November 26, 2008

Me holding my Mac laptop.

My Mac & I figure things out together.

Downsizing is the new getting ahead.  And here’s my secret to success in this difficult game. I say to myself: “Everything I need, I already have.” That’s what I learned when I first went into therapy. This was back in the 90s, when I was miserable — even though I had an excellent career and equally impressive bank account. But in the course of examining my life, I redefined my goals in a way that has led to an unexpected bonus: I found happiness.

Of course, staying on track and sane are incredibly challenging in this wretched economy. Especially since the experts say we’ll be in financial pain for a pretty long time. I, for one, feel the truth in that prediction whenever I open my sad, little checkbook and wave it like a flimsy shield against a menace known as The Monthly Bills.

The battle to make budget always leaves me short of breath — and cash. Health insurance, have to pay that first. Utility bills, also a priority. Keeping the Amex card is critical for groceries, gas and commuter train tickets. Then there’s the gym membership, a must for staying fit enough to manage a routine better suited for someone who is a lot younger than I am. Ouch — to make the mortgage, I need to tap into the nest egg. Again. Oh, and the $5,288.54 property tax bill is due soon; let’s not think about that…

Still, I will prevail no matter what. Because I’ve been raised for economic survival by Chinese immigrants parents who saved every piece of cardboard and string that drifted through our tripled-locked Chinatown apartment door. Of course, they wanted me to do better.

And I did. When my then-husband and I hit our mad money peak as a dual-income-no-kids couple, I finally got a break from scrounging. Yeah, we had the Mercedes convertible, the $425 shoes, the four-star Manhattan dinners and the 6,000-square-foot house in the ‘burbs. But divorce ended all that.

So these days, buying organic veggies and really fresh farmers’ market greens feels like a luxury. My “new” winter coat cost $8 at a church tag sale. (And I hated shelling out $13 to dry clean it!) I juggle a bunch of part-time teaching gigs in between full-time shuttling of my 13-year-old daughter to soccer practice, piano lessons, tennis lessons, school activities and her babysitting job.

A lot of people have things way tougher than me; they are my inspiration. I know folks who can make jokes about their homes going into foreclosure. And I’m in awe of the unemployed souls who have the personal grace to calmly keep searching the want ads and Craigslist.

Our strength shows that everything we really need to cope, we already have. Because it’s true character which nows defines an enduring quality of life.

Everything we need, we already have. That includes us having each other, right here. And since I’m into symbolism, the Thanksgiving season makes for a perfect opportunity to get this blog rolling. You can count on me to write every day until there’s at least one entry item posted in every category under Body, Soul, Spirit, Love and Money. (Then I’ll probably write three times a week.)

Meanwhile, hope you’ll drop by with some thoughts on the love and hope that keep you going.  Just write into the comments section below…