I have a friend who recently quit her job. One afternoon during our usual giggle fest she confided in me that she was more than unhappy with her career path. Her Master’s Degree had led her to a relatively well-paid although not totally secure Executive position in her small company. This job was completely on a path with her studies and at a young age she was flowing in the groove of a long career path. Unfortunately corporate culture wasn’t just unpleasant it was downright poisonous. In-fighting has reached an all-time high, and there she was stuck in the middle trying to be diplomatic in an explosive battle that was demanding she choose sides. More than that her two young kids were just reaching extra-curricular land and late-night recitals and weekend ball games were stealing precious family time, and she just wanted out. Because I just love her to pieces (and I can be highly emotional), my eyes filled with tears, and they fell down my cheek seemingly in competition with the ones racing down hers. We talked for hours and discussed the pros and cons. I had no dog in the fight of her deciding one option over another; I just wanted her to be happy. I told her all the things I had been taught, things she knew as well. Things like, don’t leave one job without another or don’t leave if it’s just you running away from a fight, stuff like that. In the midst of this conversation, she relayed to me something her husband said to her the prior evening as they (the only two votes that mattered) talked it out. He said to her, “Babe if you wanna quit, then quit. We’ll figure it out, and until we do, I’ll take on extra hours at work to make things work.”
While a seemingly innocuous statement, I was just floored. I was even more leveled when she revealed that this statement was why she was already pretty sure she was going to walk away. I hugged her, loving her even more and offered her my support in any way she needed it. But I walked away slightly uncomfortable with what I had heard. Uncomfortable because my default thought was one of suspicion. I turned the statement around over and over in my mind, and I couldn’t escape the fear this statement created in me. Thoughts like, well this will change everything, there goes her power because whoever makes the money makes the decisions, he’s trying to get her to stay at home, big WARNING, WARNING, WARNING signs flashed in my eyes. I knew her husband (not well but enough) and knew him to be nothing but super loving and supportive, but this was too much. That evening as my mind switched over to the days earlier conversation I felt my lungs constrict because I finally let myself admit what it was I was struggling with, what it was that had made me so uncomfortable. I had never trusted anyone as much as she had just revealed she trusted her husband. He had created a situation that made her feel so secure that the risks associated with walking away didn’t overshadow how safe she felt with him there to support her.
The foundation of support that had been developed over the years of their marriage (having married really, really young) had provided for her a husband with shoulders wide enough for her to burrow her tear flushed face. A safe place to take chances and alleviate the fear of falling. In him, she was safe, and for a control-freak like me, it was almost like watching an oddities act at a store-front travelling circus. I didn’t understand it, had no vocabulary to articulate it and wasn’t even sure I even knew how to get it or if I even wanted it. I mean who wanted to be that vulnerable to someone else, anyone else. The irony being, I would never hesitate to offer this kind of all-in support to any one of my friends or family. But to trust another to do that for me seemed unfathomable. Who wanted to give someone an equal role in the everyday security of your life. It just didn’t make any sense to me, but it sure looked beautiful on her. Underneath her tears and understandable wobbliness (a side-effect to leaving the familiar), she had seemed confident and relieved, at peace. Now that was appealing. Who doesn’t want more peace, a stronger sense of assuredness?
I ended the evening giving my friends husband kudos in my head for building something so solid with her that she could make such a major decision based on his support. He had offered her the single greatest incentive for anyone making a major shift in their lives. He had created for her something to walk safely into, and that always makes the letting go of something, anything a little easier. Maybe this was the by-product of true and abiding love, safety. A sense of security so encompassing and all-consuming that you can let go and fling yourself, arms thrown wide, into the trustworthiness of another with no look-back. I’d like to believe that I would be able to accept the offer if presented to me. I’m not sure, but at least, I can say now that once, I was close enough to this phenomenon of vulnerable trust to recognize it if I saw it again. It also added another two boxes to check for any new relationship, friend or otherwise. First, do I feel safe? With you, do I feel safe enough to share, take chances or be vulnerable. And, do you feel safe? To me, do you feel like a safe, secure, steadfast harbour for me to park my trust?