In which I slay the credit card beast
March 19, 2009
This is a long post, but the bold text is the Cliff Notes version.
I signed up for a credit card my first week at college, and the nice company
gave me a $10,000 credit limit.
So I’d like to have a word with them.
But to be fair, I was the one who had a little problem with panicked shopping.
Then suddenly I also had a divorce and a move and lots of therapy,
and that little sliver of plastic came in handy: as a dagger with which to stab my heart.
I ran up scary balances and then slow, painfully, paid them off.
At one point I borrowed money from my parents,
who are actual church mice, to pay down my balance.
Then I ran it up again.
Mother Mary in the heavens, it was excruciating.
Some dumb things happened, and some other boring things happened,
and suddenly the card demanded its money back.
All of it, right away. No installments. Pay up or go to court, they said.
But I didn’t have $12,000, and I didn’t know what to do, so I stuck my head in the
sweet cool soothing sand.
In case you’re wondering, I don’t recommend this solution.
It was THE most painful experience of my life.
Divorce, childbirth, the Bush presidencies — they are as nothing
compared to the torture of overdue debt.
I put pathetic, puny amounts into my debt fund: $20 here, $100 there,
and through some sort of magic, it added up. I had almost enough!
Except — Kaboom! I got pregnant! And I spent it all, and I’m not at all sorry.
After a long time,
after I’d had my baby and gotten really clear about my priorities,
I realized that I would never be at peace until I dealt with it.
First, I had to save the damn money again, one lousy penny at a time.
Then, it was harder than you’d think to track down my creditor
(who said they’d never heard of me)
although there was a civil judgment against me in a court case I didn’t know about.
Apparently, someone we’ll call Delphine swore up and down that
she’d give me the official summons with my name on it.
But I don’t know anyone named Delphine.
In the meantime the amount I owed had flowered, ripened, had babies.
I found an undercover guardian angel masquerading as a lawyer,
sent the certified check express mail, and the money, my entire life savings,
hovered in limbo for two months; they just didn’t cash it.
At one point my lawyer said,
“Don’t these dingbats understand that you’re trying to pay them back???!!??”
And for a midwestern guardian angel, that’s serious profanity.
I called my life coach once a week and breathed into a paper bag
and really truly thought that the fear and self-loathing might kill me.
I was afraid of everything — of debtor’s jail, of being arrested at the airport,
of the mafia showing up at my door and hurting me or my baby.
But mostly, I was simply too ashamed to come out into the open.
The whole thing took just forever, and was more awful than I can say.
And then, poof, one day it was over.
I got a paper saying that I was free and clear.
And it was like scales dropped from my eyes,
and the world welled up so RICH and clear
that it was like the colours themselves were speaking.
And that part, I definitely do recommend.