I think about my almost seventeen year old son who has driven me to shrieks and tears lately with his off and on unreasonableness and it's all about me attitude. I consider the sense of entitlement that he carries like a birthright, and I think about fact that I'm regarded mostly as a combination of a short order cook and an ATM, with a generous dash of chauffeur thrown in.
I think about his friend, the first friend he made when we moved here, the friend whose parents I'm still close to, who decided last week to drop out of 11th grade, making the choice to hang out with his friends and get high instead. He's gone through his entire savings account in six months. This is the kid who had sex at thirteen, wrecked a car at sixteen, has been caught by more than one mom hiding a cigarette behind his back. Arrest me, he told his parents. Do what you need to do, because I'm not going back.
I think about the horrendous stack of bills I paid today, and the beyond horrendous mortgage payment that is due next week. I think about the "extra" check I got with three pay Fridays in January that I hoped to sock away for a rainy day, but instead watched go up into the ozone. I think about the roof that still needs replacing and the foundation that needs some tweaking and the fact that it may be years before I can sell this house in the current economy. I think about the fact that the FX dropped in tonight to have a discussion about money that did nothing positive for my blood pressure.
I think about other people I know who aren't lying in bed waiting for the ax to fall - they're already under it. It's down. Husband and wife out of a job in the same day. People who have jobs that have all of a sudden become superfluous - massage therapists, waitresses, graphic designers, fundraisers. People who had a great retirement and a really lovely life planned out...until this year. I see it at work constantly. Families with no health insurance and no options. Mothers with small children living in cars in below zero weather. Students with severe mental health issues who cannot afford to take the meds that allow them to function. Society going to hell in a handbasket, with the ER workers in a ringside seat to watch it happen.
I think about my headache and the fact that my head has been about to split open since yesterday afternoon. (Not coincidentally, after I had just spent $300 on groceries). I consider how sick to my stomach I feel, but don't want to call in sick because god forbid they realize they don't really need me after all. I flirt with feeling sorry for myself that I worked on my feet for six weeks with a broken ankle and absolutely no change in my work requirements, hobbling to and fro to take care of patients who had nothing more wrong with them than a severe case of I Need Some Narcs.
I think of a coworker who is fighting breast cancer, who comes to work in between treatments, and is covered with the most god-awful radiation burns I've ever seen, burns that prevent sleep and cause unending pain. A coworker who still has the smile and attitude of an angel. I think of my friend Maggie who has been fighting ovarian cancer for over a year and a half now, and has been through hell. I mean hell. She's a realist, and she's a fighter and she's human. She gets down and she gets scared, but her head is always up and she's always ready to tackle the next battle straight on. My awe at her grace grows by the day, and reminds me that my piss-ant complaints are, indeed, piss-ant complaints.
Perspective is an amazing thing. So is gratitude. To look at your life and give thanks - even if to no one other than yourself - is an incredible, empowering thing. I'm a firm believer that you can't appreciate anything until you fully accept how much you really have, and how many things you have to be thankful for. Every night before I go to sleep, I run through my gratitude list in my head. It keeps me grounded and it keeps me away from my own tendency to play the It's all about me game.
But, as the feelings of panic all around continue to grow, as the outside news gets worse on a daily basis, as more and more people find themselves in positions they never ever expected to be in, it gets harder to keep that sense of perspective. This isn't a dream and it won't be gone when we wake up tomorrow morning. This is something we'll be grappling with for a long time to come. And that can be almost impossible to fully grasp.
Maybe I should be grateful for that.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Posted by the rotten correspondent at 12:02 AM