The Fundamental Things Remain

Jacque Grillo
January 15, 2009

Financial markets freezing.  Stock markets volatile.  Retirement and college savings accounts losing substantial value.  Unemployment increasing;  people anxious about their jobs.  Housing values down.  We're in one of those times where everything seems to be changing rapidly and unpredictably, and all of our assumptions about our economic security and financial future are being challenged.

Of course change and how it's dealt with is an essential element in human development.  Especially for young children change is a near constant, since their development occurs at such a rapid pace compared to that of adults.  In just twelve short months most children typically grow from being a mere six or seven pounds in utero and completely dependent on the mother for survival, to two or three times that body weight with independent mobility that usually includes walking.  That's a lot of change in a short period of time.  It's no wonder that children often view change with anxiety and ambivalence, or that children require so much reassurance from adults that they'll be able to manage the challenges of so much rapid change.  As a way of managing, children require lots of time for regressing, curled up in a parent's arms, thumb firmly in the mouth, thereby building up resources to face the next series of growth and change.  In the face of such rapid change children require steady reminding of all that is predictable and unchanging:  a mother's embrace, a father's comforting hug.

As adults we are no longer used to our lives transforming so rapidly.  In just a few short weeks it's as if so much of what we used to depend on for a sense of safety and stability has changed.  So many of our assumptions about our safety, our prosperity, and our future are suddenly called into question.  Much like children do to the challenges of growing up, many of us are understandably reacting to these changes with anxiety, uncertainty and ambivalence.  A time of recession is not unlike a child's experience of regression:  we all pull back to a place of safety, we avoid risks, take stock of our resources and use this time to rebuild our strength.  During a recession we all need to be reminded of all that is steady and unchanging in a world suddenly filled with uncertainty and unpredictability.

I'm reminded of the song from the film " Casablanca " which reassures us that "a kiss is still a kiss, the fundamental things remain".  As we collectively weather these changes my hope is that, like children naturally do, we'll take the time to remind ourselves of all those steady and reliable things that remain unaffected.  This is our chance to focus on those things in life we value that aren't subject to market volatility and global financial forces.  Let our children teach us how to face what is, after all, an always uncertain future, optimistically while at the same time providing lots of opportunity for rest, reassurance, hugs and comforting times spent with family and friends.


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