There are hundreds of thousands of Americans who are struggling financially, due to the state of the economy and job markets, and as a result of this, bankruptcy filings are at an all time high. I can tell you, quite openly, that even with those numbers out there, when it happens to you -- you feel very alone.
When I lost my job with American Express after September 11, I was devastated. But, I had a 401K and a pension, and thought I would be employed again, within months. That did not happen. So, after about six (6) months, I decided to open my own business, and by the first anniversary of my job loss, I was up and running.
The business was successful and I was once again making a good living. Mind you, I was without a good salary for about two (2) years, and did go through the 401K and pension as needed to get the business up and running, and maintain my personal financial obligations. When I sold the business after four (4) years, I was able to recoup the money that I had used from those retirement funds. That was 2006. Because I had agreed to finance the new owner of the business, I was earning a monthly income and looking forward to a lump sum balloon payment in 2009. I even took a job in 2008 to supplement my income and to provide me health coverage with a much lower cost than I was spending on my own. Things were great. The problem was that in August of 2008, the person who bought my business defaulted on her payments to me. Fast forward to late 2009, what would have been a celebratory month -- having received a huge balloon payment -- was a disaster. I had successfully sued her -- however, collecting any money is another story. Her holdings were solidly protected, and I walked away with a small settlement. I had to find a way to forgive her. It has tested me in ways I never thought possible.
In January 2010, I had declared bankruptcy. I had no choice. If you have ever been through this, you know the feeling. For me, as I stood in the courtroom with about sixty (60) or so fellow citizens, I started to cry. I just could not believe this was happening to me. It screams " loser". I worked so hard for so many years, and yet here I was. I never thought I would ever be in this position. Reality sets in early on when you are faced, on a daily basis, with the knowledge that you can lose your home; reality stares in the face every day as I now live my financial life, pretty much hour by hour. It's tough for me to wrap my mind around the fact that by Thursday or Friday of each and every week, I have about $25 left in my bank account to last until my unemployment check is deposited on Monday morning. There is no other money. That hasn't happened to me since I was in my early 20's and spent each paycheck mostly on partying. I feel as though I am living in some parallel universe and I will be beamed back to earth at any moment. The truth is I am heartbroken.
What I miss about not having any money, is a knowing that I can take a trip whenever I want, or buy an expensive outfit, treat my daughter to a shopping spree, go to great restaurants, theater outings, and attend sporting events, pay for my granddaughter's extra curricular activities. But, mostly I miss the easiness one has in feeling secure. I do not like this uneasy feeling that pervades my life every day. I am especially sad that I have no money for Christmas presents, and even though the spirit of Christmas is not about that, and my family and friends understand that, it's still devastating to me.
However, with all the doom and gloom let me just say that what I have always known, rings true. That the true measure of success is not in what we acquire, not rooted in material worth, but, rather knowing that you always have a choice in how you react to dire circumstances. I choose to get up every day and feel optimistic and blessed to have what I do have. That is my health, my family and my friends. I still have my home and will do whatever necessary to keep it. And, when I feel sad, I let myself have those moments. Because, they pass. Because, I know on a spiritual level, I am going to be alright.