Eighteen months ago I thought it would be a grand idea to refinance our home. Rates then were more than 2% lower than we were paying, and spread out over 30 years, a rate reduction would translate into several hundred thousand dollars in savings. So, I took a green dry erase marker and wrote “Refi House” on the white board in the kitchen. I intended it to serve as a constant reminder and encourage me to boldly embark upon the process. With me being only occasionally aware of it, each time I glanced at that board, the realization that I was losing hundreds of dollars every month our home remained unrefinanced began to generate low levels of stress in my body and brain. The stress also subtly affected my heart.
Eventually, I took the first difficult step (for me, and my compromised social engagement system) and contacted a national lender who advertises on TV, radio, muni buses, YouTube, Google, and they’d probably place an ad on my shaved head if I would rent that space to them. Initial interactions were pleasant enough when I opened with the fact that I would only be seeking a 50% loan-to-value refi. That means I only wanted to borrow half what the property was appraised for, an uncommon condition in America’s modern-day mortgage market.
Checks and Gross Imbalances
Everything continued to be hunky-dory as we went down this banker’s checklist of documents I would have to provide, until we came to the list item that said, “Employer.” I explained that for the last five years I’d had no employer and wasn’t really in the market for one. I had no trouble paying my bills without someone to boss me around and demand I do their bidding in exchange for whatever money they thought my indenturedness was worth. So, why would I want one now?
For some reason that perspective seemed to dampen the banker’s excitement about my loan application. After a bit of further exploration, when I finally got him to admit that he would only proceed with the loan after I paid a substantial application fee upfront, whatever harmony-junkie tendencies I might have harbored were quickly put to rest. I decided that this lender was in the fee-collection business first, and the loan-making business only if there was a 100% certainty that whomever they eventually sold my loan to would not later reject it for some administrative oversight. Like: borrower has no job.
In the wake of this first encounter, I could feel my stress levels inching up. Nevertheless, in spite of occasional heart palps, I continued marching forward. Next I contacted three different local mortgage brokers. They are paid by the lender, and many do a very good job for borrower clients, especially borrower clients who have jobs and have sufficient cash reserves and don’t really need the money. Since that wasn’t me, the brokers politely declined to accept me as a client, citing all kinds of “reasonable” reasons: too busy, tough market, lenders aren’t lending, only brokering new loans, etc.
Welcoming and embracing rejection has never been my strong suit. Consequently, these dismissals inched my stress levels even higher. What’s REALLY important to note here though is this: I didn’t realize my stress levels were rising as a consequence of all these interactions. And insidiously increasing levels of stress inhibit the growth of new neurons and their ability to make connections with each other. They also compromised my social engagement system even further. And I suspect they continued the sinister, secret work of compressing my heart rate variability. Nevertheless, I forged on.
My next weak-hearted idea was to go directly to a local Whidbey Island bank with a good reputation for lending to island residents. Their loan officer was welcoming and gracious and took the application and gave every indication that even without a weekly paycheck, with my cash reserves, the low loan-to-value ratio, and my payment and credit history, mine was a loan the bank was more than ready to make….And then I never heard from them again. Emails, telephone calls, even a manned-up return visit to the bank, all went unresponded to. Collaborative communication was apparently NOT a top bank value. Hello increasing stress levels; greetings even more compressed HRV.
Then, fifteen months into the process, one day my Refi Brain (continually subconsciously niggled by my white board reminder) noticed a small article in a business magazine that said the government had inaugurated HARP-2, a home mortgage program that provided special benefits to mortgage lenders who agreed to refinance existing mortgages at the current market rate. This program felt like a personal gift from Obama. I immediately called up my mortgage lender, talked to a banker there and he convinced me that I’d absolutely come to the right place.
I began sending him documents by the dozen, week after week. While doing so, I notice even more significant “dread risk” arising along with accelerated increasing stress levels – some part of me expected this loan application to meet the same fate as all the others. The rising stress didn’t abate when the first month passed without a closing date, or the second month passed, or the third. Finally though, now I’m beginning to actually notice my stress levels. And they are sky high. Why? Because I am seemingly so close, and I want it so badly. No Buddhist detachment here in the least.
At last, the banker calls and notifies me of the closing date: Election Day. I’m hopeful, but wary. Election Day comes, and along with it a notary and a pile of documents an inch and a half high for my wife and me to sign. Two hours later, we’re done!
Relief is Just … a Signing Away
With the signing of the last signature, almost immediately I can feel a great surge of energy, a huge weight lifted off me. My adrenals are no longer pumping out the minute, increasing levels of adrenaline the way they have been for months, nor is the cortisol required to combat those increasing levels flooding my system, trying to keep them in check. Nor does my heart any longer feel like it’s under attack. That process, happening mostly without me really being aware of it, abruptly ceases and desists. And it’s at this point that I’m VERY aware of the stress I’ve been under. Its absence is unmistakable. I can finally exhale. And smile. And let my body relax. And not have to make another mortgage payment for two months! And it will be a payment much smaller than last month’s. Hooray!! And kudos to me for not letting the bankers and their pole-up-the-butt systems manage to fully break my heart.
Now to get with a full forgiveness, resentment-releasing, mind-body-brain and heart restoration process. Even greedy, unconscious, fearful, rigid, mechanical, small-picture, predatory, self-serving bankers who precipitated planetary suffering and almost bankrupted the world, and who can never be fully counted on the answer The Big Brain Question “Yes!”, have a birthright that entitles them to love. Which now becomes my heart’s and brain’s next pressing reminder to go up on my white board.