- DH = Dear Husband (who was out snowboarding while I shoveled)
- DD3 = Dear Third Daughter
Where I live, we got 20 inches (51 cm) of snow Tuesday. “I’m going snowboarding with Phil tonight. I’ll be leaving before you get home,” DH told me over the phone when I was still at work. DH loves snowboarding on freshly fallen powder, and conditions were too ideal to pass up. He sounded a bit tentative though, and I wanted to reassure him. “Great! Have fun!” I said. He told me that he had already shoveled the driveway twice and that he would again before he left . . . “but the plow hasn’t come by yet.”
Light snow vs. plowed snow at the end of the driveway
If you live in a place where snow happens, you know what that means. Snow that falls on your driveway is easy to shovel. It’s light and fluffy. But the snow that a plow leaves at the end of your driveway after clearing the street is a different thing altogether. It’s compressed. Hard. Heavy. It takes way longer to shovel this strip of plowed snow than it takes to shovel all of the rest of the driveway. “That’s OK,” I reassured him. “I can shovel when I get home.” By the time our street was plowed, 18 inches (46 cm) of snow had fallen. DH had left for his evening of snowboarding, and the “strip” of compressed, hard, heavy snow at the end of our driveway was more like a mini-mountain range – something I had never had to deal with before.
DD3 and I got to work shoveling. “I’ll do the end,” I said to her. “You do the rest of the driveway and the walkway.” Everyone on our street seemed to be outside, shovel in hand, and friendly, gloved waves went back and forth among our neighbours. The noise of snowblowers could be heard, and the odd privately contracted snow plow came along to service particular driveways. I felt a big smug with my shovel. I was toughing it out – not taking the easy way. I got a rush of wintry solidarity with the other shovelers, and away I went – working against the concentrated snowy mass.
The plowed snow was so dense, I had to scrape it loose first before scooping it up. Progress was barely discernible at the end of our driveway, but our snowbanks were definitely getting higher. One and a half hours in, I still had two-thirds of the way to go. “Mom, I’m finished,” said DD3. And it was true. “Can I take a break?” I asked her to come back outside in 30 minutes to help me with the rest of the plowed snow.
It was dark out by this point, and most of my neighbours had gone inside. Shoveling was lonely work all of a sudden, and any winter-wonderland high had been drained out of me – along with my energy. There was just so much snow! How was I ever going to get to the end of it?!
When debt gets heavy . . .
I don’t know about you, but when DH and I started out on our journey out of debt, I was psyched! I was high on the challenge, tasting victory right from the get-go. And I knew that we weren’t alone. Millions of people were in too much debt. Thousands of people – hundreds of thousands – were getting their wake-up calls to get out of debt, and we would all cheer each other on.
Soon after we started, we realized that our trek to debt-freedom wouldn’t be easy. That first month, we had a van repair and a property tax bill not accounted for. A bit later, DH had a gallstone attack while on business in the U.S. – and we faced the possibility of no coverage for a huge medical bill. There were episodes of very encouraging progress – when overcoming debt was like shoveling light, fluffy snow – but every few months, something major would come our way to make it onerous – like shoveling the dense stuff left by the plow at the end of the driveway. Slow business and low income for DH. Huge expected expenses like our roof. Huge unexpected expenses like our dog’s bladder stones. Ugh!
What do you do when there’s no more adrenaline? What do you do when the rush of the start has gone? You keep on paying off debt, one shovelful at a time. You might feel tired. It might seem that everyone else has finished up – because they’re smarter or stronger or luckier or have higher incomes that act as debt-plows – and that you’re left alone – in the dark. And each shovelful is so heavy. And progress is so small – so out of proportion to the effort.
To the rescue!
After two and a half hours had gone by (and DD3 still hadn’t come back out after having her “break” – hmmm…), I heard a familiar noise growing louder behind me. A neighbour I had never met was crossing the street towards me – with his snow-blower. It was too loud to allow for conversation, so he gestured and I yelled “THANK YOU!” and put my shovel down. Within 20 minutes, the rest of the dense mass of plowed snow had been removed from the end of our driveway. My neighbour – Simon was his name – had just saved me from about two more hours of grunt work.
Sometimes, I find myself wishing that DH would get such a whopping amount of business that we could pay off the rest of our debt in one fell swoop. Or that my colleagues and I would win the lottery. But I don’t think it’s going to be like that. I don’t think we’re going to be rescued from years of debt-repayment in the way that I was rescued from hours shoveling. Still, I can imagine . . .
Do you find that your debt feels heavier at times? Would you rather shovel your own way out of debt? or be “rescued”? Your comments are welcome.