Once there was a frog that lived in a well. Ever since he was a smidgeon of a tadpole, all he knew of the world came from the well’s mouth a hundred feet over his head. In his experience, the world was the sky and the clouds and whatever else might happen to fly over, peer down, or fall into the well.One day, a turtle wandered by and seeing the little frog, began to tell him about the wonders of the sea. “The sea? Hah! It’s paradise in here. Nothing can be better than this well. Why don’t you come down and share my joy?” The turtle pushed his head into the small opening couldn’t get his shell to fit so he said, “Why don’t you come to the sea instead?”
Twenty-one years ago today, I married my soul mate, Bob Armantrout in Loveland, Colorado, the place where we had met and fell in love. Lucky to be born in the USA, we soon manifested our own gleaming version of the American dream. We bought a new car and a little horse property and settled in.
Soon enough, our life didn’t look quite as shiny. Early every weekday Bob strapped himself into the car for his forty minute commute to a stressful job he didn’t enjoy. After dark, he’d return and down a couple of drinks before relaxing enough to eat dinner. Often he would confide that he had not taken so much as a bathroom break all day.
Meanwhile, I ran a little boarding business on our seven acres, working outside, riding with our neighbors and keeping house. I loved my life but complained, “I have the life, and you pay the price.” It galled me that Bob wasn’t there to share my happiness. This wasn’t what I’d signed up for, a perfect life at my husband’s expense.
The American dream felt like a trap and yet, we couldn’t imagine an alternative. My analogy at the time was that it was like being in a kitchen that had suddenly caught fire. We were panicked and confused and the only course of action that made any sense was to run out of the room.
It was a dream of the sea which finally woke us up. One morning, Bob and I both recounted similar dreams in which we were feeling trapped, when suddenly we noticed the ocean nearby. We had only to step out of our life onto the beach and we would be free.
So we sold or gave away everything, including the horse and hay truck and left the country. We weren’t going to be like the little frog trapped in a well, insisting that there wasn’t any more to life than what we had experienced. Instead, we went off in search of a new perspective.
Here’s how I think the fable should end: Said the frog to the turtle, “I will go to the sea with you if only I can figure out how to climb out of this well.” With that, the turtle went and got a long rope and gripping one end in his strong beak, threw the rest down the well. The little frog wrapped his little webbed feet around the rope and the turtle pulled until he made it to the mouth of the well. Then, together the two new friends went off in search of the sea.