Monday, December 10, 2012

I live the life of a regular father. B'H.

I'm guessing that since I just wrote that dismal post about work, I figured I would share how I am doing at home.

In short, my relationship with my wife and my kids is very good.  My wife and I have been trying very hard to implement the tools we have learned from the therapist, and I apologize up front for not keeping up with the teachings.

Essentially, the main thing that we have learned is that every reaction from your partner deserves to be taken seriously, even when they are illogical, when they make no sense or are blown out of proportion, or even when the accusations, anger, frustration falsely accuse you of saying, doing, or thinking something you didn't, and even when your partner is flat out wrong and out of line.  No matter what the circumstances, if they are angry or edgy, deal with it and accept them for who they are.  This obviously goes both ways because quite frankly, if I were the woman here, I wouldn't deal with the piece of sh*t I am with all my flaws.

Anyway, I find that often our fights have turned into something like this:

ME: "I'm upset about so-and-so topic."
HER: "You're wrong.  It happened this way."
ME: "I don't care if I am making this up entirely! I am feeling this way bottom line, and you are supposed to accept it as being true because you are supposed to validate my feelings and I am feeling vulnerable and I need your support."
HER: "Well you have just triggered me too, so our conversation is over."
ME: "Okay, sorry for getting you upset.  We'll continue this fight later, but I'm still angry about it."

I find that many of our fights are just the result of moments of vulnerabilities where one or both of us are overwhelmed, tired, sad, or angry about something, and the other one of us is not there emotionally to help the other.  No matter what we fight about, usually after the initial anger or hurt passes, the feelings pass as well and it becomes very easy to talk about it once the emotion associated with the event has passed.

Anyway, as far as our kids go, all is okay as well.  My wife and I are good parents, and we pride ourselves on the hard work we do for our childrens' benefit.  Obviously we could certainly be better at almost every facet of our parenting skills, but notwithstanding our broken pasts (mine from abandonment and abuse, and my wife's from emotional neglect), we do pretty darn good.

As far as religion goes, we're also pretty good.  The focus of many of our conversations is halacha (Jewish Law), and how it relates to a particular situation we are dealing with.  I am strong in my Torah learning (I could be so much better, but objectively I am strong), and I have a good head on my shoulders.  I study gemara (Talmud) every day according to the Daf Yomi schedule, and I enjoy learning every day.

In the evenings, I sit down in front of the computer and I either watch some show online or play a video game.  I know this is a complete waste of time and brain power, but I enjoy it and so does my wife.  We obviously spend a considerable amount of time talking before the nightly Netflix, and so the night is my favorite time of the day.

Exercise has been horrible for me.  I can't get myself out of bed (I actually wake up between 5am-6am every day), and when I do force myself to fling myself out of bed, I fight with myself whether I should go to minyan, learn some Gemara, or go to the gym.  Having a coffee and learning some Gemara usually wins out, except when I make the mistake and check my work e-mail.  Then my day is destroyed because that's all I do.

I work hard out of the home in my office (I used to work in the home and it annoyed my wife), and I come home between 6pm-7pm every day.  I play with the kids, eat something, and then put them to bed.

This is pretty much my life.  I live the life of a regular father.  B'H.

My heart is not into it this time around.

It has been many months since my last post, and no surprise.  I write when things get tough, and then when things get better, there is not much to talk about.

I had to let my employees go from the law firm.  It was sad, but it was many months in the coming.  I was working on a very narrow set of cases knowing that once we won, our firm's income would be cut to zero.  I saw the signs of success for my clients a few months ago, but it wasn't until recently that the cases were coming to an end.  

Now there is a bit of tying up to do, but we've been on a negative cashflow since July, but the hope was that by the time the firm ran out of money, we would have found a new stream of income.  The problem was that I was spending all my time working on the cases because our clients paid us up front knowing that it would be many months before the case would be over, and I wasn't exactly in the mood to nickel-and-dime my clients to death like most lawyers who charge by the hour do.  Plus, we were contractually bound for me to represent them for this set fee until their matter was complete, so we've essentially been running on fumes (everything took much longer than I expected it to), time has run out, and our firm is out of cash.

So it is only me again here in the firm.  It's so lonely, and my motivation has dropped to zero.  It is so disheartening to know that my "wave" is over, and to catch the next one will take months, maybe years of work.  I am having such a difficult time calling current clients about new matters and following up with new inquiries, not because I don't have the time, but because I don't have the emotional energy or strength to stand up and start again.  I'm burned out from the marathon our firm just ran these last few years, and I can't stomach starting again...but that is where we are.

I started the firm having six months of basic expenses to keep the family running, and I hit the ground running with enthusiasm.  It was my dream to own my own firm and to work for myself.  Now two years later, I still have six months of salary, but we are no longer on scholarships from the school, the school loans are no longer on deferment, taxes are through the roof from all the legal fees the firm made earlier in the year, and we now have FOUR children in yeshiva, and we are paying full tuition for each child.  Our baseline of expenses is so large now, I break into sweats every time I think of the "minimum" amount of money I will need to pull in each week/each month just to keep afloat.

So with all this, I'm paralyzed emotionally -- I cannot work, and I cannot move.  Even though we succeeded in what we accomplished to do knowing that it will kill our business if we succeeded, our business died as a result of our clients' success, and now it is back to the drawing board for our firm.  It's not completely over, but no new clients are coming in because they are "standing on the shoulders" of the work we did for our older clients.  We purposefully killed the market which fed our families because it was the right thing to do.  I just can't pick up a pen now without wanting to cry, so I distract myself just so I can get the day to pass so I can go home, put the kids to bed, and then go to bed myself only to participate in this cycle again tomorrow (until I gather the strength to stand up and start again).

To add to this -- my wife is compassionate for my circumstances, but I don't think she really understands the huge amount of stress I am feeling from our firm running out of steam.  I think she wonders why can't I just stand up and do this again.  Why can't I just hit the ground running once more?  Why can't I find a new niche and run with it, while still looking back and servicing clients who have already paid me from my old niche?

The problem is that my heart is not into it this time.  I've been successful, and it took much more energy to be successful than it does to be poor.  Life is not that much more exciting when you're rolling in the dough, because everything becomes more expensive.  I was pleading with everyone around me to continue living small because this wave of success the law firm was experiencing could not go on forever.  I wanted to save for today, and today is here.  I'm jaded that we are back where we started, and now I am older, and I have more expenses, and my family has become accustomed to living bigger.  Now it hurts to tighten our belts, and with a maid that comes to clean almost every day, expensive health insurance which just keeps getting more expensive, and everybody always wanting more money, it's a spiral and I don't know how to get out from underneath it.

How do I justify telling my wife that she can no longer have the maid, and that we need to drop our health insurance and stop buying as much food just to survive?