“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.