Debt and Uncertainty: The Challenge of Being in Limbo

DH = Dear Husband
“I phoned yesterday,” I told the person at my work insurance company on Friday, “and was told that it would take three to five business days for you to wrap up my file.   But I thought I’d phone today just in case you already have it all resolved – and I can have a really nice week-end.”  Or a really bad week-end.  But at least I’d know.  The woman on the other end of the phone had to go away for a few moments.
To review our insurance drama, which has kept our debt repayment on hold for over two months, I have to take you back to the end of July.  For his business franchise, DH went to an American city for an annual convention, and in a stroke of bad luck, had a gallbladder attack twelve hours prior to his flight home.  At a nearby hospital, he had to pay a $2,500 deposit for a few hours of emergency treatment before going to the airport.  We later found out that bills for the hospital visit totaled $6,500.   After a flurry of e-mails, faxes, and phone calls to get our insurance claim going, we had to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait.  DH had had a gallbladder attack in May, so the possibility of a pre-existing condition  – which would eliminate our chance of any coverage – was being investigated.  There was little I could do besides periodically check in to see how things were progressing.

Grace in Limbo

The psychology of uncertainty is tough.  I have never been comfortable in a state of limbo. Whether in employment, in relationships, in questions regarding health or finances, I function best when I know where things stand.   I am sometimes struck by the grace with which certain people absorb the limbo in their lives.  They carry on day-to-day with relative serenity even if they’re waiting to find out whether or not their job contract will be extended; even if they’re not sure of the feelings of their love interest; even if the doctors haven’t yet determined a diagnosis; even while waiting for an insurance claim to be processed.  If it’s a grace that can be acquired, I’d like to grow some more of it because limbo is a recurring theme in every life.
DH is better at dealing with uncertainty than I am, so it was my challenge to face this state of limbo as best I could and not to let worry over it sabotage other areas of my life.  Dale Carnegie says that when you’re inclined to worry about something, consider what the worst case scenario might be, accept it, and move forward.  In our situation, the worst case scenario was that we would not be reimbursed for the $2,500 deposit and that we would have to pay an additional $4,000.  This would be frustrating by any standard.  We were feeling triumphant at the end of July, on the verge of paying off the $8,600 which was Debt #1, and to be stuck with the possibility of $6,500 in bills right then was extremely aggravating.  It played into the belief I apparently harbour deep in my subconscious that no matter how much you try to save or how much you try to pay off, circumstances will undo it. 


There’s a brief playing out of this belief at the wonderful beginning of the movie Up, when Carl and Ellie try to save money for their dream of adventure in travel.  Over and over again, they put their spare change into the savings bottle.  Over and over again, they take a hammer to the bottle and smash it to pay for car repairs, medical bills, damage to the house . . .   And Ellie ends up dying before their dreams can be fulfilled.  I just watched that segment on Youtube to get the details right.  It still makes me weepy.


It took the words of a wise colleague to snap me out of my frustration.  (See end of post “On Hold”.)  She reminded me that DH’s health was the thing that mattered most.  She said, “Any problem that can be solved with money is not a problem.”  It seems like a false statement to someone struggling with debt, but debt is not really a money problem to begin with.  It’s a money management problem.  I decided then that no matter which scenario came to pass, I would keep managing well.  At a previous chapter in my life, I might have responded to the uncertainty of our situation by throwing up my hands in defeat, sticking my head back in the sand, and ordering take-out; but at this time, I determined to continue in my vigilance.  We have put money aside with the understanding that it would either go towards the additional $4,000 in medical bills or towards debt.  I would have to say that worry has not sabotaged other areas of my life.  Perhaps I am growing some of that limbo-absorbing grace.
The woman at the insurance company eventually came back to the phone yesterday.  “We sent your cheque out in the mail this morning.”  We’re getting reimbursed.  No more limbo.  Sweet, sweet news!  Debt #2, which sits at $12,800 will soon be attacked on all sides – by the insurance cheque as well as by what we’ve put aside for October, which has been awaiting marching orders, and by our November amount, which has yet to be calculated.  I’ll know the numbers by next week.  For now, I’m happy just to soak it all in and to know where I stand.  No hammer required.  The change in the bottle adding up!

About author View all posts


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *