The tree at Rockefeller Center is ablaze, turned on with
great enthusiasm this week by a city that is sensing hope.
There are good economic signs everywhere. We are beginning
to think the long two and a half year recession may be coming
to an end.
Every news report indicates the economy is on the uptick.
There is anticipation the Dow might once again crack 10,000.
The general sense of business people with whom I have talked
is that this has been one hell of a roller coaster year and
everyone is now, as the year ends, thinking we might have
turned a corner. If nothing bad happens, we might be out of
the woods and headed across the river.
Its been that kind of week hopeful, and it feels
good. People are fantasizing about better times so they can
begin to pay down their debt. Whatever bounce the economy
has had these past years seems to have come from the publics
willingness to carry debt rather than cut back on lifestyle.
Homes have been refinanced, credit card limits extended. A
whole section of the New York Times this week was devoted
to consumerism and credit, for good and ill.
When all was said and done when I read it, it was a testament
to, I think, the underlying optimism of Americans. All of
us, particularly, I suspect, baby boomers, are relentlessly
optimistic. But we are also individuals who feel emotionally
entitled to affluence.
Were not going to let a little thing like a really bad
recession get us down, even if we end up with what would seem
to our parents horrifying debt.
All week I have been thinking about that article and how reflective
it is of many people I know. Many of my close friends were,
like me, affected dramatically by the dotcom crash followed
by the disaster of 9/11.
And everyone has, in their best way, attempted to cope in
a way that would minimize what was perceived as their style
of life. For many of us, it has meant taking on debt, juggling
our lives, changing the ways we do things, working free lance
jobs and, at the end of the day, recreating our lives
but with the goal of keeping the way we live our lives, economically,
as close to what we think of as normal as possible.
Cutting back, for those born to the middle class and above
doesnt seem to be perceived as much of an option. I
heard this in the voice of a friend who was finding it difficult
to make ends meet on his mid six figure income. It is not
that it is not enough money to live on it is just not
enough money to live in the style in which he thinks he is
supposed to be living.
He reflects not just himself, his generation but our country.
To keep living normally in these abnormal times, the Government
is borrowing tremendous and I mean TREMENDOUS
amounts of money so that we can keep on living normally
despite an international war against terrorism and a host
of other domestic issues that need addressing.
A sense of economic balance is something I struggle with,
internally. I want my life to be what I think my life should
be like what I think is expected of me.
But what I have found interesting in the last three years
is that I am redefining what I expect of myself. It is one
of the healthiest times in my life learning what works
for me or not and what I need and do not need. I still have
a long way to go. Certainly my aspirations continue but I
am finding more centeredness in those expectations, built
now around a long term view of what my life will be like for
the rest of my life. I know I am not alone.
We need, I think, to be evaluating what we want our lives
to be like going forward, in this time of the new normal.
But it is the Christmas shopping season for 2003. The moment
of fear has passed about whether or not Americans would plunge
into more debt to finance this Christmas. We will.
Cash registers are ringing and as a result the stock market
is climbing and there is general buoyancy in the air.
We are inveterate partiers; we Americans, believing that as
long as we party therell be no hangover. Is there, though,
a better way?