It's over. My 16-month ordeal has come to an end. I'm exhausted, I'm humbled, I'm smarter, and I am free!
Yesterday I assembled at the closing lawyer's office with the buyers of my house and signed it over to them, lock, stock and barrel. They suddenly gained a $2500 per month mortgage payment. I got zero dollars in exchange for my house of 17 years.
My job loss, long-term unemployment and housing crisis loss of equity in my home is much too common among Americans today to repeat here. Suffice it to say that I fought my ass off. I used every negotiating skill I've ever had. I schemed. I begged. I cried an awful lot for a hardass like me. Nothing worked, and I was headed for foreclosure. My credit score plunged to depths I'd never seen since FICO invented scores. My pride? Shambles.
Finally, I jumped enough of the bank's hoops to qualify for a Short Sale. This just means that the bank determines a lesser amount than I owe as a settlement. In order to achieve that amount, I couldn't afford to pay a real estate agent, so I had to sell it myself. Never second-guess the value of an agent, folks. It is one of the most stressful jobs I have ever had.
When I handed the bagful of keys to Mr. and Mrs. A. at 2:45 p.m. yesterday, I was expecting to feel emotional about turning over my beloved house for nothing in return. Instead, something akin to an orgasm swept over me. The sense of relief was absolute ecstasy. And I said, "Congratulations!"
I am thrilled that I found a family to live in that house who I genuinely like. They have two adorable little boys who I will be able to watch grow from my new residence, directly across the street. I am even thrilled that they were able to get a home that they never could have afforded two short years ago.
I am not the same person I was the day I received the call from my boss telling me he had no choice but to lay off all his employees. That person was still driven by the desire to own things, to get more of those things, and to display those things with pride. I was not unlike other children of the 1950s and 1960s, who spent too much time finding more and more money, and working longer and longer hours to earn it.
The day my fate was altered was the day I refinanced my 13-year-old mortgage and took out a huge chunk of cash to remodel the house. That was in January 2006, the height of the housing market. It was the beginning of the end for me.
I'm different today, because I have taken a long time to remember how relatively stress-free my life was when I wasn't a homeowner, when I wasn't a taxpayer, and when I wasn't responsible for so much debt. Sure, there were months that I would run out of money before I would run out of month, but I managed somehow. The American Dream, which included the house with the white picket fence and 2 cars in the driveway, caused me to live the majority of my adult life under extraordinary stress, and I didn't even know it.
But my body knew it. Backaches, headaches, high blood pressure, chronic depression. I gained weight, due to 10-12 hours a day sitting at a desk, grabbing vending machine snacks to survive. The bodily toll was tremendous.
As for possessions? I have just spent the last two months shedding them, and most were given away. I've kept only the things that can fit into my severely downsized living spaces. They just don't mean anything anymore.
Instead, I delight in the nature around me, the friends who have been irreplaceable during this difficult time, my family and my dog. I am proud of my 30-pound weight loss between March 2010 and today. I feel and look younger and I have far more energy. None of the things that delight me so much cost a red cent! Zip, zero, nada.
I believe I am about to live the best part of my life. I am so grateful that I was able to avoid foreclosure, but if I hadn't, I would still be just fine. I am grateful that I have a little savings left and that I receive Social Security and a small company pension, so I can pay my rent and buy the simple foods I have learned to eat.
Life is good again.