Mar 16 2015
I am in a race. It isn’t a footrace, or I would lose it, seeing as how I do not have working feet. And there are no other contestants in this race, but it is a race with a finish line nonetheless.
Right now the finish line is in 8.6 months away. I am counting down the numbers — yes, indeedy-do. Those numbers have been staring me in the face for several years, although, of course, the numbers change every month.
This is the first month, for example, that the number has been so low that Fluffy has said that a person could get pregnant and have a baby, and my race would be finished before the baby was born. Now that was a satisfying thing to contemplate. I have seen hundreds of women at church go through pregnancy and childbirth, and the time flies by like lightning (well, maybe not for them). But I can do this.
The number that is staring me in the face is the number marking the day I will be out of debt. I’m determined that this will be the last time I will be out of debt, mind you, because it is the last time I will be in debt. You see, after a lifetime of getting in debt, I have finally learned my lesson. And, as Fluffy would no doubt tell me, it certainly took long enough!
In my defense, I learned my lesson before the last time I got in debt. I had already learned my lesson before I lost my last job, but then I got laid off from that job and I had regular payments I was expected to make anyway. I kept putting those things on charge cards, fully expecting another job was going to come up soon. Little did I know I was going to be unemployed for four miserable years.
One can amass a whole lot of debt in four years, even if one lives frugally — which I did and I didn’t, depending on the month (and sometimes depending on the moment).
Okay, let’s call a spade a spade. During those lean years I spent about $6000 per year, which is pretty darn conservative, when you think about it. That money paid for vitamins and my clothing and Fluffy’s clothing and a lot of our food and Christmas gifts and birthday gifts and virtually everything else in the world I needed (or thought I needed, which is a different thing altogether).
When you think about it, spending only $6000 per year made me a wise steward of the money I did not have.
But it’s hard to pat myself on the back when, cumulatively, I racked up almost as much debt as the amount we paid for our first house back in the dark ages, which is a whole lot of money to pay off. I screamed like a turnip being squeezed when it was time to pay the bills every month.
I took a two-pronged approach to dealing with the situation — ignorance and denial. Every financial question Fluffy asked was answered with, “I don’t know.” Finally to reduce both of our frustration levels, Fluffy took the job over from me. Now he pays the monthly credit card bills and performs other magic acts so that I’m not paying the outlandish interest rates that I used to pay.
All I have to do is earn my monthly paycheck and keep my spending under control. The monthly pain of actually paying the bills is gone, but the money is going no farther. At least he tells me exactly when I will get out of jail free.
I have a modest monthly allowance that is set aside before the credit cards are paid. Once this is spent, I’m high and dry until the next month rolls around. This has presented some challenges. Every visit to the supermarket forces too many decisions.
I may have a craving for pork chops, for example. Well, that’s just too bad! There’s a birthday this month, or maybe it’s Easter. I only get pork chops on months when there are no days to celebrate. Maybe I will get pork chops in June. And the same goes for cheese. Other than your basic cheddar cheese, cheese is a thing of the past. We’re holding off on cheese for the duration.
But in 8.6 months I will be out of debt and we can live like regular human beings. All that money that is now going to pay for past sins will be available for riotous living. I can buy pork chops every month, or maybe twice per month. We can march up to the cheese counter and buy a whole wheel of Société Roquefort, if we are so inclined. How I look forward to that day!
I am learning the lesson of what happens when you continue to spend money when you are out of a job. You get in debt, and then you have to pay down that debt one miserable month at a time.
I am paying the piper. In December, all this will behind me, and I will have learned my lesson. (Actually, I have already learned my lesson, but I am still paying down the piper.)
This is a lesson in repentance. You can be sorry for your actions, and you can be forgiven for your actions, but sometimes there are consequences for those actions that still have to be paid. Sometimes those debts have to be settled with a bank, as mine are. Other times those debts have to be settled with other human beings, as you forgive others or beg their forgiveness for your sins.
Sometimes those debts have to be paid with yourself, as you change your habits or wean yourself from addictions. Some addictions can ride your back for a lifetime.
(I look at the idiot young people who slouch down the street with cigarettes hanging from their mouths, looking oh-so-cool. Ha! I think. What imbeciles you are! But some lessons can’t be told to you. You have to learn them by yourself, and pay for them that way too.)
You can repent all you want for what you did in the back seat of the Chevrolet. You can forgive yourself, and God can forgive you. But nine months later, if the stars aligned, you are still going to find yourself in the maternity ward.
Repentance washes away the spiritual stain. We still are left to deal with the earthly consequences of our actions.
I have a list of things I am going to purchase when I am out of debtors’ prison. I will order all the ruby red grapefruit I want, for one thing. And See’s chocolates will be on the list too. And of course pork products will be a big priority. It is time to replenish our food storage, and I am beyond ready to do that.
I will hire a housekeeper — just once a month. Fluffy deserves a break, and it’s about time he got one.
The big purchase will be night stands that are not made of particle board. I will have had thirty-nine years to decide what I want, so I am pretty picky about it. But I am not going overboard. I do not need thousand-dollar pieces of furniture. I am a frugal person. I know what they cost, and I am willing to shop around.
Fluffy is afraid that the first month I am out of debt, I will get myself right back in debt again. Fluffy is wrong. You see, the biggest gift I can give myself is peace of mind. That doesn’t cost any money. In fact, that requires that I don’t spend it. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.
That’s the most important thing about repentance, you see: The person who is repenting must change his ways. I want to show Fluffy, and I want to show myself, and I want to show God, that I am a new person.
As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” I want to show myself, most of all, that I am one of those new creatures. And if all goes well, the new Kathy will emerge before the New Year appears.