Here in the U.S. it seems like bad news has been coming pretty steadily since—oh, about 9/11. Endless war, everybody hates us, massive problems—energy, immigration, education, health care— we don’t believe we’ll actually solve.
Then the economy started to tank—for writers before anybody else. Good reporters getting laid off, then great ones, from once-great newspapers. What are reporters going to do without jobs? What are we going to do without reporters?
And a bad year for Wall Street and the housing market bust and mortgage foreclosures and Fannie and Freddie and the banking meltdown and the big bailout that the Dow Jones thanked us for by dropping 157 points on Friday.
It’s been enough bad news, enough groping for rock bottom, enough comparisons to the Great Depression, that it’s becoming a lifestyle called the crash position.
Here’s what I’ve been doing more and more over the last couple of years (and even more over the last few months):
• Lifting weights and working out a lot, for the first time in my life. Depending on how bad things go, physical fitness could be more important than mental.
• Facebooking and Linking In. Career strategist Marilyn Moats Kennedy used to say you weren’t ready to be laid off if you didn’t have 100 people in your Rolodex who would call you back within 24 hours. Same diff today, but now it’s “Friends” on Facebook, and it’s 10 minutes.
• Being very fucking nice. There’s karma, and there's connections. I used to start fights on my blog to get people to read. The next time I go after somebody here, you can bet they’ll really have it coming.
• Reading about long-ago calamities in faraway places. My favorite book in the last year was about the explosion that leveled Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1917.
• Drinking. Not all the time—there’s too much else to be done, and hangovers and anxiety don’t mix—but in great gulps, as if every swallow could be the last before somebody yells, Run!
• Thinking weird thoughts about the few rich people I know. Thoughts like, “He wouldn’t put Scout through college, but he’d feed her if she were starving, wouldn’t he?”
• Golfing a lot. I don’t enjoy playing golf any more or less than I ever did, but I now have a heavy psychological need to have a tee time on the calendar.
• Looking for younger people to hang around. People so young their dreams are still noisy enough to drown out the daily news.
• Theorizing hopefully that a 200 beats-per-minute resting heart rate gives my heart a “workout.”
• Planning big trips to far-off places on the theory that things can’t be going to shit if I’m still planning to ride a motorcycle … well, okay, to Halifax.
• Going to lunch with everyone who asks me—and sometimes even asking others to lunch. These lunches generally resemble a boxers’ clinch. Guess who’s on the ropes? So and so and so and so. There but for the grace of God … I’m not on the ropes yet. Are you on the ropes yet? No? Good! GOOD! We’re not on the ropes yet! Let’s hope we stay off the ropes! If you get on the ropes I’ll help you! If I get on the ropes you’ll help me!
• Napping every day. One wants to be rested for Armageddon.
• Keeping up with every last up and down of the national election as if it’s part of my job—as if, if my candidate wins, maybe I can stop worrying so much.
• Trying to justify every last thing I do, from golfing to napping to election-watching, as being a strategic part of some master Homeland Security Effort on my part.
And if you think that’s nuts, you should hear some of the things I’m thinking about doing:
• Backing up my blog on the chance that it’ll be only the backed-up blogs that future archaeologists have access to.
• Contributing monthly to the $200 cash Cristie has confessed to stashing somewhere in the house. (This is made difficult because she won’t tell me where it is.)
• Finding a psychologist who will help me transfer my grinding fear into a “sense of economic adventure.”
• Giving Scout speeches designed to lower her expectations: “But what if there isn’t any such thing as ballet when you grow up? And what if the government can’t afford to have firefighters?”
• I’m even thinking of admitting to my readers how scared I am all the time … and seeing if they’re scared too. But that’s a last resort. My personal brand as a devil-may-care freelance writer may be one of the things that's keeping the devil at the gates so far …..
And but do I wonder: How are others reacting to this steady march of doom? And more to the point: How are they not?