When last I dropped the subject of The Chef’s sudden unemployment it was exactly that—his sudden unemployment. The Chef started working again this week. He’s accepted a couple of part-time positions that are extremely flexible so that he can study for a new career. He’s decided to become licensed to do something completely different than the 19 years he spent with his previous employer. This is significant to our collective wellness for two reasons.
Firstly, a couple of years ago I found myself in exactly the same situation and I decided to chuck the traditional employment model to teach yoga full-time. I became suddenly self-employed. I picked up as many yoga classes per week as I could, opened my yoga teacher training school, and even took a nanny position on the side. The Chef trusted me throughout that entire process. When I rushed to reassure him he said simply, “I figure you know what you’re doing. I’m not worried.”
He let me do my thing without question. No angst over how we’d make ends meet or pay the bills. He listened to my plan and blessed it without reservation, trusting me to make good decisions. To date we have never, ever had a single fight, argument, or disagreement about money. And I made it work. I never missed a bill. I got to give it a go and wring every ounce of lesson from the experience. When it was time to end that experiment and return to a more traditional job with office hours, I got no flak over that either. Once again, he let me do it my way. I never got an ounce of resistance from him over changing direction or changing my mind.
Secondly, as long as we’ve been together his income has always been approximately double the amount of my income, making him the primary breadwinner and me the secondary. That’s been reversed now. I will be primary. He will be secondary until he finishes up his training courses, gets himself licensed in his new field, and begins working in that field. That will take a while, so his part-time gigs will be the stabilizer like my nanny job when it was my turn. I am extending him the same trust; the same luxury of letting him do his thing and do it his way. He’ll get no flak from me. If he needs to to change his mind I’ll bless that choice too, just like he did for me.
I have no idea whether or not this stance came naturally to him but I can tell you it does not come naturally to me. I’m the Director. I’m the Facilitator. I’m the think-it-through, talk-it-out, plan-of-attack partner. This may be why he trusted me so easily; he knows me well enough to know my methods. My nature is to take ownership and begin directing, delegating, problem-solving and getting things done. I don’t wait for a by-your-leave. I don’t ask for guidance. I put my shoes on I and run with it.
Not this time. This time I have to relax and let him do his thing. I have to stay out of it. I have to trust that his way is the best way for him and not impose my will, my judgment, or the benefits of my much-lauded wisdom and experience. This is his turn and his project. I have to give him the same latitude he gave me whether this comes naturally to me or not.
Wellness is a practice. Wellness within a marriage or partnership is a practice. Adjusting to change is critical to wellness. Adjustment to change is a practice. I have new tasks associated with the practice and they are tasks to which I do not default. I naturally opt for doing over watching/supporting. Put me in, Coach! Now my role is new. My place is on the sideline this time. I’m here for back-up now while he takes the field. I have to keep my opinions to myself and let him call his own pitches.
I’ve decided not to predetermine that this will be hard for me but I do acknowledge that this is not normal for me. I’ll be practicing well outside my comfort zone. This will go double for the times when something goes wrong and I’ll think I need to barge in and fix it. I’ll need to resist doing that. He did not once do that to me.
Last night I dreamed that I went to a jewelry store to have my wedding ring cleaned. When my ring was taken into a back room for cleaning I chatted with the sales clerk and tried on other rings. I casually mentioned that although I loved my ring because it was an antique I sometimes wished I had one more suited my personal taste and style. The clerk obliged me by presenting several others for me to try though I had no intention of buying anything. I had fun for a few moments trying on a few more rings. Then the dream took a turn.
I couldn’t get my own ring back. I asked for it but the staff in the store kept bringing me rings that weren’t mine. I kept returning them, demanding my own ring back. This happened again and again and I got more upset each time someone came out of the back room without my ring. Did they lose it? Did they give it to another customer? There was a bridal customer trying wedding sets. Did they sell my ring to her and were afraid to tell me? Finally they asked me to describe my ring. I tried. It didn’t help. Every ring presented to me was beautiful and sparkly but none of them were mine. No one was overly concerned that I was pissed and threatening to call the police if they didn’t return my property.
The owner of the store just stared at me and ignored my rising emotions. Every time I explained the absurdity of these events he listened but did not react. He readily offered ring after ring that wasn’t mine but remained nonchalant and disinterested in my protests. When a customer tried to leave the store with a purchase I waylaid her and demanded to know if my ring was sold to her. She produced a ring from her shopping bag and offered it to me. It was an Aztec calendar made into a gold ring, old and tarnished, similar to the rings shown below. It wasn’t mine.
Finally I stormed into the back room to find the ring myself. I found a group of people sitting at a work table appraising jewelry. No one would give me what I asked so I demanded the replacement value of my ring. I was quoted an insultingly low value. Frustrated and angry I turned to leave, silently plotting reprisal.
A voice asked, “You’re really going to leave with nothing?” I shouted back, “Those are not my rings!” The voice responded, “But they could be.” I woke up struggling to find my way out of the maze of jewelry bays to the front door.
Mmhmm. Waking this morning I felt for my ring and I was glad it was just a dream. Except I don’t think it was just a dream. It was a What If from the Universe. The Universe is asking me to let go of the comfortable and familiar and the territory over which I claim dominion and supremacy. The Universe is asking me accept a different ring. A different role in marriage. A different identity in partnership. My place, my space, my position; these are no longer mine. I casually dared to suggest that something else might suit me better and Universe responded. In my dream I resisted that response. My resistance yielded nothing but frustration.
On the Aztec calendar each one of the ancient deities is allowed equal time and space to rule the world in order to maintain equilibrium. Equilibrium is another way to describe wellness. The world stays in balance when each deity presides over the time and space assigned and doesn’t grab for more or interfere with the others. They take turns. They mind their own business. They let the other gods do their own things on their own turf. When they don’t, equilibrium is disturbed and the world becomes unwell. Please note that I chose and typed the words dominion and supremacy in the previous paragraph before I looked this up. Wide awake now. Full attention. Mmhmm. Learn more about that at this link.
I’ve decided to accept the ring. A new fit. A new feel. A new look.
I’ll get used to it.
— Maeve Warder