Instead of reinventing the wheel, I am sharing an edited and excerpted journal entry from January 29, 2013.
Jim delivered a sobering heads-up before his new job began. As a family, we could realistically expect longer-than-usual workdays, work-related dinners and other off-hours events, work on weekends, and the possibility of work-related travel. To cope with the abrupt changes (especially after a planned, month-long break between companies and a week-long, family vacation in Oahu), I started every day by managing my expectations, assuming that Jim would not be joining us for dinner and also not helping the kids with baths and bedtime routines. If he returned home earlier, we collectively breathed a sigh of relief and welcomed the “extra” time together. If not, well, it was already to be expected.
Seven days into Jim’s new role, I felt as if I was included in the package deal when he agreed to take on this responsibility. When he “signed on the dotted line” with this company, somewhere between the lines and in invisible ink, I became an integral part of the arrangement. I shared this odd feeling with Jim, and when I think back to the conversation that followed the exact details escape me, but I know now that seeds of change were well nourished at dinner that night.
The next day was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a school holiday, and Taylor, Jameson, and I leisurely walked through a neighborhood park gathering sticks, pine cones, and other nature items to build a fairy house. Around three o’clock I heard my cellphone ring, which is somewhat of a miracle because anyone who calls me usually gets diverted to voicemail. I unintentionally miss calls all the time.
I recognized Jim’s ringtone and figured he was calling to check-in because he was scheduled to attend a work-related dinner that evening, which would mean he wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to talk to the kids and me until the next morning. To my great surprise, Jim wanted to continue the conversation we had started the prior evening. Instead of attending a dinner with his co-workers, he needed to think and talk with me. He didn’t want to tackle the enormity of what he was contemplating alone, and he was reaching out for my support.
My body flooded with shock and exhilaration. Over the years, I have explicitly reminded Jim that he should not feel obligated to sacrifice his well-being for what he perceives our family to need. We also discussed his on-going effort to strike a balance between work and non-work. From what I have come to know of Jim, he is someone who places a great deal of time and deliberation in decisions. The velocity of his internal process caught me by surprise. Beyond the intensity of the situation, I was touched deeply by his need to connect, to connect with and lean on each other as life-partners agree to do.
I loaded the kids in the car; drove home; and started to prep for dinner in anticipation of an early mealtime. Part way through the cooking process, I heard Jim’s footsteps on the front stairway and opened the door before he had the chance to insert his key. Wow, he must have hung up the phone and immediately hopped on the bus!
Unlike countless meals I have cooked over the years, Jim sat in a chair near the butcher block in our kitchen and chatted away, thinking aloud and turning over the many thoughts running through his head. By evening’s end, Jim definitively knew what he wanted to do. Half-seriously and half-jokingly, Jim suggested that we watch Wayne Dyer’s The Shift together to fortify his courage, and we did.
Unbeknowst to me at the time, Jim got out of bed in the middle of the night to draft his letter of resignation.
We continued our conversation over breakfast preparation the next morning, and Jim let me in on his mid-night project. My first instinct was to ask to read the e-mail, but I remained silent. As much as possible, I wanted to honor Jim’s process as his own, acknowledging that he would include me in the process when he felt called to include me. Moments later, Jim did ask me to read his draft and comment. After incorporating some of my suggestions, Jim hit “send”. In the next heartbeat, Jim’s phone rang. It was his boss. And so began a day’s worth of logistical unraveling.
As thrilling as this moment was for me, a bolus of fear surfaced. When I examined that fear more closely, however, I understood that my fear had no name, face, or shape. It was simply a fear of the unknown. And as I have learned over the years, fear itself is not “bad” (as our culture might convince me to believe). Fear is an indication for me to pay attention and be open to the messages it has for me.
How has this shift changed everyday life? I certainly welcome and appreciate Jim’s physical presence, as I now have more support in caring for our kids and our home, which, in turn, allows both Jim and me to tend to things as we please. We drop Taylor off at school as a family. I am able to stay at home with a napping Jameson (instead of disturbing his sleep) while Jim picks Taylor up from school in the afternoon. Jim takes Jameson along on errands or for a bike ride while I get something done at home and vice versa. With Jim at home more often, Jameson expresses his delight by moving about our home more contentedly. Taylor has stopped wondering and asking if Daddy is going to be home for dinner after work.
The realities of not having a substantial stream of income seeps into daily life as well. We now pay even more mindful attention to expenses, however, knowing full well that making such changes may bring with them a treasure trove of unexpected gifts and realizations.
I am most fortunate to witness what has happened below the surface of this conscious shift in our family. This decision has blown Jim wide open. He immediately became lighter, more Present, patient, and engaged. It’s not that he changed into someone else; these qualities were merely layered beneath years of grueling professional work and the physical, emotional, and spiritual toll that accompanied it.
As I listen to Jim relay his story to his friends and family what I hear most clearly is my husband speaking his Truth. Although he may not yet see where this path leads, I admire him for his courage, for stepping into the unknown so boldly. Living from a more authentic place, Jim offers a gift to himself, to our children, to me, and to the greater world community.
Three weeks have passed since I wrote this journal entry. In my next post, I’ll share more about how life looks and feels different.