A few months ago, I was a happy work-from-home mom. Each day was filled with caring for my kids, tending to the hubby, doing case work with my clients and squeezing in a few minutes for myself. Little did I know that a nightmare was coming from a villain that I would have never expected…the STOCK MARKET! In early October, the Dow Jones industrial plummeted as much as 800 points. Before this fateful day, I had never paid attention to the numbers. All of a sudden my world changed. I had to try to get a handle on what was going on around me.
Now, each morning my television is programmed to come on at 6:45am to MSNBC so that I can view all of the events that occurred during my slumber. You ask “what could possibly have happened by this early time”? I have no idea, but I don’t want to be taken by surprise. Although I am just a simple woman from Louisville KY, the world has changed in such a way that I must know what is happening in China, Japan and every other location on the other side of the globe. Watching MSNBC is like having a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. After seeing what happened overseas, I can start my day. If stocks rallied in other places, I get my daughters up for school, get them dressed and make pancakes. If things are a bit “off”, they get a bowl of cereal. Sorry kiddos. As the day goes on, I watch the ups and downs of the stock market. I am good at multi-tasking, so I just have every television in the house tuned in as I tend to my daily duties. Something in my brain snapped a few weeks ago when I made the awful mistake of taking a nap shortly 4pm. When I went to sleep, the Dow Jones was down a mere 200 points. You know how they say that 40 years old is the new 20. Well, now a 200 point drop in the Dow is the new 100 point rally. I have adjusted to some level of disappointment, due to the resent explosion. On that horrific afternoon, I woke from my peaceful slumber and I tuned into my favorite channel. The Dow had dropped nearly 700 points for the day!!! The panic overtook me and I wondered what had happened. I called my sister in TX who watches the news channels almost as much as I do. We talked for over an hour about what this means for the world. I just had this incredible feeling that I was falling and did not know where I would land. The world as I knew it felt as though it were crumbling beneath me. So much seemed to be at steak. That day began my total obsession with political news. I wake to MSNBC, move to CNN, get a taste of FOX and listen to NPR in the car (the kids can no longer listen to their Radio Disney cd as we go to go to Chuck E. Cheeses). While I am doing things for my job, I can’t help myself… I have selected stocks on a constant stream. I go to bed with the peaceful voice of Keith Oberman lulling me off to a land where there are no numbers.
I had the privilege of having breakfast ( that turned into lunch and almost dinner) with my old college buddy Dr. Boyce Watkins today. Since he is a doctor, I thought that I would tell him about the psychological damage that is being caused by my obsession with political television news. Hey, he is a financial wizard, business professor, and doctor (to name only a few titles), so I thought that I would give him a chance at being a psychiatrist. I began by telling all of my sundry symptoms and how it was affecting my life. I could no longer watch SpongeBob with my kids. It was quickly discovered that they simply do not appreciate being manipulated into watching a fun filled episode of “Hardball” no matter how funny I tell them that Chris Matthews can be in the evening. Due to my addiction, I sit in the kitchen at the island during meals with the TV on instead of being at the kitchen table with everyone else. You just never know when some BREAKING NEWS might come on. Most of the conversation that I have with my husband have been surrounded by the new names that Obama is being called, what Palin did today (or what she is wearing), whether McCain has suffered another “senior” moment (you know that the day that he said “I couldn’t agree with him more…” at a rally was funnier than some of the SNL shows) and if Joe Biden was going to take his jacket off again and exclaim to his opponents “where I come from, you tell it to a guy’s face…”. This stuff can be better than any comedy show, scarier than any horror movie and have more cliff hangers than the best drama.
Back to the worst of them all…the stock market. The roller coaster is truly more terrifying than any Six Flags ride I have ever been on. The one and only question that Dr. Watkins asked was “why do you watch it so much?” All good therapists ask questions to make you figure out the answers to the problems yourself. I was totally stumped. To tell the honest truth, I have no idea what all of those numbers really mean. I did some research on all of the information and I might was well have been reading a foreign language. I am a social worker by profession and can only understand things by feeling. The only way that I can describe what the mean to me, is that it a financial gauge to understand how people are feeling. Do you know what I mean? There will be Breaking News that the Big Three auto companies are having trouble and the number falter. An hour later, someone will report that there might be yet another 100 KABILLION dollar AIG bailout and the number move again. A short time after someone says that the outlook on the futures of a favorable stock is positive and we end the day rallying. Although the day ends wonderfully, we have to wake up tomorrow and do it all over again…well, unless it is a weekend. On those two days I am in a coma. There was a time in my life that seems to far away that I used to take a break and relieve some stress. Now I sit and wait for the other side of the world to flip the lever on the financial roller coast once again.
As we listen to the frequently bleak financial and political news, we are all terrified of so many different things. These fears most times involve money and numbers. We are terrified of losing our homes, our stocks, our jobs, our savings…our minds!! Since Dr. Watkins and I are “talkers”, we spent more time discussing my issues and he nearly missed his plane flight. It was therapeutic simply to get it all out and ponder an escape. With that said, I have come to the realization that someone might need to unplug me, like Neo from The Matrix. Is it just me, or does anyone else feel as though they have entered another world…as if the life you had just over a month ago was a dream? So, until Morpheus comes along to pull me from the shell that I lie in, I will continue to tune in. However, I do promise that my girls will get pancakes or waffles each morning for breakfast and I will eat at the dinner table with my family…I will just turn the television up really loud. Is there a 12 step program for this?