37: Bank-Owned Happiness

37: Bank-Owned Happiness

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

Bank-Owned Happiness

lf you count all your assets, you always show a profit.
~Robert Quillen

The recession has had the oddest effect on me. It’s made me happier. I know how strange that sounds, especially in light of the fact that we are losing our house, our earning power has dwindled and last week the IRS wiped out our checking and savings accounts. The bank charged us extra for the privilege of accommodating the government, so we were minus $100. After the initial shock, my husband and I started brainstorming ways to pull out of the quagmire.

Remember the show Boston Legal? At the end of each episode Denny Crane and Alan Shore would sit outside on the balcony with their scotch and cigars and talk to each other, eventually professing their love. One evening my husband, calling me by the name “Alan,” asked me to meet him outside. He said something about having a Denny Crane moment. He led me to our little backyard. There he had a fire going in the outdoor pit, and on the patio table were two tablets with pens perched on top, next to two glasses of wine. At his suggestion, we began to write down all the possible resources to get money. And like David E. Kelley might have written, we also professed our love to each other. Then we talked about all the wealth we do have—wonderful kids, loving friends, a sense of humor, talents, dreams and goals. Do you know how easy it is to fall into depression without a dream or a goal? We even have great furniture that will look fabulous in a tiny apartment.

Last Valentine’s Day he brought me a bouquet of rosemary for our front yard and told me to pretend they were flowers. I didn’t have to. I was deeply touched—more so than if they had been a dozen American Beauties.

Before our financial downfall we were on autopilot. He was doing his thing and I was doing mine. Gary Neuman, on an Oprah segment, once said that the average couple talks to one another around twelve minutes a day. I think we were average. Now we are facing our challenge as a team and we talk several times a day and call each other when we make some money. We high-five each other and find ourselves cheering when one of us even earns so much as twenty dollars. We laugh often and hug even more.

We weren’t indignant that the taxman came. We owed it. When the economy started slipping, so did our monthly income. We just couldn’t find enough to pay it.

We didn’t hide our financial loss, either. It is what it is. Our friends and family helped find us find work, our daughter decided it was time to pay her own rent and our son told me that he wanted to give us his whole paycheck. I was looking through my appointment book the other day and found five twenties secretly stuffed in there by a dear girlfriend. That was the perfect amount to give the bank for letting the IRS clean us out. Our blessings are abundant.

The day I was able to release both my fear of losing our house, and pending shame, came a year ago when I could not make the full mortgage payment. Months of torment had been affecting my psyche. I had been stressing, not sleeping well at night, needing instead to sleep away the empty day. One afternoon, as I was grinding my teeth, I confronted myself about the situation. I asked the all-time stress-releaser, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if I can’t pay the mortgage?” The only answer I could come up with was, “We would have to rent.”

Rent? That’s it? We have no equity now. Aren’t we already renting in a way? Is it so horrible to rent? Perhaps being a homeowner for the last thirty years may have caused me to develop some kind of negative feeling about renting, but honestly, is it really that bad? Are my children happy and healthy? Yes. Do I love them dearly and do I also feel the love and appreciation bounce right back at me? You bet. Then, if I must rent, why not rent nearer to the people I love so deeply? Why is it I still live 400 miles south of where they are, anyway? I didn’t have a salient answer.

At that moment I began to get excited. I went on craigslist to see what rentals were going for in their area. For what we would need, a little house with a yard near my kids came to one-third of our mortgage payment. I began imagining myself in my new lifestyle and then I started doing all the preparations to make it a reality. With each day that has gone by since I let go of my fear, I have grown more and more eager to start my new life. I wait with anticipation that we may receive our foreclosure notice, only to be disappointed day after day. The banks are so confused. There are already 764 bank-owned and foreclosed places in my small zip code. I must be patient. But it’s hard. I may be the only American who’s looking forward to foreclosure. That’s only because I let go of the past and figured out a brighter future.

I do not feel a lick of shame from this turn of events. I am just one of millions struggling to get by. It’s temporary. Our lives are changing whether or not we like it—so we might as well find a way to like it. I count my blessings regularly, including the fact that I am able to see the glass half full.

So, now, rather than looking at this huge financial loss as a disaster, we are using different language. We’re talking about a fresh start, not starting over. I feel like we’re moving toward something, rather than away from disaster. My husband and I are on a mission TOGETHER and we have been shown more love and appreciation than ever. And every night we sit outside and plan our future, profess our love and wait till the bank gets itself organized to take our house away.

~Marilyn Kentz

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