2008 will go down as the year everything changed. It's tempting to call Obama the new savior and while there is certainly some truth in being saved from Bush's reprehensible policies, he's left us with such a huge pile of garbage that it feels unfair to load Obama with more expectations. But it does make the holiday season more upbeat even though there's a deepening economic crisis. This meltdown has many tentacles and those who are to blame want to get out intact and find a fall guy. You don't work Wall Street if you don't have nerves of steel and even in their panic they understand their mantra: "Save Thyself." It will be years before the damage is sorted out and the economy begins a new period of growth as it always does.
Rachel Maddow – she of the left leaning in-your-face quasi-nightly news show on MSNBC - and I share many common ideas but the top of the list is the word "Infrastructure". She calls it sexy; I call it the most important thing we can do to gain our self respect. When you allow schools and roads and bridges and dams to fall into disrepair, people will die, children will not reach their potential and lawsuits will eat away more money than the repairs. Yet year after year these projects are put on hold by politicians rushing to please their donors, usually developers that want a tax cut to create more need for infrastructure without having to pay for it. New stuff you can sell wins every time and taxpayers get stuck with the costly improvements. That's politics as usual and having worked in the legislature I've seen it first hand.
But now the grownups are in charge. It won't be a quick or easy fix and without those who knocked on doors and made calls being vigilant elected officials who line their own pockets and those of their friends will prevail. It will take a while to clean them out and level the playing field. Seniority in Congress translates into way too much power and it's often a gradual slide into what's good for them is good for everyone.
But as 2009 begins I want to change focus. I titled my blog Living Well is the Best Revenge as a kind of attitude against being negative. I think it was probably first said by a woman dumped by her husband for a much younger model. Take his money, start a business and shout loud and clear that it was the best thing that ever happened. At first it's a total fake job, putting on a happy face with makeup. Soon enough, with practice, it's real. It applies to anything, especially now when jobs are disappearing faster than cookies at Christmas. You can't spend money but you can put up some attitude, you can look forward not backward, you can make the best of what you have.
I will venture a guess that most people fail because they complain. I don't mean legitimate gripes to fix a problem, I mean they complain about their bad luck and keep track of who got more and soon it consumes them and that's all they think about and how to get even or get their share, which usually means more than their share to catch up. But how about twisting that ball and seeing everything from a different angle? How about seeing not what's wrong but what's right? This isn't new material; it's been said in every way possible. Put a spin on it, stand up tall, face it as a mountain to climb. You'd get all the right equipment, you'd study the weather, bring some food; in other words you'd prepare yourself. Same thing in any crisis, preparation is the key. The key to survival is facing it head on and choosing your options.
So I want to refocus myself. It's time to bring about a new prosperity and a new attitude and a new value system to our communities. It's time to care about the whole picture, not just grab what you can while you can. It's time to expand hopes and dreams and if you can't pay for them right now you can study up on them – libraries are still free – and you can still volunteer and help an elderly neighbor, you can still be counted on.
Every day do one nice thing for someone – including yourself – which you wouldn't ordinarily do. Something small like park between the lines or something more substantial like form a support group; there's literally a million choices to make the world – and your life - a better place. And if you suddenly find yourself out of a job, between the paperwork – could they possibly have more forms to fill out? – and the networking, clean out a closet, study a new subject or learn a language, take the kids to the free events, every city has them even in down times, or to the park and make up games to play. Rearrange furniture for a new look, plant some flowers, refocus how you think. I won't mention exercise because anyone who doesn't know that's important isn't reading this.
At first it feels like walking underwater. You want to crawl into bed and suffer through your misfortune. You want to blame everyone who you believe caused it. But if you do that, you won't crawl out of your hole and you may just dig yourself into a larger one.
Living well is not only the best revenge; eventually you're too busy to think about revenge.