This is what it looks like, in slow motion. This is the unravelling. This is the end of a families dreams for the future, for its aspirations and for its plans. This is the beginning and the end right here. Don’t let your guard down, don’t ever think you are safe, that your future is all set. Don’t plan to pay for your kids college, to travel when you retire. Don’t plan to stay healthy, and don’t expect to take care of yourself when you get sick. Don’t expect to have a roof over your head. If you already have one, don’t expect it to stay. For the love of god, don’t ever expect any sort of security or dignity. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how badly you want to work, how many letters you have after your name.
It doesn’t matter if you went to a good school, come from a good family. It doesn’t even matter if you’re in good financial shape with no debt and never even got swindled by a crappy mortgage high interest rate cards. You can be sitting there with all your ducks in a row, heat turned all the way up to 68 and before you know it, one little shift in the universe will send you and the people you love most into a tail spin. You will slowly start hurtling towards earth, faster. And faster. And you will cling to anything you can find, even as you stop being able to feel. Anything.
Don’t think a handshake means anything to anyone anymore. Don’t ever think that someones promises hold any weight. Don’t expect that your hard work will ever pay off. And don’t think you can run. You will be pinned down, forced to live through it. You will be forced every night to lay awake and think about where you can get food, money, security. You will get really good at doing math in your head on the fly, and you will also learn that people are selfish by nature and largely don’t really care about you or your kids. You will feel yourself being observed and discussed. You will find yourself marked as Other, so that people who are just like you used to be don’t have to feel what you’re feeling. The betrayal, the promises that you stupidly believed in. The phone will stop ringing soon. You know people get uncomfortable when you talk about it. You know people stop caring, lose sympathy. Your friends will start dropping like flies.
I don’t think about Next Year, or In Ten Years. I can barely think about next week. I don’t know anything anymore. I don’t know how I’m going to stay in my house, how I’m going to feed us, how the hell I’m going to pay for heat this winter, how I’m going to pay for the Halloween costumes I just ordered two nights ago thinking that there was a job that was going to start this week. Silly me, apparently deciding terms of employment and negotiating a salary and shaking hands is meaningless.
We are good people. We work hard and save money and invest in the market. We give to charity and volunteer. We bring casseroles to people when they are sick, or have a baby. We are good tippers. We have never carried debt aside from student loans and mortgage, both of which we watch closely and refinance at low rates. We overpay our bills to get ahead. Our cars both have 130K miles and are 8 years old, and we are perfectly ok with that. We don’t have iPads. We own one TV. We haven’t taken a vacation in years. We wear hand me downs and clip coupons. I don’t know what we did to deserve this. I don’t know how many more times I can handle my daughter asking me if I’m crying because I’m mad at her. All of the clichés about something better around the corner, and windows and doors opening and closing, just sound like cruel, horrid jokes now so please spare me that. We are the 99%. We are also the 47% for the first time in our lives.
So, here is your front row ticket. Now you can observe from a safe distance what it looks like when a family falls apart. Enjoy the show.