I've been struggling with this one the past week or so, nauseated by fear, and feeling like the current conditions in the world around me were going to result in the death of this little business I've worked so hard to build. I've thought about getting a "real job" (as if I'm not really working now), I've wondered if I am too old to strip, or if I am capable of being a hooker. Visions of sleeping in my mini cooper with my two cats- and their litter box- have been bouncing around as well. Do I move my office out of the house to the garage and get a roommate?
I've watched my investments, the ones in Wall street that have let me build this business in a way I believe in, swing up and down 20% three times in the last few weeks. I've been terrified of what's next.
But then I realized that all of this is really beside the point. I realized that the question I've been asking myself over and over was the wrong one as I've been glued to the stock ticker and the debates and all that other madeness-inducing press. "What's going to happen to me?" was getting me nowhere.
What I should have been asking myself is th question I love so much that Rilke asked a young student who had the guts to send him a letter about his poems.
"There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your while life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. -Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet.
Maybe we're not all writers, but if we substitute our dream for "write" in this quote, I think it comes much closer to what we need to ask ourselves now.
Because this isn't just about writing, or any other dream. Rather, it's about re-evaluating our roles in a system that we are finally seeing absolutely does not work. Ordering us to go shopping after 9-11 and other such suggestions, like mortgaging ourselves way beyond what we could ever afford has landed the entire country, and much of the world economy in the mess we have to watch every day, if we choos to turn on the news.
As long as the economy depends on us buying crap we don't need, use, or even enjoy, this country is selling us a big lie. In the past week or so, if we've felt this concern before, we are seeing it played out even further than we thought we would with the sub-prime crisis. It's scary to watch that which has become familiar collapse. I've certainly been terrified.
But when someone like Tom Hodgkinson writes about maybe our needing less than we think, and that life can be better without pressure to have all this stuff, it starts to open a new door. When my friends and I project old movies on a sheet in the yard and eat pot luck on a Friday night instead of dropping a mint at the theater, we start to separate what makes us happy from what the advertising industry tells us we're supposed to want. Our inner critics go into overdrive whenever we're about to make a big breakthrough and move closer to a place where we no longer believe them; I was sluggish getting out of bed this morning, even though I wrote most of this post on the plane last night and was really excited.
The current paradigm knows it's in trouble, so it's pitching a fit and making a big mess. It wants us to be scared and insecure and get into more debt with retail therapy to comfort ourselves and not think anything new or daring.
This is the point we need to ask ourselves if our needs up to this point have been met by the way things were going. This is the point when fear is useful so we can see what really does matter. Do I care all that much about eating out in fancy restaurants or about buying new clothes or fancy toys? Not really. Not now.
Do I care about staying in the beautiful new home I worked so hard to find, and do I care about making that space a resource for my friends and clients and groups, and must I stay in business through this difficult period and help people remember that dreams can still exist when the world is crazy?
Damn straight, I must.
Who's with me? What are you going to do today to hold onto your dreamed of life? Please share- we need stories about brave steps right now.