Wednesday, December 26, 2012

#266 Attend The Midnight Screening of A Blockbuster Movie on Opening Day

Middle Earth
Middle Earth

I am not going to lie. I am a Middle Earth Geek. Author J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of The Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit are arguably the best books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. My fascination with the enchanting, spirited, adventuresome realm of Middle Earth began after I had rented the Fellowship of the Ring movie on DVD. I was well aware of Tolkien's books but for as avid a reader as I was, I had never taken any interest to reading them. I find that very ironic in hindsight since they are so beloved to me now.

The movie completely enthralled me to say the least. I fell in love with the beauty of the Shire and the free spirited nature of the Hobbits. I was envious of their journeys through the forests and the mountains. I loved the little cottages they lived in with all the cute little rooms. I wanted my own Hobbit Cottage.

I wanted to be a Ranger just like Strider aka Aragorn. He was so knowledgeable and worldly. I wanted to swim in the waterfalls of Rivendell and lie beneath the stars on lustrous marbled balconies. I was eager to help Gandalf battle the Balrog in Moria. I wanted to ride a horse like Arwen and learn Elvish spells. I saw the goodness in Boromir as he battled his inner demons concerning the "one" ring and his father's wishes to bring it to Gondor. I was 29. Seriously? WTF? I was obviously feeling very caged in my life back then.

In fact, at that time in my life, The Lord Of The Rings sort of saved me in a sense. It was just what the doctor ordered. It opened my eyes to wanting more adventure, experiences and fun in my life, a life that had grown so very stale. Change was on the horizon. I wanted to read the books. That Christmas back in 2002, I received a beautiful boxed set of all four books. It was a very thoughtful gift and one of my favorites to this day.

I began reading The Hobbit on Christmas day. I finished The Return of The King on December 30th. For five days I was completely submerged in the world of Middle Earth. I barely slept. I was too entranced. I occasionally moved from my reading spot to get something to drink, use the bathroom and make sure the children were still alive but otherwise, I was burrowed under my blanket on my big grey comfy couch reading Tolkien's masterpiece.

The lovely design of  the boxed set of books I received as a Christmas gift. 

I was so crushed to come back to reality after I finished reading the books. Within days I went to the movies to see The Two Towers since it was released right before Christmas. The anticipation of waiting a whole year to see Return of The King killed me. I must say, Peter Jackson's take on the Tolkien classics were true to the book in many aspects, not all, but many. He had to cut parts out, change the story-lines of a few other parts and move some parts around because the movies were already lengthy.

The parts he did include were so cinematically breathtaking and heartfelt that you could not help but become completely lost in it all just as Tolkien had done with the written word. I do wish he would have gone a little more in depth about the beautiful romance between Eowyn and Faramir in the movies. In the movies they were more like supporting characters taking a backstage to the romance between Aragorn and Arwen.

Below is a somewhat modest description of Eowyn and Faramir's romance and eventual marriage since it was only touched upon briefly but moved me so deeply.

Eowyn of Rohan was a strong, beautiful, spirited, enduring character. She had fallen in love with Aragorn, the heir of Isildur. He was very fond of Eowyn but his heart belonged to Arwen. Eowyn was an accomplished shield maiden as were many Rohanian women. She wanted to fight in the battles alongside the men she loved to defend Middle Earth.

Against the wishes of her uncle, the king of Rohan, her brother Eomer, the third Marshal of Rohan and Aragorn, she disguised herself as a man and went into The Battle of Pelennor Fields. She killed the witch king defending her dying uncle. It was a feat in which no man had ever been able to do. Faramir, the second son of the Steward of Gondor and Boromir's younger brother, first saw Eowyn in the House of Healing while both were recovering from their injuries.

“And she looked at him and saw the grave tenderness in his eyes, and yet knew, for she was bred among men of war, that here was one whom no Rider of the Mark would outmatch in battle.” -Eowyn upon meeting Faramir 

He was very taken with her. He began his bid to sweep her off her feet in such a beautiful, subtle, admirable way. As for Faramir, he was strong but gentle, intelligent but unconceited. He was romantic, patient, and adoring, but also perceptive and intuitive. He was a man whom people looked up to, respected and admired just as they did his older brother Boromir.

He was a true alpha male, understated but commanding. People were naturally drawn to Faramir. Unlike his brother, he was able to resist the powers of the "one" ring. He was the one man that did not pale in comparison to his close friend Aragorn. In fact, in some ways, Aragorn paled in comparison to Faramir. It is why Aragorn held him in such high regard.

“For you and I have both passed under the wings of the Shadow, and the same hand drew us back.” – Faramir to Eowyn

I guess it is obvious that I was completely smitten with Faramir in the book. My dream guy! Eventually Eowyn's obsession with Aragorn subsided when she unknowingly found herself falling for Faramir, the man whom remained close to her yet also kept a distance, allowing her to work through her emotions. She realized he was the true love of her life. They had both endured such troubles in their lives.

Only he could tame her wild spirit and open her eyes to all she was truly capable of. Only he could truly understand the depth of her soul and she his. In other words, they really got each other. They married and she became his queen. So sweet, I know. David Wenham plays Faramir in the movies. I became even more smitten with him because not only was he handsome but he played the part so true to Tokien's written character.

Anyway, my daughter was the one that eventually took the bait when one night, two years ago, she sat and watched the movies on TNT while I was in the room. Not always a good idea to watch LOTR for the first time when I am in the room since my goofball commentary is also present in the room. I made her laugh a lot but I could also tell how drawn to the movies she was as well.

She had become a LOTR junkie just like her mother. In fact, I even offered to let her read "my precious" books. It angers me a little that she has not read the books yet. I understand she is a college student and has to read a lot for school but in order to be accepted into" the fellowship" which is currently only one member strong (that would be me), she must read the books. (Hey, it's my fellowship, my rules.)
Update: Since I wrote this, she has read all the books. proud momma moment. 

When news broke about the pending release of The Hobbit, the junkie in me began salivating at the opportunity to see more of Middle Earth on the big screen after nearly a decade absence. My daughter was also eager to see The Hobbit which was even more exciting since I had gone alone to see the LOTR movies. Now I had a friend to take with me. The movie happened to be premiering on December 14, 2012 which was my daughter's 20th birthday.

I do not have much money so try I be creative and fun with my kids birthdays. Day trips to NYC and other places are a big thing. Trying new things is also something fun and creative to do. Quality time with my kids having little adventures are the stuff great birthday memories are made of in this family. They are older so the whole traditional party thing has been over since junior high anyway.

Neither one of us had ever been to a midnight premiere before. This could be something fun and different to do for her birthday. I have witnessed so many people incredibly excited for the release of a movie that they were willing to forgo sleep just to see it at midnight. I admit, for the first time ever I shared this same excitement for The Hobbit. I knew going to work the next day was going to be tough but I felt up to the task. I purchased two tickets for the 3D version of The Hobbit a week before the premiere. My daughter is a night owl so her being awake was not an issue. My getting sleep before the movie was going to be the real issue because I too am a night owl, although reluctantly, in my old age.

The day of the midnight showing I went home from work and immediately fell asleep which was not hard to do because work drains me now a days. It is so incredibly busy. I had hoped to sleep until eight or nine since I did not have to take my daughter to school at 5:30. Yea, that didn't happen. I was up and wide awake at 6 PM. I just laid there hoping to fall back to sleep. It's funny how the more you hope for something the less attainable it becomes. Sleep eluded me for the rest of the evening. Finally around 11:20 PM we headed out into the cold night air. Middle Earth was beckoning us.

We arrived at the theater expecting it to be really busy. Surprisingly it wasn't. We were 30 minutes early though. We walked briskly through the chilly night air into the theater. Inside we saw people wearing LOTR costumes in the lobby. I noticed the giant Gandalf man right away. He was wearing a T-Shirt under his robe. Gandalf doesn't wear T-Shirts I think to myself.

I started cracking up when I saw the Hobbit man with hairy feet. I thought people only played dress up for the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Guess I was wrong. We got our kiddie packs of popcorn complete with a mini fruit snack and little soda and proceeded to walk right past the theater. This is mostly because I was so proud I made it ten feet from the counter without dropping one piece of popcorn. The things that amuse me.... so strange sometimes.

My mini partner in crime. 
My daughter diverted my focus and directed me to the correct theater. It was sort of crowded but there were still great seats to be had. We sat in the middle of the theater on the right hand side. All of a sudden I became horrified. I had been limited to only wearing my glasses since I scratched my cornea when removing my contact the Saturday before.

That resulted in my having to go to the ER. It was my first trip to the ER in almost ten years. My eye was still healing. I bought tickets to the 3D movie. How am I going to wear the 3D glasses and see the movie? My daughter senses my distress and asked what had me so perplexed.

I asked her if I could watch the 3D movie without the glasses. She said not really. The movie would look funny. I told her it was going to look funny anyway because I had to take my glasses off to wear the 3D glasses. Everything would be blurry. She informed me the 3D glasses will go over my eye glasses.

I asked her how could they do that. She told me the glasses were big enough to fit over them. I looked at the glasses in my hand. I started mumbling about how they were not going to fit.

Finally she said, "Mom, just put them on." As soon as she said it I became even more disturbed. Oh my god! I have become my father. And my daughter sounds just like me when I am talking to my father. Not good! I shut up and put the glasses on. They did fit over my glasses just like she said they would.

I was so happy when the movie started. I loved the deafening surround sound and the gargantuan movie screen. Too bad movies are so much money anymore. I need to go more often. Watching them on TV just doesn't compare, especially action movies.

I am not going to spoil too much of The Hobbit for those who want to see it. Let's just say it was pretty awesome. I am glad the glasses fit because it was incredible to watch it in 3D. I loved seeing Radagast (the brown wizard) in the movie. He is a nature wizard, a lover of plants and animals. His bunny sled of Rhosgobel Rabbits are freakin awesome and watching him nurse a little hedgehog back to life is one of my favorite parts of the movie. So cute!

I am not going to lie though, as excited as I was to see the movie, 150 minutes into the movie, I found myself nodding off. My eyes were starting to hurt from lack of sleep. I had originally planned to drop my daughter off at home and go straight to work to get some overtime but it became evident that if I did not try to squeeze in an hour's sleep, the day was going to be very agonizing for me.

I was thankful when the movie ended at 3:00 AM. That gave me a chance to get 60-90 minutes of sleep. As we walked to the car I felt somewhat confused by then ending. At the time I was not aware there would be three films and I was a little pissed by the ending. It wasn't until I was at work that a co-worker informed me there were going to be three parts just like LOTR.

"Good." I tell him. I would be so mad if that was how they ended it. I began to wonder if Peter Jackson may take some parts he originally omitted from LOTR and figure out a way to incorporate them into The Hobbit. That would be sweet! Guess we will have to wait and see.

Surprisingly the work day goes well for me. I don't eat too heavy because I know it will make me want to collapse in a pile under a random desk and take a nap. That would be frowned upon by the establishment. It also helps that I only worked partly in the dock office, then broke up the rest of the day by also doing scheduling and safety training.

In fact, I felt so good when I go home that I stayed awake. No nap. Crazy right? My son always says if I got paid for napping we would be rich. Back in the day this would be a walk in the park for me. I've done it a hundred times. Not anymore. However, it was a lot of fun going to a midnight premiere with my daughter. Think I just may see the other two parts of The Hobbit at midnight too. I can't wait!!


Sunday, December 2, 2012

#384 Doing Something That Absolutely Terrifies You

When I originally put this on my list, holding a big, scary snake or jumping out of a plane was what I had in mind. You know, the obvious things that terrify us. However, in 2012 I set into motion something that I wasn't willing to admit really terrified me.

This very thing had crippled me for many years. Avoidance was the special of the day everyday. I found every single excuse possible to avoid this huge, black cloud permeating my life.

My compilation of greatest hits included excuses such as:
"There is nothing I can really do about it."
"I can't afford to do it."
 And my personal favorite, "You can't get blood from a stone."

The truth be told, I was afraid. The excuses were just masks. I pretended I didn't care but deep down inside, I really did care. I tried to be tough about it but all THAT did was prolong the inevitable. For someone who was very capable and quite versed at taking difficult situations head on, this particular predicament had me paralyzed. I knew why. I know me.

You see, you can lie to everyone else but no matter how much you try, you cannot lie to yourself. The truth is always there, lurking inside like an unwanted stalker. You know what are you doing, even if you spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week telling yourself something else, it is still there. You can justify it all you want but at the end of the day, the truth speaks inside of you.

What I was lying to myself about was the state of my finances. Yes, I struggled juggling my monthly bills but when all was said and done, they did get paid. Sometimes it took months, even a year to get my bill balances back to zero but I did it. However, the debt I accrued during my marriage was also there. Those debts didn't disappear when my spouse did. They didn't go away just because someone did not want to play "grown up" anymore.

It was those debts that I could not afford to pay anymore. I honestly did try when I could but this was a joint debt accrued by two people. One person bailed and did not care anymore about the debt and what it was going to do to their credit, my credit and our family. I did care but made a fraction of the income. So, for years after the dissolution of the marriage, my finances were what can be described as a vicious circle.

I never had enough money to settle a debt outright and the debt collectors were brutal with payment plans. They really didn't want monthly nickels and dimes from me. They wanted their lump sum. They bought the debt from my original creditors for next to nothing, but still wanted as much money as they squeeze from me. In order to deter me from making monthly payments, they would tack fees onto my debt every month. They would harass, threaten and humiliate me too. It was awful.

Consolidation was out of the question for me. No one I researched was willing to give me a monthly repayment plan I could afford. Heating oil and gas had skyrocketed. Utilities increased. The cost of food increased. And despite popular belief, children do not get any cheaper to raise as they get older. More independent yes, cheaper, no. I could not afford to pay off my marital debt and maintain my monthly household bills. I did not make enough money to do both.

After all this time I was beginning to break. Everyday on my drive home from work, I was holding my breath and staving off panic attacks. Why you ask? Because I never knew what new court paper or shut off notice was going to be taped to my front door when I came home. Constable visits had become a regular occurrence in my life.

The Constable was always so nice to me when he had to serve me a legal notice though. He was very sympathetic. He knew the economy. I will never forget his kindness during this hard time in my life. He didn't make me feel like trash like the debt collectors did. But, I will also never forget how all of this made me feel either.

I was becoming physically ill from all the stress and anxiety. 6 years of juggling and struggling had taken it's toll. I felt so helpless. Some days I felt like an absolute failure. Some days I felt worthless and useless. Some days the debt collectors won. Some days I really believed I was trash. Some days I felt like crying, and I did, away from my children, in my bedroom, alone.

Somehow I had successfully managed to protect my kids from most of the wreckage left over from my split from their father but all of this this was starting to spill over onto them. I could not allow this to go on any further. This was not their cross to bear, it was mine. Avoidance was no longer an option. I could no longer be afraid to face the music. I wanted my life back. I wanted to be able to breath. I HAD to file for bankruptcy.

But, I had no clue where to start.

I decided to put my pride aside and publicly seek advice from all of my friends. The outpouring of concern, advice and well wishes was more than I could ever have expected. This outpouring not only got me pointed in the right direction, but also gave me the courage to face my one of my biggest fears. I also began to ease up on the daily mental beating I was inflicting upon myself.

After much research I decided to take on an attorney recommended by two of my friends, Jeremy and Jill. Not only was he affordable, but he put me completely at ease. He did not speak down to me. He did not make me feel like a loser or a failure. He understood my plight. He realized my inquisitive nature and explained in detail the process of filing for bankruptcy step by step because I am the type of person who needs to know as much as possible about how and why things work.

I'm not going to lie, lawyers scare me. In fact, I try very hard to avoid anything that would necessitate the hiring of an attorney. I think it is a good plan. It's worked out pretty well for me so far, until now that is. Anyways, the first meeting was quite comical. I was late for my appointment by 30 minutes because I did not follow the map he provided. I decided to map it myself because why would I do the logical thing and follow the map he provided.

What did he know about how to get to the place where he works every single day? Yea. I know. Once I finally did find the street where his offices were, I ran into another problem. His law office was in a regular house. I just couldn't grasp this. Even though the numbers on the house matched the one he provided and there were big signs for several attorneys on the outside of the house, I did not believe that was the right place.

I had to drive by it five times before my mind was willing to accept that he and several other attorneys had their offices in this house. After I accepted the fact that this house was where I needed to be, I decided to drive by it two more times because I did not want to park too close to the house. Why? I believe only God really knows the answer to that because I sure as hell don't.

Finally I suck it up and park in front of the house because it is the only spot available. Most people would kill to park right in front of their destination right? Nope, not this gal. For some reason I felt the need to distance my Blazer as far from the vicinity of this house as possible which, by the way, really isn't a house. It is law offices.

I realize I reek of cigarette smoke since I pretty much had a cigarette in my hand from the moment I left work in Hazleton until I pulled in front of the house that was actually offices for lawyers in Wilkes Barre. Nerves and perhaps a touch of nicotine poisoning made me feel like I was about to hurl. I tell myself to stop being such a baby and proceed to douse myself with perfume.

Now I smell like a stale pack of smokes and a field of flowers that attract butterflies. Graceful, fluttering butterflies. I was about as graceful as a Friday night after the bar while climbing up the steep concrete steps to the house that was really offices. I managed to only trip and not fall. Depth perception sometimes eludes those who are poisoned by nicotine from chain smoking. That is my theory anyway.

I knock on the screen door but nobody answers. After about three minutes I remember it is offices and I do not have to knock on the door. Do I knock on the door to my doctor's office? No. I go right in. Do I knock on the door to the accountant? No. I go right in there too. Do I knock on the door to the hotel or the grocery store or any other place of business? No Chrissy. You don't. So why are you knocking on this door?

Because it is a house and your mind is trained to practice the etiquette of knocking when entering a house even though for the last fifteen minutes we have come to terms with the fact that this is not really a house. It is offices. So, I take a deep breath and I walk in. I notice there is a dining room table, a couch, a kitchen, oriental rugs, art on the walls, houseplants and not a single soul in sight.

Oh My God!!! This is a real house! I am standing in someone's house! I am going to need another lawyer for trespassing now! I feel like I took a detour into Whatthefuckville?

As I turn to bolt out the door I hear something. It is little feet tapping against the hardwood floors. I turn and look up the stairs towards the noise. There is a little Bichon Frise peering at me from the top of the stairs. Just like any other animal lover out there I go stupid and forget I am in a real house and start calling to the puppy because I want to pet him.

Yes, I am now 40 minutes late for my appointment to file bankruptcy which terrifies me and makes me nauseous. I am terrified of meeting my lawyer because lawyers freak me the hell out. I have no idea where the real office is on this late Friday afternoon and all I want to do is go home and drink an entire bottle of wine. I smell like nicotine and flowers and my hands are numb because they have not stopped shaking since I woke up this morning.

I am standing in some stranger's house running the risk of either getting shot or arrested for trespassing which would in turn necessitate the hiring of yet another scary attorney that terrifies me and the only thing I am concerned with at the moment is getting the little white puppy that is probably a mini Cujo attack dog down the steps so I can pet him.

Yes people!! Welcome to Planet Fess where the streets have no names, the sky is made of marshmallows and all touch with reality is completely lost once you cross over into my dimension.

The puppy comes running down the stairs. I pet him for about 5 seconds before reality comes crashing in. What am I doing? That is when I hear the voices. Great! That's it. It's official. I'm insane. The voices seem so real though. Suddenly a man appears at the top of the steps. He asks if he can help me.

I go stupid again. I point to the door. I mumble something about leaving then blurt out "Is this a house?" He gives me a look I immediately recognize because my father has given me that same look at least a hundred times. He informs me it is a house. It is a house that they converted into offices. I just shake my head. I give up!

"Are you my attorney?" I ask him. He tells me I would have to hire him in order for him to be my attorney. "Oh yeah, right" I tell myself. I have not retained his services yet. I walk the stairs to his office. It is homey but neat. I apologize for being late. He tells me I ruined his entire weekend. I look at him mouth agape. He is amused. Finally he reassures me that he is just kidding.

I feel the nausea ebb and flow in my stomach. I scan the room for a waste basket just in case I need to puke while he begins looking through my paperwork and asking me questions. I am not very verbally eloquent when nervous so it takes him a little while to get the hang of "Chrissy-speak". After answering a few questions he is able to translate what I am explaining to him so it is smooth sailing, until he loses my 2011 tax return.

We have no idea how he lost it because neither of us left the room. In fact he only got up from his desk once to make a copy. I begin searching all of my papers while he searches his but it is no where to be found. He tells me it will appear eventually and that we can start crunching some numbers. I watch him take a piece of paper and a pencil from his brief case. He starts figuring out the math.

I ask him if he likes exercising his brain. He looks at me like I am an alien. I point to the paper and all of the long hand math. He says yes he does like to exercise his brain and that he also cannot find his calculator. I take out my phone and offer to do the math for him. We proceed to crunch numbers. He comments that I must really be impressed with the great image of professionalism he is displaying by putting me to work. I find this hilarious. I tell him I was 40 minutes late, ruined his entire weekend and deserved to be put to work. He returns the laughter.

He looks over all the judgments against me. He says I must be hardcore because most people get scared and file after receiving their first judgment. I had seven. I explained about keeping my word. I told him it was fear that actually kept me from filing for so long. There is nothing hardcore about feeling paralyzed and helpless. There is no strength in avoidance. I told him I was terrified of all of this.

He was very empathetic and reassuring. He explained more people than ever are dealing with situations like mine. Good, hard working people whom have had found themselves on hard times. He knew I was not a credit abuser. He could see by my credit report that I had willingly paid and closed quite a few accounts on my own when I realized I could not afford to make payments. He explained there are people out there that do abuse bankruptcy which is why it has become a more difficult process to file. I was glad to hear he did not think I was taking advantage of the system because I was not.

As he starts talking about the math, he looks up and notices my eyes scanning the room. He calls me out on this. He says I am still trying to figure out where my tax return papers are because I think he hid them from me just to mess with me. I find this humorous as well. He is a perceptive one because that is exactly what I was doing. I didn't believe he hid them but they seriously have got to be in this room. Where the hell did they go? It was boggling my mind.

He distracts me by asking me if I have pets. I tell him about my B.Rabbit. He mentions something about Hazel and the rabbits from the book "Watership Down." My mouth drops again. The only people I know who have read the book and do not live in England are my father and me. I explain my surprise at him mentioning the book. I ask him if he ever saw the movie. He did not know there was a movie.

I inform him it is not really a cartoon for children but my father taped it for me and I used to watch it all the time as a kid. And there it was, my segno. Right then and there I knew he was the attorney for me. I decided I was going to retain him. How could I not retain a funny, cool, down to earth, calm attorney that read "Watership Down." I paid him the deposit to retain his services.

After the meeting, I spent the next few weeks faxing him some of the information I needed to file. I had also managed to save $700 towards the $1111.00 I needed to file. I projected that I would have enough to file near the end of August. My grandfather had passed away at the end of July so for a week everything was put on hold until we buried him. I couldn't deal with anything else at the moment.

The Monday after my grandfather's funeral, my bank account was seized by another creditor leaving me completely crippled. I spent my lunch making phone calls. My bank gave me the number of the attorney that filed the motion to seize. I called him. A woman answered, took my information then transferred me to the attorney's assistant. The assistant was incredibly rude to me which I was already prepared for.

He told me the attorney was not available. Once I mentioned the words "payment plan" all of a sudden the attorney was available. The assistant put me on hold while he got the attorney. Five seconds later I was connected to the attorney...which happened to be the same man claiming to be the assistant. I asked him what I needed to do to free up my bank account. He explained that the bank had 21 days to fill out paperwork and until he received the paperwork, there was nothing I could do.

I proceeded to inform the attorney/assistant that I was in the process of filing bankruptcy. I told him I would call him in 21 days. As I was disconnecting from the call I heard him laugh and crack a joke about me to someone else in the room with him. Instead of calling the asshole back 21 days later I moved my paychecks into a family member's account. There would be no payment plan now unless otherwise ordered by my trustee.

I was sick and tired of being humiliated and made the fool by people in general. I emailed my attorney and we made note of the call. This situation set me back greatly. I could not touch the $700 I had saved. I was back to square one. It took me almost two more months to find the resources to pay my lawyer but I did. I faxed him the rest of the information needed. I received notification that my hearing would be November 27th. I was surprised by how fast this was going to happen but also relieved. No matter what happened, it will all be over soon.

Since my kiddos were little, I have always made the weekend of Thanksgiving a four day weekend. I spend Thursday cooking my own meal early in the day. After I nap we go visiting. I spend Friday decorating the house and putting up the tree. I haven't gone shopping on Black Friday in ages unless it is online because I am not a fan of crowds. They sometimes terrify me as well. We relax and eat leftovers. I watch football and Christmas movies.

This year was a little different though. I did have a wonderful Thanksgiving, but by Friday my nerves were beginning to tweak. I found every way possible to distract myself from my upcoming hearing. I redid all of my wreaths. I tried some new decorations on my front porch. I put up my pink Christmas tree then took hours upon hours decorating it because I was not happy with anything I put on that tree.

Normally it is tradition to order pizza on Black Friday as a buffer between Thursday's dinner and Saturday and Sunday's leftovers. I forgot to do that. In fact, I forgot to eat entirely on Friday. It wasn't until Friday night at 10:00 PM that I finally got so light headed and dizzy that I forced myself to eat something even though I had no appetite. Saturday was no different except that I stopped sleeping and eating completely. My stomach was sick and twisted.

I took a nap on Sunday at 5 AM until 7 AM. I did not eat until 10 PM Sunday night and only because I had too. I didn't even try one of the pumpkin chalices I made. Sunday night I lay in bed until I had to work. I slept for two hours after work Monday. I slept for two hours at 5AM the Tuesday of my hearing. I did not sleep again until Wednesday after work.

As I am writing this on December 2, 2012 I am still sick to my stomach and suffering from tension headaches although I have been able to sleep. I wish my nerves would settle somewhat. The hardest part is now over. Maybe it is a delayed reaction. I have been in this mental state of stress and nerves for over six months now. I guess it isn't going to disappear over night.

Anyways, back to the day of my hearing. Everyone including my lawyer has said the hearing  would be rather quick. I arrived at City Hall ten minutes prior to my hearing. I realized I was over dressed when I walked up to the second floor and one of the other people waiting for their bankruptcy hearing asked if I was their lawyer. I could feel my stomach doing somersaults. No one else was dressed business casual, just me.

I stood out like a sore thumb. Great. It was now 1:30 and my lawyer was not there yet. I stood by the wall length window away from the rest of the people and tried to keep myself calm. I was waiting for my ears to start ringing, a sure sign of a fainting spell. Thankfully it never came. I was prepared for a panic attack but that never came either. I was breathing completely normal. In fact my heart rate was steady and so was my blood pressure. My stomach had settled. It was as if all of a sudden a complete calm was washing over me. I realized I had this. I was going to be just fine. I was okay.

I walked back over to the where the other people were and waited for my lawyer. He arrived a few minutes later and whisked me into the hearing room. I began signing a bunch of papers. He noticed my arms were filled with scratches and asked me if I got into a cat fight. He was really amused when I told him my Christmas tree was the culprit.

As we began filling out forms, we came to the question about injuries. He asked me if I was currently involved in any lawsuits for auto or workmen's comp injuries. I said no. He asked me if I was currently involved in any settlements for injuries as a result of a crime. I said no. He asked me if I was currently involved in any settlements for injuries sustained from being attacked by a Christmas tree. That stopped me in my tracks. I let out this huge laugh that echoed throughout the council chambers where the hearings were being held. I said no.

He put me at ease again. When it was my turn to be heard, I sat directly in front of the trustee which is normally where the lawyer sits. I looked him straight in the face the entire time. He wasn't so scary after all. In fact he cracked a few jokes with me and told me to watch as he made my lawyer squirm. He brought up my upcoming 2012 tax return refund. My heart began to sink. I always need that money to get caught up on bills and buy the things for my family that I can't normally afford throughout the year.

I watched my lawyer and the trustee go back and forth arguing about my return in an almost comical way. I understand the trustee works for the creditors. I understand he needs to practice a degree of emotional detachment in his work, but as I always say, give me five minutes in someone's presence and I can usually see them for who they really are.

What I saw was a man who was stern but also compassionate. A man who took pride in his work, paid attention to detail, but whom was also willing to help those whom really needed it. A man whom on a day to day basis has heard every excuse imaginable but had the knowledge to determine which reasonings were legitimate and which were not. He asked if any creditors were here to contest my filing. No one stood. He excused us. My hearing lasted 6 minutes.

My lawyer and I spoke for a few minutes after the hearing. He reassured me that it is rare that a case is appealed. He promised if there was anything that would ultimately become an issue, he would make sure to take care of it. The fact that no creditors showed to contest my declaration was a good sign. The fact that the trustee did not even get into my real estate was also a promising sign.

This past Friday I received notification that the trustee did not find any assets worth acquiring and that unless a creditor requests an appeal within 30 days of the hearing, my case should be closed. Of course I will not completely relax until all is said and done but I have been able to breath a few more sighs of relief.

The reason I have been so open and candid about most of my plight is because I know I am not alone in going through this. If this helps even one other person face their fear or make the decision to take the step towards fixing their finances, then all is not lost. I am not ashamed any more. I am not a failure. I am not irresponsible. I did break my word. I made a few poor decisions and learned a few hard lessons. Lessons I will not need to be taught again.

This is what I learned.

*My father has always said never live above your means. In fact do not even live at your means. Always live a little below them and save some money. This is definitely the best advice.

*If you see something you really want ask yourself 3 things. 

  1. Will I really use this, wear this, etc and if so, how often? 
  2. Will having this improve my quality of life? 
  3. How many hours of work is this going to cost me?
The last question is the one that ultimately gets me in the end. When I actually look at something in terms of hours spent working, I am able to make a rational decision. I am not saying you shouldn't have nice things or shouldn't reward yourself for hard work, but by putting stuff into perspective you will be more inclined to only spend money on the things you truly want and less on fluff or useless items. 

*Just like any other addiction, overspending is also an addiction. While I was not the major over spender, I lived with one. I was guilty of enabling him by trying to make up for the shitty childhood he had. That was not on me to fix. I know that now. Buying a bunch of stuff will not fill the voids in your life. Only you can resolve those voids by getting to the root of the issue and making an effort to change, resolve or move past it. 

*You cannot buy love and affection. They are not for sale. If someone implies otherwise then their motives are just that, motives. They are just looking to take advantage of you. Real love and affection are always given freely. 

*Be old fashioned. If there is something you decide you want and you do not have the money for it, save up for it. If the item is still available once you have the money, it was meant to be. If it is not, it wasn't. You may find after taking some time to save that you realize you no longer want it. Plastic should only be used for those items that can seriously affect your way of life such as an appliance breaking and even then, it should be used sparingly. 

*I like to travel. I want to do more. It is not impossible I just have to find a trade off and do without other things. If you have a passion, by all means support it. Life is still meant to be lived. Just be sure to find the trade off. What are you willing to give up in return without compromising your monthly bills or your responsibilities. I know people that make less than me but can do everything their heart desires, while still paying all of their bills on time and do not have unsecured debts such a credit cards. It's about being smart and patient. It's about learning to say no to some things so they can say yes to other things. 

*If your company offers a 401k or other savings/retirement plan, do it. Yes it is a deduction from your weekly pay but after a month or two, you learn to adjust. Trust me, I am broke but I still invest because in the long run it will make a huge difference in my life.

I am not going to lie, the decision to file for bankruptcy was one of the toughest ones I have ever had to make. The process is very trying. Several times in the last seven months I have come close to an emotional and mental breakdown. If it weren't for my friends and family to lean on during this time, I have no idea what I would have done. You are completely vulnerable and exposed but, a good lawyer will get you through this.

A good lawyer will be honest but compassionate. There is nothing wrong with going on several consultations before choosing an attorney. In fact you should. I did. You need to be comfortable with your choice. And remember the alternatives, yes I came close to cracking up but I definitely would have had I not taken action. It was never about losing my things, I am not a slave to my things, they can be replaced. This was always about regaining my quality of life, protecting my family and getting a second chance to learn from my mistakes and have a fresh start.

So this is it. I survived bankruptcy. Of course I did. I faced something that terrified me. In the end, I discovered the root of my terror. I am terrified of feeling weak and helpless. I had to come to terms with the fact that I am going to have weak moments. Avoiding them is not the answer.

I cannot always carry the weight of the world on my shoulders and some burdens I just cannot bear alone no matter how much I try. I learned I am not inconveniencing the people that really care about me by needing their shoulder or their ear once in awhile. I learned having a weak moment does not affect my character. Avoiding them does. Even Cassius Clay lost a few fights back in the day. I'm doing okay in this crazy, beautiful life. :)


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