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Martha's big adventure - Layering - Martha Randolph Carr

The current economy has rather dramatically stripped away a lot of the usual layers from a record number of American citizens, myself included. Things like a job title, a newer car, a substantial 401(k) that we somewhat took for granted were gone, sometimes, overnight.

Every time another layer was peeled away with such ease, it made a lot of us feel as if failure had to be close at hand as well. The pieces that made up a picture of the life we longed for, or at least could settle for, were gone without notice.

The other half of that anguished thought was a doubt that we'd know how to handle the consequences or do anything substantive about the loss, at least fast enough before the cold streets beckoned.

It's often been said of those living below the poverty line that focusing on getting ahead is just too hard when getting everyone fed is so difficult. Just shopping for food without a decent car and in a bigger store is an ordeal. Normally, the bright, clean store with the best produce and the low prices is in the suburbs where public transportation is spotty at best. Suddenly, that was us, caught up in dire circumstances we didn't create but had to deal with anyway.

Here's a suggestion that will help make sure everyone survives the meltdown and perhaps even remember it fondly. Stop doing and start being. Such a new-agey kind of phrase that can be highly annoying when we're in the middle of the problem. I get that so let me explain.

Solutions take time and evolve as the days pass. No matter how much planning you do, if you haven't noticed, life intervenes and you have to incorporate the changes and reassess the path. So, quit trying to plan so concretely for the long term. Figure out what's reasonably possible just for the day, no matter how inconsequential the step may seem and do just that.

Balance is going to be key to all of this. No working at it to the exclusion of seeing the family at dinner time or watching your kid's lacrosse game. Those are very valuable as well, if not more so. And, faith will go a long way to keeping the heartburn at bay as well. For those who have no belief system in anything they can't see, if the way things are going is working just fine, keep at it. If the stress feels like it's blowing you apart from the inside out, perhaps testing the waters is finally in order.

Feel free to approach the test with the idea of failure and flail away. As long as there's some willingness to breathe more, stay focused on only the moment at hand and take the steps that seem like they'll head where you'd like to be, this plan has a very good chance of working. Asking for appropriate help, which means no bailing or whining, is recommended.

There's going to be a lot of brain wiring that will want to scream at you to get going and solve, solve, solve. Ignore, ignore, ignore and keep going back to this simple idea. Here you are in this one short day where only the next step is your responsibility and the how is on a power greater than yourself.

And when you've taken the steps you can, let it go and go play with your kids, kiss your spouse, brush your teeth and go to bed. Good job, we'll see you in the morning. More adventures to follow.

If you'd like to get involved in the 2009 America Challenge to raise funds for community-based charities, e-mail me at Martha@CagleCartoons.com, for more information. Together, we're going to build stronger communities and empower ourselves.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.