Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I am writing this from the front porch of a cottage in beautiful Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. We've been fortunate to have three days of gorgeous sunny weather. I've ridden bikes, walked the beach, been kayaking on a lake, and rested. Rest is not something I ever get enough of and it's a luxury. It's been easy to put the anxieties and traumas of 2008 aside and just be in the moment.
I must admit I am dreading the ten-hour car ride back home to Houston with four children and luggage crammed into two back seats. Fortunately we left the exuberant black lab at home with good-natured friends. We hope they are still good natured—and still our friends—when we retrieve her. And I am praying that the good time we all had in Shangri-la will make our drive home a little kinder and gentler than the trip here.
As I think back on 2008 with some perspective I can see it's been a hard year. We've all suffered from the economic roller coaster, though I am grateful that I am one of those that have been least affected by the chaos. I have never been rich, so I haven't had much to lose. I am not retiring tomorrow so hopefully my 401K will have a chance to rebound. I have a good career and I am my own boss so I know I won't be fired as the company downsizes. It is difficult though to watch parents or neighbors or friends suffer with the uncertainty and fear about their financial futures.
Houston was hit by Hurricane Ike, and I realized a VERY little bit what those of New Orleans must have struggled with after Katrina. I was only without power for eight days but those eight days felt like a ring of hell. I can't even imagine what it must feel like to have lost your home (though some of my friends and patients did) or loved ones. Houston is still struggling to recover normalcy and Galveston will never be the same.
I know that many of us feel disoriented and confused by these times. I hear it from patients in my office every day. Our houses used to be worth more than we bought them for, and we could imagine buying something bigger and better when we decided to sell. Vacation plans were extravagant and credit seemed endless. If I wanted to go on a biking trip to Italy, then I could put it on a credit card and know that there was more where that came from. Having more and more seemed to be the goal and we could all feel good that we were prospering. Then the sense of endless attainment fell apart and the rules changed.
As I face into 2009, what do I see? I see hope. There is hope that with a new administration real change will happen. Common sense will prevail and we will scale back to a more reasonable economic climate. Poor Barack Obama. Whether you voted for him or not, you have to feel compassion for the man who is taking over our country at one of the worst of times, and feel hopeful that he can accomplish even some of the changes he envisions.
I feel hopeful that the stock market will recover, and my retirement fund will regain some of what it lost. I am hopeful that eventually falling housing prices will allow those who could never own a home to enter the market. And I truly hope that the middle class will prosper and we will be a country with a middle class again; not just a country of the rich and the poor.
And then I have those dreams I've had for a long time. Dreams that there will be no poverty, child abuse, domestic violence, or mothers who kill their children because of treatable mental illness. I wish for the abolition of the death penalty, and a change in our penal system from one of harsh punishment to a focus on rehabilitation. I hope that everyone who wants a job can find one, and that children are loved and cared for by their parents.
Yep, you have now pegged me as a liberal, soft-hearted, fool. Some of you may be thinking worse of me. But in the job I do, sitting with those who have suffered loss, trauma, and pain, I have to believe that good things can arise from hard times. And it is our humanity that allows us to take hardship and learn from it to make our lives better, more fulfilled, and more human. Without that belief and that hope, we should all give up and go home because none of us are fortunate enough to be spared pain.
So I am looking forward to 2009 with hope for better things to come. I am grateful to be part of this great group of intelligent and accomplished women who write for this blog. Although we don't always agree with each other (I'm waiting for my anti death penalty comment to take some heat), we all like and respect each others' knowledge and accomplishments. How much fun it is to be included.
As I shut this down for the night and get ready to post, I wish all of our bloggers and readers many blessings and good things for the new year. Please wish for me safe travels, quiet children, limited bathroom stops, and a dog who is welcome back at our friends' house.