After months of misery, I returned home from a national meeting pumped to rejuvenate my work. This would mean moving, even if my spouse and I had to live apart. I delayed the conversation because he seemed agitated. He could not sit still and get his stuff done. He tried to talk to me about his task, but the problem he described didn’t make sense. I didn’t want to upset him further by bringing up my resolve to move. I could wait another day. I did some laundry while he fretted and rearranged stuff on the kitchen table by size and color.
The next morning, the calls started, asking if my husband were under treatment for something. Did I know why he was erratic? Had he seen a doctor? Finally, he left a clinic full of patients and sat in his office in the dark; his assistant asked if I could get him.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty. He had been more withdrawn and less verbal for a couple of months, and I had repeated things I had just said. I figured he wasn’t paying attention to his wife of 32 years. Unfortunately, the culprit turned out to be a tumor the size of a small grapefruit in his left brain.
My needs were going to wait a lot longer.
Just a few years before, I had it all! Two wonderful, young adult children, a contented marriage, and a career that evolved with me so I stayed fulfilled and engaged. Life was good. Then my spouse got a call about a new position in another state, offering him the job of his dreams. Eventually, I negotiated a reasonable position that I thought could turn into the right job for me. After all, my husband had made the last move for my career aspirations. I bid farewell to a named professorship and a number of fulfilling administrative roles. With both children out of the house, we headed south, “where the wind comes sweeping down the plain.”
My husband’s job went well, but mine was not as promised. My spouse got promotions and raises while my pay and responsibilities got cut. Our new employer didn’t care if I felt unfulfilled and miserable, as long as they had my spouse.
Now his position was irrelevant.
We started aggressive treatment with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. We dealt with complications including infections in the brain and increased fluid in his skull. I learned how to call 9-1-1 for an ambulance, and I administered IV medications at home. We dealt with recurrences and loss of function and more treatments. I continued to feel no joy from my work, but I was glad I had a well-paid job that I could just grind through while taking care of my husband.
Finally, about 20 months after that fateful day, my husband became irrational and started having trouble walking and dealing with bodily functions. I found a nursing home I could enter without sobbing and made the arrangements for him to live there. He was well-cared-for now, and I could think and feel and plan again.
For the first time since I got engaged in 1982, I could do whatever I wanted. I did not have to answer to anyone about this decision. I wanted meaning for the rest of my life’s work.
I had to force myself to be introspective, never my strong suit. I took stock of my skills and experiences, both in the workplace and my personal life. I scoured job postings and recruitment sites and LinkedIn.
A lot of us women “of a certain age” have these issues. Some of us got sidelined when we had families and have been marginalized ever since. For some of us, the fall off of the power radar came later, like when I moved for my husband’s job. Either way, we have reached a point in life where we have much to give in experience, expertise, and common sense. But we seem to be invisible, especially to men in power.
I began a process examining my life. I concluded that I enjoyed talking to people and helping them develop strategies to solve problems. I learned more about the world of coaching, and even got certification.
And here I am, Chief Reboot Engineer at Life Reboot Solutions.