Saturday, December 29, 2007

Failing in public

As the story goes, debtors during the Medieval ages were forced to sit beneath this statue in Goslar, Germany. With their pants pulled down.

That's kind of how I feel these days: Our family will file for personal bankruptcy protection on Wednesday.

I've gone back and forth as to whether to write about this; it would be so much easier to hide it from others. I decided to go public with this failure - and it is a failure - for a few reasons.

First, I want to be open and truthful in my dialog with others. "Appropriately transparent," as my dad would say. Declaring bankruptcy is a major event in my life, one that shapes me and affects my relationships and those of my family. To deny it's impact would be untruthful and a little deceptive.

Next, I know there are many others who are reading who are in similar financial straits. These last months of surgeries and tests and doctor's visits have hit us hard; these latest bills are the final bursts of rain that have forced the river to flood over the levies. We were bailing water before Ian's medical costs. It's time to put down the pails and move to higher ground. And so I share this so that others who face similar situations will not feel quite alone.

Finally, a shared burden is much easier to carry.

I've never been very good at finances, but that's not why we are where we are. About five years ago, when I lived in Seattle, all my years of moving and loss and depression caught up to me and I was unable - or unwilling - to work for the better part of a year. Months of insomnia and aimless wandering. We lived on credit cards, using them for cash advances and to pay for groceries and rent. I dropped out of the courses I was taking toward getting a Masters degree.

Ever since then, Annie and I have been patching holes in the dike, trying to hold back the flood waters until my new business venture started generating enough for us to pay back our creditors.

I am fortunate. I make my living in the field that I love, creating videos. Sure, there is so much more that I want to do with my talents, but I know that these last twelve years of work have helped turn my hobby into a profession. Some people in my business make a good living, but most of us struggle to make ends meet. I don't plan to change professions any time soon; I do hope to one day be able to provide a little more financial security for Annie and the kids.

I've got the name of a good bankruptcy lawyer from a lawyer friend that I trust.

This isn't quite how I intended to ring in the new year.

14 comments:

Anon 1 said...

Struggling with my religion I want to immediately tell you "All things work . . ." I want to say, "God has a plan . . ." I want to complain, "The health care industry in this country is in a criminal state." I want to empathize, "I'm so sorry for your depression and instability brought on by . . ." I want to encourage, "C'mon, man. This is America. Get back up on the horse . . ." I want to give a higher learning, "You can't have a rainbow without the rain . . ."

But all of this is Doing. Your blog has helped me work on Being. How can I Be here for you in 2008?

Terri said...

*present with my whole heart*

Lori said...

I'm so sorry. I pray that 2008 will be a year of new beginnings & clean slates for you & your family. I admire your honesty. Thanks for that.

bella said...

I appreciate your transparency. And like you, I believe these things are easier when not carried alone in silence.
We do what we must do. And though I can imagine it is not what you wanted, planned for, hope for, thought should be, it is. And now you can move forward, take the next step.
Thinking of you, sending you, all of you, love.

Brett said...

No shame in getting rid of those high interest rates. To me, the only ones that should be exposed under that statue are those that charge those high rates. (But that is a whole other subject.)

The finace/money subject is one that has tripped me up all of my life. Still not comfortable with it. Hopefully we can hang in there and help each other out along the way.

Leah said...

Well, if it helps any, by the time I was 25 I'd filed bankruptcy and had a house foreclosed upon. Lovely way to start things off! A very hard way to learn lessons. Some of it was beyond our control (like the brain anyerism my husband had 6 months after we got married and the several weeks on a respirator, only covered 80% by insurance) and some of it we were totally at fault (like maxing out a few credit cards on stuff we did not "need" but sometimes my "need" and my "want" got mixed up.

All the medical bills that come from Ian's health issues are things that are 100% out of your control. I know you know that. Yeah, everyone needs to have some savings, but who goes into a pregnancy telling themselves, "we better put some money away, just in case this baby has major medical issues." Besides...a lot of people don't have the ability to PUT something away even in the best of situations.

So ok..you're filing. Lesson's learned, both good and bad. For me, when I went through it...wow that was nearly 20 years ago...Never again have I owned a credit card. No way. Not even for emergencies. I just won't go there. If I have made it that long without a credit card, then anyone can do it, cuz honestly, I suck with money.

When it's just two of you, you can scrape by when you need to, and be a little foolish. Then all of a sudden you're a parent, and it all comes back at you and you realize you're in deep.

Hang in there Tom and Annie. "This too shall pass" and you'll be able to put things back together again.

Kim Ayres said...

What you are doing is taking control of the situation, making it happen on your terms.

Respect.

fallingdown said...

Here in the UK, people constantly moan about our National Heath Service. We don't know how lucky we are.

This happened to our family when I was around 14 (actually, we were declared bankrupt and had all our personal goods seized). It worked out fine. Like Kim said, you are taking control. You are in charge. Things will be simpler now.

Thinking of you.

Carole said...

Could I just say that I hate money, I hate money, I hate money. I can't live without it, but I hate it.

I so want to figure out how to be as honest as you are. I just don't like walking around naked all the time. But I so admire and respect those who can. My hat is off to you.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry Tommy. That's hard. I will ask for even more grace and strength for you and your family than I was before. Like your friend Kim said, another reason to hold Annie tight. Much love to you all,
Elizabeth

Tom said...

Anon1: Not quite sure who you are but am glad to have shared part of the year with you. Just talking is one of the things I enjoy most, so you've already started 2008 off right for me. :)

Terri: Greatly appreciated.

Lori: Thanks.

Isabel: You got to see that time in Seattle up close and personal. Lucky you. :) The grumpy Tom.

Thanks for the thoughts... and for not bailing on us. :)

Brett: Could use a chat down at the "Office" right about now. Thanks man.

Leah: Appreciate you sharing about your own struggles in this area. And am glad to see someone on "the other side of the tunnel." Hoping our experience mirrors yours.

Kim: Thanks, Kim.

Falling Down: Some days I'm very tempted to pack up and head across the pond. Also glad to hear things worked out well for you... must have been something for a 14-year-old to go trough nonetheless. Thanks for dropping in and chatting; look forward to hearing more from you and Happy New Year!

Carole: I do too, I do too, I do too! :)

And walking around naked is highly over rated, especially in the winter time. :)

Elizabeth: Appreciate it. Thanks...

FBF Rothkopf said...

Everyone else has said it here better than I could, but my own thoughts and hopes for you and your family are also joining the mix. I wish you all a much better 2008!

Tom said...

Thanks, Rothkopf, and appreciate you stopping over; Happy New Year!

anne said...

Best wishes for you and your family, Tom. I admire you for posting this.