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Over the past few years, I've found myself teetering on the very unstable edge of what was the relatively secure life I thought I was building for myself. Unexpected widowhood, a back injury, breast cancer, then another back injury that resulted in the loss of my job, put me in a place I never, ever thought I'd be. Hell, I've been married more than once, raised children, had two decent careers, worked toward being stable in my old age …

I should be doing OK, right?

But, like many of you, I'm not.

Your circumstances may not be quite the same as mine. Maybe you've lost your job because of company cutbacks and can't find another because there just aren't any, or you (like most of the rest of us) have naively and stupidly over-extended yourself financially all in the name of having more, bigger, and better, and for what? (Seriously. For what?) Or maybe you still have your job but are living day-to-day, paycheck-to-paycheck, hoping and praying nothing goes wrong.

Thing is, it doesn't really matter how we got here, the point is that we are here, and we need to let go of our regret and self-flagellation and smarten up.

At this point in America's seemingly unstoppable skid off the road into economic collision, there are so many of us about to go over the cliff that we don't know what to do next to survive. It's often a choice between eating or keeping the lights on or putting gas in the car (if, indeed, you can still afford your car)! I've been to that point of not being able to pay the rent and having my lights, gas, and cable turned off, and I've been petrified. I mean, who wouldn't be, and particularly when there is often no help for those who actually do try to help themselves?

One stunning example of that came for me one day not too long ago when I met a woman named Barbara while we were sitting in a waiting room. She was beautiful, middle-aged, clean, nicely dressed, well-spoken ... 

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