It was the worst day of my life. Not one of the worst days. Not a day where not one thing seems to go right. Worse than that. Worse than any day I'd ever experienced before that day. Worse than any day since. And I would say that, like most people, I've had some real doozies.
We were four months behind on our mortgage. All of the credit accounts were maxed to the hilt. We had bills on top of bills, collections up the wazoo. We had no money, and worse, no jobs. Not one between us. Nothing coming in. I hate to tell you how much credit card debt I'd run up and the size of our mortgage and automobile leases. It was really, really bad.
This was not a crisis that developed overnight. It started gradually, of course.
Not many people start out in financial trouble. Neither did I. It happened quite innocently, really.
Over the years, one thing led to another, and the whole thing began to speed up. I always told myself everything would work out. Somehow it would. It had to.
But it didn't.
Instead, the proverbial perfect storm gathered despite all of my brilliant plans, schemes and dreams. I thought I had it all under control. But I didn't.
I couldn't stop it. It brought me down to a very deep and dark place. It changed my life.
My worst day happened more than 30 years ago, but it seems like only yesterday. That's how much it has not faded, how poignant it remains to this day.
Only recently did I come to terms with that time in my life. I've peeled away the shame, sorrow and guilt.
Do you know what I've found under all of that? Joy, peace and gratitude for the crisis.
I can see the beauty that came out of my broken heart. The crisis was a gift. Like a skilled surgeon, it cut deep to remove the fantasies, lies and deceit. Becoming real was hard and painful. A lot of good things are.
I'm told that "crisis" comes from the Greek word meaning "to sift or separate." Have you ever sifted sand at the beach to look for that perfect shell or panned for gold? Sifted through a vacuum cleaner bag to find a lost earring or diamond? Searched through bags of garbage in a landfill looking for something you lost that is so precious? That's the picture.
My crisis removed the fakery. It ripped away the sham that made people think we had it all together. Credit has a way of letting us build false lives that look good but are like a movie set. It's a nice front, but that's about all.
Are you facing a crisis today? I have been where you are. I've lived through this day — the day you woke up terrified. I understand. I get it.
I may not share the details of your crisis, because every situation is different. But I know where you are. You're confused. You think this is the worst day of your life. But you're wrong.
This is the best day of your life because you're about to find out what's real. You have been handed the gift of crisis.
I am so grateful for the crisis that picked me up, slammed me to the ground and left me for dead. It woke me up in the most unloving way possible. But I woke up.
I can mark on the calendar the day that happened. And I can show you the day that we paid off the very last dollar of credit card debt some 13 years later.
I could point to the last day of January 2014 when my husband and I became completely and totally mortgage-free — owners of the most beautiful home I have ever seen. I say that because, for the first time, we are homeowners, not only homebuyers.
We are debt-free. We have no mortgage. We owe nothing to anyone except a huge debt of gratitude.
That is a debt I will never be able to fully repay. But I plan to never stop trying.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary a Question." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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