Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Paying Attention Because There Is A Story Here

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” — Thornton Wilder

If you've been visiting here any length of time, you know that our family is adjusting to a new financial paradigm. I just used the word paradigm. Someone please slap me. I wanted to stay away from the prevalent phrase "New Normal" because after reading through some blog archives, it's clear that there is nothing new about this. It's been our normal for a while now except that it's gotten worse.

It's a case of Once You're In It, It's Hard to Get Out of It. Like the mafia or a gym contract.

With the loss of my job last December, we received that apocryphal blow most of the American Middle Class fears. It was that one last thing that would flick us off the edge and tumbling into the precipice of the financial unknown.

I want to tell you all the things we've learned along the way. I want to show you how we've changed and grown. I want to reassure those of you living paycheck to paycheck and in terror of that one disaster that could send you and your family into the financial soup that you will survive. You will be different, but you will get through it. But my first wish for you is that you never find yourself here in the first place.

But there will time for that later.

Some days I'm reluctant to share with you the daily ups and downs of this financial recalibration because it seems like so much whining. I have to preface things with phrases like We brought this on ourselves or We should have done this differently.... I'm forever balancing the reality with my distaste for victimhood. I mine these events for humor because there are so many of us living through this - whether we want to talk about it or not (much less put it in writing) and if I can contribute anything to the conversation, I want it to maybe make people feel a little better instead of worse.

This period of our lives has taught me many things, but one of the most wonderful gifts I've received is the experience of gratitude. When you're the giver, the caregiver, the donor, the contributor, you do so for a lot of reasons. Those reasons are as varied as the people involved. I've not always been good at receiving thanks. I dismiss it, wave it off, minimize my contribution. It was nothing. Don't mention it. I didn't see through the other person's eyes that whatever I'd done - whether big or small - mattered.

When you are the recipient of care and kindness and generosity, your role is simple. Say thank you.

Yesterday, I received an email that left me speechless. A group of people had provided a gift to our family that will help us bridge the wasteland that is January. The writer of the email did what I do when I'm the contributor. She minimized the significance of the gift. When I regained my composure and my ability to mangle the English language, I wrote to tell her how much the gift mattered and how the timing could not have been better. And to please pass our family's gratitude on to the others who'd contributed, as well.

And in case any of them are here, I want to say those important words.

Thank you. 


  1. Lisa, it makes me happy to hear that good friends are being there for you and your family at this time. I am sending hugs to all of you, and I just made a donation.

  2. This post gave me a feeling of warmth and happiness that also couldn't have come at a better time.

  3. Susan - Thank you so much. And thank you for the hugs. They're always appreciated! I really do have the best friends in the world.

    BSR - I'm glad this felt good. I hope whatever might be bothering you is short-lived. What can I do to help?

  4. I am right there with you--and your posts help me put it all in perspective. We're healthy, I'm spending lots more time with the kids, and there's even a chance I can build my business into something that supports us for the long term. The rest is just putting one foot in front of the other--trying not to panic when January brings no business at all (and forces me to liquidate my son's 529)...and sometimes panicking anyway..and having that be okay.

  5. Right there with you sister. In fact I just added a graphic to my blog - "At least the war on the middle class is going well".
    For reasons beyond my understanding, good hard-working folks like us are going to pay the price for this financial disaster.
    I too have friend like yours and they make all the difference in the world.

  6. Lisa, I am so glad you have those friends in your life. I do feel many in our country are one day or paycheck etc from being just where you are, and we were all encouraged to want more....our society encouraged it.
    I'm thinking of you!

  7. We do not stumble through this world alone. Touching others provides occasion for them to reach out to us. You are a blessing to so many, this is not only not a surprise, I am wondering why it doesn't happen more often.

    It is nice, though, to have one's hopeful intimations proved correct. Much love to you and all.

  8. Oh Lisa, how wonderful to have such friends. And a good reminder to us all to give and receive with grace.

  9. thank you for this. it's is timely for me for sure. during my therapy appt. yesterday (isn't it cool how our conversations spread across all sites?), it was brought to my attention that i have a severe (to the point of being emotionally problematic) fear of scarcity. i've been google-ing scarcity principle and articles of such all day. this was a perfect reminder of what is important.

  10. Oh Lisa, you're so lucky to have friends like this in your life.

  11. Hooray for random acts of kindness!

    It's a bitch to have to try to tow the line & struggle along. The freaking government was playing chicken w unemployment $ right in the middle of winter when utility bills are high.

    I've been there & done it. You try to buck up & muster up a good attitude. But at some point you feel like a hampster on a wheel... running & running & never getting to the elusive goal- making ends meet, finding a job, providing for the kids needs.

    It's always something- so I'm glad relief arrived & you can breathe again, put down some burden of worry & stress.


  12. Deborah - It's nice to know we're not alone, isn't it? Here's hoping that things will pick up for you very soon.

    MNMom - I know you're in this same situation. I'm glad you've got supportive friends, too. It really does help.

    Anita - Thank you. I hope that those who haven't been so negatively effected don't find themselves in trouble. If I had it to do over again, I'd be saving, saving, saving.

    Geoffrey - You're so kind to me. Thank you. And much love to you and your family.

    Downwith - Thank you so much. And I do, too.

    amyg - I do love how these conversations flow from one blog to another. Scarcity has taken on such a huge role in my head. I wonder if I'm becoming like someone who went through the Great Depression. There are signs pointing in that direction.

    Meleah - I know! And I'm glad to count you among my friends.

    Fran - Hooray is the perfect word. It's been such a relief. I am constantly reminded of how fortunate we are.

  13. You write about such unspoken fears so well. It must be the lot of most writers to live with and deal with scarcity and still go on living. Pleased to meet you Lisa. I'm here from Australia where the economic crisis has not hit quite so hard, at least not yet, and through Betsy's blog.

  14. You never come off as whining. As I always say, if you don't tell your story, nobody else will. It's easy to get lost in the enormousness of it all - the "big picture" situation all over your country, and the world. These kinds of stories are what we need to truly understand. And your honesty in telling it is what draws people back every day.

  15. You have a wonderfully warm and human way of writing about things that would scare the bejeezus out of me.

    Oh, and consider yourself slapped! Paradigm indeed!!

  16. Thanks, LIsa, and good luck (it seems you have everything else :) ).

  17. That's so wonderful, Lisa. I needed that today.

  18. Lisa-I am so glad somebody was in a position to help you out. It gives such hope that there are people out there who can and do help when needed.

    And I am STILL pestering you to WRITE THIS BOOK. Put together the proposal for a non-fiction 'Surviving the New Normal' or whatever clever title you can give it. The nice thing about non-fiction, is it doesn't necessarily have to be DONE to sell and get the advance--put together your outline, pull out a bunch of your blog posts, and commit to the project.

  19. If the current situation has taught me anything it will be to be a better giver.

    And if anything this will give you a greater appreciation for the little things we all take for granted.

  20. If you don't tell this story who will? This is very touching. There are good people in this world. :)

  21. Despite your patented mix of humor and bravery (or should it be bravado? or both?) it's pretty easy to read between the lines and see that the past couple of years have been a huge struggle for you.

    You are very easy to love -- and obviously more than one person has been moved to lend a hand.

  22. Thank you all for the wonderful comments! I am so grateful for the donations we've received from several people and for the friendship you all show me.

    Group hug!

  23. Wow, how sweet. Someone in my life was offered a similar sort of gift recently. I've been on both sides -- the giver and receiver -- and sometimes you almost hesitate to be the giver in case it somehow offends the person or whatever. But in my experience it never has. If offered the right way, it can be a gift that stretches beyond the money or material good it started with.

  24. Hey, we are all we've got. And that's not a bad thing. Happy for your gift.

  25. Lisa, your openness and honesty and heart have made you and your family real to us all, as real as our family and friends. That attitude begets kindness and, where possible, generosity.

    I'm "doing without" for the time being, being unemployed myself, and am learning not to meet kindness with, "Oh, you shouldn't have" or "You didn't need to do that..." but rather with a simple "Thank you," which is not just what's in my heart, but what the heart of the Giver deserves.

    I'm so glad to hear that you have such kind and thoughtful friends.

  26. Most of us are much more comfortable, I think, in the role of the giver. That role seems to have the independence, the upper hand, the power. The role of receiver is harder for most of us. For some, I think, it feels too passive, or like we must have invited the giver's pity. I know I hate to ask anyone for anything (ever) - I hate to present myself as being in need, anything less than totally self reliant. Where did I get this? It's a mess and makes my life (and my family's situation) more difficult. It gets in the way at work, as well. It's one of the beams in the eye of my relationship with God. And I know I'm not alone in this.

    We come to your blog for many things - the humor, the latest in the lives of one of our favorite families, our Golden fix - but one of the best things, for me, is the way I laugh and grin myself into a more healthy and happier spot in my own head. And watching you deal with something that has been a subliminal fear for me, one of my internal Loch Ness Monsters, the fear that I might not have a job for some period of time, with all the emotional turmoil and practical stumbling that would mean, somehow makes it possible to face that fear. It's like the way a powerful and well expressed story about mortality can make it possible to face our own. Unemployment and the resulting financial need ain't death - but here in America they're swept under the same social and psychic carpets. So your blog is like taking up those carpets and slinging them over a line for a good beating - and few people can beat those rugs like you can.

  27. Beautiful. I'm sorry to hear about your hardshit. Doesn't that sound better than hardship? The latter is stating the freakin' obvious. Of course ships are hard! They're ships! But, shit on the other hand is gross and repugnant.

    What was my point again? Oh yeah. I'd fallen behind in my reading and I'm glad I checked in here. I love how you write. And no one can take that away from you except for maybe Nurse Ratchett (Ratshit). There's that shit thing again.


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