all of the selves we Have ever been
I’ve got gas!
And I’m not embarrassed to admit it. In fact, I am celebrating. Living without gas proved to be much harder than living with it.
On a recent Friday morning, I stopped at a local gas station to fill my tank only to discover that my car’s fuel door would not open. I pulled the lever, but I did not hear the affirming pop. I tried again. And again. But no matter how many times I tried, the little round door would not open. I squeezed my fingertip into the narrow space surrounding the door and pulled, but I could not get the fuel door to budge. I resorted to reading the owner’s manual, confident there was a back-up system. Eight chapters later, and with no alternative, I returned to the cashier to secure a refund, and then I headed straight for home. I called my regular auto repair shop to make an appointment: “We can get you in on Wednesday,” the manager said. It was going to be a long five-day weekend.
Feeling vulnerable without my wheels, I realized that I needed to preserve the remaining gas to get to the repair shop on Wednesday. Immediately, my mind began a thorough exploration of all of the emergencies that could arise between Friday morning and Wednesday evening, crises that would require a full tank of gas. Topping the list was something awful happening to one of my children. I mentally lived the horror and the shame of not being able to get to one of them on some dark and lonely road or in a busy emergency room, and what if one of them was abducted and I needed to join the search?
Shaken and grief stricken from all of my vivid catastrophizing, I reminded myself that I was a trained therapist. I took some deep breaths and began the process of cognitive restructuring. I made a conscious decision to be positive. I would use the time to catch up on chores around the apartment, do some deep cleaning, and get in a lot more walking. By the time I fully committed to positive thinking, I was exhausted, and it was time for bed.
I awoke Saturday morning to the sounds of heavy equipment in the parking lot just outside my window. A crew from the electric company was busy replacing some tall light poles. I went about my morning business until I noticed the faint smell of natural gas. The electric workers had hit a gas line. A gas company representative arrived promptly to shut off the gas to the entire building. They would be back to deal with the issue sometime on MONDAY. Now, with no gas in my car, no gas for cooking, and no gas to heat water for bathing, not only would I be helpless in an emergency, but I would starve and be stinking when the authorities came to recover my body. They would look at my fetid condition and my empty refrigerator and charge my children with neglect of a senior. All of the evidence would point to the conclusion that I should never have been left alone.
Despite my resolve to accept my circumstances and look for the positive by spending this very long weekend on self-care, chanting words of peace and love, and sniffing essential oils, I continued to wander out to my car to try to open the fuel door. It’s hard to say how many times I tried, but I am sure it was enough to arouse suspicion, and all of my comings and goings were caught on camera by my neighbor’s RING doorbell. The authorities would have more physical evidence to prove their case.
I was torn apart by what this behavior might do to my children’s future, but I just couldn’t help myself. I really did try to stay focused on the cognitive restructuring plan, but let’s face it--peace and love will only get you so far, and then you need gas.
After innumerable trips to my car, it finally happened--the fuel door opened! Was it a miracle? The fruit of obsession? A never-say-die attitude? Who knows?
In any case, I immediately got gas. The peace and love came much easier after that.