Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Watch, Work and Find a Hobby!

The recent suicide of a former financial planner in the San Fernando Valley after he murdered his family over the state of his economic affairs got me thinking about how the current economic slowdown (Let’s call a spade a spade and call it a “depression" because that's what it is.) has people thinking crazy, responding and acting crazily. It’s gotten to the point that people’s collective negative energy is just plain bringin’ me down--just when all the therapy I paid for in the last two years started working for me!

I don’t know about you, but for me, I’m tired of people walking around like somnambulants, looking to the sky, hoping to find some answer and explanation as to why their lives are in the current state that they are. I wish they would just open their eyes, face forward, judge a reasonable distance in front of them and move. We don’t have to know where we’re going, do we? Isn’t that the beauty of life? Have we gotten so bogged down and obsessed with wealth and acquiring things that we have lost perspective about what the human journey is supposed to be? Pay attention to the signs in your life, people, and maybe things will go your way! Lately, I have been trying to pay attention to the signs I am being given and they are leading me to so many interesting portals--portals that seem scary to open, but ones that I know I must try to move forward with my life.

I work in SoHo, and I am amazed by all the people walking aimlessly, with seemingly closed eyes and all, as they run into each other—ab-fab agenda after ab-fab agenda bumping and grinding along Broadway--annoying the crap out of everyone. We’re a nation of shoppers, since that is what we have been taught to be. We have resolved ourselves to the lobby that to be “someone,” we must look the part, use our credit cards, disguise our pain, and get completely into debt above our eyeballs. Has anyone noticed that the problem partially started a few years back when retailers realized that college students with no sources of income suddenly felt entitled to buy luxury goods, too? It was then that every brand felt the need to join the “luxury” market to get their piece of the pie. Now it’s out of control (You know when Bath and Body Works decides that they need to re-brand to be more of a luxury brand, the word “luxury” has lost its meaning!)and these kids have nothing to show for it except bills they can't afford to pay. We wanted luxury cheap, though, and that's what we've gotten. A system that has driven down wages and the quality of nearly everything, in my opinion.

So, too, Americans have lost a sense of meaning in their lives, but that’s because it was built on false foundations to begin with. That’s why the economy is faltering—because a glorified few were living it up while the general public thought all was well in their world. After all, they had their cute little house, and all the makeover shows were telling people how to achieve a decorating aesthetic that was tantamount to the American Dream. Isn’t that what is most important in life—having an awesome cooking island with just the right amount of storage and a mini state-of-the-art concert hall in your child’s bedroom? What about growing and becoming a better person?

So here are the facts—not watered down—just in-your-face truth. The economy sucks. That’s just the way it is right now and there’s nothing we can do about. Hopefully, a new regime in the White House will be able to get things back on track. In the meantime, think outside the box, for Heaven’s sake! Business people have no problem using that phrase in the workplace like people throw around the word “love,” and yet they can’t even consider living up to it in their own lives. Maybe people should take some time to focus on what actually makes them happy. You can still do that even if you have a family or an over-entitled lifestyle to support. Try art. Try biking. Try stopping by the sense of humor store and picking one up!

David Friedman wrote some of the most amazing lyrics that have always helped me when I’m in an emotional or financial bind:

Don’t give up the ship
Even when you feel it’s sinking,
And you don’t know what to do.
Don’t give up your dream,
Even though you may be thinking
It never will come true.
Life has its own idea of
how things come about
And if you just hang in there
Life is gonna work it out.

Help is on the way
From places you don’t know about today
From friends you may not have met yet
Believe me when I say, I know,
Help is on the way.

As sappy as these words may seem to many, they ring true even more today, while more and more people find themselves jobless and struggling to meet their obligations. I live by the credo that I can “only do what I can when I can do it.” Of course, I want to do my best, but that can change depending on the day and what I seem to be wrestling with. The key is to not be so hard on yourself. And, by God, don’t shoot yourself and your entire family. This whole economy thing is all on the periphery of the world. It’s just the Universe saying we need to change our way of doing things. This is simply not working anymore. It’s like the way we treat the environment. If you abuse it, it won’t be there tomorrow. But, we have to change how we do things. That’s what progress is, after all. If we don’t change, things will change for us. It is the nature of life--tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. The good news is that there is nothing that we, as resourceful, intelligent human beings, don’t have the tools to abide. All we have to do is open our eyes to what is real in the world around us. Think outside the box, find new portals to open and the world won’t seem so crappy.

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