I am in the process of writing a book about bankruptcy... and what it really means as a state of being, a state of mind. I have well concluded over the years I have lived on this planet that bankruptcy, as we have come to think about it in both environmental and financial terms, is the evidential trail of personal dissolution, insolvency, overdraft and the absence of flow in our lives, at much higher orders of thinking. We would not ever consciously intend to live bankrupt lives, yet that is how most of us, the world over, are living. We choose to turn away from the evidence of our choices, so indoctrinated have we become to not that... anything but that. Shame and the fear of shame will keep us in denial, in avoidance, in hiding and feeling inauthentic. We are the frauds we loath. Truth is, by the time a bankrupt person chooses to declare and own the lie she has been living ad nauseam, that she might save her sanity and finally own the clarity of her own thinking, the truth of the lie has been present for a very long time. Modelling is our greatest teacher. I learned by example to turn away from the obvious; self-distraction was key.
So, what follows, below, has been extrapolated from my writing that is in process... and it became a speech which I delivered at MoMondays Ottawa in October of 2017.
I allow that I am a creative force; I also allow that I take risks. And the one thing that I know is that I have actualized some pretty amazing ideas over the course of my life... not all of them with pretty results. As a creative force, some of those things have been downright messy. AND they are mine to celebrate and to learn from. It all gets down to choice and one's belief about her inalienable right to choose. The best way to negotiate risk is through experience. Sometimes, we leverage our own; sometimes, we leverage that of others. No matter what, our self-education is key.
I am 71 years old. At age 62, I declared bankruptcy. When I arrived at that decision, I had carried a huge burden of crippling debt for six years. I felt old, outraged and resentful. I felt scared, tired and ashamed. I felt a failure. I denied that to myself, making my feelings about it all even worse. At 62 years old, thoughts about not having enough and being able to look after myself at this senior age felt like a betrayal, a punch to my stomach. I blamed others for this result and I blamed myself. I worried about the impact to my husband. Would we lose everything we had built together and the land he had grown up on?
It was easy to default to the story of what happened. Really, who cares? I could tell you that it was a business failure. I could tell you that it was in Southern California. I could tell you that I had already had eighteen years of experience in Ottawa with the same business. I could tell you that I had done the research, calculated the numbers, drawn up a business plan well accepted by the bank, and applied for a United States VISA to live and work in the USA. I hired a California lawyer to educate me and to facilitate whatever was required to move forward. I was familiar with Southern California and I had already launched a community there which was growing. Even though I believed I had prepared myself, I was about to step into the biggest mess of my life.
I drove 5 days across country from Ottawa to Long Beach, arriving at the end of July, 2002. I was to have access to my new studio on August 15. When I arrived at the of July, I discovered, to my horror, that the ground for the building had not yet been broken. I had planned for an October opening to be ready for Christmas sales. My plans and my calculations were now hugely compromised. Anxiety took over and depression set in.
From there, everything that could go wrong, did. There were multiple mistakes and delays that took months to be rectified. I chose to live a pretty sparse life to respect funds; still, the delays blew out my plans and the financial numbers blew up, more than doubling my well researched estimates. I had to get further financing. I was horrified, terrified, outraged and resentful. I wanted revenge and I talked about a lawsuit; my lawyer talked me out of it. Nine months passed before I was given the keys to the space. Nine months, the length of a pregnancy. And during that time, my sprit was in collapse, my emotions were in the toilet, and my body was in unrelenting pain.
With myriad setbacks, I closed the studio doors only nine months later. Think of it as two very difficult pregnancies, one after the other. My husband flew to California, packed up my vehicle and drove me home to Canada. While I count myself as a spiritual person, not a religious one, the metaphors of finally arriving home to safe haven on Easter Sunday, only two hours after the sun had risen, was not lost on me. A resurrection, it seemed, was at hand.
It was the gravity of my own fear that got me. It felt cellular. For six long years I carried the weight of that financial burden, barely tolerating the emotional abuses of creditors' agents seeking to meet quota through the unsuccessful collection of outstanding debt. I had nothing left to give. It was brutal and it was punishing. Like attracts like, so the worse it got, the worse it got. I was absent of breath, trapped between a rock and a hard place.
It was not until 2007 that a friend pointed out to me that I was not breathing, maybe never had. No breath, no life. I realized, then, that fear, anxiety and high alert had been my life-long standing drivers for living. It meant that I had lived a life of bankruptcy as the metaphor for my own disconnect. It meant that I had spent my life feeling sorry for myself, unrecognized.
So, I share with you that bankruptcy IS a state of mind. Fear gets more fear. Joy gets more joy. Not good, bad, right, wrong, these vibrating electrical signals create a currency of consciousness. These electrical signatures are without morality. They just ARE. It really is a question of whether one chooses to reclaim and own the bad, the good, the ugly and the beautiful... all at the same time. Try as I might to tenaciously hold onto an opposite - meaning a seemingly more elegant - perspective, more and more I know that resisting the truth of my own experience, in the absence of inhaling and exhaling, will bankrupt my life.
I define bankruptcy as the disconnect of my body from my soul; the overdraft of joy through fear. By the time the overdraft showed up in my bank account and in my health, it seeds had been germinating for a very, very long time. Likely for generations. Truth is, these days, I have an easy - and a simple - solution. I purposely inhale and exhale so that I can actually hear myself breathe. I consciously choose to let go. And, I choose to remember that I have not been without success in my life.
Ultimately, I gave myself permission to choose something different. That was in 2007, when I chose to take the first real breath of my life and let my body stop shutting down my intuition and its signals. By 2008, I made the appointment to see a bankruptcy trustee. The power of paradox cannot be overstated, here: choosing to step fully into the declaration of what I had always feared would be held as the most abominable shame, simply dissolved the shame of it all, rendering it no longer a truth in my life. Truly, acting on that decision changed my state of being and my state of mind that day.
The day I signed the the bankruptcy papers was a cold, bleak, grey Tuesday in early December. I called it Freedom Tuesday. The streets were empty as I entered the trustee's office. When I arrived outside, three hours later, the sun was out, the day had warmed up a bit, and people were happily milling in the streets on their lunch breaks. A veil had lifted. I could feel, hear and see evidence of a vitality starting to percolate. I could feel the air in my lungs. I would live. I had finally stopped feeling sorry for myself.
The only way to the other side of anything is in it and through it. It has taken me all of my 71 years to fully grok and get on board with that. Honestly, it really is the path of least resistance.
Living really is as simple as this: take a breath and exhale, own what you know and THAT you know... and choose.