Sunday, October 12, 2008

In Tough Times...Can You Spare a Vacuum?

I had a good friend in New Orleans years ago. She showed me all the great neighborhoods of the city, and took me out dancing with her friends to a local Cajun dance club. We always tried specialty restaurants and did a little shopping. But mostly, I loved hanging out in her beautiful home in the Garden District, with its elaborate decor, including a sunken tub in the bathroom, an elegant outdoor garden, a kitchen with a sunroof and elegant appliances like the kind you see in magazines, and one of the most impressive livingrooms I've ever seen, with built in bookcases, recessed lighting, Persian rugs and exotic ornaments, and expansive collections of pottery, glass, and artwork.

"You're house is so nice," I used to tell her - the understatement of the year. "It's my therapy," she would tell me. "From my divorce. My therapist told me that whenever I was upset, I should work on the design of my home -- and it has worked, for the most part..."

I thought about this on the plane flight home, when I realized that flying is a perfect example of distraction therapy. We fasten our seatbelts and distract ourselves with compartmented meals and miniature views of the world outside the window, and the little observations that get us through a rough round of turbulence, like whether we like the tie the man behind us is wearing, or how cute is the Disney hat the little girl is wearing across the aisle.

Life is pretty much made up of things we can control, and things we can't, like economic downturns and government bailouts plans. During the last few weeks, we have seen a lot of downward graphs and arrows, heard the language of chaos - "panic," "downturn," "Depression." When there is a rollercoster atmosphere on Wall Street and in the national and world economy, we have to hold our collective breath and make the most of what we can control, and hope that the people in charge know what they are doing.

It is no surprise that in the weeks following September 11, I took up jewelry making and learned how to cook beef stew. And it's no surprise that in the last few weeks, I've been cleaning a lot more than usual. The laundry is done. The kitchen floor is spotless. I put up a new photo in the hallway and replaced the livingroom rug with a cheerful Ikea striped number. I got fresh flowers and changed my Brita filter. I even vacuumed just the other day, and found a lucky penny under the couch. I'm thinking maybe ten years from now, it will have tripled in value, but of course there's no way of knowing.

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