|Swing dance, 1940s style!|
2015 was starting out to be a bad year for my friend J--. Serious financial problems, like, on-the-verge-of-homeless level of seriousness of financial problems, combined with medical issues and not enough work at the collection of part-time jobs she'd cobbled together to make a living, overwhelmed the normally sparkling J--. She and her family faced the prospect of celebrating her upcoming 44th birthday on the streets. And then where would her 11-year-old daughter be?
To make a long story short, she caught a break, and was able to ensure that they'd at least be able to stay in their home through the end of the school year. Things are still not good, but doom is a little farther off. So what did J-- do? She decided that this small triumph, just in time for her birthday and the spring, was worthy of celebration, so she threw a party.
Now, every financial article you read would chastise her for not saving Every. Single. Discretionary. Penny. against her looming potential crisis. And saving every single penny in those circumstances is a perfectly logical thing to do. But J-- wasn't focused on the potential looming crisis. J-- was focused on the present, which was better than she anticipated it would be. So J-- did the cleverest possible thing in her circumstances: instead of doom and gloom, she threw a party. She was going to be 44, so she threw a 1940s-themed party. There were board games -- did you know Scrabble and Chutes and Ladders debuted in the 40s? There were old-fashioned landline telephones and stockings with seams up the back. The food served was present tense, but cans of Spam were also present, and jokes about jello molds. There was big band music and a video to teach all the attendees the basic steps of swing dancing, and we were encouraged to dress vintage.
We got where she was coming from, in fact, we had done the same thing ourselves. Very very early in our relationship, Dan was laid off. We went out to a fabulously expensive restaurant (our previous favorite) for an elaborate meal, to "celebrate" his newfound free time, and, we acknowledged, our last fling before the serious economizing to come. Irresponsible perhaps from a finance point of view, but also a note of defiance against the economic dark times ahead, an inspiration that life is for grabbing with both hands and a celebration of the fact that despite the setback, we were still alive and well and in love. Just as in the wartime early 40s that J-- used as her party inspiration, this was the way you fought back against the darkness and uncertainty of the future: by living to the fullest, refusing to go down in despair, and rising above it. You can't fight darkness with darkness. You can only fight darkness with light.