Things around the Jackson household have been pretty tense lately as we near the finalization of our bankruptcy. This general aura is not helped by the daily reminders of doom and gloom predicted in the news.
My usual response, in the good ol’ days when my backbone and ego was still intact, used to be a forceful command of, “Enough!” as I’d snap off the television and come up with some ridiculous scheme that, while most likely unable to be executed, at least got everyone out of the funk they were in and thinking outside the box.
But, frankly, I’m exhausted. So you can understand why it’s harder these days to channel my inner Pollyanna. But channel her I do, even though right now, every penny must be accounted for, every expense justified to the world at large, every thing we do or say judged through a filter called “bankruptcy.”
Naturally our finances past and present are under scrutiny. This is a grueling process. There may be some people who are blasé about such a rigorous procedure if the payoff is that they “get away” with their debts. But if you have a shred of a conscience, this is a painful and degrading exercise. Old wounds are opened and all your vulnerabilities laid bare to the judgment of people you’ve only just met. I never vomit, but I did – twice – the bathroom thankfully near. I rarely cry, but I did.
Perhaps the fact that my nerves are wound so very tight, now, several days later, a new emotion is creeping in as news of the economy sinks in: anger.
When our bankruptcy becomes final we will be picking up what’s left of our life and trying to piece together some sort of future for ourselves. I accept this and, as I usually do, have found a way to be happy about it. Maybe that’s just nature taking its course in helping me to survive or maybe I’m just too damn stubborn to let something as prosaic as money get the best of me. I’ve always fancied at least martyrdom or at best old age as my ultimate downfall.
I was really beginning to feel myself in union with the financial world as one by one the blocks of Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and AIG came tumbling down. I was all set to sing “Kum-Ba-Ya” with their executives; to call them “Brother;” to offer them my shoulder to cry on as they contemplated the mistakes they’d made that I was sure must be tearing them up considering those mistakes led to the domino effect to end all domino effects.
Only when I called, no one was home. They’d all headed off on junkets to spiffy spas in California or to spend their $14 million severance packages. I’m getting the feeling accountability is not a requirement in the higher tax brackets and I can’t help being just a little bitter about it.
Yes, I’m also being bailed out and I’m thankful that this option is open to me; that there are no longer things like work houses and debtors’ prisons where my family and I would suffer a Dickensian fate, only without the happy ending or cute ruffled wardrobe. I am grateful every day that, in spite of everything, I can still watch the seasons change on the Blue Ridge mountainside; can still be nuzzled by all six of my dogs at once; can still be doubled up in laughter every single day during dinner with my sons. I take nothing for granted anymore and am fully aware I enjoy these things only through the accidents of birth and time.
I can’t help but wonder, though, when your income is in the millions and you have a severance package in the multi-millions, can you even fathom what thousands – millions now, perhaps – of people are going through down here at the ground beef and potatoes level? As you receive your massage or putter along in your golf cart, what do you think of people like me, or do you at all? Are we all just a “consumer base” that should have been more responsible for ourselves? Do you even make the connection between people like me whose bad decisions led to personal bankruptcy and people like you whose bad decisions led to corporate bankruptcy – and global instability?
I know it’s selfish and impossible and probably undeserved, but I need to see you as contrite and repentant as I am. And I think I need to see you cry.