I find it highly inconvenient that the people who pay me to write things want me to actually finish stuff. They keep giving me deadlines and expecting me to meet them. How am I supposed to blog under these conditions?
Right now I'm supposed to be exploring the intricacies of database analysis (while resisting the urge to stab myself in the eye with a fork), but I wanted to pause for just a second to answer the burning question that is apparently on the minds of readers everywhere, judging by my email - namely, variations on the theme of "have you no shame?"
“How can you write about your financial problems? Aren’t you embarrassed?”
“People you KNOW read your blog.”
“Have a little pride.”
There are certain topics that are off-limits for the blog. (My husband: "There ARE?" Me: "Should we talk about last night, with the untimely falling asleep?" My husband: "Point taken. As you were.") Our financial struggle isn't one of them.
I'll admit it. Sometimes it can be awkward. There are a few people in my new church congregation who barely know me but who've read a little bit of my blog, thanks to my avid advance guard blog-stalking. It’s a little like going up to someone you’ve never met before and saying, “Hi! I’m bankrupt! And a hypochondriac! Let’s be friends!” And though they've been universally welcoming and friendly, I know some of them are probably not quite sure what to think.
I have old friends who read the blog, old non-friends who read the blog, and friends of my mother who read the blog. I would imagine that some of those people empathize and wish me well, but I'm sure there are also people who read with a less sympathetic eye. There are a few who I can imagine cackling and rubbing their hands together with glee. "Well, that brought her down a peg or two." (Yes. It sort of did. Congratulations.)
I write about our financial problems because it's part of our life. I write about it because writing helps me to sort through what I feel about it. I write about it because this is the one place where I try to be as honest as possible. In a way, being honest about it is almost selfish. When you stop trying to keep up a facade and open the door, people have a chance to come through it, offering support and friendship and cookies. The support I get from writing about it? It's like my very own personal floatation device.
When I was a kid, my mom would sometimes take us to a different community pool, one that had a high dive and a low dive. I loved to jump off the high dive, reveling in the frightening feeling of freefall, followed by the giant splash into the water. I’d plunge down, down, down, touch the bottom and push off toward the surface, kicking as hard as I could. Once I broke through, I'd tread water for a minute while I got my bearings, then swim for the safety of the side of the pool, delighted that I'd done it, once again.
Losing your business is kind of like that. When you first realize you are going down, and that the crash at the bottom is coming, you might wave your arms and kick and shriek, but you are already in transit. You can’t deny the pull of gravity. It’s inevitable, and all that is left for you to do is to make the best of it, to try to minimize the damage and kick for the financial surface as quickly as you can.
When you are back above water, you have to get your bearings, to reframe not only how you will make a living and where you will land financially, but who you are. Some of your identity gets stripped away because the things you always thought about yourself turn out to be not quite true.
The fairy tale you always told yourself (poor girl makes good, achieves success, keeps up with the Joneses) may not have the ending you pictured, but you learn other things about the main character - that you are more resourceful than you thought, stronger than you thought, more resilient than you thought.
My husband and I never really struggled. Things were relatively smooth sailing once we got married. We were never really sick, we got along like gangbusters right from the start, and we were never really poor. We used to talk about it sometimes, how things had been so relatively easy, and it was almost scary, like waiting for the other shoe to drop. I never really knew – was I, were we - strong enough to handle something Very Bad?
Last month we had the public creditors meeting for our bankruptcy. At that meeting, your creditors have the opportunity to question you under oath to ensure that you aren’t hiding any assets. I was – so looking forward to it. Really. I was barely able to sleep the night before because I was JUST. THAT. EXCITED.
It was anticlimactic though. No creditors attended. It was just us and the bankruptcy trustee, who asked a few questions before dismissing us.
On the way out, my husband gave my hand a comforting squeeze. “You know what this means, right?”
I sniffled. “We’re huge losers, doomed to a life of bad credit and worse teeth?”
“No. Duh.” He rolled his eyes and gave me a big cheesy smile. “It means we’re DEBT FREE.”
I gave him a dirty look.
He grinned at me. “Come on! DEBT FREE! People work their whole lives for that! And we’ve done it! We’re living the dream!”
I half smiled. “Yeah, and all we had to do was lose our business, house, cars, boat, and all of our savings! Paying bills is for SUCKERS.”
We gave each other a big hug and did the laughter through tears thing, and I thought, we're gonna be o.k.
Somewhere out there in blog land, maybe someone else is going through the same kind of stuff. Maybe she's thinking, how are we gonna get through this? If I lose my house, how will I face people? Where will we live? How can things ever be o.k. again?
If that person is reading, here's what I'd want them to know:
- It doesn't matter what people think. It really doesn't.
- People will always talk. About anything. About anyone. Even if I only ever blogged about potato salad, there would be people who resented my stance on mustard vs. mayo. (Pro-mustard all the way.) Try not to worry about it.
- You can go through something like this and come out of it o.k.
- You really can.
So get out there and swim, baby, because the water's fine.
And if you need to borrow my floaties?
They're all yours.