“Pas de nouvelles… bonnes nouvelles, comme dit le proverbe.” No news is good news, as the proverb says. But is the proverb true? Or is no news just… no news?
No news is no news
In the case of an overseas friend who hadn’t written or called in awhile, it was true. Tout allait bien; everything was fine. Or so he said, in a quick reply to an email I had sent, inquiring about the state of affairs on the other side of the ocean. But his message that no news was good news came with a caveat: if you call scrapping for every buck (make that euro) “good news.”
He went on to clarify that there was no “bad” news, and so, that in itself was good news.
OBSERVATION: If you know the reputation the French have for being critical, then you will appreciate the measured character of my friend’s note – concern voiced with positivism.
Et si j’avais le temps de consacrer aux détails de la situation financière américaine, que dirais-je ? Quelles histoires de désespoir, chers amis français, pourrais-je vous raconter à notre sujet, nous qui sommes sans sécurité sociale fiable ou système de santé qui garantit au moins un brin de l’essentiel ?
If I had the time to spend recounting the financial situation in which people find themselves in this country, what would I say? What tales of despair would I share with my French friends about those of us who have no reliable safety net, no health care system, as provided in France?
New month, old worries
It is July 1.
A new month. Generally I love a new month – a sense of beginnings. Possibilities. Optimism. (I restart diets. I work and rework my budget with renewed determination.)
Three days before the start of the month I used to take pleasure in making my car payment and taking care of the mortgage. The ability to pay bills felt good. I was raised to work hard, and meet responsibilities.
I will say that writing a check to a health insurance company (these past 7 years) has not been a pleasure. With each year, the scope of my benefits has narrowed, my co-payments and deductibles increased, while my monthly premium has risen nearly 300% in the past 5 years.
And so I note: there is still pleasure in the first of the month, but bills now accumulate; I have difficulty facing them, and more difficulty paying them.
No news is good news?
Not last week, when no news meant that a friend had passed away. Not each week, as costs creep up, inching silently and collectively – gas, health care, property taxes, food – reducing the spending power of dwindling incomes, and wiping out “reserves” at alarming rates.
Note: I was visiting a web site yesterday that talked about cutting costs and running more frugal households. There weren’t just “ten tips to better budgeting” or even twenty. There were at least 100, contributed by full-time stay-at-home mothers, who for the most part, had working spouses.
At least 80% were not applicable to a single parent, much less anyone with physical or logistical constraints (illness, injury, lack of transportation). I applaud the spirit of sharing suggestions, but speaking of proverbs, many of us are long past “waste not, want not.”
Revenons à nos moutons, and parting words in a letter
Returning to the subject at hand
According to my friend – “L’argent est dur à trouver, mais les choses ne vont ni plus mal ni mieux… ”
Money is hard to find, but things are neither better nor worse…
Those words closed my friend’s email, which had further detailed an anxious new reality: a perpetual search for additional ventures, an extra job, something to liquidate or an object to sell – all in order to meet rising costs with less.
Money woes are everywhere
The lament over evaporating financial resources is heard from all corners: it has become the rallying cry (or just the cry) of nearly everyone I know, and surprisingly, from professions and trades I would have thought exempt – doctors, dentists, engineers, architects – as well as those where I’d expect it: realtors, technicians, office workers, retail workers, creatives (writers, artists, musicians), and of course stay-at-home parents (and yes, it is a job, just without remuneration).
It is relative fear and relative belt tightening for each family. But fear it is, and a daily scramble to make ends meet.
Note: There is a profession I explicitly exempted from the list above – those in the legal biz. In my own experience, at rates that run (easily) from $350 to $600 / hour, those of us with battles to fight cannot afford to do so. If we once were required to, we exhausted our resources in the process – with or without the desired legal or financial outcome. Once resources are depleted, we’re left to take it on the chin, until we’re too weary to battle at all. In fairness, let me say there are always exceptions, but in my view, few and far between. It seems money DOES grow on trees, for some.
Another note, on health care: Doctors are often caught between a rock and hard place – malpractice insurance is an expensive must, and medical education requires an investment of many years and a small fortune. Doctors deserve to be well paid, but everyone deserves quality health care – a system they can count on, and one which is not dependent upon an employer. Our health care delivery system is a mess, and we know it. Insurance companies make it increasingly difficult for everyone involved (including physicians), and certainly for individuals trying to navigate bureaucracy, coverage loopholes, and escalating costs.
What responsibility do we share in all this? We are a litigious society, which is part of the problem. And we need to use our individual and collective voices – where we can – to say ENOUGH. Enough, to a legal system where millions of people fall through the cracks. Enough, to our political leaders who don’t know what it is to worry about paying for a prescription, or visiting a qualified physician.
OBSERVATION: Nearly everyone I encounter is looking for work, due to escalating costs and lost jobs.
At a recent marketing event I attended, the nature of the networking was blatant: attendees were job hunting or seeking new clients. Some, older than myself by a good 10 years, had come out of retirement, and were back in the workforce part-time, full-time, or looking to be. Translation: whatever money that had been saved was now lost. Retire? Not possible. They need income, like the rest of us.
Ne vous inquiétez pas ! Encore des proverbes !
Not to worry – I may not have answers, but I have more proverbs. Since proverbs reflect wisdom (theoretically), it can’t hurt… Besides, I am determined to keep my eyes open and my outlook optimistic. So here are a few proverbs concerning money.
L’argent ne pousse pas sur les arbres. Money doesn’t grow on trees. Hmmm. I seem to have found the exception to that rule.
Lament of my own: Oh, for a few new clients or an employer who will not require that I be a road warrior! How do I finish the job of raising my kids if I’m out-of-town?
But getting paid for work and being in town for my children would be having my cake and eating it, too – apparently.
Observation: I was under the impression that being an engaged parent was part of our return to “family values.” Is this another case of failed superwoman syndrome? Not enough hours in the day? Or socio-political policy that is heavy on rhetoric but light on execution?
As for “having my cake” and so on, the French might say:
On ne peut avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre. Literally translated, that’s “you can’t have the butter and the money for the butter.”
Here’s another variation, which conjures a more picturesque image, but apparently is less in use:
On ne peut pas avoir le lard et le cochon – You can’t have your pig and your bacon, too!
But don’t stress! When it comes to bringing home the bacon, keep in mind the old addage – money doesn’t buy happiness – l’argent ne fait pas le bonheur – although we all know that lack of money can bring on a great deal of heartache.
Which takes me back to July 1.
As of today, my mortgage (due to property taxes) has increased $160/month. (My mortgage payment is late.) My health insurance has increased $70/month (also late). Food, gas, and virtually every other product and service my family uses is becoming harder and harder to pay for.
What do I do about all that? Other than continue marketing, networking, and utilizing every job board or other resource I can think of?
Beyond proverbs or minor miracles?
Acts of kindness are more abundant than we realize. Kindness is a currency that we can manufacture at home, a currency that fosters exchange of necessities, and a currency that keeps hearts hopeful.
FACT: I have encountered surprising acts of kindness; those who have reduced their rates (or eliminated them altogether) and continued to deliver exceptional and reliable services. I have experienced the currency of kindness, and I hope to “pay it forward” with the graciousness of those who have shown it to me, and to my family.
For you, who have extended these kindnesses – you know who you are. You believe in community. You believe in extending a hand. With some struggle, I have learned to accept help, and say thank you, remembering Aesop’s proverb: No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
A last note – would that it were a C-note!
To all of us who start our month short of money and long on anxiety – I say (ahem…) buck up!
You’re in good company. We’re in good company. And as long as kindness persists, somehow, we’ll keep ourselves afloat. Worst case – we reinvent ourselves (again). I find myself already considering a new career: blacksmithing. After all – c’est en forgeant qu’on devient forgeron. It is in blacksmithing that you become a blacksmith.
It’s my new old favorite proverb! In other words, practice makes perfect – in finding our voice, in offering kindness, or in reinventing ourselves – as many times as needed.