My car starts alerting me when the gas tank is below a certain amount, I don’t know the specifics but it’s definitely a conservative system built around the sort of person who will stubbornly keep driving, enduring the startup low fuel alarm BLEEEEEEEP again and again while thinking “Oh, it’s just a quick trip to the grocery store” until the needle is finally hovering in an area that cannot be ignored.

I feel like I have been living in that orange empty-tank zone for a longish time now, aware of a distant clamor of warning tones but sitting idle because hey! There is no gas to be found.

It’s hard to write because I feel empty of words, corked up by all the things I can’t talk about while carved clean of lighter fare. It’s hard to read because I feel incapable of focusing, my mind drawn to far more compelling activities like staring blankly out the window. It’s hard to think about anything but the same hit parade of sorrow and worries that’s been on repeat since last March.

There is, in the mess of all of this, a whole lot to be thankful for. I try to think about things like that, I even have a little gratitude journal app that prompts me to jot down “3 AMAZING THINGS THAT HAPPENED TODAY” and I dutifully fill it in each night even if I end up typing “I WASHED MY HAIR.” (This is actually a fairly significant and dare I say even amazing occasion because my default scalp status these days is at least 90% Batiste.)

There are also things to be hopeful for, of course. I’m hopeful about having a new president and a vaccine, I’m hopeful that 2020 will truly stand out in the history books and that we aren’t just staring down a new year’s barrel of More, But Worse. I’m hopeful we all find more and more chances to fill our tanks from all sorts of sources as we endure and adapt and even flourish.

But mostly I am ready to move on from the orange-light deadzone, this long airless stall of me.


12 Responses to “Scraping by”

  1. Sally on December 9th, 2020 11:50 am

    Yes. This. It has felt throughout the entire year that, whilst terrible, terrible things have been happening all around everyone, we have all just been Waiting with a capital W for the world to reset and restart. The turning of the new year is going to be both arbitrary and hugely symbolic.

  2. Mary on December 9th, 2020 1:30 pm

    2021 HAS to be better, right? I’m feeling optimistic about the vaccine and probably very numb to the Bad News. In March my heart jumped at each succeeding worse piece of news and now I’m shrugging it off. This year my family went through some tough stuff in addition to living through a pandemic. I’m ready to say hello to better times!

  3. Kim on December 9th, 2020 4:07 pm

    I went to my monthly therapy appointment today. My therapist, who I started seeing 13 years ago in November when I got clean from opiates, is one of those blunt addiction specialist types and doesn’t put up with too much histrionics. Even she had to admit this year has been a shit show and those of us who struggle in the best of times are under even more duress.
    And for whatever reason, washing my hair has also moved really far down the priorities list – I have GOT to turn that around.

  4. Shawna on December 9th, 2020 4:45 pm

    So not being an American I feel like I was perhaps adjacent to a lot of the shit-show aspects of 2020. I mean yeah, the pandemic sucked everywhere, but I feel like most other countries can point to the US and say “but at least I’m not THERE” given that the American brand of dumpster fire was also fueled by a president that seemed to be actively trying to kill people who were under his watch.

    We received our share of bad news this year that was not coronavirus related, so the unfortunate fact is that I’m worried that 2021 will be personally worse for us, even of it’s globally better. The news today that Health Canada has approved a vaccine is AMAZING, but unfortunately won’t be able to mitigate the diagnosis of inoperable cancer metastases for my husband’s father. He’ll be on chemo for the rest of his life, and we won’t know until his next scan if it’s going to be an effective option or not, so we really have no idea yet how long that will be.

    At least we’re going to be able to see him for Christmas. We’re doing the full-on 14 day quarantine isolation starting this Friday.

  5. Shawna on December 9th, 2020 4:47 pm

    Man, I am a BUMMER tonight. Sorry! I am super happy to see an entry from you!

  6. Pat Birnie on December 10th, 2020 8:45 am

    I hear you Linda, it’s been such a difficult year, and we really don’t know when things will improve, or get back to ‘normal’ or whatever we are missing, returns. May I encourage you to talk to people, even a friend, a parent etc about how you feel. Just saying things aloud often helps. I recently spoke to a friend (that I hadn’t been in touch with for a loooong time). He is looking after his wife who has Alzheimer’s, cancer and a recently fractured femur. (Yikes) He messaged me the next day using a similar analogy to yours, that our conversation left him feeling like his tank had been topped up. Nothing changed, I had no advise I just listened and agreed that the whole situation sucked, and told him that I cared about him and his wife. Sadly I am too far away geographically to help them out. I think this showed that talking helps a little. Take care of you.

  7. Kelli on December 10th, 2020 9:05 am

    The writing (no words) and the reading (no focus) thing really resonated with me. All year I have kept telling myself eventually I’ll get my mojo back and be able to write with abandon and devour all the many books on my to-read list.
    And yet, it’s December and here we are. I cannot seem to get my mind to settle. I’m lonely when I’m alone but when I get the chance to see people I long for my own little space. I so appreciate your writing and this entry in particularly reminded me others are feeling what I’m feeling this year too. Thanks, Linda.

  8. Jill on December 11th, 2020 12:12 am

    Yes, to all of it. I have started and abandoned so many books this year. I remember WAY back in March when I happily decided to read some of the classics I hadn’t gottten to! It would be great! Look at all this time! And then that petered out in a constant cycle of kids being home and worrying and Netflix and comfort foods. I am American but live overseas so while my experience has been different I have been living vicariously watching my various family members ignore guidelines and have weddings and Thanksgivings and get angry with me when I won’t fly home to visit. Ugh.
    AND to top everything off I threw my back out but bad and have been couch-bound for the past 5 days while kids have yet again been home doing zoom school. I have to hold out hope that 2021 will be better/more normal because it just has to? Right? I will wear a mask and get vaccinated just let me travel and keep kids in school and also maybe be able to walk down the hall to the bathroom. Is that all too much to ask?

  9. Kristin H on December 11th, 2020 7:08 am

    I’ve been reading you for a long time and we don’t know each other, but this feels like more than pandemic woes to me, and I just wanted to say that I’m pulling for you and wishing you all the best as you face the future. xo

  10. Jessica on December 14th, 2020 2:09 pm

    This is me. I’m washing my hair once a week whether or not it needs it. Which of course it always does. And for the last week or so I just feel like crying all the time. Which is not like me at all. The election is over and at least one vaccine has been released and I am sitting at empty. But my kids need me. And I can’t mess this up so I truck off to my home office to work one Zoom meeting after another. Try to answer email in a timely and effective way. Try to still cook healthy dinners and read something of value every day. And not be a total jerk to my husband. Yep, that’s what winning looks like to me right now.

  11. Christine on December 15th, 2020 8:06 am

    Thank you for putting into words how I have been feeling. Since March, but especially since July. Between the pandemic, the US political climate (not to mention living with a spouse with opposing political views – good times), taking 24/7 care of my mom with advanced Parkinson’s, working full time, and parenting 2 kids, my gas tank has also been at that precariously low level. So overwhelmed, but unable to conjure the mojo to do much. My emptiness is manifesting into some pretty not pleasant physical symptoms because I have definitely NOT been taking care of myself. But, just getting it off my chest helps a little, as I hope it does for you too. Here’s hoping that 2021 gives us all a little more energy, hope, whatever it takes to fill up that tank.

  12. Rachel on December 15th, 2020 5:23 pm

    Ditto. Thank you for not being all Pollyanna in your gratitude. I’m instructed to write one of those every day (12 of them good God) and I just wanna copy/paste “I’m above ground “ … and that I haven’t yet been carted off to the mental hospital. Yep I said it, “yet.” Trying to stay in today and not be an asshole to everyone around me feels like a major achievement. Your writing made me fell less alone. Keep em comin !

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