This American Life

On the way home from work last night on the bus, I was listening to This American Life with Ira Glass on my iPod. One of the stories was told by a son, painfully watching his parents suffer in this economy. His parents had both recently lost their jobs, and were in a place in life I recognized. They were beginning to cut back on their expenses in ways that make sense to people who have enough. It’s that first stage of sacrifice, where one gives up the things that have always seemed like a little bit of luxury.

The father was contemplating environmental work in Iraq, and the son was horrified. We went through that too, when Mark first started talking about going to Afghanistan, people who heard about it were shocked. My mother flatly refuses to accept that it could ever happen. The mother in the story was going over a long list of possible job fields, trying them all out in her mind. Thinking about jobs in terms of what would suit her best.

It occurred to me that I’ve actually been granted a boon while the suffering is beginning to rage about me, affecting more and more people every day. We have already been in the stage where many are just now approaching.

We panicked already. We shed tears of despair. We’ve already gone through lists of desperate strategies in our minds, looking in vain for something we hadn’t thought of that will save us. We have stopped fantasizing about what jobs would be nice to have, and have started the humbling job search for anyone willing to hire Mark, on any terms. We have cut our coffee consumption in half because it’s one of our most expensive grocery items, and switched from Peets tea to Fred Meyer brand tea – 100 packets for $1.98. We already received the foreclosure letter from Wells Fargo, and got the letter from Bank of America taking my level of credit on the Master Card from $37,000 to $500. …and my balance is already zero. They’re just protecting themselves from me: a liability.

When so many more people are being forced to understand how bad our economy really is, and how it translates into innocent peoples’ lives, there is a growing sense of worry emanating from America. The boon is: we’re already on the bottom, and can see the uphill climb that will take us out of here. The despair and panic are in our history, which is a relief.

It’s a twisted way to feel grateful, but gratitude is always a good place to be.

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