“The Optimist – A man who gets treed by a lion but enjoys the scenery.” Walter Winchell, news columnist who invented the Gossip Column.
In reading the above quote, I can imagine what some of you are thinking: “Don’t try to convince me things are fine, they’re not!”, or perhaps “Yeah right and I suppose you are also going to tell that when life hands me lemons, make lemonade”. When you feel bad, being told to be optimistic can stir the same feeling as going to work every Monday morning you are greeted by the same giddy, perky, permasmiling (but probably serial killer behind closed doors) coworker who says “Looks like you have a case of the Mondays 🙁 “.
Read the quote again, however. It is cool in the sense that it is great imagery and that many of us probably feel exactly like a person being chased by a lion. These times are difficult and stressful, especially economically. I am starting, however, starting to see a hopeful and happy pattern emerging within families that are struggling financially.
Recently, the mother of one of my patients described how she notices that her family spends more time together, cooking dinner, playing games, playing outside. Her family is more social together in terms of making more time to see friends at home and have family gatherings. Her family is cutting back on “entertainment expenses” such as dining out and going to movies. She reminded me that eating in is generally healthier than eating out any way. Smiling as she talked about it, she did not appear sad or angry. It’s as if she had rediscovered a really cool thing she forgotten about.
I thought about that conversation more and I am pretty sure I know what she had re discovered. At risk of sounding like an old “fuddyduddy” I remember my childhood when there was no internet, no cable television (I think we had six channels to choose from), no cell phones and the only video game was pong. The world was not so accessible through media and travel; we had to rely on each other more for leisure time and entertainment. We would all look forward to Friday night because we would have family night with dinner followed by the dynamic duo of “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island”. Monopoly and Scrabble were staples during holidays and rainy days. We spent time together, interacting, eating, and of course, sometimes fighting (there were four siblings, what do you expect?) We also read more and play was more active and creative; we did not have electronic media doing the thinking for us.
I am not suggesting that this recession is going to put us all back into the Stone Age. It is, however, going to make most of us have to look at our budgets and see what can be cut out such as outings with friends and unnecessary electronics like ipods, cable television and video games. There is proof that this is happening. In the article “Life” in April 13th issue of Time magazine it is reported that “People are spending a lot less on entertainment” and that sales of “nonessentials” are largely down. It seems people are being forced to create their own entertainment again and create their own meals. There is something very healthy and beneficial to the spirit, body and mind with that.
Yes, this recession sucks (for lack of a better word). But maybe it’s not so bad after all. Less video games, healthier eating, more social and physical action will enrich our minds and bodies. More quality time with loved ones will help remind us of a depth and value in life that money could not possibly buy.