We have all had hard times. When hard times coincide with great joy the emotions can be overwhelming. Some wonderful ladies are having a virtual baby shower for Liz over at the house of h. There are even PRIZES involved!! Please head over and have a look and consider participating. Liz is a terrific lady and I only wish I didn’t relate to what she is going through. I didn’t have blog friends when I was in trouble and I am not entirely sure I would have been brave enough to reach out. She is a courageous woman and I admire that.
Below is a bit of my story. It is not the same as Liz’s – but it is still meant to say – she is not alone.
I don’t write about this. I haven’t made it a secret but it’s not a favorite blog topic for me. My bankruptcy. It was 4 years ago this month. It’s not an anniversary I celebrate but it saved me.
Sitting in the room before these trustees who were going to decide my fate, I was amazed at the people there trying to win a bankruptcy like it was the lottery. One of the trustees was questioning a woman who was all attitude and little substance.
“I see you petitioned for bankruptcy 2 years ago. Your bankruptcy was not granted. Is that correct?”
“Yeah.” Spoken with her chin thrust upwards.
“And I see that your filing now contains an additional thirty five thousand dollars. Correct?” He was looking at her quizzically now.
“Yeah.” She looked a little bored.
“Tell me what happened between the last time you filed and today, to add thirty five thousand dollars to your filing?”
“Did you have extraordinary medical expenses? Was legal action taken against you for some reason? Where did the additional thirty five thousand dollars go?”
She didn’t seem to understand why he was asking the question. As if somehow adding that amount of debt in 2 years was an even better reason to grant her petition and not a fact to question.
I sat through several of these types of interviews. When my turn came I was horrified but not surprised to feel tears beginning to form as I made my way up to where the trustees were seated. The trustee was reading my paperwork as I sat down, and then looked up.
“Your total debt is thirty five thousand dollars?” He asked kindly.
“Yes.” I looked down and tried to force my lips to stop trembling. As if I could.
“Tell me what brought you here. What happened?”
I looked up and saw he was looking at me sadly but intently, patiently waiting for the answer he already knew. He had heard it many times before.
I took a shaky breath and started telling him. “It was 10 years of trying to keep my head above water after my divorce. I was trying to take care of my kids and myself and I am just in too deep now. I couldn’t keep my house, I used credit cards to pay bills when I didn’t have any other way. I can’t make even the minimum payments now…”
The trustee was nodding his head and gently interrupted me. “You just can’t keep up anymore.” A statement not a question.
I had to look down again, I was so ashamed to be sitting there in this roomful of people who seemed to think bankruptcy was not a last resort but something they just expected to receive. After the rain you expect the sun to shine, right? Like that. I could barely hold my head up because I felt like such a failure. I wondered how this could possibly be that easy for anyone.
This nice man sitting in front of me was focused on me and my story at that moment. He looked into my eyes as I was talking and silently measured me with the knowledge of a man who has heard it all. But for a few moments he was simply a human being listening compassionately to another – not a government official who had the power to change the direction my life would take from that moment onward.
The look lasted less than a minute and apparently having seen what he needed to he nodded once more and looked down at the papers in front of him.
I was granted my petition that day but more than that – I was granted a fresh start. Somehow the kindness of the trustee who signed my paperwork made me feel forgiven. I didn’t feel dirty or ‘less than’ anymore. He didn’t think I was scamming him, he knew I did not take what I was doing lightly, and he knew I had done everything I could to avoid it.
It isn’t my favorite subject. But it is part of my life and part of my story. It was a huge decision for me and one of the hardest I have ever made. And I am not ashamed.