[Ed. note - This post was initially written in October 2010 but wasn't posted to the front page until now (April 2011), when I need to follow up with updates.]
- - - - -
All my troubles seemed so far away,
Now it looks as though they're here to stay,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.
Love was such an easy game to play,
Now I need a place to hide away,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.
The pathway is broken
And the signs are unclear
And I don't know the reason why you brought me here
But just because You love me the way that You do
I'm gonna walk through the valley
If You want me to.
I can't complain but sometimes I still do.
Ever have one of those days where nothing goes right? How about a full year? Such is my story - and the reason why I haven't written anything in nearly a year. Read the full article for the entire mess.
[Warning: WAY too long - Abandon hope all ye who enter here.]
OK - for those of you who need the Twitter version: In a nutshell, I went bankrupt, I'm losing my house and my wife left me.
You people with no attention spans may now go play Farmville. Go on - you know you want to...
[Ed. note - I don't really expect anyone to read this but I really need the catharsis of writing it out. If you do choose to read it, you have been warned and agree to indemnify wheresmyhead.com against any and all damages to your mental well-being.]
Most of this is old-ish news. Some people already know about it all. Others only parts of it. Some, of course, know nothing of any of it. This has been a huge trial in my life and I've only recently reached a point where I have freed myself up to talk about it openly and honestly. And to be honest, there are some details in here that not many people know about but, if I'm going to write about this, I'm going to be totally transparent about things. This is me in all my human frailty. If you don't want to know this stuff, stop reading now. Again, you have been warned.
For the past few months, I've not wanted to discuss these things because I viewed them as profound personal failures. And they probably are. But the following two quotes sum up quite nicely how I've come to view them.
"Failure is an event, never a person." — William D. Brown
"Failure sometimes enlarges the spirit. You have to fall back upon humanity and God." — Charles Horton Cooley
The first of those has become my resolution - the second, my sincere hope and prayer. I have been blessed with some people in my life who are better friends than anyone could ever hope for but I have let my connection with them wane in some cases. That will no longer be the case. I know that they would do anything possible for me and my family if I asked. Just the knowledge of that - even if never called upon - is comforting. These events (particularly SWMBO leaving) has also caused me to recoil in my relationship with God. My brain knows that's the last thing in the world I should do - I should be falling into His arms and resting in His love - but my gut reaction was to get angry and question Him. That in and of itself isn't necessarily a bad thing but I pulled away in the process. Instead of running to Him, I ran away. That has made me realize that I wasn't the Christian that I thought I was. I have so much growing to do and, if this time in my life does nothing else, I pray that it makes me surrender to Him more.
Now for the story:
Chapter One: The House
Two years ago, I was happily programming on university athletic websites for a sports marketing company. Then, one day, the boss informed my manager and me that our services were no longer going to be needed. Our work was being outsourced. I was absolutely thrown for the proverbial loop. I didn't know what to do or which way to turn. There I was, rapidly approaching middle-agedness, working in an industry which is dominated by people nearly half my age, with a family to support and a budget that was already tight. In an effort to be proactive, we immediately called the bank to see what we could do to preclude a mortgage crisis. I'm not sure whether they couldn't or wouldn't work with us but we finally (after 3 weeks of trying) got someone on the phone who was blatantly honest with us. He told us in flat terms that, since we were making our payments, no one was going to do anything about it. They had too many people who were not making them to worry about those of us for whom it was simply difficult. After the runaround we'd been getting, his honesty was refreshing, albeit rather disheartening.
We immediately put the house on the market.
On the bright side, I was able to get another job fairly quickly but I took a rather significant pay cut in the process. There are long term benefits that will make it worthwhile in the end but that didn't help the immediate cash flow issues. We limped along with the mortgage payments for a while but the day finally arrived that we tried to avoid. Unable to keep up with the payments, we went into default. The plan was to put what we could into savings so we would have a decent sum built up when we figured out what we were going to be able to do. But then, one day, SWMBO came to me in tears and confessed that she had run up multiple thousands of dollars in debt without my knowledge. I must point out here that, as a stay-at-home mom, she has always been the one to handle the business side of the household except for maintaining the checkbook on the computer. With a major project at work taking most of my time, however, I had fallen way behind in that task. Also, we had had some significant credit card and medical debt shortly after we were married - we were young and stupid - but had paid it all off and had sworn off of credit cards forever. Or so I thought, anyway. She had tried to keep up with the payments but wasn't able to and, with interest, fees and penalties adding up, the balances were starting to climb in spite of her efforts.
I resolved to work through it but we were going to have to get medieval on the debt. I was taking over the finances, would get everything caught up and would review everything very closely. I tried to reassure her that, together, we would work out a system to deal with the situation. That's when I found out that there were no savings. It had all been used up trying to pay the bills. Worse, there was nothing to show for it. My heart sank. Again.
Meanwhile, the house has gone nowhere fast. It's been with various realtors and also advertised For Sale By Owner but there has been little interest. There are a lot of properties in the area for sale and most of them aren't selling.
As of right now, I'm still in the house and, although we received the initial foreclosure papers, there has been no further contact about the matter. Part of me wants to just get the whole mess over with but that part is an idiot. I'm living in the house for free - trying to save a bit in the process (more on that later) - and I don't want to contact the bank and risk bringing my file to the top of some stack that it's not currently near the top of. Still, though, the uncertainty drives me nuts.
Chapter Two: The Finances
Around that time, some people started giving us (mostly unsolicited) advice that we should do this, that or some other thing. The most prominent suggestion, of course, was bankruptcy. I didn't like the idea. It just feels like - well it IS - not living up to the commitments you made and that goes against my grain. Even if you were stupid to have made them in the first place, I believe that you should follow through, hopefully learning something along the way. I can't totally write it off, though. There are times when things spiral totally out of control and it becomes a necessary fallback. We weren't there and I resisted for a while. SWMBO kept bringing it up, however, and at some point the idea started to make some sense. It was still distasteful to me but I was quickly reaching my wits end. I was mentally drained. I think that's what finally did me in. We went to see an attorney.
Not much else to say about it. Fast forward about four months and the process was complete. The debt was eliminated but so was any decent financial history we had. And, in the meantime, things had taken an ugly turn.
Chapter Three: The Marriage
First some history: SWMBO and I have had a bit of a rocky ride. We started off at a bit of a disadvantage. Some of you know that our first daughter was born prior to us being married. The aforementioned medical debt is a direct result of this. It was a mistake - we knew that - but we sought and received the forgiveness of our loving God and our loving families.
I insert here an unnecessary clarification: our daughter was NOT the mistake. Having sex prior to our marriage was but, to be perfectly honest, if that was the only way my daughter could have been created, I'd make it again without question.
That's not, however, the reason we got married. We loved each other. That just accelerated things quite a bit.
And things were going along swimmingly for a while. We were happy. Some years later, though, we started having some issues. There were financial problems and personal problems, each exacerbating the other. She kept some secrets about financial things from me and, given my upbringing, that was a huge issue for me and caused me to begin not trusting her in some things.
Then it was me who caused the issue. At a time when our relationship was struggling, I gave in to temptation and started dabbling in internet pornography. While the struggles may have given me the impetus for this, I don't blame them for it. I paddled that canoe and I take full responsibility for my actions. In short, I screwed up. That caused her not to trust me. See a pattern forming? Again, I asked for forgiveness from both her and God. That time - and that mistake - ended and, as we moved forward, I thought we were doing OK but she never really got over it. That would rear its head later.
Some years pass and we reach the point above where I lost my job and started the new one. She came to me one day and said that she had received an anonymous phone call saying that I was spending time with a woman at my workplace. This was not true and I told her so in no uncertain terms. The more I thought about it, however, the less sense it made. She claimed that she had tried to track the number back through the cell carrier but that they couldn't tell her. I know that they do have the ability to do so but maybe they wouldn't say. But even stranger was that nobody at work other than my close friends who work there has her cell phone number. It just didn't add up. More trust questions arose.
At work we started building out a new web site. We had a date-certain, hard deadline that was starting to get closer and closer and we still had a lot of work to do. I started having to work some really long days. That ended in March on this year but it, too, took its toll. She was getting very distant, was spending more and more time at the farm where our horses live. Some days we barely saw each other. We stopped communicating for the most part and that will kill just about any relationship.
In early April - Easter, no less - she accused me of cheating on her while I was working such long hours due to some medical information she had recently gotten. Again, I categorically denied it because it wasn't true. She left and was involved in a pretty bad accident with a horse later that day. Luckily there was no major damage although she was pretty badly bruised up. When we got home from the hospital the next day, things were just weird. It obviously wasn't the time to talk about things but there it was, just hanging there in mid-air everywhere I looked. I decided to let it be for a while. Things were tense to say the least. She was rarely home when I was. The kids knew that something was up but I don't know how much they knew.
Eventually we had to talk it out, though. And when we did she told me she wasn't sure she could stay. I pushed for counseling and set up an appointment with someone. We started by meeting once together and once each separately. During my individual session, the counselor told me that she had requested another individual session. I did the same but, before that time came, SWMBO had decided to take a weekend - July 4th weekend - and go off by herself to think stuff over. When she returned on Monday - not knowing I was going to be there - I asked her what was up and she told me she was leaving. She told the girls - who understandably fell apart - and left me to pick up the pieces. It wasn't as cold and heartless as that sentence makes it sound. My perception is that she was looking for something in the counseling to talk her out of a decision she had already made and wasn't really willing to work through them together. But these problems didn't happen overnight and they most certainly weren't going to get fixed overnight.
For my part, I grew up without a father in my life and, seeing the damage that it caused, always swore that divorce was not an option for me. We weren't happy anymore - that was true - but over 16 years ago I vowed to be with her until death parted us. I wasn't leaving. Some would say that's noble. Some would say it's stupid. Maybe it's both - I'm not at all convinced that they're mutually exclusive. In any case, it is what it is.
I have since found out that she has been having at the very least an emotional affair - I don't know if there is anything physical between them or not - with a friend of hers for a while. Like mine years ago, that explains a lot of her behavior but it doesn't excuse it.
So here I am. Waiting.
Waiting for the bank to kick us out of our house. Waiting out some arbitrary period where creditors believe I will pay them again. Waiting for SWMBO (I guess that acronym doesn't really apply anymore, does it?) to file whatever legal filing she's going to.
Because of the bankruptcy, I can't get a mortgage so I'm forced to look for a house to rent. Adding complexity to that is the fact that we have pets. There are few enough decent houses in our area for rent - fewer still that will allow pets - and fewer still that will fit my budget. That budget is stretched even thinner by trying to help SWMBO out financially. She can't find a job and is struggling. I struggle daily with how best to handle this whole thing. I don't want to make this difficult for her but I'm sure not gonna make it easy either.
The stress of all of this has really taken it's toll on me. I don't sleep well most nights and I find it hard to focus sometimes. I'm trying to give all of it up God and accept His peace but there's a stubborn idiot inside that keeps wanting to run things. Doesn't he realize that he's the one who ran things so well that we ended up here? Moron.
I do lay claim to the promise that He will never leave or forsake us. I just need to get off my butt and turn to Him. If you are a praying person, I ask that you do so not only for me, but for my kids and for SWMBO. This has been hard on all of us. I'm just the only one who's stupid enough to plaster it all over the internet.
I don't know what else to say. If anyone is actually still reading this (1) you're nuts and (2) you're probably a good friend so thank you for your wonderful support. Maybe it isn't prudent to write all this but I needed to get it out and it helps me organize the jumbled mess that is in my brain right now. And for some reason it makes me feel a little better so I'll be documenting the ongoing changes in my life as they happen here in the comments to this post.
For now, though, I'm done.