Wednesday, October 01, 2008
As the light goes out in the West.....
October, the dying of the year. The sun retreats from the northern hemisphere, and so the days grow short. Mornings are foggy, and early morning fragrance comes to me of rich earth and dying vegetation, a musty, pungent portent of the coming, long slumber of winter.
This is a time of letting go
But one of sadness?
Uh, not yet, no!!
Sure, we have to say so long to summer's warmth and brightness, and this year it seems, to a way of life. The empire, like the sun, like the Dow, is in decline. Hearing the term, "The economy" , makes one's stomach do a little flutter, a feeling usually reserved to getting less than optimal lab results.
And just in time for Halloween, here are a few more "really scary" words: Russia, China, terrorists, and all the various bit players in their power-plays.
The blank, anomalous sun.
Gas, its price and availability.
The Election and the (truly frightening ) Candidates.
Bills (going up as) Savings, Earnings, 401K's (go down).
Well, you know what? Call 1-800-Wah- Waah and let's just get through our grieving process. Some of our problems cannot be controlled or made better by us as individuals, but as a nation, so keep banging on the heads of your representatives. All of these things are in God's hands, of course, but some are particularly solveable by Him alone, and so foremost, I always urge that people will get right with Him and keep pestering Him (otherwise known as "pray without ceasing").
But some of the things on the aforementioned scary list can be managed, made better by our own efforts and certainly by our attitude. We need to see some of these as projects and not problems.
For instance, if you are like me and two-thirds of Americans, whether or not you have been faithfully saving part of your paycheck each week, you've definitely been making regular deposits to your waist and hips. So I figure I have at least 50 lbs. to live off of before I get worried about starvation.
And if we cannot drive to the bread line we can walk! Build some muscle and cardio health in the bargain, though I'm sorry to offend anyone by kind of joking about it. Maybe, as well, the whole automobile-dependent, living in the suburbs thing has got to transition to something that makes more sense, like reclaiming the city neighborhoods. I'm older, but not ancient, and I can remember us living in smaller houses, closer together. I recall people walking to the store and church and taking the bus to work. Yes, it was hot in the summer before air-conditioning, but that meant that we'd be outside in the yard or on the porch, getting fresh air and God help us, talking face-to-face with other people!
If we find ourselves with less disposable income, we can begin to see opportunities to become resourceful and creative with what we do have. Anybody remember free stuff like the library or the park? How about walking to the library, borrowing a book and walking to the park to read it? Is that too mundane? I know I'm weird, but I get more entertainment and food for thought by walking down the street and noticing the people, the plants, the pets, the architecture, the smells, etc., than I ever would playing with tiny keypads and gazing at the mini and wide screens of the various entertainment options, made possible by technology and a paying subscription. Then again, I am becoming an old-hand at finding adventure in diminished circumstances.
The economic downturn came to live with us in 2005. My husband had almost lost his job entirely when the new contract came through and they eliminated his department. Thankfully, he was able to go to a different department, albeit with a 25% cut in pay. This occurred at about the same time a trust fund from my family dried up. There are only so many home improvements one can make, vacations one can take, or pizzas one can have delivered before the money goes away. Silly me. But wait, there's more!
On December 8, 2005, hubby came home from the bowling league, and because he was an overweight, smoking, pizza-eating office worker, laid down in the bed and started having an acid-reflux attack. All night long he was coughing and lurching his body off the bed, twisting around in a way that made three disks in his back go pop, pop, pop!!!
He has not worked since. We have five children and at that point, only the oldest was out of the house, the Air Force having taken over the job of getting him up in the morning. I was a Drama major in college, a really hot degree which I had successfully parlayed into a career of nursing babies, and doing dishes and laundry. So what I am saying is that the overhead was high and the income was (and is still) low. He gets a pension from being a retired military enlisted man, and he gets Social Security. I work as a seasonal scorer of standardized reading and writing assessments for state and federal projects. So things could be a lot worse; we are not out on the street and not penniless, but we definitely woke up from the American dream a little earlier than some folks. And my point is that we woke up from the dream, not to find we're in a nightmare, but just to...reality.
We don't have any savings to speak of, and we don't make any big-ticket or luxury purchases.
I cook and bake almost exclusively from scratch and use many other cost-saving strategies, and also hubby is very handy at fixing things or making things that we don't have to pay professionals for. Our biggest asset, however, is that we are hardly in debt at all. The only thing we owe is about 29K on our home mortgage. So my best advice for anyone wanting to survive and be happy, is get out of debt!!!
This is where you must become as courageous as the first wave that hit the beach at Normandy. I exaggerate for effect, of course, but you might feel as if you would need that much courage. You might have to cancel all your subscriptions, sell all the vehicles but one, ditch the electronics, keep only one light on in evenings which will end early, since you will all go to bed at a decent hour instead of lighting, gaming, surfing, and eating your way through the way-too-late night. This hurts, but maybe the kids could play kickball in front of the house or impromptu baseball or football in the free park with other kids instead of having them in the traveling show team. Or maybe you could play with them! You may have to work an extra job at McDonalds, take in a boarder, or clean houses and put that money exclusively on paying down your debt. You may have to do a lot of things, but one thing you MUST do is change your attitude and see this as a tremendous opportunity for growth, and wear your sacrifices and hard work like a badge of honor. Use the experience gained to feel real satisfied with yourself, while you pass on your skills and advice to others who ask for it.
You will find a tremendous rush, as I do, in doing for yourself, coming up with solutions and creating with your own hands or mind something new or beautiful or useful or all of these!
We all like to own things. I am all for that. But I do like to own and not babysit an item temporarily in my custody, hoping it will stay. That's what we do when we buy things on credit; we borrow someone else's cash, hoping to pay incredible interest and then the principal before the thing breaks or becomes obsolete.
Better not to have anything that you cannot pay for up front. Owe no man anything but the debt of love. Best yet to truly take ownership of the life that God has given you: the chance to be content with what you do have, to sleep unburdened by care and enjoy your own hand-hewn life.