I used to live the high life. The highest life, actually. I spent my days frivolously, shopping nonchalantly, scarcely ever looking at that little pesky thing called a price tag, throwing away perfectly good food just because I’d lost my taste for it or even – and I am quite ashamed of this one – buying myself loads of fun, costume jewelry on eBay because, as I thought, “How can anyone not buy something so pretty?”
Maybe you lived a similar high-octane, wild-abandon life.
But sadly, times have changed, and the outlook looks nowhere near as shiny as my pretty pink ring. The dark, rusty dose of reality has set in. Or rather, our lovely economy has taken ill.
We’ve all taken a heavy hit in these last few months, from home foreclosures to job losses to an ever-shrinking bank account. I’m sure most of us have even become “penny pinchers” – maybe even in the most literal sense as you squeeze those little copper guys out of mere frustration. We don’t need the TVs, the economists or even the famous “Mad Money” man Jim Cramer to tell us it’s bad. After all, we’re living it every day. But, really, do we have to live with it day in and day out? We’re a strong people. Isn’t there a way to avoid being swallowed up by “The Big Bad?”
MORE JUICE AFTER THE JUMP…
If you let my mother tell you the “truth,” she’d tell you that the end is near. The apocalypse is coming and, pretty soon, our world will turn to chaos: People, left with nary a shirt to keep them warm, will be forced to the streets. Mayhem will ensue. Looters will loot the stores of their precious items. And before we know it, our world will be barren and bleak.
In fact, every night, she and I have the same conversation. It goes something like this, with me having to be her therapist, of course:
Mom: Did you see the market fell again today?
Me (reading a magazine I just bought): Nope. But I did see on People.com that Nicole Richie is pregnant again.
Mom (furrows her brow and scoffs): This is really getting serious; I’m really worried. What if we run out of money?
Me: Now calm down. Stop being such an extremist.
Mom (as she furiously cuts up veggies she bought by the pounds, “just in case”): I don’t know. We really need to start saving money.”
Me: Mother, stop. This is a nationwide problem. This isn’t happening just to you because you made some poor money choices. Everyone else is in the same boat.
Mom: Well, I think I’ve been trying really hard.
Me: Yes, of course you have. Now let’s go over this again …
Mom: OK, we have enough money to last us at least five more years. And you could always get a higher-paying job.
Me: Of course I could. Remember we talked about this last night?
Mom: I have to do something. I have to take action now before it’s too late. I should just take all my money out of the stock market now.
Me: Whoa, slow down there. Don’t do anything rash.
Our conversations usually go on for a few minutes more, until I remember that my mother is easily distractible and suggest that we have a peppermint patty, pour ourselves some cranberry juice and sit down for a calming game of Yahtzee.
Maybe others out there are just like my mother, thinking that if they meditate on it, if they will their brain to suddenly fix the problem, that they alone can do it.
Yet we have to know our own limits. The economy is going to keep fluctuating. The Dow and S&P will continue to rise and fall. And, shocking to my mother, all the hair-pulling worry and bomb-shelter preparation isn’t going to change any of that. So instead of letting it ruin each and every one of your days, why not just forget about it?
Scandalous, isn’t it? But really, as I tell my mother all the time, we’re in this for the long haul.
The same is true of life too. There are going to be bumps and blips along the way. Life, like the economy and stock market, is made up of little sprints rather than faced-paced marathons. You can either lament about every bruise or you can just keep on running. Things will get better. And, having seen the dark hours, we’ll appreciate the light even more when it comes. So calm down. Things will get better, one little sprint at a time.
Maybe I should have become an economist after all.