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The Fiscal Cliff -- Should We Worry?

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SPECIAL FROM BetterAfter50

I know I shouldn't worry -- I would prefer to have faith -- maybe even a little denial would be helpful. I mean, really? 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 breathe 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 that 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. Or maybe we simply come up with these fears to fabricate solutions. Afterwards, we are relieved, so 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 10 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?

I'm worried that I don't know what to worry about.

Well, guess what? My plan is to do nothing. Should I worry about that, too? Am I going to feel like I shoulda -- coulda and why didn't I -- after everyone else opens their parachutes and jumps off safely, clutching their life's savings while my paper profits disappear into thin air?

I have spent most of my life trying to dismiss fears that others are screaming about.

We were raised in the Cold War era and iron curtain fear mongers who warned us of nuclear attacks. I spent a lot of time at college learning about cruise missiles, drones and ICBM's. After giving birth I got to raise my kids with Y2K fever, Anthrax dust in the mail, and always looking over my shoulder as I walked through NYC's Grand Central Station certain a terrorist may appear at anytime. My best friend bought me some nitric oxide right after Sept 11, and I was thrilled because she assured me I would be able to survive a nuclear attack or lesson my nausea if I took it within 15 minutes of the attack.

Which leads me to the last question: Is the Fiscal Cliff worse than the end of the world on December 21, 2012, and which one should I worry about more? What is a Mayan calendar anyway -- how come it ended?

Happily, my stressing has proved productive. I cleverly got my boys and husband to agree to a week away on a beach in the middle of nowhere so we can be together for the end of the world. I didn't tell them that's why we were going away -- they think it's our annual holiday vacation -- I'm not going to tell them until we have landed because I'm worried they might have other priorities of where they want to be for the last minutes of their lives. I thought, hey, if there's going to be tidal waves, we might as well have a good ride on our surfboards.

I figured if Congress isn't so worried about this terminal Fiscal Cliff and is planning their vacations, I'm going to take mine, too.

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