Yesterday afternoon, I did something I vowed to stop doing. Something I have gotten a lot better about not doing. I checked the DOW. Down a splendid 289.60. Cheers. Immediately, I was struck by a wave of nausea. A very familiar wave of nausea.
The economy. Yuck. For months now, it’s as if all of us Americans, yes all of us (welcome to the club, guys) are pregnant with a baby we didn’t quite plan. And, worse, we don’t know who the father is. Was it Slick Willy? George W? Homeowners? The banks? Now, it doesn’t quite matter; the cells are multiplying, limbs are flailing, we are repeatedly getting kicked in the gut, our ribs are sore; the thing’s got a life of its own. We wake up, blissfully foggy, at times unaware of the purchase this creature has on our lives and then, we do stupid, predictable, everyday things: we turn on the TV, we surf the web, we grab a paper. And bam, we’re headed for that toilet.
Fun way to start the day.
Thankfully, we all have a good and benevolent doctor, albeit a rookie, to tell us that the nausea is exceedingly normal, that it will pass, that if we snack on salty things and hunker down and keep our eye on the prize, we will be okay. And, desperate and pale and fat under those standard issue hospital gowns, we (okay, only some of us) tell him: “Do what you have to do. Tax us. Spend. Bail out the bozos. Just make this go away.”
And our doctor nods bravely. Fear and wisdom glisten in tired eyes. He flashes a smile, winning and genuine. And though he probably doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing (who does?), we listen to his soothing tone. And we don’t know why but we feel better. And we think, at least we are getting good medical care.
I gave birth to Baby six months ago. You wouldn’t know it by this schizophrenic weather but, alas, it’s Spring. And I’m beginning to feel freedom again. After the birth of Toddler two years ago, I spent my hours sans babe doing what other spoiled first-time mommies do: I shopped Columbus Avenue, washed improvident $20 chopped salads down with a glass of Sancerre (only one of course, I was breastfeeding!), I got manicures with friends.
But now? Other than typing caffeine-fueled rants like this at my local Starbucks and chipping away at my next manuscript and taking care of the babies, I go to the gym. Why? One, it’s cheaper. Two, it will help me get back in shape and if I can no longer buy designer skinny jeans willy-nilly, I will get myself some skinny legs. But mostly, I go to the gym because at the gym I am surrounded by other people (admittedly privileged enough to be at the gym smack-dab in the middle of the workday). People who are white and black, young and old, fat and thin, blonde and brunette, famous and jobless, and somewhere in between. I go there to escape a few things for a few hours. The babies I love. The worries I don’t. This vomitous, illegitimate economy.
But on those flat screen TVs that once splayed silly soap operas and reality shows, newscasters wear severe pin stripes with their severe frowns. And in the bottom half of every television that stock ticker mocks us, doing its subversive dance. Up and down. And down. And down some more. And even if we keep those TVs muted, an ominous voice carries: Try to relax, foolish one. Your portfolio was burned in half. That home in which you raised your kids and your grandkids visit at Christmas time? Might not be yours for long. That splendid nanny who is at home with your two baby girls while you indulgently tone up your postpartum thighs? Even you can’t quite afford that.
And I am not immune. I listen to my iPod and read my book, my legs spinning fast, my body going nowhere. But every few minutes I look up and squint. And there it is: the ticker. And part of me, the feral, uncivilized part of me that is bohemian and insane or maybe totally sane, wants to rip out the headphones and jump off the arc trainer and stand atop the water fountain for an impromptu town meeting and break the zen-like-gym-silence and tell all of these sad and nauseous people, pregnant with worry, to STOP. Don’t kowtow to the DOW. Turn off the ticker.
The ticker only makes us sicker.
This is not about denial, friends. Mine is not a sob story. My sacrifice: foregoing the marble countertops in my new apartment. But I feel sick just like you.
We cannot ignore the economy; the creature’s within us, creating irreversible and sobering scars, giving us stretch marks and wrinkles. We are not going to say screw you and hit the bottle or slurp sushi with abandon. We are going to keep taking those prenatal vitamins. We are going to be responsible critters. And nurture the little sucker who makes us all miserable. Because, right now, we have no choice.
But that doesn’t mean we have to lie on the couch, clutching our swelling belly, bemoaning the cruelty of it all. That doesn’t mean we have to spend every moment whining or cursing life. That doesn’t mean we need to hinge our daily happiness on those fluttering little green numbers that follow the little negative sign.
Because you know what? At some point, this dreaded pregnancy will be over. And it might be more than nine months. And labor might suck. Royally. And, surprise! We might end up with octuplets. But, at some point, it will be over. Pound by pound, we will lose the pregnancy weight and feel the flutters of freedom once more. And we will once again buy homes and sip Sancerre and splurge on totally unnecessary pairs of skinny jeans.
Right now, it’s hard to believe but some day, we will wake up and feel okay. The morning sickness will be gone and maybe we won’t even remember how ill we once felt. And, even stronger than before, we Americans will smile again.