Looking for Light in a Dark Economy | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Looking for Light in a Dark Economy

Writer Karen Brenner has this commentary about looking for light at the end of the tunnel.

Things are really bad, really, really, really bad. Jobs are not just being lost, companies are shedding jobs; shedding like a snake sheds its dead skin or a dog sheds its dead hair. Employees are not just laid off, they are axed; people are being cut off, with an ax, whack! Homes are being lost, people are drowning in upside down mortgages. Everyday we hear the steady drumbeat, the constant news that Americans are being shed, axed, lost, drowned and turned upside down.

We all know someone who has lost a job. One of our children is looking for work, and one of our in –laws was recently laid off after 20 years with the same company. We also have a good friend who is currently jobless. When you are the one out of work, it isn't a down turn, or a recession, it's a depression, and a bad one. I know. I've been there.

Just after 9/11, my husband was laid off after working for a company for many years. When Tom first went to work at this small, family owned business, it was the kind of company that bought all of its employees turkeys for Thanksgiving, held Christmas dinner dances, gave out boxes of Valentine candy, and provided summer picnics for the whole family. This company was bought out by an international corporation whose sole aim was to dismantle and destroy the smaller business. Eventually, all of the employees were let go, and everything was sold off. The timing could not have been worse. During the months following the terrorists' attack, no one was hiring, the nation was shell shocked, and everyone was so frightened. Things looked grim for our country and for our family. Then, completely out of the blue, I was diagnosed with cancer.

We found ourselves backed up against a wall, in a nightmare of no income, and a major health crisis. We had two choices. We could stand there against that wall, feeling helpless and desperate, or we could decide it was time to change directions. This is the life lesson that we learned in those troubled days; there is an up side to down. There is always an opening, always a path out of the dark place.

In our case, the opening we found was to follow our hearts. We decided that it was time to do those things that we had always thought about doing, talked about doing, but never had the courage to try. In the middle of all of the fear and uncertainty, my husband, Tom, at age 50, went back to graduate school. I started writing, seriously, with my life depending on it. These were bold moves for us, born out of desperation, but they saved our lives.

Tom and I both know that if we hadn't been faced with such terrible problems, we would not have made such courageous choices. President Obama recently said that in facing our present financial crisis, Americans will do what Americans have always done; we will turn crisis into opportunity. Tom and I believe that this is true; it is in crisis that the seeds of opportunity begin to take root. In the personal problems that we faced several years ago, we were fortunate in our decision to turn away from fear, and to turn toward opportunity. this is not the time to be afraid; this is the time to be wildly optimistic. This is the time to take that risk, to do that thing that you've always wanted to do. After all, when things are this bad, the only way to go is up! There truly is an up side of down.

Music Button: Diana Krall, "Pick Yourself Up", from the CD The Very Best of Diana Krall, (Verve records)

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