New Year’s Revelation No. 1 of 7: Today is Tomorrow

 “Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.”

― Ann BrasharesThe Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 

So let’s make it count.

Happy New Year, everyone!  It’s a brand new day, day one (of 365)! We’ve pressed the “Refresh” button and now we can begin a new chapter in our lives ― with fresh perspective, good intentions, and positive energy.

There are three basic ways to approach the New Year:

1.  Let the chips fall where they may.

Make no resolutions, no plans.  Just wing it.  See what life brings.  Be reactive, not proactive.  Deal with problems, as they arise.  Live in the moment. Don’t think about tomorrow (or that tomorrow, “tomorrow” will actually be “today”).

2. Micromanage yourself, your time, your life.

Make resolutions, with the intention of keeping them.  Plan every month, every week, every day of your year (because, of course, everything is set in stone and nothing or no one will thwart your plans).

3. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst and, take time to enjoy your life.

Resolve to learn from past mistakes.  Draw strength and confidence from past triumphs. Make a plan, but keep it flexible.  Life has a way of upsetting the apple cart, so be prepared to make some contingency plans (usually referred to as Plan B)… just in case.  You’ll fare much better if you are proactive, rather than reactive. Above all, leave time (each and every day) to savour your life and those around you. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m  taking approach #3.  

Best of success to each and every one of you!

Now, it’s time to begin.

Cheers,

heatherfromthegrove

(Photo credit:  via weheartit.com, by Samara Freire)

Plan B. Why we should always have one handy.

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“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

Of course, in reality it’s not always that simple.

When we shrug our shoulders and “let the chips fall where they may” – without any forethought or plan – we can’t really control the consequences. This is reactive thinking. And, nine out of ten times, we always regret not having planned ahead.

We are human. We make mistakes. We play the odds and miscalculate the results. Sometimes, our innate optimism clouds our thinking and we realize it only too late. And then the unimaginable suddenly becomes very imaginable, very real.

This happened to many middle-class men and women who were unprepared for such a severe and prolonged economic downturn. Jobs were downsized or eliminated. Savings dwindled. Credit card debt soared. Health insurance policies were suspended. Homes foreclosed. Food became a luxury.

In hindsight, what could we have done to prevent this from happening?

None of us expected this economic crisis to last so long, but it did.  That was out of our control.

We did, however, have control over how much we spent, how much we consumed, and whether or not we chose to live within our means. Many of us who were not proactive are now chanting “mea culpa, mea culpa.”

Let’s look at each of the problem areas:

(1) Jobs.  No job (full-time, part-time, or consultant) is secure. Even a loyal employee, working 25 years in the same company, can get a pink slip…. just like that. It’s important to keep skills honed, stay educated, and cultivate multiple optional career paths/opportunities. When we have back-up options, we are able to counteract the fallout from job loss.

(2) Savings. We must try not to succumb to the mentality of “immediate gratification.” This is a common problem in today’s society. The generation of men and women who lived through the Great Depression would probably be rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at us. We should take our cue from them and exercise a little frugality and self-discipline. Save a portion of each check and don’t touch it unless absolutely necessary. Make sound investments. “Get Rich Quick” schemes are just that: schemes. As my mother used to tell me, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

(3) Credit Cards.  Ideally, we should only use debit cards. Credit cards should be used only on the condition that we pay them off (in full) each month. If we can’t do that, we are buying trouble by digging ourselves into debt. Stay in the black, not the red.

(4) A Roof Over Our Head. Here’s the unsettling reality: if we have a mortgage, we don’t own our home.  The bank does. If we can’t pay the mortgage, the bank will take “our home” away from us. We own our home only when we’ve paid the entire loan off.  This usually tales years, even decades. The good news is that eventually, we do own our home outright… if we play our cards right. Here’s the caveat: if we choose to get a second mortgage or an equity loan because we want to add a room or renovate a kitchen, then we drive ourselves deeper into debt… making that dream of full home ownership a more distant reality.

(5) Food. Eat wisely. Don’t waste.  Be sustainable. Buy fruit trees and grow vegetables… then there will always be food – even when money is scarce. 

Remember the adage: “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” 

If we follow this simple advice, we may not overcome all of our problems, but we will definitely be on a stronger footing.

HFH2

From Aug 14-Sept 7, purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, and for every $20 book purchased directly from me, through my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three. As I’ve stated before and clearly state on my website, this promotion does not apply to books purchased from third party distributors, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

What is unique about the book, Casualties of the (Recession) Depression?

Originally, I intended to write a collection of short stories, based on the real life accounts of middle-class men and women who had been (and who continue to be) adversely affected by this prolonged economic downturn.

After learning about all their tribulations and triumphs, I decided that their stories would have more impact if portrayed in short vignettes or scenes.  These snapshots in words capture the essence (and the rawness) of their experiences.  As a reader, you get a feel for what it’s like to ― as Atticus Finch (in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird) says ― “climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  In doing so, the reader may identify with/relate to or gain insight from their experiences, as they navigate through the spectrum of emotions ― shock, sorrow, despair, relief, joy, pride, and so on.  

The vignettes present the reader with a canvas of scenes ranging from sweet-to-bittersweet-to-bitter, from the manic uncertainty of not knowing what to do, to the tenacious pursuit of a “Plan B” … and, of course, emphasizing the point that humor, hope and faith often help to smooth out the kinks and put things in perspective.

Once the vignettes were written, I realized that it was necessary for me to clearly explain my thesis that this overextended economic downturn is a depression, and not a recession. In doing so, I categorized the vignettes by year – from 2006 to the first quarter of 2013. I then wrote an introduction to each of the years, thereby setting the historical, socio-economic and political scene (with economic and political commentary) ― to give the reader context.

I believe that the book is unique because it uses vignettes (rather than short stories) and these vignettes are reinforced by the commentary which presents the context, issues, and possible solutions.

In the second-to-last paragraph of my Conclusions, I write:

“It is not my intention to point fingers at any political leader or party. Nor am I interested in engaging in an ideological battle of red versus blue (or vice versa).  I am, however, raising an eyebrow at the seemingly dismissive attitude that our politicians and economists have towards the ongoing severity of this economic “trough” and, by association, the degenerative effects on the countries largest demographic – the middle class. The bottom line is:  if there are middle-class Americans who continue to experience economic hardship, then the problem still exists. If they are not in the process of recovering, then we are not “in a recovery.”

Casualties of the (Recession) Depression is not an economic treatise or a doctoral dissertation.  It is a very evocative, down-to-earth, mince-no-words commentary/editorial which simply seeks to highlight the human condition as relates to the economic crisis that, like a very bad cough, has proven difficult to shake off.

I welcome your feedback, with thanks.

― Heather Joan Marinos

(Visit:  http://heatherjoanmarinos.com )

Written Content Copyright © 2013 by Heather Joan Marinos. All Rights Reserved.