The Fiscal Cliff: Should We Worry?

Felice Shapiro
Felice Shapiro

Felice Shapiro is a writer, entrepreneur, and publisher as well as the founder of Better After 50, a weekly online magazine. In addition to being a teacher and avid runner, hiker, and yogi, she is an AARP contributor.

I know I shouldn't worry. I would prefer to have faith, maybe even a little denial would be helpful. Is Washington really going to throw us into recession? Of course not, no way, they would never, right? If  Congress is going on their vacay, then I can breath more easily, right?

I'm a pretty educated person so it bothers me that I don't understand all the implications of this Fiscal Cliff. In addition, the terminology fills me with anxiety. What's with  that name? It seems purposely anxiety provoking.  In fact, it sounds terminal. No one survives falling over cliffs.  Is that language necessary?

I decided to dig around to find the origin of the term; certain it was a creation of the media. Turns out --it's not.   It was the creation of the now famous B.B. (not BB King -of course nothing soothing) but our buddy, Ben Bernanke, who coined the phrase while testifying before Congress when he said that "a massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases" would take place on January 1, 2013.

Well it sure has caught on but does it accurately describe what's about to happen? There's hysteria building, but over what exactly?

Sometimes it feels like we create stuff to be scared of.

Fear has become an emotional addiction in our country. We live in a fear driven society. We come up with things to be scared of -maybe because we are adrenaline junkies, maybe because we are bored and need drama to feel alive, or maybe to help us feel connected to a group like Republicans or Democrats. Maybe we simply come up with these fears to fabricate solutions, so that when relieved, we feel like winners.

It just seems like we are a nation of anxiety seekers and it's hard work to stay chill in the midst of daily thrashings and threats of Fiscal Cliffs.

I read  The Andromeda Strain when I was ten years old and was sure the world would end just like the book.  I used to have Andromeda Strain nightmares. I avoided looking at blinking lights lest they trigger an epileptic episode. I feared I would swallow my tongue like one of the characters. I feared I would see a nuclear explosion on the horizon when I walked on the beach.

I had stomach aches my entire childhood. The doctor told my parents that I worried a lot and I would be fine.  I had 25 warts on my foot until a very handsome doctor looked me in the eyes with his baby blues and told me "they'll go away." And they did.

I have spent a ridiculous amount of time worrying about things that never happened, only to have really bad things happen that weren't on my worry board at all.

I'd be happy to take on the Fiscal Cliff as something to worry about but I have no idea how to worry effectively. Am I supposed to worry that I am going to lose all my retirement savings?  Am I supposed to worry that my husband and I will have to work forever because we won't be able to eat?  Am I supposed to worry that total chaos is going to break out and there will be revolution in the streets?

Am I supposed to put cash under my mattress?

Read the rest of Felice's post at Better after 50!


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