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Take a Break

I don't remember what were the first symptoms. Was it the mild chest pains or the chronic headaches? The constant gloominess and depression or the terrible feeling of emptiness? - I don't remember what it was but the message my body and mind were sending to me were clear - it was time to take a break. Not a typical two-week vacation; my condition called for a long break. I had lots of thinking and resting to do.

I had been working too hard for too long. My efforts were never futile and I was greatly appreciated and highly compensated. I used to think that I derived a high degree of satisfaction from my career. The pats on the back from my supervisor and the admiring faces of my subordinates made me feel very good about myself, and extremely confident.

She was also doing very well. She was actually my feminine reflection: ambitious, shrewd, professional and bright. We lived in comfort partly as a result of our high income and partly due to our mutual decision not to have kids. We rationalized it by saying that our professional ambitions would probably make us inadequate parents. "We just set our priorities differently," I remember myself explaining to a close friend, who was the only one to express a cautions concern with our cold, somewhat unusual decision.

And that's the way we lived our life for a very long time. We would wake up early, read the newspaper over breakfast, drive to the office and return home late in the evening, sometimes late at night. Sometimes I'd be traveling and we didn't see each other for days, sometimes for weeks. I didn't realize it at the time, but we were growing apart, becoming two strangers sharing a big fancy house. We had less and less things in common and not too many things to talk about. I guess that for other couples, kids are an everlasting source of problems, concerns, happiness and topics of discussion. We didn't have kids. Sometimes, late at night, I would look at her sleeping beside me and I'd realize that I didn't really know her anymore, and then I would usually resume my work-related thoughts...

In my line of work, I'm required to deal a lot with planning, monitoring, analyzing, detecting early warning signs and reacting. I detected the early warning signs of a breakdown and responded promptly. It was all very quick, over dinner at a small restaurant one evening after work, we made decisions that would change the course of our life. In a rare burst of spontaneity, we decided to take a break. Not a typical two-week vacation, but a long break for an indefinite time... We decided to quit our jobs, buy a small caravan and drive. Drive without a destination. Cross the country. Take each day as it comes. Get to know each other again. Get to know ourselves. Try to excavate and restore the two people we were before it all began. Embark on a spiritual journey to growth and maturity.

People around us were baffled. Two successful, calculated people making such a hasty illogical decision, for no apparent reason. But we didn't care. We knew and felt we were doing the right thing.

We spent the next year and a half on the road. Just her and I. We crossed 45 states and thousands of miles. It was an amazing journey, an incredible experience for both of us. For the first time in years we had time to think and talk and share our thoughts and emotions. We rediscovered each other and we loved what we found. We shed the veneer of professionalism and education, the thin layer of false confidence and intellectualism, and dug deeper and deeper into our souls. We laughed and cried, broke down to pieces and collected ourselves. We did all the crazy wild things we should have done a long time ago. Eighteen long months of isolation and disconnection: no phone, no TV and no newspapers. Nothing to intrude on us and prevent us from listening to the truth that comes from within. We simply fell in love again.

And then the journey came to its end. We were driving on the narrow road that leads to our town when she said - "It's over, you know..." And I knew exactly what she meant.

A month later we signed the papers and were officially divorced...

We had reached a peak that could never be reached again, and there was nowhere to go from there. Just like the scorpion that stung the frog that was carrying him on its back across the stormy river. He knew that the frog would drown and take him with it, but he couldn't help it because "that's his nature." We knew we wouldn't be able to save ourselves from the same traps that almost drowned us before. Because that's our nature...

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