Hard Times and Why Telling Your Business Matters

One of the common criticisms that I have received as a so-called blogger is that I share too much of my personal life, that I tell all my business. I must admit the first few times I heard this, it stung, it especially stung when I heard it from one of my oldest friends of 20+ years.

Yet as someone who is fond of the art of storytelling and whose writing idol is the late Studs Terkel, I am a big believer that sharing our personal stories is empowering both to the storyteller and the audience. So many times when we are facing truly hard circumstances, it is hard to sit down and admit just how rough things are with people who are close to us. I found that out last year when I finally broke down over lunch and shared with a friend things that were going on in my personal life, I will never forget the look and then the judgment, of course said friend tried to adjust her face but it was too late. Yet in four years of sharing the stories of my life, I have found a community of folks that also struggle and I am completely okay with talking about my struggles. Hell, last year I spoke to a packed room about my issues with anxiety. I admit I thought people were initially just being polite when I received a standing ovation at the end of my talk, but I later heard from so many in attendance, that they could relate to my story. I think that’s when the power of stories really clicked for me.

One of the hardest stories anyone can share is the admission that they are struggling financially. In a world where sometimes it seems like everyone has a shiny new igadget and can afford a vacation, when you are simply struggling to keep some food on the table and the lights on, it’s real easy to imagine that you are the only one struggling to hold it together.

In the US, talking money has always been considered impolite. It’s one the reasons no one can really know how many people are suffering from the continuing fallout from the great Recession. Yet as someone who works in social services, I know not all the folks suffering are the old poor people, many are what I call the new poor. See, the new poor in many cases used to be middle class, on the surface they still look middle class but they are hoping and praying they can keep the house which is headed towards foreclosure. They hide their unemployment status under the cloak of being “consultants” but for those of us in social services, we see them even when you don’t.

That’s why it’s so important for stories to be shared. I was reminded of this last night when one of absolute favorite bloggers (if I had a little sister, Liz would be it) admitted that she is struggling and struggling hard. I admit I was blown away, hell Liz to me is like a rising superstar in this blog game, hell she was one of the BlogHer12 Voices of the Year…how is it that she is struggling? Well she is struggling the same way one of my best friends is, who in recent months has come out publicly about her struggles. The thing is these women are not anomalies, this is real life. Just that for most of us if we are struggling, we still live in the struggle closet. I mean to open up and admit that you barely can afford to buy food is hard and then there is always that fear of judgment.

Most of us like to believe that if someone is unable to pay their own way, well clearly they did something wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know so many college educated, formerly employed (full-time with benefits, type employment) folks who are probably 2 checks from the homeless shelter that it’s almost starting to feel like a norm. Hell, even with filing bankruptcy, it recently dawned on me that if the Spousal Unit were to lose his gig we would be fucked. Thanks to the generosity of my father in law, we won’t ever be homeless but in this old house, if we couldn’t pay the $1000+ oil bill in winter months we would freeze to death.

There is no shame in telling your story, fuck, it’s brave, it’s brave to say fuck it! I can’t live in the closet anymore and trust me when you are living with the bone crushing struggle to survive and you are not talking about it, you are in the closet and closets hurt, hell they can kill.

In these hard times, sometimes the only thing that can keep us sane is knowing we aren’t alone therefore your story and your business do matter.

PS: Sometimes people ask well what about future employers knowing your business, look it will take a company less time than it takes you to have a morning dump to know everything about you including your finances. Especially as more and more companies check your credit before deciding if they will hire you, so Big Brother will know if you don’t pay the light bill.

Stop playing with us

Am I the only one who hears the news reports about the economy and thinks, quit bullshitting us? Seriously, just this weekend, I was hearing how the “experts” think more people will get out and travel this summer…after all gas prices are cheaper. Gee, its jumped like crazy in the past few weeks to a lovely $2.40 a gallon but hey its not $4 a gallon, so therefore its cheap. Yes, gas is cheaper than it was last year but lets be honest its not like gas is 75 cents a gallon or some ridiculous price. I suspect more people will be on the road but maybe its because after months of living close to the bone, they just feel the need to cut loose for a moment before they go insane. Its the type of logic that a dieter uses after weeks of being good and following the diet and they just need to take a day or two off.

Then there is the report I just read a few minutess ago, that consumer confidence is up, folks are starting to shop more. That might be true but I suspect the fact that good weather is here and again folks are cutting loose for a moment, considering that unemployment is still rising and in some states and cities its already in the double digits, I doubt the recession is over.

On the other hand its easy to spin shit and make us think things are getting better. Funny thing is I know very few people who are not feeling the impact of this economy in one way or the other. I was just having lunch with a fellow non-profit consultant who is thinking of looking for a regular gig since her work load has dropped…I know that feeling all too well as the past 6 months has seen all my work dry up and potential new clients can’t afford my rates which are reasonable.

Too many people are struggling, over the weekend the NY Times reported that the newest wave in foreclosures are not folks who got the the sub-prime create a loan with shaky credit but folks who used to have good credit and jobs. Folks who lost a job and realized they couldn’t find a new one that paid at the rate they used to make, folks who have exhausted all their resources and when it came down to putting food in their bellies, and keepsake the phone and lights on (useful things to have when looking for a gig) versus paying the mortgage and starving, they took option A.

After all it takes quite a while to actually be foreclosed on or evicted from your dwelling so you play that mental fuck fuck game thinking your ship is going to come through soon, only it doesn’t and the next thing you know, you are the face of poverty. The new face of poverty or the working class in America is someone who played by the rules…someone who got that degree, figured they work themselves up from the from being a desk jockey in a cubicle to actually getting an office with a door. Only they changed up the rules and there are a whole lot of Americans with fancy degrees who are feeling they were sold a bum deal.

If I sound a tad bitter today its because in some ways this post is about my life and while thankfully as long as I pay the taxes on my house I will always have a place to rest my head, I know for many others that is not the case. Yet at the same time as I think about my rather large student loan debt and those lovely degrees I possess and how they have not translated to financial stability, I get a tad pissed. Truth is my life in many ways was a lot simpler and stabler when I was a simple working person with no degree. See, I could off less without Sallie Mae wanting her money back. I gotta earn more because I have more expenses and even with bankruptcy Miss Mae still gets her money.

No, I get mad these days when I think of how the powers to be have manipulated us in the past (college as a surefire way to economic stability for one) and continue to manipulate us (things are getting better..oh really? For whom?)

So my mood will pass, it always does but lets be aware of how the powers to be and media try to sucker us with their spin…Happy Tuesday!

Whose the real terrorist?

Its Friday and I am in a rambling mood, so bear with me as I turn the vent on full force. I was out having my morning butt and thinking about all the articles and videos I have seen coming from the McCain-Palin camp of folks who voice their concerns about Obama being linked to terrorist.

It was about midway through my butt when it dawned on me that folks should look a little closer to home and consider the fact that we have a terrorist in our midst known as the US government and their jacked up fiscal ways that are terrorizing us all right about now.

Seriously, wasn’t it not long after 9/11 when the chief idiot in charge started prompting the American simpletons to do their patriotic duties and help boost the US economy, translation spend children, spend… who cares that you have no way to really pay for anything (um, that small pesky fact that wages have been stagnant or dropped by 2K depending on who you get the news from). No, we must show those evil bastards that we will not be stopped, so shop to your hearts content.

Like good patriotic folks, we commenced to shopping and shopping. Those of us who could bought houses, no mere starter homes, no we need at least 3500 square feet. We bought really large cars too, that drank a ton of gas, we upgraded our homes, we went to the mall, we drank Starbucks every day, in short we had a lot of fun.

Only problem is that the good times could not keep coming because eventually shit comes out and well the truth is most of us didn’t have the real dollars to finance all this patriotic living we have been doing. Now the financial giants, well they aided us in our stupidity by playing all kinds of financial trickery but much like a pregnancy you try to hide from your parents when you are 16, eventually you start to show and well that’s where we are now.

The funny thing is when all of us were in our collective daze many years ago pretending to live a cozy middle class life, no one realized that all the safety nets like bankruptcy had been yanked from underneath us. Of course no good American needs a handout, by goodness that’s for losers. So laws were changed and no one except the lawyers and folks who study poverty raised a ruckus, but we didn’t  care.

Fast forward to recent weeks and the implosion of the US economy with Paulson running around declaring the world was ending, he needed 700 billion dollars. After much fuss, he got the money and now it looks like that money is still not enough to save our asses.

Funny thing is we are bailing out humans who worked at corporations that made way more money than I will ever make, one could say the bailout was just a mere example of socialism. Since ultimately the gubment is taking our money, that’s mister and missus taxpayer and pumping it into organizations that were just a tad greedy. Yet to hear folks like the now infamous Joe the Plumber who isn’t really a plumber out of Ohio, he wants no parts of it. Um, but you are a registered Republican and you seem to be leaning McCain’s way which is essence supports big corporations getting more and more while you get less and since you have tax liens on you, I am gonna make a big guess, your ass really don’t have much either.

No, it seems the US government has hoodwinked us, they have lead many of us down the path of financial ruins in the name of country, provided us with no safety nets and then want to take more of our money so that folks at AIG can have fancy ass meetings. What is wrong with this picture? Shit, I feel like I am the one being terrorized by our government.

The jacked up thing is if the average middle class person needed debt relief via bankruptcy, you would have to jump through so many hoops its not even funny. In fact the laws have changed so that everything about you would be looked at, financially speaking that is. Lets just say that if you tried to file bankruptcy and your accounting records showed that your average ass had just had a lavish trip, you can expect your request for bankruptcy relief might hit a roadblock. Yet when you are a big ass corporation you can plead broke and get millions of dollars despite the fact your records show you are fiscally stupid. Look AIG should have had that meeting at their office or the middle of a park since they are  broke as hell.

Nope, we the average folks get played by the gubment who in essence financially terrorizes us and we sit in quiet compliance. I ask you whose the real terrorist?

Have a good weekend!