Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Back to the Future

When I became disabled and lost my livelihood, my career, I went through a two year long process of assimilating and adjusting to my new circumstances. For quite a while I kept trying to work, taking occasional high-paying temp jobs in my profession. But my health was bad enough that eventually, either the hiring company or the client would begin to balk at having me around. I scared them.

And after every temp job was over I'd end up sick in bed, often with a serious bronchial infection, and usually for as long as the assignment I'd just finished. Work for three weeks, be sick in bed for three. Work for two months, be sick in bed for two months...

When I met Walter in 1993 I was still temping. I spent three weeks in New York on an MBS portfolio due diligence team, and came home and told him about some bad things that had happened with one of the men on the job. Between that, and the fact that we were getting married and I've have health insurance at last, I decided it was time to face the facts. That became my last temp job.

I simply couldn't work any more. It was not even possible to do typing or something at home, in my semi-controlled air. I couldn't take certain due diligence work home, because we often had to work with original notes and mortgages. They must be guarded as we work, then locked up in the big bank vaults at night.

I could work at home if my health was tolerable, but with no warning I'll get swept up in a terrible spiral of allergic episodes, or 18-hour sleeping fatigues, or another infection. I always prided myself on being a dependable worker, finishing my work on time even under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. But I was no longer dependable: not because of any change in my character, but because my health could not be depended upon.

So I stopped trying to work. Walter encouraged me to re-file my Social Security claim, which was successful. The lawyer told us I'd lost about $24,000 in benefits because of my *work attempts,* subsequent illnesses notwithstanding. Thus my reward for trying so hard to Do the Right Thing.

Then, in every sense, I turned my back on my profession and walked away.

I had to. I miss it terribly. To this day I still dream, sometimes, about my old portfolios as I sleep. I wonder how certain workouts came to pass, ones we'd resolved and ones we hadn't yet when I left. In my field I was doing work I was born to do, I felt it from head to toe and out to my fingertips, and so did everyone around me. To lose it was like having a limb torn away from my body.

To protect myself emotionally, to try to keep on course toward my future, toward living my new life, I stopped following banking and real estate news. Today, I have more ignorance of such current events than the average person on the street.

Ah, but sometimes...sometimes, hearing about a bank in trouble, or the discovery of some fraudulent real estate development, my interest would stir despite myself. I'd lift my head up and sniff the air like an old fire horse retired and turned out to pasture, who still ambles up to the gate when it hears the fire bell ring and smells smoke on the air. Desert Cat brings this out in me.

And here and there, I still tell old war stories, or explain some of the workings of banking or commercial property operations or mortgages if someone wants to know.

Especially when Walter asks. Trained as a lawyer, highly experienced in business back in the old country - including in real estate developments - and with one of the most well-rounded educations of anyone I've ever met, Walter has a great background for this subject. When he reads the newspaper and asks me pertinent questions, sure I like to answer him.

With the recent extraordinary events in the world of finance and economics, those questions are complicated ones indeed. And both of us can tell that he's got a very clear grasp of what's going on. Nuts and bolts and big picture too. He says it's because of the time we spent talking about them over our 15 years together.

Still, there are gaps. These are complex matters. Walter's asked me, gently, to reconsider my position, and take the time to follow all that's going on. To talk to him about it, to explain certain aspects having to do with finance. His own great love is the field of politics. To our mutual disappointment, that's not a field I have any interest in discussing, even with Walter. But these days, finance and politics have meshed in a historically significant way. A union, if you will, of two fields that took prime status in our personal backgrounds.

So I agreed.

I really have no idea where this will take me in the end. In order to refresh my own understanding, I'll take a blog walk through some of the basics of finance. I'm pretty sure I'll get irritatingly pedantic on you from time to time. I'll have to start with a brief resume too, because of this: *Yeah, right, what makes you think you know?* Commenters do tend to say that.

For quite a while - in between the usual flower pix and boo-boo updates - there will probably be nothing but musty dusty history discussed here. I'm in a unique position for using the past to help explain the present and future. That past may end up being far more interesting to me than to you, with the events of today burning huge and urgent questions into our everyday lives. I sense the urgency, believe me. I just don't do "fast" much any more.

But I bet you'll forgive me in the end. Oh, I just KNOW you will.

Because this stuff is fun, fun, fun. Scary? Infuriating? Intimidating? Boring sometimes? Yeah, all of that.

And FUN!

I like fun.

This kind of fun? I hope you'll like it too.


Granny J said...

k -- I can hardly wait! I've sent notes to my dotter OmegaMom & another friend saying that your coming posts are MUST reading...but do take time out to smell the roses.

Desert Cat said...

Well I'm on the edge of my seat--srsly!

SeaPhoenix said...

Holy heck, time to ink up the printer, I smell a book!

Jan said...

Will be looking forward to what you have to say about it all, k. :)

Pretty Lady said...

Hrm. I'm sensing a large, important Life Task, here. Maybe even a book. I'm serious. Get that voice recognition software.

k said...

My gracious. Thank you all, very much.

I am touched.

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

Of course we'll like it. Because we like you. And Walter.

k said...

Joyce. You are a treasure and a half.