Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Never Been Further Apart

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Total Black: $137.25
Total Red: $228,156.40

Well, at least that check was cashed, so I can stop counting that $500 in cash on-hand.  It went to pay tax advice from back in December.  And the advice was to stop paying my bills, let everything go into collection, and survive off the severance from the firm.  Great advice!  Isn’t that what people tend to do anyway?  Isn’t that’s why they seek professional / strategic advice because they don’t want to continue down that path?  Oh . . . how fitting . . . as I type . . . there it is . . . the first call of the day from the credit card companies.  I’m not even past 30-days late—on any of them—but it seems they’ve now started calling as soon as you miss a payment.  (I’m one of those few who still have a land-line number and cell phone number; maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want those companies calling me on my cell!)  Of course, they don’t leave a message.

It’s funny that for some time now the sound of the telephone ringing makes me bristle.  More often than not, I don’t even look to see who’s calling.  I know it won’t be someone calling to chat.  So too opening the mailbox.  I can’t recall the last time I received a piece of mail that wasn’t a bill or a statement or a notice of some sort.  And it’s starting to get that way with email as well.  Funny, isn’t it?  Many of our channels of communication are now sources of stress not joy.  Starting this blog put me in contact recently with a few people with whom I’d fallen out of touch.  And it got me thinking about “keeping in touch” and what it means today, especially given my current situation.

It’s never been easier to keep in touch than right now.  Think of all the options available: telephones, either mobile, often including free nights & weekend, or home, often with unlimited long-distance plans; videophones, including Skype; email; instant messenger; text messaging; and at the least there’s social-networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and the like; and let’s not forget good old-fashioned letters, or even dropping a quick card or note in the mail.  Any yet, despite all these different ways to keep in touch, it seems that we’ve never been further apart.  Why is that?

One reason perhaps:  I think as an nation, we’re just exhausted.  Maybe it’s a bit of national post-traumatic stress disorder, but it seems that our overall fatigue and—dare I say—agoraphobia has been on the rise, especially since September 11th and the ensuing wars, add in the burst and now “The Great Recession,” and weave in the explosion of technology—just within the past ten years alone—and I think a lot of people are just plain, ol’ tired.  I’m guilty.  I admit it.  The last thing I want to do when I get home at the end of the day is get back on the computer to start emailing people.  And if you can’t get me to do any that, what chance is there that I’ll put pen to paper and write a letter or send a card?  And definitely not to sit at the desk for another two hours, chatting over IM!  And yeah, frankly, I gotta have a reason to pick up the telephone and call.

Sound familiar?  I understand…another reason is because we’re all so busy, right?  Of course.  Definitely.  Sure.  Busy.  So busy.  Yeah, that’s it.  But once you do stop that merry-go-round for a moment,  you think “well, I can’t call/text/email/write tonight.  There’s so much to catch up on; I’d need an hour just to bring her/him up to speed.”  And the distance grows.  If you’re like me, like many of us in this global community, your family and friends are scattered across the country, if not the world, which means quick visits are really inconvenient, if not impossible.  So, you come home each night and you’re alone.  And maybe a bit lonely too.  And the distance grows even more.

I can’t say which is worse: no messages on the answering machine or five but all from bill-collectors or credit card companies.  I think of this scene from the film “Only the Lonely” where Danny Muldoon, played by John Candy, asks his manipulative mother Rose, played by Maureen O’Hara, why she has to be so mean to people.  I can’t recall the specifics, but what stuck with me was that she said something to the effect that she didn’t want to be like the other old people who are so lonely they pick fights with the clerk or the cashier just so they can have someone to talk to, even if it is to argue.   The loneliness of the elderly is quite well documented.  But I wonder about the rest of us.

Seems somewhat certain that the art of letter-writing is lost, perhaps for good.  In a world of tweets and status updates, there’s not much room for the belles lettres of old: R.I.P. Hannah Arendt & Martin Heidegger; John Keats & Fanny Brawn.  And if we’re at least that initial one step back from letter-writing, it’s not such a big step back from emailing, and then from text messaging, and then from calling.  Not many of us know our neighbors.  Especially not in large, metropolitan cities.  Where does it stop?  And when?  And what does this have to do with being laid-off, in debt, and my efforts to eliminate my debt in a year?

Perhaps nothing.  Probably a lot.  I think of that classic scene at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” when so many from town come rushing to help George Bailey out of his financial situation.  No one wants to know how he got there.  They know him.  And so they give what little they can (and for some what little they’re willing) to help pull him up.  How many of us would help George Bailey today?  How many of us are George Bailey with no one to ask for a little bit of help?  Think of the “George Bailey effect,” its domino effect, if you will, and how much we could help each other.  But how?  If we’ve never been further apart . . . .

2 Responses

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  1. Love your blogs…very inciteful,very honest and real. I wish most lawyers were as transparent as you! Ironically, I find your blogs (and the struggles you share) to be good therapy that gets me through my financial nightmares at night. They help me realize I’m not the only one struggling out here… By the way, are you making any money from this blog?


    August 19, 2009 at 23:47

  2. Thank you. In all seriousness and honesty. It means a lot. And…it also explains an odd trend I’ve been noticing—that my blog hits spike pretty late at night. Looks like you’re not the only one with those financial nightmares at night. And of course, you aren’t. Neither am I. I suppose eventually I’ll reveal who the man behind the curtain is, but I struggle still with our American, stone-faced approach to debt which prevents full honesty. It’s difficult to let yourself not be ashamed or embarrassed by it.

    But…chin up, right? Only way out is through. We just got to weather the storm.

    Maybe tomorrow’s post will be about lawyers. I’ve got plenty to say about that one.

    I haven’t tried to generate any revenue yet from my Confessions. I have wondered about it though. But it might be a bit soon to start hitting readers up for their cold, hard cash, no? Or maybe it’s that lack of greediness and cocksurenes that I wrote about coming through again? 😉

    Laid-off Lawyer

    August 20, 2009 at 00:13

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