The current economic crisis is a balance point where we are being forced to see ourselves through a clear lens and make adjustments to what we value in the world. I am in my late 50's and have always struggled with acquisition of material things as the value proposition we stand foor as a people. To me, the greatest value is found in helping others who seek aid, not through grandiose gestures, but in small, anonymous, almost imperceptible ways. I have tried to live this principle all along, although at times I struggle with what is most helpful long-term. Sometimes, allowing the person who seeks help to work their way through their issue, knowing that you're rooting for them, is the best answer. At other times, brainstorming solutions with them is best. And at others, merely touching someone's hand while they share their burden lets them know you care.
Having said all this, I too was caught up in appearances. As the child of a narcissistic alcoholic mother and absent father, I worked way too hard for much longer than was sensible to look good -- I imagine for the ultimate goal of acceptance, approval and being good enough. That period was very costly -- financially and emotionally. Sadly, there was no focus on one's inner life in my family of origin, so it took many decades of reading, thinking and brutal self honesty to come to understand that all outer trappings - clothes, toys, cars, homes - had limited value. If there is any silver lining here, it is that I learned this painful lesson gradually before our current economic crisis. So my lifestyle is modest and my use of money as an exchange medium is deliberate.
My adaptive coping mechanism today has less to do with spending differently -- that change already occurred. It has more to do with staying grounded when waves of fear of the unknown pound my internal shores.
1. Knowing that I am not alone in this brings some comfort.2. I tell myself that I will find a way through this, even if I can't see where the road leads past the bend.3. I tell myself that I don't have know everything to be safe. I was nearly still-born and started at a precarious 4 lbs -- I didn't know everything then but managed to survive and thrive.4. I put a limit on the time I spend in fear or worry -- time, like money, has value. If I fritter it away non-productively, then I've done the equivalent of charging an extravagant purchase on a time-based credit card.5. I try to remain present in the moment, to do what needs to be done for myself, to act responsively toward others.6. I get strength from keeping expectations realistic, seeking opportunities to lend encouragement to others, and savoring small joys.
None of us know what is in store. We will manage whatever comes with grace by staying present, grounded and responsive to the needs of others and ourselves. Our job is to find that balance point every day.
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