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The new norm
by Joshua H. Silavent
Dec 13, 2010 | 634 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We all have lost someone we loved. Shock and disbelief tie up our emotions in the first days and months after their passing. Then the pain begins to settle, time eases the grief and we learn to live with the loss, even though we never forget it.

Though change often comes hard and sudden, if it sticks around long enough it eventually becomes the new norm.

We adjust our habits, modify our patterns and sometimes alter our beliefs in order to accommodate change. Traditions evolve into signs of the time and history is rewritten by generations unfamiliar with the very moment of change.

So it is that the housing bust, financial panic and unemployment surge of recent years have slowly morphed from foreign intruders in our otherwise prospering lives into bedfellows of our modern age.

No longer, it seems, are Americans holding on to the false notion that an economic recovery is imminent. No longer, it seems, are Americans holding fast to the hope for a speedy return to the days of endless potential and never-ending growth.

Just ask the long-term unemployed — those Americans out of work for six months or more — who have given up looking for a job.

Or those Americans who have recalibrated their dreams and taken jobs they are overqualified for because the industry work they covet has no openings left for them. Many of those jobs have been cut back, outsourced or fallen prey to new innovation.

Just ask the small-business owner who has had to lay off trusted employees in order to keep the lights on.

Just ask the homeowner who lost his asset wealth in the deluge of foreclosures and decided it was better to default on his home rather than pay a mortgage in excess of the home’s value.

Just ask the would-be retiree who scrambled for menial work because his golden age portfolio no longer seemed so sturdy on the legs of Wall Street and an over-extended Social Security program.

Just ask the single mother whose waitressing tips can’t support her child’s Christmas joy.

Just ask the father who missed his son’s tee-ball season because he had to take a second job to pay the bills.

The list is endless and the struggle of our neighbors disconcerting. But resilience is measured by one’s ability to adapt and prioritize, to turn change into normalcy.

And so, it seems, many of us have.

Resourcefulness is a quality more desired than ever and vigilance against waste is no longer just for environmentalists.

The meaning of necessity, the value of sacrifice and the power of charity seem clearer than ever, though we still have a long way to go to employ these lessons.

Of course, some habits are not easy to shake. There is still a lot of blame being passed around for the poor economy. And there is still a possibility of reverting to old ways, wherein we all once again fall spell to the mass delusion of American infallibility.

We also still have a lot to learn from the recession. Its true toll will not be known for many years and I suspect we are overlooking the psychological consequences of joblessness.

Pragmatically speaking, though, there may be a lot to gain.

“The silver lining to all of this is that it will allow us to catch our breath a little bit,” Tray Abney, director of government relations for the Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce, told me recently when I picked his brain about the changes this country had seen as a result of the recession.

Abney believes that the country is now in a position to reassess its needs, truly consider important budget cuts and temporarily level off the frenzied demand for new construction.

Then, in time, he said, “I think we will see growth again.”

With pending budget shortfalls looming across city departments for a third year in a row, Sparks officials have to make some tough decisions that won’t always sit well with residents. And nationally, getting serious with deficit reduction plans will certainly command rhetoric of the highest order as the 2011 legislative session gets underway.

But a focus on where to cut and when to cut might cause Americans to scrutinize the tax structure, which Councilman Ron Schmitt told me he thinks is long overdue and, perhaps, one upside of the country’s economic malaise.

I think Sparks is beginning to swallow the lessons taught by the recession and the prospects associated with a slow recovery.

For better or worse, our ideas about the American dream have been scaled back to reflect our present condition. The pain has begun to settle.

This, I believe, constitutes the reality of now. The new norm.

I’ll see you around.

Joshua H. Silavent is a reporter for the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at jsilavent@dailysparkstribune.com.
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