Tuesday, September 23, 2008

30-Day Self-Care Challenge: Day 6

Today's plan for self-care:

Limit my exposure to the financial crisis.

I have personal experience with financial crises. Yes, I spent years hiding in denial and having trouble paying my bills, even when I was earning more than I am now. That was less a crisis than a chronic period of mismanaged priorities.

No, what I think about as I listen, watch and read about the economy reorganizing itself is 8th grade. While I was concerned with whether to wear the acid washed shorts or the acid washed skirt to class that day, the country experienced Black Monday. I was young, and it was exciting. We had just been reading about the Great Depression and the day in 1929 when bankers were flinging themselves out windows because they had lost everything. It was morbid, but alluring to me as a young writer. What an evocative image. It told us everything we needed to know abut what was happening then.

I felt like something significant was happening, that history was being made, that what was happening mattered. I had a lot of teen angst. I felt like everything was meaningless. This reoriented me.

Not long after that, my father, an entrepreneur himself, had to close his business. There was always low-level tension in my home as my parents struggled to balance their very different approaches to money, but when his business failed, the tension broke and crisis ensued. My dad, a proud, brilliant man, took a job at a retail store to keep bringing in money. My mom, a hardworking and diligent person, buckled down and worked summers and nights. As long as I can remember, my parents have always had more than one job.

My contribution to the family financial crisis was to worry. I had insomnia. I tried to help my parents by cleaning the house and listening to their worries. I wondered if we'd keep our house and what would happen to me.

The fact was that our family was fine, but the feeling was quite different. Just like in a lot of homes today, the feeling was of imminent doom, and that heroic efforts were required to avert disaster.

I share this story not to be self-indulgent but to illustrate a point: In times of crisis, we all revert back to our earlier selves. We revert to our primal instincts, and mine is to worry. So I don't see the news today and say, "Huh. Well, I'm doing fine. Just keep swimming."

I panic. I start feeling the need to rush about and fix things. Or, failing the ability to fix the national financial markets (of which I understand little), I feel the need to exert a lot of attention and energy on worrying and thinking of the worst thing that can happen.

FOR TODAY my plan is to:

* Switch off the news, delete news emails sight-unseen and avoid the great financial blogs I read daily.
* Focus on the truth for me: I have great work, great clients, and plenty of income.
* Focus on what I can control:
-- Building my savings in case of a downturn.
-- Increasing my marketing by a manageable amount.
-- Expressing gratitude to my regular clients.
-- Diversifying clients so if one goes under, I have others to pick up the slack.

What are you doing to take care of yourself around the economic crisis?

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