I want you to imagine walking out of a Michael’s Arts & Crafts store…your twin grandsons are fighting over a doughnut while you are grabbing up their hands to make sure they stay safe from cars passing by. It was warm outside that day and as I approached my SUV, my cellphone rang. Then my world changed…forever.
With the boys still quarreling over the doughnut, my then-husband of twenty-four years called to say, “I don’t want to be married to you anymore.” I stopped outside the doors of the Lexus, reached over and broke the doughnut in half and handed each boy their piece, and calmly responded, “I can’t deal with this right now…can I call you back?”
I’ve reflected on this time more than I care to admit wondering how that call could happen. (What happened afterwards is personal, disturbing, and requires a story to be told…) In that moment – how was I so calm to answer back with a professional response, “Can I call you back?” I mean, what’s the appropriate way to freak out?
The drive to my son’s house with my grandsons in tow, who are now happily devouring their respective halves of a sour cream cake doughnut with crumbs galore all over the backseat, seemed like it took several hours when it was only twelve minutes. My mind was racing and I just kept swallowing the anxiety which was welled up in the back of my throat.
The wait was excruciating.
He didn’t come home until 3:30am and I sat on a couch and waited the entire night to hear that front door open. When he came in, he said he was too tired to talk and walked upstairs and shut the bedroom door. Strike two on discussing the obvious.
Then the morning came and he shared he was no longer interested in responsibility. He wanted a clean slate and to go out into the world to discover what he had been missing.
The days following were quite difficult. Every feeling comes and goes and you are so tired of processing that it exhausts you physically when you’ve gone nowhere and done nothing. The inevitable is the split, I knew this, but I was not versed in how to navigate the journey especially when I really didn’t understand how we got there so abruptly.
Then the really bad stuff happened.
Ultimately, the father of my three children got on a plane and left for the west coast, but oh yeah – he never mentioned…he took the money out of savings, had the retirement account emptied, and did I mention I was unemployed at the time as I had just started a new consulting practice? Peace of mind was no where in sight.
Broke, penniless, and scared – that was my June 2017.
When others were enjoying warm summer days coming, the smell of fresh cut lawns, and trips to the winery, I was freaking out wondering, “How will I pay the electric bill?” or “Where am I going to find a job?”
The most common feelings I battled each day was stupidity, betrayal, enormous loss, and financial instability. Remember – when you work in financial services, there is an unwritten understanding (an expectation, if you will) that you are prepared for every financial pitfall out there. When it’s actually happening to you – I can testify this is a complete bullshit assumption.
I did get a job (a quick “thank you” to Jennifer Bacarella of Sigma Planning Corporation is necessary who recognized my value – – even in a really low moment) and every single day after my employment I was grateful for that job to pay my mortgage, car payment, provide insurance for my girls, etc.
I was literally walking through the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and trying to get my foundation of homeostasis met. I dealt with the other steps many months later!
It took me from June 2017 to December 2017 to get “caught up” and make my bills manageable. This meant I was going into 2018 with new challenges of looking at my taxes after a divorce, paying penalties on retirement accounts that were accessed, and all the other bad stuff which happens when one person in a divorce acts selfishly in the split.
Why I’m sharing my story?
When I finally admitted to my social media friends and family on Facebook on what happened (and FYI – I never once put my ex-husband on blast, but the apparent split needed addressing with my connections) I felt like I could finally exhale all the crap I had held in during the most difficult of times. What happened after shocked me, though.
My story was not uncommon. I had friend-after-friend come from beyond the shadows, raise their hand and tell me, “This happened to me, too.” I couldn’t believe this and although my story had moments of true fear and my personal form of destitution when my cash flow and bank accounts were zero, this too passed once I regained financial stability. So much of my success afterwards was tied to simply having steady income.
This divorce spawned a mission, a plight, that we need to talk openly about what really happens in life so others do not feel alone in their situation and to offer help whenever or in whatever way we can. Those individuals who were brave enough to raise their hands and say, “This happened to me, too” helped me know I was not alone, realize there is an end in sight, and to just hang out – be gritty – and kick some ass.
So what’s next?
My 2018 continues to be focused on social media and digital marketing strategies, but I will be sharing more about women and finance essentials. There is a tremendous need for women to feel safe to talk about their financially needs, fears, and where there are speed bumps in their understanding about how money really works. Yes – money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does keep you from feeling like shit.
BE A PERSON OF ACTION: Is there a woman you know who could use your financial services expertise? Are you able to find one person a quarter to extend a helping hand to in 2018? What may be keeping you from broadening your practice to help others in need?