Tag Archives: Foreclosure

I Am The 99%

This post was inspired by We Are the 99%

2008 is a year that I will never forget. First, I lost $50,000 in value from my 401K which was 1/3rd of the value of my portfolio and had taken me 14 arduous years to save. I thought that was the worst.

Then, October came along and I lost my eleven year job as a Telecommunications Engineer/Project Manager. I was one of three laid off with whom I shared tenure as we all had been with the firm for over a decade. Not surprisingly, two of us were POC. Too boot, I was the only female technologist. I did have a sneaking suspicion but that did not really prepare me. As I was to discover, what we imagine rarely holds up against the implacableness of stark reality.

I remember what I wore that day, red and gold. I was attired as a warrior goddess, ready for battle and was already packed, just in case. My motto, never let them see you sweat held firm – for a minute.

I made it home fueled on rage and then went grocery shopping. In aisle 11 of Costco, the dam burst and I dissolved in tears. I was hit by a mix of emotions, best summarized as disbelief and fear.

Anyone who works in Corporate America is intimate with the knowledge that anyone is dispensable. That is doubly true for POC and triple enforced with superglue for those of the fairer sex. Even so, I had great difficulty getting my mind around how I suddenly lacked value with 22 years of experience. It took a lot of stripping away to face the ugly reality that I had NEVER been valued and it was the thing that sat on my chest at night, indigestible and spirit stealing. Honestly, I merely stomached it in exchange for my piece of the American dream. It kept me up at nights but I always put on my game face because the ends justifies the means. How wrong and horribly naive of me.

I could not belive how wrong I was and I can’t tell you how many hours I spent grappling with the truth that was entrenched in my spirit and the deconstruction of my carefully constructed reality. I wonder even now where I would be today had I not been so eager to buy into what I was told and invested more in my dreams.

I could only sit still so long though. In the background, was an ever increasing death knell of friends who were let go, one after another, and others who spent fruitless hours job searching. I told myself it wasn’t THAT bad but the unanswered query letters, calls to industry friends and mounting resume submissions kept climbing right alongside my mortgage, my credit card bills and all that I needed to live.

November came and just as I had predicted Obama won. His victory shook me out of my stupor and propelled me forward to start a business. Finally, due to unforeseen circumstances, I could take all the energy I put into someone elses business and do something that I loved. 12/31/08 was the date of my incorporation and that day changed my life forever. It realigned my personal beliefs with my reality and I changed. An unfolding which will always be incredibly precious and beautiful to me.

I’d rather be naked in the light of truth than bask in the falsehoods designed to keep us compliant and satisfied. Not a lot of people feel that way, sadly.

Do I have to say that I was told that I was crazy? A Black female entrepreneur in the landscaping business in NEW JERSEY?! I pressed on anyway because of all the things around me in that I no longer believed in – I still believed in myself. It is the one thing they could not take away from me.

I withdrew what remained of my 401K savings and invested it in – me. Fuck a stock. Banks weren’t lending at the time either. Who better to gamble on? I thought for sure then everything would be alright. WRONG. In hindsight, I realize that I had merely bought into the mindset that I could “Pull myself up by my bootstraps.” You can only do that if the system isn’t rigged. It didn’t take long for my severance package to run out, followed by unemployment. Unemployment is the new welfare, quiet as it’s kept. In NJ, you can only get $320 a week. Try having a mortgage and a car and kids etc. and living off that amount. Good luck! Not to mention the indignity of filing reports, being called down to the office for mandated workshops and certifying continuously so they won’t cut you off. Amazing, since I paid for insurance for 22 years. It took me ONE week to even get through to the office since the lines were flooded and they now only have one office to walk in – located in Albany – for New York.

It seemed that there was no other choice than to supplement my income with what was left of my 401K savings. My health insurance went by the wayside. COBRA was approx. $500 a month after the government subsidies expired in 2010. Who needs to be healthy anyway?

To add to my delight, there is the conundrum of my taxes. For the first time in my life, I owe the IRS a double-digit figure because I had the gall to LIVE off my savings. There were claims that there would be dispensation for such circumstances during the election but my accountant laughed when I mentioned it. His laughter still rings in my ears as I go about the daily business of survival.

Now, foreclosure looms. Chase (aka Cheat)continues to play with me, 120 pages of documentation and 3 applications later, my modification app. is still amongst the thousands pending. Yet, they keep asking for MORE information, 99% of which they already have, as one friendly rep told me. Is there oversight – NO.

I am not alone. Many of my friends face the same struggles and the reality of panic attacks, poor health, depression and ongoing stress, as they try to cope with the mounting waves of economic fallout. They too, did what they were told and their worthless degrees and professional accolades mock them. They too have had to face that their reality was ALWAYS tenuous and that the angry rhetoric we spouted about the system being stacked against us was a pale shadow of what could come. When shit gets real, that’s when you find out what you are made of.

My mother was on welfare when I was a child and I remember thinking that I would NEVER be in such a position. I would NEVER ask for anyone’s help after the way I saw her treated by so called social workers and professionals who were there to help. At 9, I could tell that was a JOKE. Yet, no one could be more amazed than I that when I finally had no choice but to ask for help, from a system which I have spent my life upholding and following inside the lines, there would be roadblocks, penalties and misdirection at EVERY turn. The banks are good though. Who will bailout faltering Americans?

Are you feeling worthless yet?

The closest articulation of truth that I have found, outside my own heart, is the cry that arises from Occupy Wall Street. I wouldn’t have believed it but the camaraderie, tons of information that I have gotten thanks to Twitter and the people/organizations which I have found through them has empowered me to continue fighting when I was just about to give up. Now I fight for more than my survival, I fight for CHANGE.

We are the 99%. 

Tales From The Edge – Battling Depression

I spent part of this Summer caught in the mire of depression. It felt like I was drowning in concerns and worries. I can’t say that’s really like me, as sensitive as I am, but as there has been an overwhleming amount of change in my life in the past few years it is understandable. Even so, I did not expect or accept it. Amongst all the things I’ve adjusted to, I am still fighting with the bank to keep my home so it’s far from over.

Like most of us, I find it easy to suppress my fears under the mantle of busyness. When there is so much to do, there is little time to feel. When things slowed down in June, I stumbled to a crawl and stalled.

When I look back at my life, I can see that I have had four major go rounds with the monsters known as fear, anxiety and depression. They coincided with major life changes like breakups, miscarriage, divorce, and this time around the culprit was job loss and the resulting fallout. What makes this unique and dangerous is that I did not know that I was depressed. I just felt tired and after all the running around, planting, coordinating with clients and day to day tasks of running a small business that seemed normal.

My first clue came when I was driving and felt like I was falling asleep. A numbing feeling would steal over me and I would have flashes of myself in a car accident, and throwing up my hands to protect myself. I could see the mangled cars and it was scary. Each time it happened, I would open the windows and tense, grabbing the wheel harder to force myself to stay alert. Again, I chalked it up to exhaustion. I wasn’t deeply alarmed until an alien thought zoomed across my consciousness, “Maybe it would be better than this. It would be peaceful.”

I mentally shook myself not for me but for the thought of how the people I loved would feel at such an event was what gave me pause. Still, I was silent.

I got my second wake up call in the form of a good verbal thrashing from my fiance because he said I was not “acting” normal. Of course, I vehemently denied that but it did cause me to think. Reflectively, I could see that something was quite wrong but I was extremely resistant to discuss my feelings with anyone. I was afraid of all the typical things: shame, judgement, the perception of weakness, how this affects my view of self, and oddly enough, scorn and laughter. In my head, these ideas loomed so large that it quite literally glued my mouth shut. Yet, the more silent I was, the worse I felt.

In July, one of my friends said that she was coming to visit me and we could go out to lunch. I dreaded this as I had been spending all my time in doors with the blinds shut curled up with a book. When the day arrived, I tried to cancel but she knows me too well lol. The only thing I could say was, “I’m not feeling well..” Thirty years of friendship is hard to circumvent so it took only a short time for me to crack and all my anxieties tumbled out in a torrent.  She came anyway, of course, and we were able to have a long and very necessary talk.  Step 1.

I forced myself thereafter to get up and face things a little at a time, anything else would have been overwhelming. I talked to my friends and loved ones and surprise, surprise, there was no laughter. There was empathy and sunshine just waiting for me, literally. For me, that was all that was required to get me back on track and resume the fight.

I learned something this time, or perhaps I should say I was viciously reminded. Sometimes, you can’t go it alone.

Weeks later, I watched The Beaver, a movie about depression and the lines which struck me most were:

“No matter how bad it gets there is always one person in your life who is willing to stand up for you, fight for you, take care of you, accept you, love you, pick you up and dust you off, bandage you up and uphold you until the storm has passed…”

I have paraphrased, of course. I felt the need to write this because I have listened to the fleeting reports about just how many people are silently suffering from depression during these tough economic times. We turn inward when help is outward, you just have to find the courage to reach for it. If not for you, then for the people who love you.