Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Facing the Storm

I don’t know if it is the paucity of metaphors or my lack of creativity, but over the past few days the same metaphors keep occurring to me no matter the topic of my thoughts; weathering a storm.

Yesterday, a New York Times article called September 29, 2008, Black Monday, and I wonder if it was hyperbole or is this really as bad as the first Black Monday in 1929. I know practically speaking, it isn’t as bad because we now have F.D.I.C. and government programs to protect (most) of the unemployed that F.D.R. created with the New Deal, not to mention the second wave of social supports that came with L.B.J.’s Great Society. But when you’re in the middle of a (insert your own adjective) storm does it feel like Hurricane force winds, or the eerie calm of the eye?

In the carpool ride into work this morning, I said I was very glad I didn’t live in New York City: the streets will be strewn with suits looking for work. That alone illustrates a difference between now and 1929 when that Crash sent blue-collar workers home with no jobs. But this morning both of the other people in the car – one is a headhunter with an executive search firm and the other works at a major environmental nonprofit – said they are both expecting layoffs to happen within the week or so.

So if the financial storm really is going to hit all of us (let the pundits call it a “deep recession” if that makes them feel better), how do people cope? Since I’m a problem solver by nature, I’m going to devote the next couple of postings to talking about what good things came out of the Depression Era and what lessons from that time apply to our current situation.

One thing that I know personally happens when you lose financially, is that your priorities suddenly become crystal clear. Not surprisingly, the same is true when an actual storm hits and destroys all of your possessions; at least the people you love are safe and alive. This brings me back to the storm metaphor.

One of my sweetest memories of the time just before my dad died was of my sisters, mom and I being in a community-produced musical, Carousel. I got to wear my favorite dress up dress – red with white polka dots and a white bib-like collar – and as a pre-adolescent 11 year old, although I was just on the cusp of feeling self-conscious about a love for old musicals, I didn’t yet reject them as uncool. One of the main songs from the movie is “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Thinking of the lyrics always brings at least a lump to my throat if not tears to my eyes, evoking such a happy time in my childhood. Similar to its use in the movie, I often sang it to myself after my dad had died when I needed comforting.

You’ll Never Walk Alone
When you walk through a storm
Hold your chin up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of a storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet, silver song of a lark.

Walk on, through the wind,
Walk on, through the rain,
Though your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart,
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone.

So this is my mantra of hope and faith, that there is good that will come of what so many are calling a catastrophe. I firmly believe that necessity is the mother of invention. I also believe that faith in learning from a situation will pull you through horrible times. I hope many others feel the same.

Love and hugs.

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