The Power of Perspective
One doesn’t have far to go to read a lot of troubling economic news. Yesterday, TMFDeej blogged about how the government bailouts, measuring in the trillions of dollars, amounts to $24K for every man, woman and child in the United States – while others were quick to comment that the actual price tag may be far greater.
References to the current economic turmoil perhaps rivaling or surpassing that which the United States faced during the Great Depression seem to be everywhere.
If that weren’t frightening enough, last week, one of my Foolish colleagues, Todd Wenning, pointed out in an article entitled An Open Letter to Congress, “While the American economy is far more dynamic than that of ancient Rome, the similarities between our current economic crisis and the events that led to the fall of Rome are many and equally as dire and urgent, if not more so. How we decide to address this issue will resonate for generations to come.”
It’s difficult not to get a bit caught-up in all of the news of the day, and all to easy to find myself worrying about the financial future of myself, my family, our country, and the world at large. Today being the eve of Thanksgiving, I’m also finding myself thinking about all of the wonderful things in my life that I am so very fortunate to have. I’m not in danger, today, of losing my job or our home. I do not have to worry about whether or not my family will have enough to eat. Perhaps one of the things I am most thankful for is my continued good health, as those of you who have followed my blog for some time know that early last year I was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer. Yesterday, in fact, I went in for my quarterly CT scan, and while I won’t get the results for a little over a week, I am hopeful that the results will continue to be as they have been and that there will be no indication that the cancer has returned.
Certainly during these trying economic times, when so much of the news of the day seems so bad, and getting worse, I personally find it helpful to consider just how fortunate I really am… but that’s just part of it.
Thinking back over the past couple of years has reminded me just how powerful changing one’s perspective can be.
I’ll never forget the phone call I received on that Friday in January of 2007 informing me that the lesion in my humerus that by all prior indications was supposed to be a benign mass of cartilage was actually stage II chondrosarcoma. At first, I didn’t know what to think, or how to feel – I was, I suppose, in a state of emotional shock. My next scheduled visit to my doctor’s office for the following Tuesday, which was originally supposed to be a routine post-surgical follow-up, now took on a much greater sense of urgency. I remained in a state of rather nervous apprehension all weekend – the clock seeming to tick by slowly as I waited for that next appointment. When Tuesday finally came, and I had the chance to discuss with my doctor what the next steps would be, I still didn’t know, and wouldn’t know for a little while longer, whether or not the cancer had already spread to other organs in my body.
I’ll never forget that Tuesday night – the emotional exhaustion of the past several days having taking a bit of a toll… getting some answers at my doctor’s appointment, but having so many more questions still unanswered. I lied in bed awake for some time, and for the first time since I first received the news, I wept. I wept not for myself, but at the thought of our then two and a half year old daughter growing up without her father and the thought of my wife losing her husband.
After clinging to my wife for a few long moments, something occurred to me that changed everything. I thought to myself, “By spending too much time worrying about what may come tomorrow, I will rob my wife and daughter of the husband and father that they need today.”
That difference in perspective, in how I looked at the circumstances, made a big difference. I won’t say that I stopped worrying completely, far from it. I still worry. That change in perspective, though, did make getting through the next several weeks of medical tests, additional surgery, recovery, and the time since, while far from easy, a bit more bearable.
And when I find myself starting to worry about the state of our economy, whether or not we’re headed for another Great Depression, or worse, I can’t help but think about that Tuesday night in January of last year…
Sure, there’s plenty of news out there to be worried about, and while there are things I can do, should do, and will try to do to plan for my family’s financial future no matter what economic turmoil may come our way, there are no guarantees. I may lose my job, prolonged unemployment could cost us our home, our retirement could be much more austere than we’d hope – but through all of this I will try to remember just how powerful one’s perspective can be. The good news is that, unlike the macroeconomic news of the day, my perspective is something at least partially under my control.
Russell (a.k.a. TMFEldrehad)