Tag Archives: economy

All We Need Is Love. No, Really.

(This is not a posting about politics, or the Democratic Convention, even if it starts out talking about that for a second, so bear with me.)

After last night’s Democratic National Convention speech, Michelle Obama’s gotten a big spotlight around the world for bringing a topic up that we don’t often treat with the respect it deserves — love.

Her speech last night played on the heartstrings about the idea of love. Love for a parent, for a family member, for those who sacrifice, for heroes, for idols. Love. Love for each other.

It’s an emotion we all feel, or it can be replaced by its antitheses — hate, anger, sorrow.

For a few minutes, though, Michelle Obama talked about this love idea. This thing that, once upon a time, we’d maybe feel for those around us. We’d fight for it. We’d protect it.

Love. This many-hallowed thing of ages long forgotten. The one emotion that probably transcends every culture, and even every species.

I watched an episode of PBS’ Nature last week in which a mama grizzly was frantically running all over an Alaskan wilderness reserve searching for her cub. After a few minutes’ footage of this heartbreaking search by a mother for a child, she found it, and the joy was indescribable.

Love is a product of biology, not humanity.

So we like to think we’re all about love as a society. We’re pumping out music about it, movies that claim to be about love, and we exalt things like marriage and parenthood because they’re based, in theory, upon love too.

But we’re kidding ourselves.

We’re not about love.

If it bleeds, it leads. Be scared. Be very, very scared. Long for yesterday. Blame someone. It wasn’t me. Don’t trust anyone. Lock your doors. Don’t talk to strangers. Keep outsiders out. Money talks.

In the media today is this evil, awful loop of distrust, fear, hate, and judgment that keeps spinning and spinning and spinning.

Oh, I’m sorry, did I say “in the media”? I meant spinning, period.

I’m on the internet. I see the rhetoric playing out in reality. I see the lies slung, the hate bounced, the judgment passing. By people, not media.

If you think all our problems are born in the media, you got another think coming. They’re just the mirror in front of us.

I wish it were easier to see the beginning of it all. People say Hard Copy was the beginning of the journalistic decline, but Ayn Rand wrote a whole book around the concept of bad journalism and what it says about us. See that “evil” book The Fountainhead for her look at Ellsworth Tooey and pandering to the masses. That’s seven decades ago.

Did debased journalism begin, then society crowd around it like a mass of hungry onlookers at an accident scene? Or have we always been that shitty?

We obsess over celebrities. Oh, they’re famous and pretty and rich, so therefore they’re wonderful. Quick, cut them down with gossip and mockery!

Like children building with blocks, when it comes to societal successes, we look for the quickest way to disassemble that which we just built up.

Yet we’re better than that.

This same awful race who lives and breathes the TMZ religion and who conceived the inequities which plague class divisions the world over is the same race that has done everything from putting a man on the moon to discovering penicillin.

When we’re not confronted with imminent threat, we forget that we’re all in this together. We lunge at each other and bring words and weapons to spar with.

I recall Bush saying “You’re either with us, or you’re against us” and suddenly it seems we’re all living life in much that way.

In the hours after 9-11 occurred, for one brief, eerily shining moment, nearly the whole world was united in a feeling of love and empathy. I don’t think Americans realize that. The whole world felt the pain of that horrible, horrible day, and I think anywhere you were, this wave of despondency hit because we realized we’d just seen the worst that humanity had to offer.

And from that place, in the dust of the hours in the days that followed, this overwhelming feeling of love and community came out of it, because everyone needed to feel together for a while. We needed to feel like we were more than just hatred.

That’s what I remember of those days. This inexplicable juxtaposition of feeling the most hate I’d ever felt, the most anger I’d ever known, and at the very same time feeling this outpouring of love and empathy I only wish I could carry with me every day.

While we are both these things, we are more often the worst of ourselves.

Last night, Michelle Obama reminded us of some of the things that are the best of who we are, who we could be. She reminded us of those who are great who walk through the door of opportunity then hold it open so that others may also experience greatness.

But this isn’t who we are now. Not often. Not anymore.

Instead of achieving greatness by surrounding ourselves with greatness, we’re often looking for ways to tear down others. We look for failings. We protect ourselves and attack everyone who isn’t like us.

We’re the Youtube generation. Everybody point and laugh.

We have been better than this before. We can be better than this now.

I’ve found myself so often watching this year’s election process down south and feeling rather brokenhearted. I am so saddened by who we have become. I’m tired of divisiveness. I hate the blame game. But this disease keeps spreading. We glom onto hate and fear like leaches sucking a bloated carcass.

Maybe it’s because everyone’s so financially stretched and the future seems bleak. Maybe everyone’s so tired of the struggle to keep our heads afloat that we see others as a threat to our security. Maybe we’re tired of being so aware of our personal failings that we need to spotlight others’.

I don’t know.

That’s who we are, six days a week, on a public level. Maybe at home with our families and our closest friends, we’re better people. In fact, I know most of us are.

But when it comes to being inclusive in society, when it comes to thinking big-picture about our nations and our places in the world, that’s where our humanity evaporates and many of us slide into a place we shouldn’t respect ourselves for in the morning.

And for a brief little while last night, a great speaker reminded us that we’ve been more. In times like the Great Depression, we were motivated by love for others, a belief of being in it together, and an aspiration of communal greatness.

We have had our moments of being something amazing.

Unfortunately, electing a guy into an office and telling him to fix everything, and then going on with life as usual for four years isn’t how amazing happens. Amazing happens when we all remember we’re a part of something bigger. It’s when we all give back with volunteering, generosity of spirit, by helping our fellow man, and looking for the best in every situation.

That’s how greatness happens.

And for a time, I’ll be hoping people are reminded of that for the remaining weeks in this American election.

We need to remember we can be great.

And then we need to become it.

Love is a very good place to start that quest.

Money Ain’t Everything

One of my favourite songs from my teen years was Cyndi Lauper’s “Money isn’t Everything.”

It feels like life comes in with built-in looped lessons, themes that repeat constantly throughout our lives. For me, money and patience are two lessons I’m forever learning about.

Money, though, is the one that causes me most grief.

Drowning piggybank, from TheDoublethink.com: http://thedoublethink.com/2009/06/how-much-to-spend-in-a-recession/

This year has probably been the most learned year on the money front for me. I’ve fixed a few things, changed my quality of life by way of making small choices, but I’ve still run into a great deal of hardship twice this year. Once during the Olympics, because you don’t realize until they arrive what a wild ride and party it is to live within, or how expensive life gets then, and, well, right now.

Having done the bad-back thing right before getting pneumonia, it’s actually been 7 weeks of consistent drain on my wallet, with little to nothing coming in, and it’s been hairy a couple times. Thank god for freezers with food in them and well-stocked pantries and beans and oatmeal, man.

But there’s a lot one can learn from hard times, even poverty.

There’s a gift in poverty, for those who are able to escape it.

I was raised by parents who’d come through a lot financially. My mother, I think, had it harder than my father — hers having been the kind of family that feared eviction on Christmas eve but returned home from mass with a giant gift box of food and clothing from the community, who slept three kids  to a single bed.

I still remember her telling me of those times, but I never “got” it. Not until the last five years.

Years ago, I was cursed to be stupid enough to fall into the “why me?” crowd when it came to being broke. I’d be jealous as shit of my friends who always got nice gifts. I felt like a victim, as stupid as that is.

I still resent people who can, and do, have all the things they want but have zero appreciation of just how fortunate they are to have it.

Some of them, if reading this, would probably have the whole “But you can earn your way out of poverty” attitude, and they’re right, to an extent. But what if you’re like me, or unluckier, where you have one year after another of illness or injury, misfortune or bad luck?

When it’s a six-month patch, you get through it and you move on. When it’s six years, or longer, it’s just an accomplishment to make it through month after month. Retirement? What? Savings? What? Survival, man.

I’m lucky, I’ve almost had it constantly be tough and hard for the last decade, but I always get by, I always make it through the hard patches. And every time I do, I’ve learned some new trick about money, some new way of saving a few pennies, but more importantly, I’ve always been able to remember that life is so much bigger and more meaningful than a balance sheet.

For those who think “time is money”, so just buy your food and work more — how? How does one magically make this more expensive, prepared, convenient food just appear? How does one afford to live spitting distance from the best job they can get?

They don’t. Not in this town, man.

There’s a reason money’s the fastest way to kill a relationship.

There’s nothing in this world we value more than money, there’s nothing that defines your life more — and nothing is more omnipresent than the reminders of just how much YOUR value is determined by the money you have or don’t have.

Try it. Wear tattered, out-of-style clothes with a bad haircut and zero accessories, carrying lousy plastic bags or beaten knapsacks, and be sure tote your insecurities and financial worry along with you, then enter into any decent shop in any reasonable area of town, and tell me you don’t FEEL your value lowering when you enter those establishments.

Or go experience the thrill of being constantly broke and listening to even your average friends talking about their new jeans or the restaurant they went out to, or the vacation they’re saving for, and try to ignore that little pang of “I wish…” that creeps up inside every time you think of small items you’d love to have.

Reminders exist everywhere of just how much you don’t have when you’re living hand-to-mouth. No matter how much peace you’ve made with your status, the constant reminders beat you down a little, just like how a single repeating drop of water can erode the hardest of stone over time.

Despite all this, the older I get, the more I appreciate that I truly value the important things in life, and through all my adversity, I’ve learned to really experience gratitude for the little things that come my way.

I love a good meal, I’m passionate about great wine, I know a gorgeous sunset can’t be bought, I savour all the little moments life gives me, when I find the time to really absorb them.

Truth be told, I’m happy there’s a recession on some levels.

When it comes to the middle class and the wealthy, I’m glad they’ve had to wake up some. I’m glad we suddenly realize there’s more in life than the mighty currency markets.

I’m saddened by those who’ve lost everything, who’ve had lives crushed by fucking assholes in the economic world who just have no concept of debt or value.

It’s so ironic. The people who “create” finance in the economic world actually have zero concept of what a real dollar is worth, of just how far — or not — a normal living wage goes.

And they’re the ones who’ve helped bring everything, and every one, down.

Still, poverty has its gifts.

Gratitude is a gift you’ll never grow tired of. There’s nothing like actually really appreciating a thing. Anything. So many people I know just shrug off little moments of generosity. How could they? Don’t they understand?

No. Not yet.

But they will.

Not having disposable income makes problems harder to solve, time harder to find, health harder to manage, and a social life harder to have.

But, with the right perspective, it can really open your eyes.

Has the recession taught you to better appreciate life? Have you really learned what you need to learn from the last two years? Have you gained insights that will define your future and always keep you cognizant of what real “worth” is?

Have you used it to remember what life is really about — the world and people around us, moments in time, laughter, and creation? Have you learned to be kinder to others and generous in thought, action, and words, when finances fail you? Have you learned to be understanding of the trials others face and the compromises they need to make just to make it through their weeks?

It’s not too late to learn those lessons now.

And Then There Was Change

Photos 319I was informed of my layoff yesterday.

Wednesday will be my last day, until enough work returns, or the company is forced into harder decisions.

Kudos to the bosses, we’ve had an inkling this might happen. I’ve been grilling them weekly to see if changes were happening, but there has been no news, which was bad news. But what can you do?

Unlike any time in the past, I used this foreknowledge to spend a little money investing in my writing — ink cartridges and a new cabinet so my desk is now 3 inches lower — a long story, but long story short is, I was getting migraines from writing/working, and hope it’s no longer the case.

Normally, something big like a layoff  comes down, I panic and tell myself I can’t justify that spending, and I operate from a place of fear. This time, I just came up with a cheaper bare-minimum plan, and told myself it’s not optional — it’s about investing in myself.

Migraines don’t make good writing. And I’m too much a “writer” to not be good about it.

Now that I have some time to write in between the requisite job-searching, it’s obviously a priority.

I’m hoping I get called back to my job in a couple months or even by the fall. I know it’ll be tight and hard living, but I’ve been through this before and impressed the shit out of myself, so maybe it’s time to prove we only get better as we age.

There’s a difference now from back then — I now recognize I’ve suffered from mental illness, and live with difficult ADHD. I can, and do, learn new jobs, but I need to find the right fit for me, not just any job. I need the right kind of employers, work environment, and schedule.

Knowing this means I’m empowered, not a victim, by those challenges. I’m better off than most people; I know what I really need for success.

I’d rather return to my company, who’ve become like family over the years, who I trust and can approach about nearly anything, and who place the same value on life-over-work as all the employees do. Our schedules have been flexible, they accommodate the little things that pop up and would be better done with a shorter workday or a day off.

I’ve never made much. I’ve made $18 an hour while my friends have all being going on to bigger, better, amazing things, and I’ve been scraping by.

But in the time I’ve scraped by, with my work allowing me to flex my days and hours on a weekly basis, I’ve managed to:

  • overcome years of intensive rehab after almost dying a couple times
  • fought (and I think overcome) once-frequent forays into dark depressions and other mental illnesses
  • gotten through a number of tight layoffs with nearly no help from anyone despite my challenges and lack of savings
  • not only beat but beat into a bloody goddamned stump my writer’s block
  • rediscovered myself
  • gained 40, then lost 70 pounds
  • conquered many fears
  • discovered my inner athlete
  • and done a million other things, while never making the money to have others help me accomplish it easier

Scraping by the last three years let me improve myself more than most people accomplish in a decade or more, and almost all done by myself.

I have constantly been trying to heal or get over something — be it a physical or mental issue — and my work, my pseudo-family, has pretty much been there and made it possible, as possible as they could and still make an income, through it all.

Knowing myself now, in my post-head-injury, post-depression, post-unhappy life, I KNOW I can’t just work for anyone. I know I can’t just waltz into any company and “make the best” of it. It will tear me to shreds. Mental illness is a real issue; me working in a negative, high-stress job with evil people is like making someone with lung cancer work in a restaurant that has smoking. You can TRY, but what’s the fucking point? It’s got “FAILURE” and “CATASTROPHE” stamped all over it.

Like when I worked at a place for 6 months in during 2007, with The Dragon Lady and her art school, ruling by terror and venom, poisoning me with her negative depression on a daily basis from seven feet away with no wall. Oh, lord. Never, ever again.

I spiralled close to suicidal working under her. I gained 20 pounds in 6 months. Then I quit, went back to my old film job, and they gave me a non-judgmental, supportive, flexible environment in which I’ve made the most progress of my life, changing EVERYTHING with no trainers, no financial advisers, no real therapists — just a supportive workplace that let me make myself a priority.

I’ve changed me, inside and out. I’ve so much more empathy and enthusiasm for life and others now. I’m such a better person. I’m not gonna die young — not from my health, anyhow. And work played a big part in giving me the control to make that happen.

And now the future of the company that gave me such a fantastic environment that encouraged my change & growth is in danger. It breaks my heart.

All because of stupid government and bad tax policies. What a tragedy.

None of us employees wants to work for other people, the bosses don’t want to work with new people. None of us is in it for the money, not even my bosses. All of us live lives of sacrifice and budgeting because the job lets us put our art, creativity, and private lives first. We don’t make a lot but we’re under no illusions what kind of people we work for, and that’s why we’ve stayed.

But the government doesn’t want us to stay anymore. They won’t match film industry tax credits from other provinces, and now some asshole in Ontario or California is doing my job, since domestic film production is down by 40%, and 50% of the workforce has been laid off.

So here I am. Four days left.

And a book to write.

And a newly-adjusted desk to write it at.

Looks like I know what I’m doing.

Unlike most people, when I write this book, it won’t be gathering dust. I won’t be sitting around micro-panicking over every word. There’ll come a time when I’m Ready.

I have NOTHING to lose from publication. NOTHING. Anyone I stand the chance of pissing off in my book has probably already been pissed off at me and either knows that’s part of knowing me and my unflinching-but-always-trustworthy honesty, OR they’re already not talking to me and there’s no skin off my ass if I maintain the status quo.

I’m a WRITER. Through and through. My friends know this. Anything’s on the table for me, but they also trust me to toe a line. We’re good.

More importantly than the trust I have for my friends? I write about all my failings and weaknesses and dreams and thoughts all the time. It’s not like I have to dig that much deeper. If I’ve already told you some of the embarrassing bad things in my life, then why not just keep that ball rolling?

So, the writing? Not too stressed about that part. Organizing? Ooh, yes, trickier. Some of the get-an-agent-get-a-deal stuff scares the shit out of me, I admit it.

But you know what? I’m at that point where languishing in obscurity scares me more.

I deserve better than this. I owe it to myself. I’m tough enough to take it, too.

I have nothing to lose — except my home. But I’ll figure it out, I’ll get by. Times like these, having no savings, living in one of the world’s most expensive cities, yeah, things get daunting.

It’s uncertainty. My job might be back in 6 weeks, I don’t know. I could spend the whole year writing and looking for a job that fits me, I don’t know.

Where will I be in 6 weeks? 6 months? Where’s life taking me?

I don’t know.

And there’s not a lot I can do about it.

Except adjust my desk and get to work. That’s one area I know I can make a difference in, accomplish something in. That’s one area I know. That’s a start.

_________________

SO, HEY:
If you know of any agents for memoirs, let me know — this process entirely daunts me, but I think my work is worthy. If you have an “in” for publishing and think you can help, I’m all ears. Drop me a line, scribecalledsteff (at) gmail (dot) com.

I’m working until next Wednesday, with paperwork to deal with for employment insurance next Thursday, but after that, I’ll be all over emails, etcetera. The book is in full-on “go” mode, and I hope to have three chapters done by early June, with a workable outline for pitches. So, please, spread the word with serious publishing contacts that there’s a little ball of awesome right over here that’s looking to explode onto the scene. Thanks!