Fortune before the Fortune Cookie

5 12 2009

Financially speaking, 2009 has been a pretty brutal year at our house.

Last year, I cut my business to devote more time to writing.  This year, those clients I kept slashed fees…and, repeatedly, skipped or delayed payments.  For the second year in a row, family “stuff” required multiple trips back to Texas…and multiple withdrawals from checking and savings accounts.

For the most part, we’ve stared down the creeping fear that comes from being on a financial cliff (or is it off?!) by reminding ourselves that dreams don’t become reality without sacrifice. That and acknowledging that you can only have so many $200 dinners before they start to taste like, well, dinner!

But fear did get the best of me the other night.  I had just ordered Chinese food  ($20 is the new $200!) when a family member called.  We hadn’t chatted in awhile and , for some reason, I soon found myself laying out  the harsh realities of our financial situation.

“I’m so sorry,” she said.  “I’m soooooo sorry.” (As if I didn’t get it the first time!)

“It’s fine, really.”  I responded the first time, as I felt the first stirrings of Fear awakening deep in the pit of my stomach.

“I’m so sorry,” she repeated.  Fear, meet Failure.

“Everything will work out fine,” I said.  Fear and Failure were building an army by now.

“Well, I hope so.  It must be so upsetting to see everything you worked for disappear.”

“I’m actually quite calm,” I lied because, by this time, the allied forces were barreling down my soul with one target in mind:  Courage.

I hung up the phone and covered myself in a warm blanket of Doubt while I waited for a very stiff martini to numb what was sure to be a crushing blow.

And then the doorbell rang.

It was the Chinese food, delivered by a central casting delivery man.  Not a college kid trying to earn a few extra bucks, but an adult trying to feed his family.

As I went to pay him, I tried to pay forward some of that Fear I had.  “How are your holidays going?” I asked.  “It’s a tough year.”

“Yeah,” he said.  “But, hey man, at least we’re living!”

It was the first time I received my fortune before I had even eaten my Chinese food!

“F*%k you,” I promptly told Fear and Failure and the army they rode in on.

Maybe our household was failing by the standards  money or labels or status.  Or security.

But, what the hell?

Not to get too “Lifetime moment” here, but you can’t take any of those things with you.

Did my husband and I want to cloak ourselves in those things society tells us equal success…or did we want to venture out, beyond where the safety net reaches, and create our own definition?

To paraphrase a Zen buddhist I love, did we want to pretend that the plane of life was just a bus?  Ignoring its wings and just taxiing from destination to destination?

Hell no.

Baby, this bird’s got wings.  And we’re taking off.

We may or may not make it…but, hey man, at least we’re living!

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