05/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It Takes an Income to Support a Village

When I stopped earning a respectable living I knew I had to cut back on expenses. But "expenses" is a dull and ordinary euphemism; what I really cut back on was supporting many of the small business owners and individuals who live and work around my town.

The hardworking women who came weekly to clean our house of accumulated muck (I blame the sheepdog) were the first casualty. The lawn cutter and natural lawn care company were told to stop their visits. I ceased shopping at the local fruit and vegetable market; while the fresh produce was always cleaned, peeled, and sliced, the added expense of this luxury was no longer justifiable.

The local dry cleaner was a family business that saw a lot less of mine. With nowhere to go, where would I get my suits dirty? I'd always loved having fresh flowers in my office when clients came by, but with a dwindling number of transactions my visits to a nearby florist withered as well. In an idle office, no one used pens to sign paperwork, stickies to point out "signature required" or "notarize here" stayed unstuck, and custom ordered boxes of envelopes were never addressed, eliminating trips to the office supply store.

The chiropractor and massage therapists who alleviated my aching shoulders and soothed my stress? While my anxiety has skyrocketed, it stems from lack of business, so Dr. Marty and the masseuses have been designated as non-affordable health care providers. My limited funds are spent at a faceless but affordable chain grocery store rather than at the local health food store where Allison would warn me which of the pricey foods she had prepared was not vegan. I haven't been on a vacation in ages, I can't afford a theater ticket, and I cheer and cuss my teams on television (regrettably too far away to affect the outcome). As my dogs, turtle and fish now always have me around to feed them, Marianne the pet-sitter has had her earnings curtailed.

Kelly cuts my hair a lot less often than she or I would like, I see Lisa rarely now as I've spaced out my vitamin purchases, and the darling couple with the adorable daughter who made the most creative sushi in a nearby shopping center have probably forgotten that they used to send me a gratis sampling of vegetable appetizers because I was such a frequent diner.

The only things proliferating in my extended village these days are the signs advertising vacant stores for rent and the foreclosure notices in the weekly papers. For decades I did my best to support the local economy, but once my real estate law practice waned and my resources drastically decreased, I bid an abrupt adieu to every Tomas, Dilip, & Sally who depended on customers like me to sustain their businesses.