The Quicksand Story

Our story through the quicksand of our own financial crisis

Archive for the tag “occupy wall street”

Relapses

Like any recovery there are times where some days are more difficult than others. It is how you overcome those challenges that matter. Let’s take yesterday. There is no reason I should have had a bad day yet I did. What didn’t help this day is the fact that not only was Paul feeding into the energy but the kids were to. Where ever I turned I was facing negativity. Though I find I am good at buffering negativity from my life when everyone around me is feeding off it than I find I fall into the trap.

So back to my bad day; I need to look at it in the big picture, It’s okay to have a bad day as long as I don’t feed into it. So what do I do now?  Bad days are the most important days to baby yourself.  Watch a movie, read a book, disconnect from it somehow. Lick your emotional wounds and then move on.  Sometime talking about it helps too, just find a way to let the energy go.

Let me tell you why my day is bad.  I am feeling beaten up.  Paul goes to work at 6:30 in the morning and doesn’t come home until 6:00 or 6:30 at night.  He is inundated with work to do, not only his own but others as well so this leaves him tired and grouchy.  We are one of the few people I know who make a good salary yet can’t get a mortgage, and are subsequently forced to rent a home.  We also in making a good living somehow barely manage to make ends meet. Some weeks this is more difficult to do than others because of the cyclical nature of bills it always ends up that they are all due at around the same time.  The end of the month and the beginning of the month are always the most stressful. This is where my bad day comes from.  I am tired of making a good living but never able to set money aside, I am tired of having to rent a home rather than owning, I am tired of having to pay more for my bills because my credit is not stellar. I am tired of feeling behind on everything.

Now I’m going to turn this thinking around: I am thankful I have enough food to put on my table, while eating a full meal myself. I know that it always gets more difficult before a big break comes, so this bad day must mean a really good day is around the corner.  I am thankful that I can pay all of my bills; there are many people out there who can’t. I am thankful I have a home to live in because there are many people who are living on the street or in hotels.  I am thankful for this opportunity to help others by telling my story.

I am okay with what has happened to us as long as I can make something good come out of it.  I am thankful to everyone who helps me with this mission.

The Best Intentions

The lessons I learned growing up were all about making sure you pay your bills and be a good citizen.  These are great values to have and teach children.  As a child, we need to learn right and wrong and it is all very black and white.  Life, however, is all shades of grey.

When I married Paul he was very wealthy, and we decided to purchase a home that was a little larger in a different town.  At the time we thought we could afford this home.  It was larger than any home I had ever lived in and I was very proud of it.  On the contrary, all I ever heard from my parents was that this house was too much for kids our age.  My parents felt we were living beyond our means, it didn’t start that way but it ended that way.

When our income fell, I couldn’t tell them that.  I would call my mother and talk about the struggles of being home with the children and the question of what our financial plans and means would always come up.  My parents were trying to help but the focus was always on what I didn’t have and what I couldn’t get. I wanted to talk to them but they pushed me away by constantly judging what decisions we were making.

I wasn’t practicing at that time to be home for the boys.  My parents strongly disagreed with this.  They were pushing me to work.  At the time, I felt they were looking for the doctor in the family and not what would make me happy.  I wanted to be there for the boys, and didn’t want anyone else raising them.  Raising my own children was and still is very important to me.  The phone would ring constantly with people wanting to be paid.  Creditors would call 5, 6 and 7 times a day, every day including Sundays.  I was inundated with trying to buffer this stress from the boys and dealing with the creditors harassing us.  This would go on for years to come.

All I wanted was a safe place to go, to talk about how I was feeling.  I couldn’t talk to Paul, he was unreachable.  I couldn’t talk to my friends because I was afraid of how we would be judged.  I couldn’t talk to my family because they were so concerned with telling me what I was doing wrong that they did not leave a door open for me to safely vent my feelings.  Those were very lonely years for me.

It was at this point that I began to feel the effects of negative thoughts so intensely.  It would be a few years more before I learned to separate myself from the negativity in order to move beyond.

I can only control myself and my own reactions I can’t control anything or anyone else.  That is one of the most valuable lessons I have learned from my life.

Living in Denial

As you could understand my life as I knew it was changing.  Everything was changing.  My family, my finances, my cars, and even my friends.  I had many friends through the year and many groups.  I have traveled across the nation and across the world with them.  We would usually fly first class and stay in the best hotels.  Money was really no object.

It was not uncommon for me to come home from work and at the drop of a hat jump in the car and go to Manhattan for a night, more specifically, Little Italy.   Drop several hundred dollars in an evening and not bat an eye.  Dinner at Angelo’s – several bottles of wine, usually a nice penne ala vodka for me and always a stop at Ferrara’s for a cannoli or three.   Life was good but when Karen and I started having financial trouble, more specifically losing everything I just couldn’t afford to make a trip and now with 2/3 kids it included a babysitter.  I tried to make excuses like, my kids need me to snuggle them to bed or last-minute my babysitter cancelled.  I was embarrassed.   I couldn’t tell these guys that I was broke and couldn’t afford to run with them anymore.

Looking back on it one of the main reasons we fell so hard was my unwillingness to change and to continue trying to keep up with the Jones.  If I had just looked at my situation and sold my house and my cars as soon as I my expenses were greater than my income Karen and I would have had probably had about a year of issues and then climbed out much faster.

I want to make something very clear; because I was sailing down a river in Egypt I made my situation so much worse. If I had truly and honestly looked at our situation and acted accordingly we would have lived a very different life the past few years, one that would have been much easier.

Life begins to crumble

I think about where this all started and I can vividly remember one event….

We were living in Trumbull at the time.  Emily was not born yet and we were struggling every month to pay our $3600 mortgage.  It was always a battle to figure out where the money would come from to pay it.  This particular month we had the money in the account and the check had been sent.  It was such a good and bad feeling.  I felt a sense of freedom that it was paid for another month, but, I can remember thinking that this was probably going to be the last time we were going to be able to pay it.  I was bothered by that and was quite depression about it.

I remember fighting with Paul.  He would say to me why can’t you just enjoy what you have right here and now.  You are making yourself miserable…  I would say I just want to pay my bills.  I am not looking for anything more.  Why can’t we downsize and just pay the bills.  This repeated fight was a big issue for us at the time.

Well the next day. He goes to work and comes home in a wonderful mood.  A better mood than I had seen him in in months.

I said,” What did you do today you’re in a good mood?”

He said,” I went shopping.”

“Oh” I said,” what did you get?”  I thinking he would say a shirt, a pair of pants something for the boys….

“Some clothing, a couple of suits, some shirts.”

I sat down heavily and asked,”So you cot a check today?”

“No” he said,”We had the money in the account and we paid the mortgage a few days ago, so I thought I would take the extra money and buy some suits at Mitchells.”

I was shocked… I couldn’t speak because I was choking.  I felt like I was lost at sea and sinking. I felt abandoned and betrayed.  I couldn’t breath but managed to ask how much he spent.  He very happily and easily replied $3000.

“We had the money…”  I began to cry.

He asked, “Why are you crying now?”

I asked, ” Was the mortgage check taken out of the account by the bank?”

He said,”No why?”  And then he realized what he had done.  He spent our mortgage money on suits at Mitchells.  He spent our mortgage on clothing for himself.  How could he be so selfish and shallow.  So idiotic.

At that point I felt myself sinking down into a pit of despair.   I began to sink into quicksand that would take us almost 6 years to get out of.

I just need to get out of this mess

I understand the idea of wanting upward mobility but to go from welfare to even middle class is a task that is not for the faint of heart.  I remember being in line to register for State Support after we lost everything.  It was the most humiliating experience of my life.

I was 3 months pregnant, needing to get health insurance for my children.  I drove down to Bridgeport and filled out the application.  Me, someone with her children in private school, wife of a business owner, living in Trumbull.  Was I elitist?  Probably.

It was one of the most degrading experiences of my life.  I walked into this building that was dark and depressing in a not so nice area of town.  I walk into the building to find the social services offices and the security guard tells me where to go like I am a piece of dirt.

 ‘ It’s through those doors right in front of you. ‘ he said.

 I mustered up as much dignity as I could and walked through a pair of dirty double doors.  The maintenance guys hadn’t been there yet so it smelled of decay and there was dirt smeared across the door at child height.  I felt like one of those streaks of dirt crawling into that room.

In contrast the room on the other side was relatively neat.  I filled out the paperwork, which took about 30 minutes, with kids crying and playing around me.  I was the only one over the age of 25.  I got called into my case worker’s office which is about 4×6 in size.  The woman who was there before me smelled. Cigarettes, alcohol, dirty body.

The case worker barely looked at me and asked, ‘Are you in the right place, honey?’

I assured her I was. She looked over my paperwork and asked for my tax returns.  I didn’t have them with me, partially because they hadn’t been done but I offered to fax what I had.  That’s good enough.  I was going to have insurance starting January first.  Then the woman looked at me and asked me if I knew what the children should be eating.  That they need to have vegetables every day and that they should be drinking milk.  She began advising me on how to discipline my children without hitting them and that I was required to take classes how to raise my children and how to feed them.  I’m a doctor and I could teach these classes but I had to take these classes.  Okay, that’s fine I said.  I just said yes to everything they said.  I was defeated.   Keep my eye on the prize I was going to have insurance.  And I walked out in shock.

I never did take those classes, I had to draw the line somewhere. How do you fight against that to climb up?  I can tell you it is not even remotely easy.

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