Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's My "Anniversary"-Sort Of

I have an anniversary today and it is one I have very mixed feelings about. On this day in 2007, I met with my attorney who looked over my paperwork and told me that my only option was to file bankruptcy, Yup, file bankruptcy, the big BK. One of the most stressful life events someone could have.

The attorney I used is a partner in a law firm I have used in the past. I have used the "Real Estate" specialist for not only my work in real estate, but for my own personal real estate transactions as well. I had a good working relationship with the real estate attorney and ended up (after months and months) having a good relationship with the bankruptcy attorney. It did not start out that way, and until I had my 341 hearing, he was positive that I was also facing foreclosure on my house. Cheery thoughts I had for 5 months, I may lose my house!

I can remember the initial meeting oh so well. I spent a large portion of my time prior to the appointment dodging phone calls from creditors and collection agencies. I had papers served on me for a judgment lien I could not negotiate my way out of with a collection agency. I was way too late in trying to set up re-payment plans, way too late. I spent a large portion of my time crying, no sobbing, wondering why and how this miserable experience happened to me. I spent a lot of time on and in my bed with the covers over my head just shutting out the world. I spent a lot of time just wondering how the freak this ALL HAPPENED TO ME. How did I let my whole world crash down on my head? How did I let this happen……..I was living a nightmare-it was holy hell in New England.

Pretty much the shortest and simplest explanation is I really had no concept of the Universal Default, then made (and repeatedly made) some stupid, stupid mistakes, and that all just snowballed into the mess I called my fiscal life at that point.

One year ago I was given this two inch stack of papers and sat down with the Paralegal to go over what needed to be done. Don't kid yourself folks, the administrative assistants, secretaries and paralegals are the ones who get most of the work done for the people they work for. I was forced to open all those envelopes and face my worst financial fears. I owed thousands of dollars (damm that universal default and ever growing interest rate) and just could not make the minimum payments on all my bills, no matter how hard I tried and I tried.

The decision to file the bankruptcy was almost easy, despite the fact that I had no guarantee that the court would entertain my petition. There is always the possibility that the court could dismiss your case, then you are back to square one. Bankruptcy dismissals happen just as often as bankruptcy discharges. I had to really distance myself from me. I looked at my own paperwork and saw what a mess I was in. This was a low point in my life. I was facing financial ruin, my on again off again boyfriend was OFF, my car was barely functioning, my work turning stressful (we were in the midst of a tough company restructure), I was getting the most annoying hot flashes (and they went away once the BK was well into the system~can you say stress taking over my body?), I was eating a ton of food (Pasta and cold beer are the ultimate comfort foods). I remember waking up one morning and going to myself "BB you have a couple choices, swallow your pride, fill out the paperwork and file the BK or jump in the lake and not come out." I swallowed my pride, filled out the paperwork and turned it in.

My BK paralegal is named Mary Ann and she has shown herself to be a gem. I know in some of my previous posts I was less than kind, but in retrospect, it was not her fault. She was dealing with not only me as a client, but the Attorney, the Court and the Trustee. She had to balance all four parties at once. I think she did a dammed fine job now that I have some time and emotional distance from the process. We actually have laughed through parts of this painful process.

The misconception out there is that Bankruptcy is the 'easy out'. Take my word, it is not. It's on my credit report for 10 years, it's part of the public record, there is the stigma that is attached to BK, there are the emotional issues I still face because of it. I am one of the lucky ones, I got to keep my house, most folks in a Chapter 7 have to sell their house and other assets. For some reason, the Trustee decided I could keep my house. I think the fact my mortgage payment is less than the going rate for rent in my area may have had something to do with it, but non the less I am dammed lucky to have the house. I was willing to give up almost everything else except my house. I had to re-affirm my debt on the house and the bank could do a couple things. 1) They could have decided not to accept the affirmation and called in the note-meaning I would have to have paid up the mortgage or sell the house. 2) If I fail to make payments in the future, they can call in the mortgage note because of the bankruptcy. I have been current on my mortgage payments for over 18 months. I do admit I went through a period prior to the BK where I was late on my mortgage; I got my act together and got current on my payments prior to the filing. I NEED a roof over my head (especially since my dog count seems to increase monthly). I've not been late since then; I've been on time and current as I should be.

This is not a happy anniversary in the typical sense. But it is an anniversary in that it was a painful wake up call in my life. A wake up call that made me re-evaluate my entire life. A wake up call that showed me I've been given a second chance to repair my fiscal life and repairing it I am. Onward and Upward.


Anonymous said...

This post really resonated with me. Although discharged several years ago, I was suddenly faced with the emotional effects of bankruptcy when I recently applied for a job that required a credit check. I didn't get the job, and have been worried sick about what the people at the place I wanted to work think about me. (Of course, I applied at a place where I already knew a few people, who now undoubtedly know about my past financial mistakes). Betty, do you have any suggestions for how to resolve emotional conflicts about filing?

Money Maker said...

I found my way to your blog and just wanted to show some support during this tough time. I filed for BK 9 years ago and I still feel the effects of it to this day.

The important thing is that you got to keep your house.