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Cliffs and other edges

Published January 05. 2013 09:02AM

I have been so tired of hearing about the "fiscal cliff." All the TV talking heads made it seem as though the world was going to end if the politicians didn't fix our country's money problems.

Most cliffs aren't that dramatic. You can get great views if you walk to the edge of a cliff. Having been raised in a town nicknamed "The Switzerland of America," I had a lot of chances to look down from high spots. The world looks mighty beautiful from the edge of a cliff.

All of the talk about cliffs got me thinking. Each and every one of us has stood on the edge at some point in our life.

I remember growing up in the small town of Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe), PA. I knew all my neighbors, had a lot of close friends, and felt comfortable living in a big house on the main street.

The first cliff I faced was leaving home to go to college. True, I only went 75 or so miles away, but it could have been millions. The feeling of being torn away from everything I loved was just heart-wrenching.

There were quite a few cliffs to navigate during college years. Keeping your wits about you while living with strangers can be challenging. Some college kids fall over the alcohol cliff, some fall over the "no studying - only partying" cliff, while others dive headlong over the "I'm in love" cliff.

I suppose the most common cliff after your education is finished is the marriage cliff. That can be a real sharp edge. So many young marriages don't make it. At times, first marriages seem like competitive sport. The husband and wife keep trying to push each other over the cliff.

When your "real" life starts and you get a job, then you look over the edge of a cliff daily. No one pleases the boss every time. Taking orders and fulfilling expectations are not easy. Gradually, you can move backwards, away from the edge of the cliff. But, one false move and you're right up there at the edge again.

I remember the feeling of being called into my supervisor's office to be scolded for something. It was not pretty. I wanted to respond with a clever retort or defend myself verbally, but I knew those actions might throw me over the cliff. So, I sat there, took the scolding, and stayed away from the edge. It takes a smart person to know when to shut up.

My father was a bartender all his life. He was a smart man and enjoyed people. He told great stories, had a lot of friends, and was a caring Dad. But, he loved to live on the edge.

We never had much money, but Dad enjoyed gambling. He played the weekly "numbers," went to the racetrack as often as he could, and liked to place bets on sporting events. Luckily, he was lucky. We never suffered as a family from his walking on that risky cliff.

My Mom faced her biggest cliff when she was young. As a high school graduate, she took the train to New York City to attend drama/dance school and become a Broadway star. Well, the "star" part didn't come to pass, but she did have a 10-year career in vaudeville, took part in nationwide touring companies, danced on many stages, and loved her life.

Any huge life change becomes a cliff. Moving from your home is a big one. Having a child, losing a loved one, finding new work, or facing serious illness can all look like sharp edges. How we deal with these life changes determines whether we go sailing over the cliff or find solid ground on top of things.

Right now, at this point in my life, I am not afraid of cliffs. I think I have the experience to handle them. There's only one BIG cliff left, and each of us will fly over it someday.


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