The Thing I Can’t Live Without In A Recession: You

[When asked what they’d spend money on in recession, some people said beer. Some people said their cars. Other said movies. (this couple is on their way to the Wellflleet Drive-in. No one said flip-flops. What’s up with that?]

Call me crazy (after all, it’s been done many, many times before), but I think there are some really positive things to draw from this whole “global economic crisis.” I know. I never worked for Lehman Brothers. I don’t have a mortgage or work in the auto industry. But the fact is, in happier times, I was blond. I do work in media. And when you’ve only invested a tiny bit of money, believe me: you notice when a chunk of it disappears. In short, I’m by no means impervious to the effects of the recession. But I do think (and ok, maybe I’m just quoting some pop song here) that when things collapse, there’s the opportunity to rebuild them and make them even better. Because when things collapse, the foundation remains. The stuff that’s important remains.

It’s like my yoga teacher said last night: “We’re not here to fix what’s wrong. We’re here to emphasize what’s good.” I believe that works because I think when you emphasize what’s good, it starts to take up more space than whatever is not working. If the choice is between fighting your enemy and empowering your friends, you’re way better off fueling the positive.

That’s why “Things You Can’t Live Without During the Recession: Reader’s Choice” is up there with my favorite writing projects of all time: because I got people talking about the things they loved, the things they wouldn’t do without. I found that people were really proud, and excited, to talk about the things that mattered. And what were those things? Good wine. Sunday night take-out traditions. Running sneakers. Coffee. Gummy bears. Someone even emailed me to tell me that she couldn’t do with out a solar-powered bird bath in her backyard.

The indulgences that people allowed themselves were not outrageous. Rather, to me, they were what gave everyone their individuality and humanity. Last year, I interviewed Lisa Chamberlain, author of a book about generation-x and creative destruction called Slackonomics. I will never forget her prediction, last summer, that the world was going to change because, “Waste and stupidity are luxury items. And we’re not going to be able afford either one.”

I think her prophecy has come true, but what I saw in my research was that people have weeded out the waste. They’ve gotten smarter. They’ve gotten more appreciative. Creative destruction is happening. And it’s going to work because the recession is going to force people to figure out what matters.

As for me, I didn’t really spend any money before the economy crashed, and I don’t really spend any now. As I mentioned, once upon a time I had highlights. Although most of my female responders did say salon visits were things they “couldn’t live without,” that’s not really me. But while working on this project, I realized what it is that I can’t live without: It’s you. And you. And you.

I love talking to people. Getting all those thoughtful, varied, celebratory, concilatory, humorous, humble and ___ responses was way better than getting my eyebrows professionally threaded. And while I think my grandmother would probably disagree, and encourage to me do some maintenence, all I can think is that she’ll laugh when I tell her about this sentence. And that is completely enough for me.

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