ad, depressed and lonely woman sitting in a corner on a floor tiles, in a skirt, barefoot with a long blond hair

The Gift of a Crisis

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.

ad, depressed and lonely woman sitting in a corner on a floor tiles, in a skirt, barefoot with a long blond hair

I was in crisis, the kind that took my breath away and made me believe I had no hope. My world crashed. 

We were four months behind on our mortgage. All of the credit accounts were maxed to the hilt, and beyond. 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 even 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, have 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 looking 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.

RELATED: The Difference Between a Life of Joy or One of Misery

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 could 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 home buyers.

We are debt-free. We have no mortgage. We owe nothing to anyone except for a huge debt of gratitude.

That is a debt I will never be able to repay fully. But I plan never to stop trying.

Updated 7-19-19


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  1. Holly says:

    What a heartfelt and touching article! I read Debt Proof Living, and it has a much more detailed account of the agony that Mary went through. Mary, you have done such a wonderful job of teaching people not to make the same mistakes you have!

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