Does my DEBT look big in this?

22Jan13

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with Jillian Godsil’s personal financial circumstances. Last week, she decided to compile a series of essays written over 2012 which traces her feelings and views on debt and austerity in this beautiful country of ours. In addition, she has written two new pieces, Debt Never Sleeps and Hope which sum up both the terrible effects that unrelenting debt places on the individual as well as the hope that still dares to survive.

50% of ALL proceeds to Pieta House, the frontline charity for the prevention of suicide and self harm

Buy a hard copy here   Buy a kindle version here

Introduction to Let’s Talk about Debt (extracts from main book)

Let’s talk about DEBT is a personal view of how the policies of austerity are affecting the ordinary people in Ireland. Despite living in a time of pervasive and global communications, the real impact of austerity in Ireland is hidden through a mixture of fear, shame and the stigma of financial ruin. There are very few who will put their head above the parapet. Even worse are the many that have chosen the ultimate way out – suicide rates are rising dangerously in this country and things are not getting better. As a people we need to talk about Debt.

‘Let’s talk about DEBT’ is a series of three essays on surviving debt in Modern Ireland.  They form part of a larger collection written over 2012 in which I seek to explore what it is to survive massive personal debt, the kind that keeps you awake at night, steals your home in broad daylight and robs you of your ability to earn an income. These things by themselves are traumatic but when you have teenage children who need your support – financial, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual – then the debt has the potential to totally sink you.

Over the past five years I have gone from mild insomnia to a full blown chronic condition.  Closing my office and losing my long term colleague back in September 2012 was almost the death knell for my wellbeing. Without my children, ironically the source of my ultimate and long-term worry, I would have floundered.  Without them, I would have given way. Thankfully, I am now looking into 2013 with more clarity and more sleep than I could muster in the latter half of 2012.

My eldest daughter was chatting with me recently. She remarked how she had woken repeatedly during one night: at one, at four, at five and finally at six am just before the alarm went off. At each time, bar the last, she said how glad she was to know there were hours to go before she must wake. It was only the last waking, when she felt most sleepy, that made her cross. I distantly remember that feeling in the past, the luxuriant knowledge that comes from waking many hours before the alarm and knowing the time would be put to good use in slumber. Nowadays, if I wake, then I count in horror the hours I must toss and turn, walk the floors, or shiver in my bed waiting for the morning and the death of insomnia. As the dawn light creeps across the bedroom floor, then my eyes grow heavy and a great tiredness overcomes me. I swear I would give up a vital bodily organ to be allowed remain asleep at that point such is my fatigue!

But debt does not have its own way all the time. To live well is said to be the greatest revenge you can extract on your enemies. To live is indeed the starting point to counter debt, and to live with hope is the next step. Baby steps. In this, I am reminded of the war poem by Lawrence Binyon in which he famously said: At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.’ I am very fortunate to have two brilliant young women who are with me as I go to bed and who are with me in the morning, chivvying me to get up and be ‘at it’!

I also have an amazing supporting family and friends. And even more amazing strangers and well-wishers who cheer me as I falter on my unsteady way.

I do not treat debt lightly but nor will I surrender to its dead hand.

This is for the army of people who are holding it together for their families and friends and neighbours. We will overcome!

Introduction to Does my DEBT look big in this?

Jillian Godsil became broke and famous by a series of random and connected actions. Once a successful businesswoman and aspiring writer, she was hit by the double whammy of divorce and recession. Accordingly she was left in possession of a rather large mortgage (in excess of €1,000,000) on a Georgian manor house worth less than half that amount. Her ex-husband returned to the UK and became bankrupt, effectively giving her and their two children the entire debt. She fought every way she could but she could not hold back the tide. In 2011, she made a video to sell the house which went viral. She received an offer of €500,000 but the banks refused the sale. In Irish law even had the bank accepted the offer, she and her two children would still have been held liable for the balance.

In 2012 things got worse. Her company failed and bailiffs were sent in but her story continued to travel around the world. This time, instead of online and viral, she went offline and traditional. Her story was featured on Irish, English, Belgian and American television broadcasters. Her claim to fame was to be featured on BBC2’s Newsnight. Still, it made not a blind bit of difference to her downwardly spiralling financial crisis. Asked why she kept talking, even as she was backed into a financial corner, she cited one reason; suicide. She believes she has been given a voice to keep talking about debt, what it feels like, how to live with and please God, how one day to conquer it. Ireland of 2011 witnessed two suicides every day. While not all were down to financially reasons, a significant proportion could be attributed to such a cause.

Jillian’s mantra is that she is not ashamed she failed financially. She worked bloody hard but life threw her a curve ball. In Ireland financial failure is viewed as a stigma, unlike other cultures which view it as a necessary path for any businessperson worth their salt. It is ironic that the quote ‘Fail once, fail better the second time’ is from none other than Irishman of letters, Samuel Beckett.

When people tell her that the banks cannot get blood from a stone, Jillian’s response is to say ‘Yes, but it is very hard being that stone’. Banks are very powerful institutions and can jump up and down on little people. It hurts. It hurts a lot. Likewise, having no income is very painful, especially when one was successful before. Surviving debt is a tough road. It is not easy. It is very hard to share the reality of the day to day choices that have to be made. Jillian began 2011 an ardent and keen volunteer in many areas. She ended it an accidental activist. But one important thing she learnt along the way. She is not afraid.

On the plus side, Jillian is now a full time writer. Poverty and writing are good bedfellows. Here is a collection of her blogs from 2012. Some of them are funny, some of them irate and some of them painful and sad. She started the year in good hope but that too was almost crushed along the way. Almost. She has learnt that even the toughest of times will pass. She had learnt she is not afraid.

 

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