My instinctive sense for how bad the economy is has been telling me, for some time, that things are getting worse. I don't really have numbers to back it up - there I go again, asserting things without facts - it's just a hunch, a feeling, a sense of the winds blowing and the times changing. I was saying this, just yesterday, to my friend Jennifer, about how I thought the economy could get much worse, and she said "oh God, don't even say it." Because, really, we both kind of sense it to be true.
These are hard times. And it's not surprising, I suppose, that the hardness of these times is driving a fresh wedge into our society, our politics, our personal connections. The things that bind people together - friendships, social connections, shared experiences - are falling away. If you're not facing enormous personal hardship, if you're not sure that the weekly paycheck will even pay to feed you, if you have even the smallest of luxuries to fall back on... how can we expect others to understand the things we're going through?
Reading through even a few of the postings of the "We Are the 99%" Tumblr, I think it's impossible not to be moved. The group blogging experience has yielded up, I suspect, it's ultimate moment: a true sense of just how much pain and suffering is out there, how little we can do to fix it, and how hard it will be to get out of this. Emotionally, it's incredibly wrenching. Politically, I think it's a problem we may never figure out, entirely, how to solve.
It's hard to accept hardship we cannot fix or change. I have a friend at work whose mother recently suffered terrible injuries in a fall, and a few days later her father suffered a series of strokes. It's hardship that I think must be almost unbearable. I can't fix it, I can't take away her pain... all I can do is try and be supportive, and sympathetic. And what I can do feels, naturally, like very little. There's a more distant, objectifying piece I could write about the struggles we are having to see rehab as part of healthcare, when rehab and longer term care are two of the biggest issues in health reform; there's a comment to be made on how my friend, with a coffee shop salary and modest health insurance, can hope to cover what will likely be enormous bills... and on some level, all of that is entirely beside the point.
These are hard times. All of us, really, are bound to be tested, pushed to our limits. Anger and frustration will separate us, make strangers of friends, enemies where shared goals once stood. Not everyone will understand what others see, or share an emotional connection, a sense of passion and purpose for the same goals. These are difficult, upsetting times. And on some level, I'd love to share the anger, the frustration, the sense of upset. It's just not who I am. It's just not how I see. It's just not what I feel.
As hard as these times are, I feel compelled to do what I've always done: love the people I care about most, hope the best for them, do what I can as best I know how, and try my best to take care of myself, so I can be there for others. I'm not angry, or frustrated, or sad, even by the passions that have played out across my life and this blog in the past week. I can't hang onto the negatives, and I can't let anger and fear and the rest rule me. I get it. These are hard times. And they will take people on journeys to new experiences, different places. They will separate and divide us from the familiar and allow us to find something else we may have been meant to be.
Godspeed, my friends. May we all survive these hardest of times.