Monday Musings: This Wasn’t What We Planned

bakery The following two stories are true, and have occurred in this past week. The names have been changed to protect everyone, some, quite frankly, who don’t deserve protection.

Welcome to the latest of Perspectives’ new “regular features”: Woman Warrior Wednesday, Fashion & Finds Friday are now joined by “Monday Musings”, a weekly look at the human condition from medicine to politics, from gender issues to the environment, and everything in between.

Musings are defined as thoughts or meditations. The recent situation in Washington has given all us plenty of reasons for both of those. If we look past one of the worse displays of political dysfunction in our lifetime, what we’ll see is the reality of people who are suffering beyond the Beltway: People for whom life is turning out nothing like they planned.


There was a nice looking couple we used to see occasionally at social & community functions. They were friends of friends so we knew them casually. He was a successful medical professional and she was a very attractive, stylish, stay-at-home wife and mother. I heard through the grapevine that he was involved with another woman and was seeking a divorce. I know nothing else about the story except when I walked in to my favorite bakery the other day; I caught a glimpse of someone who looked familiar pushing a rack of bread toward the front of the store. Her blond hair was bound up under a net; her face was pale & drawn. We made eye contact. It was painful…for both of us.

She said her former husband’s practice had suffered from the affair and his finances were, possibly deliberately, in disarray, and she had not been able to afford high-powered legal counsel. She had tried to return to her original career in fashion and merchandising but after being out of the work force for so long, and with 9.1% unemployment, here she was, in her mid-50’s, pushing a bakery cart.

While on my usual shopping rounds of framers markets and grocery stores last week, I noticed some of my favorite faces were out place. The knowledgeable young man who always makes sure I get the freshest fish and the middle-aged woman who lost her business and then found a job she loved demonstrating new products were not in their usual spots. I found them both doing other, lesser jobs: The fish monger was handing out samples of fruit and looking very embarrassed to be doing so. Both told me a new policy was in place designed to hold down the need for new employees, so everyone had to be willing to do whatever job they were assigned. As one said to me, “What can I do? I have to keep this job.”

I’ve always been one of America’s greatest boosters: A Ronald Reagan “Shining City on the Hill” believer that we are the greatest nation on earth. But there is no longer any doubt that our country is in serious trouble from which it will likely take decades to recover. And for a generation for whom recovery time has run out, a generation who grew up thinking that if you worked hard and followed the rules, life turned out like an episode from Ozzie & Harriet…this sure wasn’t what we planned.