In my late twenties I ended my "perfect" marriage after seven years of "blissful" union. It was bound to happen. We had our first date within days of meeting each other. He proposed ten days later. And we married less than two months later. We were together for seven years. Had I known him for six months, I would have never even been friends with him, much less married him. But it was what it was and appeared to be "perfectly" normal.
I hadn't told my family about my decision to leave Louisiana and move across the country to start all over again. And I certainly had not told them I was leaving my "perfect" husband. So, I went to work like everything was fine.
I had a relatively new boss at the time. His name was Jack Ferko. Nice enough, I just hadn't really had any time to get to know him yet. And now I was in the position of having to give him two weeks notice.
Having typed my resignation letter I asked to meet with him. He shut the door to his office and said, "You look serious. Is everything okay?"
I said, "Well, it's going to be. I'm giving my two weeks notice. But I can stay a little longer if you need me to."
"Why are you leaving?" he asked. "I haven't had time to get to know everyone here yet."
"I'm moving to DC," I said.
Jack replied, "You know, you don't seem like the impulsive type. You seem to be a planner. You know, the type that always seems to plan everything out."
"I am. Usually."
"Can I talk you into staying?"
"No, I don't think so. I really need to leave the area, you know, get a new start."
"Oh, I see. Sounds like you're going alone."
I really wasn't prepared to tell this stranger, my boss of all people, what my plans were.
But I did.
And I started crying. And couldn't stop. Soon, I could even catch my breath.
Handing me tissue, Jack started talking about other things, his recent move to Louisiana to take this job, his family, his wife. He turned and picked up a photo of his wife.
"I was where you are now," he said. "I had to leave everything I knew. I had to get away, to get back to myself."
He told me about a day during his first marriage, he knew, he just knew, that he couldn't live that way anymore. That it was all a lie. That it wasn't a perfect marriage. That he wasn't happy. And that he couldn't even catch his breath enough to leave.
Or so he thought.
Someone had helped him at that turning point. Not really a friend, just someone he knew. An acquaintence.
That gesture was enough to help him catch his breath and leave.
That conversation with Jack helped me catch my breath. And I did leave.
Now, when I see someone, even a stranger, trying to catch their breath. I stop. And listen. And sometimes share a bit of me.
For in some small ways, I'm still catching my breath.