You know those times when you don’t realize you’re holding your breath until you finally get a deep lungful of air?
Well, apparently I haven’t been breathing for the past 6 years. Or actually for the past 6 years and 5 days, to be exact.
And I didn’t even realize it until today. Or more specifically, when I received the word that not only did I qualify for the car loan, I qualified for the lowest interest rate.
I can’t even begin to explain the relief that gives me.
Not only does a new (and hopefully more trustworthy car) give me freedom, the loan is a sign that I can finally put the financial betrayal behind me.
I’ve always said that the financial betrayal was the worst. It’s the one that refuses to disappear. That tails behind me as stubborn and persistent as a hungry toddler. Only much, much more nefarious.
I have been reminded of it every time I’ve had to make payments on debts he incurred (for things like HIS honeymoon). It’s been thrown in my face with letters and phone calls from collections, threatening me because of his lies. And it’s held me back as I’ve worked to improve my credit score.
It’s been a load of shame on my back for the past 6 years.
I’ve felt embarrassed every time my financial situation has to be exposed. I instinctively pull out my divorce decree, ready to defend myself against the stains still on my record. I’m not sure what’s worse – the feeling that others might think I was responsible for the debt or the knowledge that I was a chump, blindly ignorant to my ex’s machinations.
I’ve been uncomfortable with my car – easily the oldest in the parking lot at work and probably also the senior in my neighborhood – for a few years. I don’t like to let people into the vehicle, where the orange foam spilling out of the cracked seats will tickle their sides. I like to arrive to the location where I will meet a new person before them, so that I am not associated with the rapidly aging vehicle. Because even though I’m not one to give much credence to appearances, I know that others are judging me by my ride.
It’s been a flame of anger for the past 6 years.
It’s not fair. It’s not fair that he stole my money and my credit and escaped unharmed as far as I know. It’s not fair that all of the careful planning and saving that I did was wiped out for his impulsive and deceptive actions. It’s not fair that he was granted the newer and more valuable car (that was almost paid off) by the courts and I received the ten year old model.
I’m angry at myself. For believing what my ex told me and not looking for myself. For trusting that he cared as much about my financial well-being as he did his own. For being stupid and gullible and naive.
And I’m reminded of this anger every time I grow frustrated with my car or see his impact still imprinted on my credit. I’ve had to very intentional and generous with gratitude to counteract the scalding impact of his actions. And that’s not fair either.
It’s been a cloak of fear around my heart for the past 6 years.
In the beginning, I couldn’t even bear to see the extent of the damage. I narrowed my eyes when I looked at account balances, blurring the total as though that would somehow soften its effect. I had my dad examine my credit report after promising that he would not reveal the actual score to me. I was afraid to face the evidence that he had been whittling away at my well-being for years.
Every trip to the mailbox and every unknown number on my phone caused my pulse to rise as I braced for news of another account or threats on a known one. Even as parceled out paychecks to pay down the debt, I was petrified that another would surface and my careful accounting wouldn’t be enough to save me.
I finally faced my credit score for the first time since the life implosion two years ago. Ever since, I obsessively check Credit Karma every day. And I’ve watched the number rise as my identity is slowly replacing that of my ex on the accounts.
But I haven’t really trusted the number. It felt fake, somehow.
And so, when I nervously entered my information on the credit application for the car, I was sure that I would be declined. Or at least offered some sub par rate. And when the phone rang mere moments after I hit “submit,” I saw it as verification that my fears were founded.
“Everything looks good,” I heard faintly, as though it was coming through a tunnel.
It was only after I hung up that I realized I had collapsed onto the floor, relief buckling my knees beneath me.
Because it’s about way more than the money. Or the car.
I can finally feel like this is all behind me. Like I am no longer held back or limited by any of what happened.
And for the first time in 6 years and 5 days, I can finally breath freely.