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Tag: a new dawn

No light at the end of the financial crisis tunnel?

Where is the end of the tunnel?

At odd times in our lives, someone wise captures our dilemma in a single sentence.  I hope he won’t mind, but almost a decade ago in Zimbabwe, at a time when other people were saying, “It is darkest before the dawn”, the UN Representative said to me, “You feel right now that you are in dark tunnel and you cannot see the light at the end.  But you will see it eventually.”

I think many people in western countries feel this way.  Yet they won’t vocalize their thoughts.  I think keeping nervous thoughts looked away is a mistake.  Our stress levels and we come no closer to a solution.

Getting our thoughts in order

Speaking up, though, often feels negative.  Worse, in competitive masculine societies, which  describes most English-speaking societies, when you describe what is not working for you, you look like a loser.  And losers definitely come last.  People don’t want to hang out with you in case losing rubs off.

Psychologically, though, it is important to express your fears.  If we don’t, they will build up until they govern our lives.  Then we start to make very unwise decisions.  We will find yourself bandying together with people whose only goal is to complain.  Losing does become a way of life.

When we express our fears, we also have an opportunity to list what goes well.  Our objective is not to ignore what goes badly  It is to take stock of what tools we have in our tool kit so we get some leverage on the problem.

My bad day

Let me give you an example. Yesterday, I got pins and needles working at my desk.  To get some circulation going, I went downstairs.   Despite moving very carefully, I put my numb foot down carelessly, fortunately on the last stair, and twisted it badly.  I put out my other arm spontaneously to steady myself and resprained an already sprained-shoulder.  The combined pain made my head spin.  I thought I might faint.

Effectively, my day was finished. I got back to my desk and with visions of a black-and-blue ankle, looked up how to treat a sprain: RICE.  Rest, ice, compression, elevation.  And do it straight away.

Fortunately I had a pack of frozen peas in the freezer.   My day then became a day of trying to keep ice on my foot (I never did figure out how to combine ice, pressure and height), canceling appointments, and trying to work on my lap.

To make matters worse, my project for the day was design.  If there was ever a task that I find fiddly and annoying, its graphics.  It beats tax returns and hoovering by a long margin.  There, even writing that makes me feel better.

I persevered, despite my aches and pains, until close to midnight with triumph, I produced something that was not disgusting but that needs redoing because the proportions are long.

See how long this story of woe is?  I really ended my Wednesday feeling life was dull and unpleasant.  I made myself exercise while I ran a clean up on my computer.  Then at midnight, I made myself fill out a gratitude diary.  What was good to say? Yup, I had stopped my ankle swelling. It ached and it was slightly swollen but it was not a black-and-blue mess.  I had made progress on a task I find very hard.  I had stopped at home and had salads for lunch and supper.

I surprised myself reevaluating my relatively ’empty’ day as better than I thought. But I resisted calling it positive.  That is the point, isn’t it?  I resisted noticing the positive because I was so shocked by the negative.  Sometimes we want to sulk.

Learning from countries in trouble

Getting a grip, I used some magic Anti-Flamme, available only in New Zealand, on both my ankle and shoulder, curled up in a ball which I hoped would tax neither foot nor shoulder.  Then I put on BBC World Service to listen to The Last Resort, a novel about happenings in my birth country, and surprisingly good, though close to the bone.

The author of The Last Resort, is taking the view that it is darkest before the dawn, and for once, a book about Africa is not whincingly sanctimonious.

Listening to the lives of people who are in a very dark place but who go on anyway, reaching out, and trying to be decent in ways they understand,  we should know that sometimes we will not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But we are still better calling out to others who are there with us, and taking an inventory of what we have for our emotional and physical sustenance.  We don’t know there is a way out.  But if we worry about that instead of coping with the present, we will not get out.  Our salvation is what is around us.

As for Westerners who are burying their fears.  Don’t.  I know a fair bit about national economics.  I make it my business to follow the pundits.  We are up shit-creek.  No doubt about it.  But we also have

  • The buffer of a lot of fat
  • Deep confidence
  • High aspirations

The nuclear deal crafted by Obama is important.  We are working together to make the world safer.  Scientists are making fundamental discoveries almost daily.  We have a new generation coming through.   The internet works so well that it is unremarkable now to interact with people world wide on a daily basis.

In our unspoken discomfort with a financial crisis of our own making, we fall into three traps

  • We leave our own heads in a mess
  • We “diss” the people who are taking the brunt of the crisis – the unemployed, the poor and the dispossessed
  • We miss the opportunities we should be working on

How to survive the dark tunnel of the financial crisis

If you are surrounded by people talking nonsense about darkness and tunnels, then I say accept the reality.  We are in a dark place and we cannot see the end.

And keep a daily gratitude diary to keep your emotional state in balance with reality, to honor who and what bring value to your life, and to remind yourself of what does work.

I can walk on my foot today.  Blast, though, another day of graphics.

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Noon 20 January 2009: what will you be doing?

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama
Image via Wikipedia

Tomorrow, Barack Obama takes office and around the world people will be stopping work and staying up late to see the inauguration, to hear Americans rejoice, and to watch with curiosity what the new President does in his first 36 hours.

The inauguration seems to me like a family wedding. It is a day to be marked. It is a day when you have to be there. It is a new beginning with new alliances. It is continuity and hope. And a touch of nervousness about life with our new in-laws matched with care not to speak these uncertainties aloud!

On this day, we put our best foot forward knowing this is the foundation of the rest of our lives.

I hope you are marking the day with photographs, meals with family and friends, acknowledgements of hope. I would love it so much if some of my American readers would send me a video or picture of what they are doing at twelve noon.

And perhaps how their children and grandparents described the event?

I think I will visit my American friends in the village and drink a glass of wine with them!

 

PS I did.

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“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day”

A defining moment

The early hours of this morning, Wednesday 5 November 2008, were one those times when we will ask “where were you when  . . .”.

Stomach-wrenching

The long wait for the election results during the night was stomach-wrenching.  I flipped from one service to another, trying to catch the results from whomever broke them first.  Ultimately, I plumped for BBC, who seemed to be ahead of everyone most of the time, filling with intelligent analysis, and giving us good timings.

The countdown

The countdown to the announcement of California’s results, adding 55 electoral votes for Obama, began.  9 minutes, 6 minutes, 30 seconds, and boom, it was done.

The concession

We waited a decent interval for McCain to telephone Obama, and then McCain came out to give his concession speech.  He was brilliant.  If he had spoken like that throughout the campaign, he might have had my vote.  He was sincere, he was warm, and he showed great leadership setting the stage for working constructively with the Democrats to rebuild America.  I believe his speech will be dissected by students of leadership for many years, along with the magnificant speeches made by Obama.

Winning for the young and the old

Back in Chicago, the groups at Grant Park waited for Obama.  The cameras picked up more than human moments.  Jesse Jackson stood very still, talking to none of cheering party faithful around him, tears rolling down his face.  It was perhaps this image that helped me as a foreigner, understand how this election will heal the wounds of America, that are after all, a legacy of British rule.

The American dream

And then Obama spoke, and spoke to the great American dream – the belief that the US is strong precisely because they recognise their diverse interests.  How important that is to us all!

Awe

This morning, when I awoke around 11am British time, it took me a moment to remember the events of the night, and I found myself not exhilarated but struck by awe.  I checked out the chatter on line, and on Twitter particularly, and was struck by the sense of confusion.  I was not alone.  The only people in the world who treat the results uncomplicatedly are the Kenyans. They have declared Thursday a national holiday.  What dazzling simplicity!

A quiet celebration of a new dawn

I spent a good two hours pondering the gamut of emotions we are feeling and then Twitter threw up this link to a song “Its a new dawn”.  It’s mellow.  Its soulful.

“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, its’s a new life for me, and I am feeling good.”  Thanks @sondernagel.

Today we are mellow.  Tomorrow:

“It’s a new world, it’s a bold world”

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