The tail of the recession that bit us

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Syndicated Columnist

At the beginning of the Great Recession we had all sorts of experts who claimed we weren’t really in a recession and if we were, it was almost over. They were using some sort of newfangled math that didn’t take into account actual statistics.

As we all know now, beginning in January of 2008 we were facing an economic crisis that was threatening to bloom into another Great Depression.

Apparently, it’s time for the economic engineers to earn their keep once more and optimism is still in fashion. The new round of glee was started by new housing numbers, which are showing signs of improvement in hard-hit Miami and Las Vegas. Foreclosure sales are shrinking, which also means its new money based on growth rather than pull back.

Never mind that unemployment continues to climb ever higher, which is an indicator of what’s to come as people get laid off or watch it happen to their neighbor and wonder if they’re next. There’s one small ray of sunshine that’s not a general trend so let’s call this one early and say it’s starting to end.

If we all just squeeze our eyes shut together and wish it away when we open them again it’ll be a new day.

It’s not that I have anything against being upbeat. I actually prefer a stance of gratitude. However, the first step of any recovery is awareness, which means stating the truth to the best of our ability.

That would mean taking into account all of the information at hand and becoming a little more comfortable with the facts. We are past the point of crash and burn but not out of the woods yet. That’s step two also known as acceptance.

Dealing with things as they actually are is a lot easier because we stop judging ourselves against an illusion of wealth that just doesn’t exist. That need to put on a really good show is a large part of how we got into this economic mess. So many house-poor people were driving really large cars with nothing in the bank.

The lesson here is that gratitude is only effective when we’re able to see what we really have and still feel good about it.

Instead of lamenting about the old car we can be glad we have a ride to work and see if there are others who’d like to carpool. Instead of feeling badly that we’ve gone from an owner to a renter we can be grateful for the roof and get to know the neighbors.

The final step is action, which for a lot of people has meant taking a second job or selling their home at a loss or even couch-surfing for awhile. Go ahead and do what you have to do as you rebuild your economic life but this time do it on a bedrock of truth and get your sense of self from within instead of what you want to own.

If we can pull off this change in the character of America we will be grateful for who we already are rather than something new and shiny. These are the traits that no one can ever take from us and we don’t have to earn, only appreciate.

Martha Randolph Carr is the author of the novel, The Sitting Sisters. Martha can be found on Twitter at MarthaRandolph or email at or visit