Volume 18 • Issue 41 | February 24 - March 2, 2006

Downtown Notebook

A mirror to the world’s problems right here at home

By Wickham Boyle

I have a host of things to do today, but instead of returning phone calls, or assembling tax papers I am worrying.

Anxiety is not on my list of things to achieve. On that list is mastering the morass that is Medicaid for my 91-year-old father, unlocking the secrets of managed health care in an attempt to get a second opinion on my 17-year-old son’s wrist which seems to remain, in medical parlance “unstable,” which renders it pretty much useless. A zealous surgeon wants to “go in and look around inside” as if it were a vacation site. On my list is refinancing ALL of my debt, and angsting over where my son will go to college while I simultaneously pick at my fingers in terror about what job my daughter will get when she graduates from college. Oh yes, I also need to work on the book I am writing.

As I ponder my personal fear, I have stoked my fretful fires by watching the morning news wrap up. In only a half hour I have seen a mud slide covering a village in the Philippines, been reminded that the ice cap in Greenland is melting precipitously fast, that thugs mugged a man in Chinatown, at the exact subway where my son begins and ends his days. I learned that a $125,000 show dog ran away from the airport and crews combed the area for hours, but still children die in N.Y.C. because we lack the funds to patrol against child abuse. The city of New Orleans remains a disaster area while our government spends days managing the vice president’s hunting of the wrong prey.

The news reminds me that it is not only my family paddling as fast as we can to not drown in a choppy sea of debt; we are swimming in the same water as our entire country. Yesterday the president requested additional billions to support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And here at home I fight my own seemingly silly war with the debt I am incurring educating children, paying for health insurance, doctors, books and graduation dresses. I am endeavoring to do it all while not translating my terrible terror to my family.

I see my own fear as mirroring what goes on around me globally. Although I constantly attempt to assuage my trepidation with the stunning reality that my woes are nothing compared to what we see swirling at our feet; I still succumb. I know my house is standing, not filled with mud or taken by rain. My children may be sad, or frustrated or fearful that they will not ascend, but they are warm and fed and cuddled by cats at day’s end. And yet I allow myself to be privately somnambulant; sleepwalking in my personal nightmare of fear.

You may not see it.

And yet when my new refrigerator constantly drips water; I think global warming. When my family leaves lights on, I bemoan high Con Edison bills and run around behind them counseling conservation; I think dwindling energy supplies. When I sit down to pay off tiny portions of credit cards, tuition, or insurance on a monthly basis I begin to see my own debt accumulation as part of a national legacy.

I converse with too many of my kids’ friends who are gobbling anti-depressants or performance enhancing focus drugs attempting to do better in their crazy lives. I encounter more and more people who have little or no spiritual lives — myself included, because it is a mind-bending challenge to keep the faith, whatever that may be, when many of the professed people of faith seem to be riotous outlaws: blatant pederasts, torturers, and creeps.

So where does that leave an individual who attempts to live a tiny life of some security and modest comfort? It leaves me frozen at my desk making lists of debt and duties while simultaneously trying to clear the cobwebs of fear from my brain and replace that terror with what is proffered as inner peace.

I find my way to calm for moments and then like the mercurial weather that surrounds us I lurch from spring to windy winter. Inside and out my inner personal landscape reflects the global insanity surrounding me.


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