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"Jeanne Hébuterne au col blanc"
Amedeo Modigliani - huile sur toile - 1919

"Bless every blessed one of us here."

Psychologists used to insist that Revisiting the source of trauma helped resolve the effects of that trauma. More modern practitioners doubt that this was ever the case, and that Revisiting might resurrect strong memories of the experience, but might well amplify rather than mollify its effects. Freud was great for Revisiting, and the old joke about Freudian therapy reported that the typical patient was well on their way to recovery after only thirty years of intense clinical work. Still, a look backwards from a more secure location might provide opportunities to reframe the humiliating experience, but other techniques might allow for the traumatized to reframe the meaning of the experience without dredging up anything like the full past impact of it. I'm all for leaving the past buried, but for my money, I firmly believe that reframing might be the only effective way to change the past, which might be the challenge every traumatized anyone really faces.

The headlines once again scream Recession. Some even threaten Depression. These words hardly overplay the economic situation we all face, some of us much less prepared than others. Many have never experienced such calamity before, and while this current situation might well appear potentially much worse than any past downturn, each person experiences even the most global and far-reaching one, very personally; excruciatingly personally.
An article in yesterday's New York Times reported on how very little actual money most small businesses make, how extending loans to many might seem like a terrific idea until examining their actual cash flow. Most exist on such thin margins that servicing any loan would essentially permanently put them out of business. Small business owners mostly make barely enough to meet their current monthly nut, and no loan could very likely extend their market reach. Most small business owners barely make their employees' monthly salary with enough left over to service their own mortgage. Extending even generous loan terms probably bankrupts them more expensively than just letting their businesses wither and die.

More than half of our working population works for small businesses whose plight seems far more dire than that facing any publicly traded corporation. Congress speaks in terms of industry, which hardly describes the vast majority of economic activity. Too Big To Fail misses a more important point, that at least half the working population has always worked right next to the bloody edge of failure, barely big enough to succeed after a fashion, yet they persisted anyway, demonstrating the actual vitality our economy always held. These folks do not enjoy the questionable benefits of 401(K) plans. They could not possibly ever accumulate a six month emergency fallback fund. Many live not quite from paycheck to paycheck, but hand to forehead. Any disruption in their earnings leaves them almost instantly bankrupt. Many of these folks do not qualify for conventional unemployment for they might not even draw a regular paycheck. We gussy up their standing by referring to them as entrepreneurs or gig workers, but they work in the riskiest sector of our economy, vulnerable to seasonal weather changes, let alone to wider-spread calamity. They are our neighbors and friends.

I was once a White Collar Worker, co-owner of my own small business. That enterprise went under in the crash of '08, pulling The Muse and I into a great adventure, by which I mean 'previously unimaginable trauma.' Watching our baby slip into the abyss and take our entire existence with it, left us more than bereft. Radically disempowered, I cowered while The Ever-Resourceful Muse utterly reinvented herself. I responded much less resiliently, though over a much longer time frame, I, too, managed a personal if not a professional rediscovery of sorts. We grew to feel as though we'd almost completely recovered a decade later, only to watch as an even greater catastrophe, threatening the lives and livelihoods of innumerably more, came calling. I first responded back then by writing a series of vignettes for our then local newspaper, The Walla Walla (Washington) Union Bulletin. That series, which I called The White Collar Recession, served as the medium within which I rediscovered myself after the trauma. Rather than revisit the experience, it then simply catalogued my experience long before any resolution seemed in any way imminent. Horizons shrink when livelihood disappears. Tomorrow holds no promise. Even the past seems grim. I chose to write my way through.

I post this remembrance not to dredge up the long dead past, but to perhaps amplify my own understanding of the times now facing us. I once survived an authentic worst case scenario, and I wondered WhatNow? for the longest time before finally accepting that I would probably never reinvent myself, but that I might somehow discover a self I never suspected I had always possessed. Calamity can do that for you. I share these reflections with you because I sense that you might find some higher and perhaps better purpose for them than to have them simply sitting in my Already Published pile. Now we face a triple threat, not merely economic calamity, but a stalking pandemic with an enforced Stay At Home Order attached, as well as an absolute idiot in the White House, a man who while serially bankrupting himself, never once wondered where his next meal might come from. I intend to remain resolute through these latest insults to our collective domestic tranquility and I wish as much and even more for you as well.

Here's a link to my original PureSchmaltz
White Collar Recession posting, which holds links to the Scribd-resident series. Bless every blessed one of us here. WhatNow? What next? Nobody knows yet. Yet.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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