I asked my friend Leigh last summer for some ideas on what to name this blog. She is super creative (and runs this awesome website for personalized gifts). Her first suggestion was almost immediate: “Beyond the Gilded Cage.”
“Living on a lighted stage approaches the unreal, for those who think and feel, in touch with some reality beyond the gilded cage.”
When I told my husband Mark about the name idea, he said, “I don’t live in a gilded cage.”
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a gilded cage is a “luxurious but restrictive environment.”
No, certainly no one in the military, with the deployments and the long hours and everything else, lives in a gilded cage. And I certainly wouldn’t presume that other military spouses view their life that way, either.
But in a way, my circumstances do fit that definition. I am lucky to be able to choose whether, and how much, I work outside the home. I almost always have a close-knit group of supportive friends nearby. I have healthcare at no financial cost. I’ve traveled the world, lived on three continents. My children are happy and healthy. My husband survived multiple war-time deployments.
My life is pretty damn good. But what will it be like when we leave this insular military world? What will it be like when I no longer have the base medical clinic within walking distance, a built-in group of friends, guaranteed employment for my husband, and virtually any service I need available to me, often without cost?
Yes, there are limitations to this wonderful life. Maintaining a career when you move every year or two isn’t easy. Keeping a marriage healthy when you spend more time apart than together is rough. And raising kids largely on your own is a challenge I vastly underestimated.
I sometimes feel trapped in this cage, albeit willingly.
I have never once wanted to leave. But I’m not sure if it’s because I love it so in much here, or because I’m so scared of what’s out there.
Outside the cage lies a reality where the military community isn’t standing by with a helping hand, 24/7. A reality where we have to pay to move ourselves, figure out health insurance and dental care, find jobs, live on less money.
But also, a world without deployments, year-long separations and the anxiety and stress those things manifest in my life, my husband’s life and my kids’ lives.
It’s a reality I have often looked at from a distance, wondering what it would be like to escape my cage and live there instead. I’m pretty sure my husband and kids have wondered, too.
Is the grass really greener beyond the gilded cage?
So many lyrics from Rush’s “Limelight” seem to apply as we careen toward retirement. Here they are in full:
Living on a lighted stage
Approaches the unreal
For those who think and feel
In touch with some reality
Beyond the gilded cage
Cast in this unlikely role
Ill-equipped to act
With insufficient tact
One must put up barriers
To keep oneself intact
Living in the limelight
The universal dream
For those who wish to seem
Those who wish to be
Must put aside the alienation
Get on with the fascination
The real relation
The underlying theme
Living in a fish eye lens
Caught in the camera eye
I have no heart to lie
I can’t pretend a stranger
Is a long-awaited friend
All the world’s indeed a stage
And we are merely players
Performers and portrayers
Each another’s audience
Outside the gilded cage