*8Ways to Turn a Financial Crisis into Opportunity

bob_steph_pablo_boxes1Here at Magpie Girl we like things that nurture the soul. There are not many things that can rock you to your soul’s core like the idea (or the reality) of losing your home. But for many it’s a reality that’s either knocking at your door, or one that’s already made itself at home. So this Monday at Magpie Girl I’m pleased to welcome Stephanie Walker, who’s unexpectedly become an expert in offering soulcare to those who are facing economic crisis. Stephanie blogs at Love in the Time of Foreclosure, and offers soulful advice for those who are facing financial crisis. Today she offers us *8Things that will help you turn crisis into opportunity. This value-added post is practical, inspiring, and just down right helpful. May you find companionship for the journey in Stephanie’s words today.

*8 Things that Helped Us
 Turn Our Personal Housing Crisis into an Opportunity
By Stephanie Walker

Last year at this time, our house was on the market, our bank account was negative and my husband Bob and I were both unemployed. Things were not quite going according to plan. The plan, when Bob’s high-paying contract got cut short, was to sell the house, pay off our debts, rent and start over again. We didn’t want to sell our house, but it was the only way out. We were sinking way too fast. We needed a new plan. The new plan, we agreed, was to turn our financial disaster into an opportunity. Somehow. You know, the whole idea of never letting a  good crisis go to waste. Our crisis, we firmly believed, could be an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, to learn, to re-prioritize. A challenge, indeed. But a worthy challenge. We may lose it all, but what we would gain in the process could be something more valuable than any house.

With that new thinking, we moved through our foreclosure story. Yes, it became a foreclosure story. We defaulted on our loan and received the “Notice of Intent to Accelerate” from the bank the week before Christmas 2008. In the end, to make a very long and exciting story short, we ended up selling the house in a short sale, narrowly avoiding foreclosure. We sold 90% of our possessions and moved to the suburbs of Chicago to live with my family. We’ve been here for three months. And in less than a week we will be moving to the San Juan Islands where we will be house-sitting for two years and living rent-free. Yes. From a $5,000 mortgage to rent-free. From Los Angeles, California to an island in the Pacific Northwest.

Here are 8 Things that helped us turn our personal housing crisis into an opportunity

1. Talking: I know, this is easier said than done. But now is not the time to keep your concerns, fears, resentments or pain to yourself.  Talk about how you’re feeling. Share. Be vulnerable. Does this sound trite? Well, it’s not. Bob is not one to automatically share openly his darkest thoughts. But when he did, it helped not only him but me. It was helpful to know what he was struggling with internally so that I could be more patient or give him the space he needed. And he found that saying it out loud lessened the hold these fears had when internalized. Express it and let it go.

2. The pact: Bob and I made a pact with each other to turn our crisis into an opportunity. We promised each other that we would view every hurdle as an opportunity for growth. That this could be the perfect chance for us to learn how to be happy in the face of any circumstance. We promised to be at our best. And to be there for each other. This pact worked because we were both so profoundly committed to it. We understood that without this pact, our chances for happiness were slim. So we respected the pact and held to it. You can make a pact like this with yourself, but I recommend sharing it with another person so that they can help you keep it in existence.

3. Allowing Others In: Of course we were embarrassed about our situation. We felt like dummies. Idiots. Failures. But we trusted that our friends  and family would not judge us as harshly as we were judging ourselves. And we let them in. I’m not saying we showed them our budgets or our credit report. But we did tell them what was happening along the way. We told our friends and family and eventually our neighbors. And then I started writing about everything on “Love in the time of Foreclosure.” We held nothing back.

When our bank account was overdrawn, they brought us homemade lasagna. When I was stressed, they took me out for happy hour. When we just needed to talk, they listened. When we had our estate sale, they were there first thing in the morning running the show. Our friends were amazing. Amazing. The best part about allowing them in on our financial problems, we didn’t have to pretend anything. I don’t know how we would have been able to actually hide our financial disaster, but I can imagine how stressful that would have been. This one requires letting go of your pride. To let others in means to truly be vulnerable. To say, like we did, We screwed up and are in big financial trouble. This is what’s going on. We’re committed to turning this into a good thing some how. We let them into our lives and into our “plan.”

A huge benefit to allowing others in? They have really good advice. Things you wouldn’t think of on your own, necessarily. They send you links to articles that have a wealth of information you need. They put you in touch with people who can help. They share their own stories about their tough times that not only allows you to feel better, but give you hope that if they made it through, you will too.

4. Have Fun: Just because you are facing losing everything, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. This is so important. Yes, we were working our butts off. I had two jobs at one point. We were doing everything we could think of to market the house which included constant cleaning. We didn’t have discretionary funds. But we still had fun. We went for walks. Discovered new parks. Bob competed in the Grilled Cheese Invitational . We watched shows on Hulu. We went to the beach. Hiked in the mountains. Sat by the fire. Had friends over. We had fun. We were committed to being happy even in foreclosure. In this kind of a pact, fun is a key ingredient.

5. Exercise: I am prone to anxiety. When I was a kid I used to think I had a breathing problem. At  least that’s what I would tell my parents when it felt like my lungs were incapable of fully expanding: “I think I have a breathing problem.” Well, I discovered that ‘breathing problem’ was actually anxiety. The best cure for anxiety – in my experience- is exercise. It’s hard because the more stressed I get, the less time I have for exercise. But if I don’t, I am only setting myself up for anxiety. Exercise helped me so much through one of the most stressful times of my life.

6. Daily Checkpoints: Every morning when we walked the Pug we would talk about what we would do that day. What we were committed to accomplishing and what we were going to work on personally. Some days I’d wake up so overwhelmed I didn’t want to have this conversation. Luckily on those days, Bob was on the other side (and vice versa.) He would talk me through it. We’d start with ‘clearing out the cobwebs’ before we would talk about our goals for the day. Then, at the end of the day we would recap. How did it go? Did we do what we said we would do? If not, what was in the way? What did we learn and what can we be grateful for? This might sound like it would require a very long conversation, but we were actually able to go through this in about ten minutes. The days we did this always went better than the ones we didn’t. You can create a pact, a vision statement so to speak, but it doesn’t live on its own. It requires constant re-presencing or it will die. Our pact to be our best, turn this crisis into the opportunity of our lives and be happy in the process needed daily care to thrive.

7. Make a Difference for Others: Have you ever noticed that when you have your attention on the well-being of others, you’re less worried about yourself? Well, I have. Bob and I met doing a 500-mile bike ride for charity. On that ride we both talked about how much easier the ride was when we were cheering others on. We’d be at the top of a hill before we realized how difficult the climb was when we were cheering other riders up the hill. The same is true in life. We’re all in this together. And there are so many with great need. In the midst of our foreclosure battle, we collected donations and went on a bus trip down to Mexico to visit an orphanage with a non-profit organization Corazon de Vida. Getting outside of ourselves and focusing on others made such a huge difference. It really puts things in perspective!

8. Believe: (insert cliche here.) I don’t know how to bring this point home without sounding completely cliche. But in the midst of a crisis, you must believe. Believe in your own strength to pull through. Believe that things will improve. Believe that you’ll be stronger for surviving. Believe that you are not alone. I voted for Barack Obama. I was inspired – and still am- by his stand for humanity. By his willingness to stand for and speak about belief and the power it holds. As he said during his campaign: “I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about change in Washington… I’m asking you to believe in yours.”

Read more of Stephanie and Bob’s inspiring story at Love in the Time of Foreclosure. And if you’re selling a house, watch for Pam Weinert (Stephanie’s mom) as she offers real estate advice on Wednesdays at LITTOF. (So helpful! )

Grow your gratitude. Live Satisfied. Join us on Facebook for our weekly *8things roundup.

EM Lewis October 12, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Great article — good, practical advice on keeping centered in the midst of turmoil. Thanks for sharing it!

Marie October 13, 2009 at 5:05 am

Wow, I feel like I should save this somewhere in case of personal disaster. The idea of looking at every hurdle as an opportunity for opportunity is powerful! This essay really twisted my thinking in a new direction. Thanks for taking the time to write this out and share with us.

Karin October 13, 2009 at 12:29 pm

I really love it all…….so practical and upbeat. But what really hit home with me is #5 Exercise. I have been feeling like I can not breathe deeply….and that has added to my anxiety. Now I realize that is my anxiety…and what I need to do about it.
Thanks for what I believe will be saving marriages…..and therefore the emotional well-being of the children in those homes.

rowena October 13, 2009 at 3:32 pm

This is eerily fitting for me. We’ve been unemployed for months and all our expectations of being able to find jobs just don’t happen. I was off line this week because I moved me and the kids into my mom’s house for a few months and their old computer was incompatible with the 21st century. Sean is still out in California trying to find a job. He went out there for a job which fell through as soon as he got there. It’s ridiculous, but I have still gained a lot over the last 2 years of our struggles.

I like reading this because it gives me new ideas for dealing with the whole mess. Must stay positive, that’s for sure.

Lianne October 13, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Loved reading this! Welcome to the PNW – I live on Vancouver Island, just across the border. Drop me a line if you want to connect. You’ll love it here.

amanda rose October 14, 2009 at 6:20 pm

thank you so much for this post. i hope you don’t mind that i linked to it.

Danny Fitzpatrick, Whole Health Coach October 14, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Your article is like a breath of fresh air. There must have been mroe than a few sleepless nights, but what amazing insights you were able to come away with. Thanks for sharing.

Stacey October 15, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Wow – That was really a great share – thank you!

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