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Friday, March 13, 2009

When the Market Goes Down, Invest in Memories

The other day I was lamenting with one of my dearest friends about the stock market. I could not see beyond my nose and only felt the total horror about the drop in my husband's and my financial portfolio. It's been steadily going down, down, down, (sing along to "I'm going Down, Down" with Bruce Springsteen), so far down it made me physically ill. I was equating our negative financial red hole and the disappearance of my severance package from two years ago with who I am. It felt like my 24 years of pension, 401K, and retirement went up in smoke. How bad is that, that something rather intangible was making me feel so ill and less of myself?

I had to reflect about this, as my friend made a sagacious comment that barely made it to my right ear. She said, "It's times like these that we have to invest in memories and more memories!" At first it didn't resonate loudly with me. I was too far invested in feeling depressed and unfortunately it was wearing on me like designer blues. But the next day, it suddenly hit me. What a wise comment my dear friend made. Investing in memories is something that no stock market or recession could control. We could make memories as a family no matter what, no matter how little money we had. As a matter of fact, we've been able to take some significant family vacations to wonderful locations at a fraction of the cost because my hard-working husband travels for work all the time and has a stash full of frequent flier miles and hotel points. I was proudly lamenting all while forgetting about a vacation we just had albeit with frequent flier miles. In fact, I realized I must have come across as pretty boastful.

In college I took a Chinese philosophy course that suddenly came back to me. This wonderful teacher gave us the example of losing a dollar bill. If you suddenly lost a dollar bill from your wallet, if it came flying out and a gust of wind blew it away too fast to re-snatch, how bad would you feel? What if it was a $20 bill? Or a $50 bill, would you feel worse the more you lost? Do we have too much attachment on things rather than memories? I realized with shock how strongly that I do. That my priorities are all screwed up to be quite frank. Despite my lasik surgery, I really wasn't seeing the purpose of my life clearly. The purpose of my life is not to accumulate more monetary wealth, more tangible possessions, more best selling products or more designer labels. I realize I have to start focusing more on a daily basis on letting go, -to stop putting a dollar figure on the value of what I do and who I am. The more I make does not mean I am a better person. It may seem to others that greater wealth means you are smarter, more beautiful, more popular, more famous, more something! Maybe it just means you are more greedy. I am more happy now than at any other time in my life. I am trying on new things in my life that have nothing to do with clothes. I am doing things I set out to do when I felt the freedom of retiring. I am writing on a regular basis, something I have always been passionate about. I am using my artistic skills, something I majored in because it came naturally but didn't pay the rent. My unfortunate and momentary lapse in my superficial being was stuck in the money trap. How lucky I am to have a friend who uttered the most meaningful statement during my memory recession. My inner peace was renewing. The Tao was returning. It feels nice to stop thinking that success is reflected by how much money we have (or don't have). The silver lining that was revealed from the constant bad headlines which initiated my negative thinking was awakened by my friend's words. Take the time to invest in memories with your loved ones and watch your happiness barometer soar.

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