reviewed an old Sunday school class curriculum, expecting questions about religion and faith. Financial questions were not on my agenda.

John looked at me. I looked at John. With no credit cards and barely a hundred dollars between the both of us, I said, “We’ll share it. We plan on sharing everything.” I was very young! Cynthia closed her notebook and said, “Come back next week when you have talked it over and have an answer.” We looked baffled as she told us that in the course of a marriage, when money gets tight, finances will be the main thing that will test your relationship.

She was right. For over twenty years, I have done the bills and when money gets tight, I hold that information close to the vest. Being the major breadwinner, I feel John doesn’t need the additional pressure of my accounting results.

3:35 a.m. I look over at John. No snoring. I get close to his face, listening for breathing as I had often done with my sleeping infants. He opens his eyes and says, “Something you want to talk about?”

“Just thinking,” I say.

“I noticed. You’ve been rolling around like a billiard ball all night. What’s up?”

Still half asleep, I bombard John with it all. The bills. The resentment I feel at not having a job. My domestic inadequacies. For good measure, I even throw in that I miss the kids off at college.

“Wow,” he says, “been holding all that in long?” With that he hugs me. “Everything will sort itself out as soon as my clients start paying. We both have to be better at discussing our financial status. It’s been eating at me too. The money is coming in, just not on a regular basis, so we need to talk more often, perhaps a weekly dinner meeting?” he says with a smile in his voice.

“As far as a job for you, the world is stupid for not hiring you. Before you know it you will find something you will love, so enjoy time home while you can. Maybe visit the kids. You know, if we ever feel like our financial nut is too great, we can sell the houses and find a small apartment. Does it really matter where we live?”

After more than twenty years together, it most certainly does not. We were in it together, wherever. I lie down in his arms and before I know it…

6:15 a.m. I hear the stirring of our eight-year-old mastiff, Max, as he advises me it’s time to wake up and tend to his needs. I go downstairs to be greeted by a limping 125-pound sweetie in need of an ACL surgery and instead of worrying about how we will pay for the procedure, I think about how much I love our time together.

6:30 a.m. I put on my jacket and we slip outside for an early morning walk. The sun rises slowly, quietly, brightly. Upon our return, the local paper has found its way onto the driveway. I pick it up and go inside. I feed Max, make some coffee and open the paper to the classifieds. Maybe this will be the night I finally get some sleep.

~ Anna Koopman ~

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