(Author’s note: When I wrote this piece, originally posted here on February, 2010, my financial situation was dire. It was the same — and, sadly it still is — for millions of Americans. I have been employed for over a year, and things have improved a great deal. I have a lot of gratitude for the change in circumstances and I thought of reposting this piece to spread a little hope and encouragement for anyone still struggling. Remember, don’t give up before the miracle).
It has been almost two years since I decided to close my six year-old business because the economic realities were all pointing in one direction: downward. At the end of the line, I felt about my business as I felt at the end of my previous marriage: sad, disappointed and frustrated but I was convinced that I had done all that I could to save them both. It just had not worked. On both instances, when I walked away, I felt that I was not going to look back, except occasionally, to see if there was something to be learned that would help me navigate the current waters.
I make it a habit of not complaining about my situation because I know that there are so many more families that face equal or worst problems than mine. Besides complaining never got me anything, unless I was dealing with Costumer Service at a department store, and even then…
What I have tried to do instead is look for the silver lining — not in a pollyannish, but a practical way — in this economic Waterloo.
I’ve come up with some evidence of silver. I would love to share it in the hope that it might help some of you deal with your own storm clouds. I know that it will certainly help me to talk about it as I move forward.
I never suspected, when I closed the doors to my business, that I would be almost two years without employment and that I would be facing the dire financial difficulties I have faced.
I’ve heard the expression “Every cloud has a silver lining” a thousand times and I’ve never looked up its meaning or origin until I sat down to write this. According to Wikipedia:
The origin of the phrase is traced to John Milton’s Comus (1634) with the lines, “Was I deceiv’d, or did a sable cloud turn forth her silver lining on the night?”
I am not going to talk much about the cloud part of the expression because I don’t want to bore anybody. Besides, we all have our own misery quota. I want to talk about the silver lining component instead, as I have come to understand it.
One very obvious positive development has to do with the practices that I have incorporated into my daily family life. I have become more fiscally conservative and I don’t mean it in the small government and tax cuts way but more in the how much money do we have coming in and how many diapers do we have to buy before the next money comes in. I have a-pay-as-you-go cell phone that I only give out to my family and that my wife and I share, depending on who will be out of there driving in the snow. Before I had three phones and my Treo had 6,000 minutes and 700 names. It’s amazing how few people you really have to call when you’re broke. My wife and I have regular business meetings at home and do spending plans and then we stick to them. I gave up the two leased cars, not voluntarily, mind you — the pick-up for me, the sedan for the wife — and bought a 92 Volvo with 195,000 miles that I maintain better that any other vehicle I ever owned. You get the picture, I feel like a grown up for the first time on economic issues and I am over fifty. I’ve also recently started a new consulting business and its prospects look promising.
I am the blessed father of a three and a half year-old son. Nicolas makes me smile like nothing ever has in my entire life — except perhaps his twenty nine year-old sister. Here’s the best part of the unintended benefits of the ’07 recession: I have had the blessing of spending this past two years with this sweet little soul, without setting out to do that. I have fed him; changed his diapers; watched him take his first steps; taught him to drink from a straw when it was time to give up the bottle; I’ve cooked for him; I’ve taken him to Home Depot and watched him howl in delight because I was pushing the cart real, real fast, with him sitting inside, through the plumbing isle; I rushed him to the emergency room at 2 am and then brought him home with a croup diagnosis and I stayed up with him until he fell asleep at 5:30, finally breathing alright; I’ve read him every Sandra Boynton book dozens of times and I took him to Yankee Stadium the way my father took me so that I could tell him when he grows up that before the real one was torn down, we were there on a sunny day in spring. He won’t remember but I have the photo to show him.
I didn’t think that I was going to be out of work this long. I never knew that I would find it so difficult to pay my bills and put food on the table and pay for my son’s health insurance. I have felt like a failure many a night just as I am about to fall asleep. But this is where I am today: I am reminding myself that I have made every effort that could be asked of a man to find a job and bring home a paycheck and I have not yet succeeded. But I have had great success in being a good father nonetheless and the time I’ve spent with my son, well, to tell you the truth, it has been a real gift and I am grateful that today I know its value.
I’d love to hear what you are grateful for today…