Friday, May 23, 2008

Sometimes I Wear Floaties

Pin It (Alternate Title: Wow, This Got Long and Boring Very Fast - Don't Say I Didn't Warn You.)

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?

Oh. Wait.

(Sigh.)

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:

  1. It doesn't matter what people think. It really doesn't.
  2. 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.
  3. You can go through something like this and come out of it o.k.
  4. 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.

P.S. That weird ripply thing in the water? Not an alligator.

69 comments:

  1. You are a truly incredible woman!

    And that's all I have to say about that.

    just...incredible.

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  2. Is that an ALLIGATOR in that picture? And don't you owe me an email?

    And I'm going to have to go with mayo on the whole potato salad thing....really...have a little pride.

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  3. No alligator. Just - some bark.

    Hmmm... If there was an alligator in the picture that would kind of change the tone of the story.

    Thopgood - Awwww, thanks. I'm going to tell my husband you said that. Actually, maybe I will print it out and wear it on my shirt and periodically make him read it out loud. That would entertain me.

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  4. what, people get offended that you're a real person with real problems?

    i like you BECAUSE of that, and you make me laugh through your pain

    and because you think i'm funny, but that's just my own vanity talking

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  5. I LOVE your blog because you're real! Because we go through the hard times with you, we'll be that much more excited for you when the good times come around again!

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  6. I love that you are sooo... honest! Do you know that most millionaires/billionaires have gone through bankruptcy??? So hold on, the millions are coming.

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  7. Mustard...really???? Just kidding, I'm a mustard-in-potato-salad kinda girl myself.

    You go, girl! And I didn't think this post was that long and boring. I think life is a lot easier if you don't live it catering to others' opinions of you.

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  8. I'm pro-mustard, in every way.

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  9. Uhhh, hello? What good are friends if you'can't be honest with them? Isn't that the point-- we're supposed to be there for eachother and not care about stupid stuff like that.

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  10. "I didn't think it was THAT long and boring."

    Thanks? I think?

    ;>

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  11. You had a boat? What kind of boat?

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  12. And yeah, that "bark" totally looks like an aligator. Sorry.

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  13. We had a Bayliner. It was even 100% paid for.

    Eh, I didn't want skin cancer anyway.

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  14. This is just lovely, Sue. Kind of takes me back to your previous post about the whole reaching out to strangers/love your neighbor thing. Way to practice what you preach.

    Blogs are for whatever you want to put on them. At first my sister kept wanting mine to be all about my kids, but my blog is in large part for the purpose of ESCAPING the kids! Keep writing whatever you like. We all (or I guess only most of us) feel like we're friends with you anyway, and whatever you write just makes us feel like we know you better. (sorry for the long, dumb comment. But I LIKE you!)

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  15. Honest blogging is the best blogging.

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  16. We're struggling too, and I may just take you up on that floatie loan. I loved your high dive analogy, now if I could just get my husband to read this...

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  17. I feel like I can insert 'marriage' where you wrote 'business'... pretty much parallel lives....and no, I. dont. care. what anyone wants to say or think about what I write....it's really for me...don't read it if you don't like it. Pretty simple.

    Thanks, girlfriend, I will continue to use your blog as part of my own therapy AND as a floatation device. I think you (and let's be honest here, and I)totally rock! ;)

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  18. let me say, when you're right, you're right!

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  19. What a fabulous post!

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  20. i'm de-lurking to say i think you're doing great.

    and seriously. mayo. all the way.

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  21. Shannon3:02 PM

    Sue I think it is so generous of you to share your experience with the bankruptcy with all of us.

    I think you are incredibly brave and honest to let people in on what you are going through.

    My husband and I are waiting on pins and needles while the sale of our house is in escrow, because if it doesn't close by Jun. 21, out house will be sold at auction. So I whole-heartedly appreciate that you are out there telling your story, it makes those of us in the same boat feel not so alone.

    A HUGE thanks to you!

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  22. HOLY CRAP... YOUR SCARING THE SH** OUT OF ME!!!! Yikes... yeah myself and my hubby are in the same boat you were in before all this hit. We talk about what we are in for....cause there has to be SOMETHING to pay for having it so easy so far... We've been married 7 years and seriously wonder why we have had it so easy. Don't tell me we are right to be waiting for the other shoe to drop.... I want to live in wonderland FOREVER...crap. crap. CRAP!

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  23. I cried, Thanks for the post

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  24. Brilliant post, Sue. Love your honesty, love that in being honest you give others permission somehow to do the same.

    Sometimes I feel that waiting for the shoe to drop feeling, but then I remember how my mental issues have frazzled our family over the last few years and think maybe it just gently slid to the floor.

    Or maybe I'm not really pregnant. Maybe it's a tumour or something. Yeah, that could be it.

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  25. How long has been that I said I love you and the way you write? Too long, you are awesome, really.

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  26. *Ahem* it's time someone stood up for MAYO!!!!! MAYO! MAYO! YAY-YAY-YAY!!

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  27. Libby4:24 PM

    I loved this post - I've read your blog for a while now (can't even remember where I surfed in from) and wanted to say I'm with you. My husband is a minister and just got the most scathing reviews from our congregation - so our issues are necessarily money related - but they are the "behind the back" talking and to your face friendliness. Takes a strong marriage to survive these things.

    Libby

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  28. Great potato salad must have both--mayo and mustard!
    You have learned some of life's hardest but most important lessons, and lived to write beautifully about it. Honesty and love always trump pride and Stuff.

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  29. ok, I've just got to say "THANK YOU!" you are truly an inspiration to me (and not just because you are especially funny) because you are true to yourself. no one can - or should - ask for more or less from you. we have no right.

    I especially appreciate your blogging about true to life issues because it helps me. I am going through a similar situation financially right now. we think that filing bankruptcy is the last course of action right now, but we have contemplated it. life sucks when you know you don't have enough money to pay all your bills + feed your family. it is rough to have to go through a stack of bills and determine which ones you are going to pay, which ones you will pay partially, and which ones you won't pay at all (I usually decide not to pay the ones who don't have my current phone number...just a thought). but it is a rough world and it is refreshing to know that I 1) don't have to feel so alone and 2) don't have to be ashamed.

    Thanks again!

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  30. Great post. My brother just went through the exact same thing except he somehow managed to keep the house. Terribly scary at the time, but you live through it, eh?

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  31. You are the shiz for being so honest. I'm still kicking myself for being such a big fat blabbermouth about my blog when i first started it - cuz now I need to blog about my husband, my in-laws and my book club and I can't!!!!!! retard. Anyway- love your writing- adding you to my blog roll. Debt Free!!! Woo-Hooo!!

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  32. I really appreciate your post today. My business crashed 19 months ago. We didn't have to do bankruptcy but my husband works two jobs, I take as much freelance work as I can and we're still chipping away at the bills.

    Your point about losing a little bit of who you are is right on target. I feel like I've lost myself and I'm having trouble getting my bearings again. I also find myself very afraid to take on any new task. But I'm healing and expect to return to a semblance of normalcy before too long. Posts like yours help.

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  33. That was a really nice post. And I'm thinking I like you husband a lot - for looking on the bright side. You can get so blogged down and depressed if you look only at the negative.

    Oh, and I have one word for you

    MAYO

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  34. Honey, every time you post I know I'm going to find something inspirational here.

    and by the way. I'm pro-mustard too.

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  35. This mustard freak is holding her breath about her husband's business. But in the end, we know it's about the people we love, not where we live or what we have. Thanks for writing the hard stuff so we can know it's survivable.

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  36. Sue - thanks for your honesty and candor.

    Also, I used to think that mayo and mustard was the only way to make potato salad. That is until I ate my MIL's potato salad years ago. Now it's Miracle Whip all the way.

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  37. Thank goodness there are people like you who are proud to have no pride. Who cares what someone else thinks? Your honesty is the best part about this blog and what makes it so endearing. Keep it up girl! I always feel like any little thing would throw us into a financial disaster but now I know we'll survive.

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  38. P.S. And I don't really like Miracle Whip.

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  39. I love that you are so honest. We are going through some rough financial times also, and the fact that you are making it and still have your sense of humor is giving me some hope. :o)

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  40. Dignity is for wusses. Two thirds Mayo, and the rest is Mustard.

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  41. Your honesty and willingness to talk about what is going on in so many households is refreshing. Honestly, I believe this could happen to anyone. I also think the smug people don't like to think that it would happen to them because they're sooooo smart, but it could- easily.

    We're going through our own hard time financially, and it has taken us to a place I never thought we'd be. We've also had smug people basically tell us that we're not as 'smart' as they are or we wouldn't be in this position. But what they don't know is we used to be where they are, and an accident changed everything.

    Oh, and I agree about the mustard.

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  42. You could blog from lala-perfectland if you wanted to, but I think nobody would really care or read your blog. Because we'd all know you're not being real. Real people have actual problems. And we like them better for it.

    I struggle with that. When I try to keep it real, it just goes whiny!

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  43. Congratulations on being DEBT FREE!

    :-) I could totally be your very good friend if I lived in Nevada. That's my kind of humor.

    I love your authenticity with a twist of humor, Sue. Keep it real, girl, no matter who's reading.

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  44. And people say you don't use your blog for the "important" issues...

    This is a good post, a sort of light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel.

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  46. I'm de-lurking for this one! Your blog is incredible, I am always laughing out loud as I'm reading your posts. I think the way to solve your financial problems is to make them pay you more for blogging, you sure deserve it! Or maybe charge an admission fee for each person who wants to read...you'd be making millions :)

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  47. Totally looks like an alligator! Thanks for telling us it's NOT!

    Being honest is the best way to blog. This was a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing....

    I prefer mayo...but now that I'm on a mayjah diet, mustard it is...and no potatoes...wah...

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  48. I don't even know you, and I don't think less of you. Life happens, and that is what a blog is for. If we can't learn from each other and help each other why are we all on the earth together. How was that for sappy? Do I get a prize for being the biggest Pollyanna? I mean it though. I like the high dive best too.

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  49. Mustard on potato salad? Really? Is that some sort of Mormon thing? I've never heard of it. We Jews have mustard on potato knishes; is it like that?

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  50. Bridget10:34 PM

    I am pro-mustard, pro-honesty, and pro-"warts and all." I wish more women, especially women in the Church, could be this honest with one another. It is a way of bearing another's burdens, to be able to say, "This is who I am. This is what I have been through. Maybe you are living through something equally bad. I lived through it and so will you."

    I struggle with friendships inside the Church. Everyone is so busy being perfect, they don't have time to listen to me. I never feel like I can live up to everyone's expectations. This post is like a breath of fresh air.

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  51. OMG - I can't believe that you put mustard in your tatter salad!!!

    Shame on you - that is just criminal - I find it simply appalling what some people will talk about ... openly ... talk about on their blogs.

    Mustard ... really

    Oh ya ... about that money thing -
    As Napoleon Hill said “Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”
    You are so right not to fear or hide your step back ...
    - You inspire -

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  52. I love reading your blog, because of the way you are able to take a really horrible situation and find the humor in it. I have found that sometimes it's a very fine line between laughing and sobbing hysterically. I'm glad you choose the laughing.
    I loved Bridget's comment about "bearing each others burdens" How can we help each other if we don't know what help is needed?
    It's your blog, and you can write anything you want. I would bet that most people are more impressed by you than anything else.
    And as for those cackling, hand rubbing people? Do they have this many people leaving comments on their blogs telling them how great they are? I bet not!
    You got class girl!
    To me, the comment "have a little pride" would be better told to the teenagers and celebrities I have recently seen about the clothes they wear.

    No Mayo.
    Mustard and Miracle whip.

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  53. Thanks for sharing your story with us. We all go through different trials at different times. I love to read your blog because you are honest and real. You don't just fluff over the difficult topics. Your courage is refreshing. Thanks!

    Mustard all the way, baby!

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  54. Bridget11:09 AM

    jill would have been my new best friend if she hadn't said Miracle Whip :)

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  55. Hey, from someone who can obsess about income, thanks.

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  56. What a fabulous post. Thanks for being honest - I guess that's all blogs are, right? It's a place where we get to say whatever we want, and however much of it we want. If people walk away mid-sentence, we'll never know it. Good on you for amassing such a supportive group of readers!

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  57. I think you are incredibly brave to share your money troubles. It takes so much more courage to be real and honest than to put up a front. I think that this and other posts will help other people going through similar things.

    Those who have negative things to say can just stop following along anytime. For them to tell you "don't you have any pride" that's the problem people are filled with way to much pride.

    OK I'll get off my soap box now.

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  58. thanks for your honesty. Since reading your posts you have inspired me be more open in blogging. I'm glad you can have humor through all of this and it sounds like you have a good marriage. How many times do you hear about everything falling apart when the times get rough? So far it sounds like you're making it and I hope it continues for you.

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  59. Well said.

    Good for you.

    And I agree on the whole honesty thing. Who cares who reads it, right? It's who you are. And you have said it well, very well.

    Good for you. Again.

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  60. Just have to tell you that I find it so refreshing that you ARE honest and lay everything out like it is... Why not be that way? Why should we have to put on a happy face and act like everything is ok? I tell ya, when we are open about issues of reality such as bankruptcy and real marriages etc., I think it helps because we feel drawn toward each other and can lean on others and offer support to others... sorta like support others while being supported. I don't know... I just think that its the higher road traveled when you bare your soul instead of hiding it away. and lets just face it, what you've gone through, and the fact that you're willing to share it with your readers, well... that just speaks of a lot of growth and character building. I love reading your blog and I think you are just amazing.

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  61. This is a fantastic post and you're my new girl-crush.

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  62. I think you're braver than I am. But I haven't had anything like that to blog about. Sean and I had our share of troubles but that was before I was blogging. If something happened now.. I don't know.
    I do however get the whole writing to work through it thing.

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  63. Oh, yeah, well if you wanna explain why you blog in a much more articulate way than I did, well, okay then.

    Sue, you know what you missed? There are those of us you are HELPING by telling your story. And by modeling how to face this kind of adversity with your sense of humor and marriage intact. And the other thing? There are a LOT of us out here praying for you. And that's another positive change in the world--think of all that prayer floating out around the universe.

    I think you guys are amazing. I'm so sorry you are having to go through this but so incredibly blessed that you are writing about it. You humble me.

    Barb

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  64. Just stumbled across your blog. What a great girl you are! Such a healthy attitude.

    You and your family are going to be just fine.

    Good luck to you all xx

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  65. I think it's awesome you can be so honest about what's happened. And even if I didn't, I still don't see myself as the authority over what you should/shouldn't talk about on your blog. It's YOUR blog. The people that get high and mighty about a blog's comment drive me NUTS, because there's a real simple solution to their problem. DON'T READ IT! A person certainly can't be upset by something they don't read. Why people feel the need the need to leave nasty or judgemental comments on another's person blog is just beyond me. My tiny following of people have been nothing but supportive, but I've seen mean comments on other blogs and am constantly blown away by it. A blog is a person's outlet for their own thoughts and feelings and experiences, and that's that!

    I love your blog. Even the down in the dumps ones, because you're honest, and manage some humor anyway, and it's REAL.

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  66. Maddison10:11 AM

    I agree with Kalli Ko - I appreciate your honesty and realness. It's good that you don't let the occasional negative comment deter you from doing what you want - it's nice to read your blog, your sense of humor about life's rocky paths is refreshing. I say, "Keep one keepin' on!" :)

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  67. Thank you for keeping it real!! Blow off the bad comments. People need to know that you CAN land on your feet.

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  68. I also talk about things that I think I shouldn't but it is what is going on in my life and honestly if I don't get it out of my own head, I think I might die.
    seriously.
    So if my topics (or yours cause this is about you ;) ) aren't for the average reader, it's ok, because I am blogging it for my own sanity...not for anyone else's reading pleasure....kinda.

    Well...end of the story is...I admire you not only for WHAT you blog, but for what you have MADE it through!

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  69. Wow. hearts to you.

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