It has been such a long journey and with so many twists and turns that I scarcely know where to begin. It started with a kiss, it started with a Facebook update, It started with a mid life crisis (not mine, lol, I’m waiting to have mine later!), It started with a divorce… I’m actually not sure where it started and I am even less certain of where it will end, but one thing I know for sure, this year I’m fighting fit.
Last year I also made a video. You can watch it here if you like too, although much of it is cannibalised into my second video.
So what is my story and where do I begin? You know what they say – a good start is half the battle. So here goes!
This is a story of the big house, the big divorce, the big lawyers, the big courts, the big banks, the big bankruptcy, the big recession and little ole me standing at the other end of the lane, scratching my head at the wonder of it all, at the injustice of it all, and of the sheer madness of it all.
Once upon a time I was a middle-aged married woman with a stay at home husband and two beautiful little girls. I worked in the basement of this big beautiful house and my only view was the retaining wall at the outside and with limited sunshine during the day. I rose early and often worked before breakfast. I rarely had lunch per see and stopped only for dinner. Then after I put the children to bed I often returned to my dark basement and worked some more. I was terribly respectable. I was the local church warden, honorary secretary of the select vestry, Sunday school teacher, and I sang in the church choir. When I wasn’t working at the weekends, I brought my children to the stables with their new found love of ponies. I loved the ponies too, although I was little nervous of them.
Then I left my husband.
I was no long middle aged, no longer married and no longer respectable. I became the antithesis of all those things. It took me a little while to recognise this new condition and no one was more surprised than I to discover that leaving one’s husband also removed all the accoutrements of respectable life. And they did not leave me piece by piece, no, they were torn from me very publicly and very painfully.
One day secure and possibly quite boring, the next, shredded like a side of beef in the butchers. Conversely I was living and not very boring at all but I paid a very high price.
The five years since I left my husband have been a litany of painful truths, heart breaking events, soul destroying departures and things I never want to see, feel or hear again.
The five years since I left my husband have been a litany of new beginnings, exciting events, new arrivals and things I never thought I would do or feel or see, ever.
Once, while my father lay dying in his 87th year, my brother remarked that old age was a terrible thing. ‘But what,’ he asked, ‘was the alternative?’
So too with divorce. The price can be very high but what is the alternative?
Five years ago the big guns took my money. And then my ex husband gave me as a parting divorce present the entire mortgage on our lovely house. Only our lovely house was not so lovely any more and was worth less than half the amount owed.
I tried to sell it but the banks stopped the sale. Last year I was as close to repossession as is humanly possible without the paperwork. I had given up on the house and just wanted to be free. Of course, Irish law means a debt is a debt to a little person and with the house only valued at half the mortgage, I was going to still have a very big debt for a very small person.
This year I have decided to fight back. I am no longer in roll over mode. No longer accepting the cruel blows of fate that been struck me, the bad show of hands that have been dealt me, the unfair trammelling the law, banks and my ex have foisted on me.
The worm is turning. This lady is for turning.
So, I have a plan. To take back my house. To occupy Raheengraney. To make it into the most beautiful wedding venue in Ireland. I even have the Romeo balcony from which the brides can throw their bouquets.
First I must fight the banks though. And I ask you to send strong and positive wishes my way. And any spare cash, offers of work and other such practical assistance. A girl can only do so much on her own against the banks!
Follow me on Twitter @jilliangodsil or you can email me on jillian at practicepr dot ie.
The man next door is not your enemy. He may well be in receipt of many hundreds of welfare money and reliefs each week, but he is not your enemy.
The young girl who has a baby to ‘get ’a house is not your enemy. Would you wish that lifestyle choice on your sister, daughter, or friend?
The chap doing the nixers and claiming the dole is not your enemy.
People make choices but often choices are forced on them. It could be accident of birth, education or geographical location. It could be as result of job loss, divorce or bereavement. It could be the school you went to, the kids you hung out with, or what your parents did. It could a desire to follow a dream, or conversely inertia and laziness. It could be because you fell in love in final year, broke up in final year, or could not find love in final year. It could be the books you read, the books you hoped to read, or more importantly the books you never read. It could be the songs sung to you in the cradle, the songs you hummed as a child, or the songs you made out to.
Choices are often involuntary. Will your child become a doctor? Chances are only if his parents were. Will your child become a plumber? Chances are only if his parents were. Will you child go to college? Chances are only if his parents did. Choices are often parameterised by circumstances – past, present and future.
So if your neighbour is on the dole, if the girl next door has babies to earn a house, if the chap who fixes your washing machine demands cash because he is on the dole…he is not your enemy.
The enemy is the lazy agent of government which refuses to make the welfare state more equitable. The enemy is the process that applies a slap-dash approach and ties up worthy recipients into a mire of red tape. The enemy is the over paid senior manager who runs a department in the same way it was run before because that is how it has always been done.
Why does seniority of tenure demand a large salary without expectation of greater performance? Why don’t we find entrepreneurs within government and institutions of state? Are they choked off by inertia, by ‘more than my job’s worth’, by sheer intransigence of circumstance, of history, of a sickening series of accumulations that together create an amorphous mass that cannot be shifted.
I am very tired of government and the people who are supposed to be in charge ducking out of responsibility for tackling issues. Instead they prefer to set the people at the bottom against each other, dividing and conquering, kept busy so that the injustice up the ladder is not seen.
The squabbling classes. The squabbling masses.
Throw them bones so they tear each other apart. There was a report in all the major news outlets in January. It said that the people most affected by the new universal charges and levies are the middle classes, the squeezed middle classes. Those in receipt of social payments were said to be largely insulated from the rising costs. This was the headline in news reports and in the broadsheets, as well of course in the tabloids. It took a few days but then some bright spark questioned the source of this report. There was none. No source. No survey.
Then at the start of February we had the Magda scandal of the polish woman who was supposedly here as an economic tourist, living off the dole and laughing at the Irish people. The report was utterly wrong and so far from the original polish translation, but it not only ran in a broadsheet but had several senators and councilors roundly criticising her – the same senators and councilors who have access to large sums in expenses.
And don’t get me started on the laundry expenses kept by TDs in excess of €3000 per year. Are politicians meant to be prettier than the rest of us?
I refuse to look at the man next door and see him as my enemy.
There are many abuses to the social welfare system, not least that the self employed cannot access it. The self employed person by their very nature tends to be a self starter and wants to work for themselves or create larger companies. But sometimes the self employed need help too. I may be very good at my job. I have years of experience but that does not guarantee my success nor an increase in salary each year. Last year my company failed and I was unable to get any help. Instead I was visited by bailiffs. I still cannot get any help – and now is when I need it. I have no intention of remaining on welfare but I need it now and I cannot access it. I can only strive to re create my business. This is wrong.
Welfare should be administered on need. It should be compassionate. It should also be a right not a privilege. But it needs to be fair. If there are inbalances then these need to be fixed.
The army of people working in the department of social welfare are not all pen pushers. They are not all administration people looking at the rules and then applying strictures. I will not insult the vast army of people working in these departments, they are of course intelligent, intuitive, and interested in getting the job down.
But why are the rules so hard to change, to fix, or to amend? I do not have access to the salaries and CVs of those working in management but I am sure they are high flyers, high earners and high achievers. Where there are inbalances, can not a critical mind re evaluate how they should work. Checks and balances. Why are they so undone?
My heart also stops when I hear the latest news from welfare that the department is going after the welfare dodgers, the abusers, the parasites in society. Why is it that a man in receipt of a lowly figure on welfare may be considered a parasite, while a politician in receipt of a laundry expense (just to pick one frivolous example) is entitled to look pretty?
Fix the system from the top. Look at Eamonn Maloney, Labour TD and the only politician who refuses to take expenses. He is not on a crusade; he believes his salary is sufficient. I am not saying that expenses are the work of the devil, but please let us count them the same way we count for the people on the dole, the self employed with no safety net, the old and those on the breadline.
The man next door is not your enemy. We are not in Orwellian country now where pig cannot be told from human. Look up people of Ireland to fix our country. Those in power, in salaries, in positions of authority have to earn our respect. They have to earn their salaries and positions in society.
Look up People of Ireland.
It’s official. In November I hit rock bottom. The bailiffs came to my office to seize my goods. Only they gave me a stay of execution for a week. I have to say it was the toughest week of my life: the toughest week in a run of five years of very tough weeks.
I am glad to say that on that Friday in November the stay was extended and the threat removed. I am glad to say my eldest daughter does not need to leave school and get a job as a groom to support her broken mother. I am so very glad to see the back of that week.
And I’m even better than glad, I’m actually really happy because I have hit rock bottom and as everyone knows, once you hit the bottom, the only way is up.
Over the past five years I have hit so many lows, you’d have thought I was limbo dancer trying desperately to get under that bar. And each time, it moved a little lower. I’m pretty flexible and springy but there is a limit, and even elastic can snap.
So, when I went into meltdown during that terrible week, my brain cells all curled up and I could not cope any more. I cried a river. I put one foot in front of the other and I made steps that followed one another. But only physically. Emotionally and mentally I was stony broke.
And then the noose was released and I spluttered back to life. And even better than that, I sucked in great big lungfuls of air and coughed and hawked and breathed.
Over the past five years I have repeated a mantra: Ever onwards and upwards, maybe sideways but never backwards. But despite this mantra, I knew I was often going backwards. I could not help it: there were forces stronger than me. I may have kept my head above water but I was not progressing in a forward motion. Far from it. I was being swept out on a rip tide that refused to let me go, to let me be. And sometimes the shoreline seemed very far away and impossible to reach.
So when the bailiffs came, and more importantly then went, that week, I suddenly realised that I had indeed hit rock bottom. There was no more harm that could happen to me. There were no more bad things to suck me down, I was down as far as I could go.
To survive a visit of the bailiffs is a huge thing. It is the last huge thing in my spiraling descent. I am jumping up and down on Terra firma now; rock bottom is a hard place but great for jumping up. It’s not the funny quicksand of hard times, it’s not the soft uncertain foundation of worrying times, and it’s not the gooey mess of troubling times. It is rock bottom and therefore very solid and rock-like and bottomed out.
The week after the bailiffs came and went, and stayed gone, I was very, very happy. And two months later I remain in that happy, upbeat place.
I am jumping up and down on my rock bottom and the earth is not shaking or giving way or crumbling. It is rock solid rock bottom. And really, the only way is up!
PS (And please don’t tell me how far up it is! Law of gravity and life suggests my ascent may be tougher and longer than the rapid descent, but I think I was polite to those on the way down, so maybe that will conversely help on the way back up!)