Damning Debt

How much does debt destroy a person’s integrity?  Is credit rating the new and improved way to judge a human’s worth, or is it just a shallow measure like breast size or bicep thickness?  Should I live in fear like the guy on the commercial who finds himself in a pirate get-up earning minimum wage, or is it all just an empty threat by the cruel credit industry to get us to slave our lives away to buy them more yachts?

About 8 years ago I was living debt free.  I was also living without a car, without cable or a cell phone or indeed most amenities that mainstream society considers essential to basic survival in the modern world.

But I was happy, and I was proud that I didn’t owe a dime.

Then, for reasons I will blame on the heartache of being dumped by my then-husband of 10 years, I went a little crazy.

Next thing I knew I was back in college, racking up student loan debt I never imagined possible, holding scary new credit cards that were used to buy food and other necessities for me and the kids.

And if anything is going to keep me up at night, it is thinking about money, most specifically the phenomenally huge piles of it that I will end up shoveling into the yards of those to whom I owe.  Despite my new husband’s reassurances that there isn’t a debtor’s prison in the US, I definitely feel shackled by the red numbers that haunt me.  I am simultaneously grateful and guilt-ridden to think of him shoveling next to me, trying to fill the holes I dug before he even met me.

The worst part of it, worse even than the bag of tater tots I charged way back when that I will have paid $49.73 for once it is paid off, worse than being afraid of the friendly neighborhood mail carrier, worse than the feeling that I will hyperventilate myself blind when I write out yet another check for nothing in particular except that I HAVE TO OR ELSE, the absolutely worst part is that I feel like the lowest kind of person.

I try to imagine for an instant that I am a murderer hiding out, then wave my reality wand and *POOF*  Now you are perfectly innocent of homicide!  Don’t you feel better now?  That trick lasts about 6 and a half minutes.

I imagine that my house has burnt down and I’ve lost all my photos and writings.  Then, *ABRACADABRA* your house is actually intact!  Doesn’t life seem more rosy?  That ruse is good for 11 minutes.

I picture what a debtor’s prison was actually like, the fear and shame and suffering.  The utter darkness of the body and soul.

But none of my extreme mental ploys can really dispel this little cloud that hangs about my head, casting gloom into the future.  Nothing gets rid of the certainty that I have signed on with the Devil, or at least some of his demon minions, and the road to eliminating the spot on my eternal soul will be long, difficult, and perhaps impossible.

What have we as a society done to ourselves?  Am I the only one who confuses my essential self with the paper trail that my material existence leaves behind me like the slimiest kind of slug?  Is there a way to take responsibility for the choices I have made without drowning in discouragement? Is there a way to set the debt aside as separate from me, to isolate it in a hermetically sealed section of my life so that it does not contaminate the flavor of food or the color of the sky?

I hope that someone somewhere is enjoying their yacht, and that guilt over their criminally high interest rate is not spoiling the caviar.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Damning Debt

  1. Joy

    Owing money is one of the worst feelings in the world. We had to go through it mid way through our 30 year marriage when we suddenly had to live like teenagers again. It’s humbling and embarrassing. We rose above, shopped week to week, paid bills $20 at a time and had to put up daily with “those” phone calls but we overcame. The first thing we did was cut up all credit cards but one and we gave that to my dad for safe keeping. We knew he’d give us the third degree if we asked him for it.

    All I can say is it will get better but you mustn’t give up. Just do what you can. I think this is something that makes us all the same. It’s something most of us have gone through.

  2. Dusty

    All I can say is, you’re not alone. The only difference in our stories is that the debt was accrued by my new husband and myself, as I went back to college and then attempted to run a business that was doomed from the start. I have that added guilt, because of some of my decisions.

    Day by day Hon, that is how I’m getting through it.

  3. Thanks for the encouragement, Joy and Dusty. It is indeed helpful to imagine that I am not alone…

  4. I’m with Dusty–just take it day by day. Choose the debt that is the closest to being paid off and see if you can add a little money each month to getting it paid off (even if it is just $5.00). Once that debt is paid off take the payment and apply it to the next debt each month. Once the second debt is paid off take that payment and apply it to a third. Keep doing it until all debts are paid.

    My husband’s truck will be paid off in December. As soon as that happens we plan to take what we were paying on the truck and add it to the payment on my Highlander. It will increase what we pay on it each month, thus helping us pay it off sooner. Since we are already used to paying the truck amount it won’t feel any different–except that the debt will be eliminated alot sooner!

    Good luck!

  5. Good advice, kweenmama, thanks!

  6. Kween’s plan of attack really works! 😀 We have also been in the slop due to nursing along a failing business. I remember well using a credit card for groceries, health insurance and to pay the mortgage. We kept thinking somehow it would get better. It didn’t. We had to dig out on our own.

    The good news is, we DID, and that means you can, too! It’s not easy but it can be done. And this is coming from someone who not only had monstrous credit card debt, but also owed the IRS over 16 grand. (No we did not settle. We paid them and their staggering interest.)

    You CAN do this!!!

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