Henceforth, I shall answer all how-are-you queries using the FT Scale.

Yesterday was my COVID Isolation Anniversary. One year of lockdown. One year of paying attention to toilet paper supplies. One year of stasis and rapid change, of everything-stays-the-same and it’s-all-different. One year during which life has become infinitely more simple and relentlessly more complicated. One year.

Friends check in occasionally. And I check in occasionally with them. How are you? they ask, and I ask them, too, even though I have no answer because how do you access that kind of information? How do you peel those layers? How do you know which crayon color in the box of 64 accurately evokes the color of a heart? The color of a mind? The color of a soul? Which crayon color is frustration? Which crayon color is gratitude? Which crayon color is laying awake at night and staring down invisible monsters? Which crayon color is I Don’t Know What’s for Dinner? Which one is Liberty and Justice for All? Which one is I’m Tired of Isolation? Which one is I Don’t Want to Return to “Normal”?

What color is it when you melt them all together? Mud? Sludge? 

How are you? I am mud. Thanks for asking. 

How are you? Sludge. 

If I tell that truth, will they see the joy in there? That there’s also laughter in the muck and warmth in the mire? 

That’s my problem with answering. It takes too many words to explain. It takes too much thought to calculate and unpack. I’d prefer a go-to answer. Something pre-packaged like a cake mix. Just add egg and water. But “fine” is a lie I’m not much interested in telling. It’s a scratchy sweater I don’t like to wear. “It’s complicated” is better—perhaps the best Facebook relationship status of all time. I mean, if we were honest, wouldn’t we change all our statuses (statusi?) to “it’s complicated”? 

What’s for dinner? It’s complicated.

How long will you be on the toilet? It’s complicated.

WHAT DID THE DOG BARF ONTO THE RUG? IDK, IT IS COMPLICATED. (FWIW, it is probs not complicated, but also I don’t want to look. Did you know you can clean up dog puke without ever looking directly at it? All peripheral vision and mouth-breathing? This is just one of my many talents.)

How are you? OMG. Complicated, complicated, complicated!

But, of course, you can’t answer this way. Kind people ask kind questions and deserve kind replies. So it’s a conundrum. 

Except I asked my friend Sarah how she was the other day, and she replied quickly.

How are you doing in the After Times? I said.

Ha ha, she replied. Very fucking terrible but somehow still here. How about you?

And instead of being paralyzed by this question, as I almost always am, I had an answer. A true answer that wasn’t a scratchy sweater. A true answer that embraced the sludge without trying to untangle the colors.

Only somewhat fucking terrible, I said.

So I’ve come to a conclusion—an important discovery. How are you? is a squishy question. It’s too broad. Like trying to nail jello to a wall. But the Fucking Terrible Scale? THAT is something my muddy self can understand. That is enough substance to pin down. 

And so I turn this question over to you.

How are you?

Answer using the Fucking Terrible Scale please. All answers from Not Even a Little Bit Fucking Terrible to REALLY SUPER EXTRA Fucking Terrible are welcome. This is a Fucking Terrible judgement free zone.

With love as always,




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33 responses to “Henceforth, I shall answer all how-are-you queries using the FT Scale.”

  1. I concur: “This is the day which the Lord has made. I WILL rejoice and be glad in it.”

    Although, I have to add that things are pretty terrible, as two of my adult children have forbade their dad and me from seeing our grandchildren, as we have differing philosophies on Covid and the protection from same (please don’t judge). We’ve been canceled by our children. (Not to get into much detail, but my husband has medical issues which contraindicates getting the vaccine.)

    This had rattled me to my bones. There’s not been a day since it happened that I haven’t bawled my eyes out. There hasn’t been a night that I haven’t woken up and spent hours awake, grieving. And then one of the children calls and says “I’m worried about you, Mom. You don’t seem to be in a very good place.”

    YA THINK???

    Yet: “This is the day that the Lord hath made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” My faith in God is not shaken. I’m grateful for this.

  2. Not too terribly FT, but feeling like I dodged a bullet that is going to come around again like a boomerang. Yes, that’s complicated, vague, and full of metaphor and simile. Some stories aren’t mine to tell.
    I can tell about the really FT frustration of waiting to be vaccinated while seeing other people, who are further down the list, getting their jabs before I get mine. Here we are in a country full of privilege, and I’m complaining because someone with connections to the system gets jabbed first. And yes, I would be completely willing to be connected to someone who could get me a place closer to the front of the line. I’m not proud of that.
    I’ve missed your writing, but I can’t fault you for being quiet here. I haven’t exactly had words flowing on my own blog.

  3. Not so fucking terrible right now. February was really fucking terrible (except the snow, that was fun), so things seem to be going in the right direction, for now anyway…

  4. Pretty fucking terrible today, but overall variably fucking terrible. As in, the fucking terribleness varies day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Yesterday I had a brief moment of wonder and beauty which catapulted me right out of the fucking terribleness for a few seconds. Today I tried to manufacture a not-fucking-terrible feeling by coaxing my brain to recognize the sunshine (it didn’t quite work, but we tried and thus get a gold star).

  5. Of all the colors in the box, you are my favorite.

    I don’t know how to answer. We’ve had some Pretty Fucking Amazing times this year. And we’ve had times that are so far down under the sludge of All the Fucking Terrible that I can’t tell you what color they are.

    My daughter survived a bout with colon cancer.
    Same daughter is now facing another round of tests to see if she has entirely-unrelated esophageal cancer.
    My… son… and I am still struggling with pronouns and names and the grief that comes with the joy of release in revelation and new birth… has come out as transgender. He is who he has always been… the newness and the strangeness are my own, not his… because I did not fully know him before this. Maybe he didn’t either. He is on a journey to discover himself more fully and I am 100% here for it, even if some of those who are supposed to love him unconditionally… are not so much.
    My “prodigal” daughter… my husband’s by birth and mine by marriage and heart, has come home… carrying with her the baggage of PTSD and severe trauma that is challenging this Mama’s skills in supporting and holding her up and being the Support Mom and secretary and taxi as we navigate the wonders of modern mental health care systems.
    My own PTSD and anxiety is draining what little resources are left over.
    My husband has lost both his father and his beloved sister, within the past few months.
    His ability to ambulate is deteriorating and we’re looking into things like Hoyer Lifts, which look to me like an engine lift but are designed to Move the Patient (that’s him) Safely From One Furnishing to Another…
    My mom is vaccinated.
    My sisters are vaccinated.
    Several friends are vaccinated, and I cheer with every new announcement. “Got the shot!” Marked safe from Covid. CHEERS!
    A final stimulus check means we can keep our house for another year. (Property taxes are not excused by rent relief.)
    I made $6000 total this year, in the transition between full time retail and full time freelance writing, mixed in with Cancer and Trauma and Counseling and Appointments and life and death and all that goes along with it.
    A friend I have come to hold very close to my heart was terribly injured recently but says he would not change what he did, given the opportunity, because his sacrifice saved others. I try not to think about how close we were to losing him, as he continues to heal.

    And so we go on.
    My colors are a mess… and my crayons are nubs… but still we go on. And maybe we can mix together all these crazy colors… and come out the other side with something beautiful.

    • Mary, this is beautiful and messy and filled with love.
      My dad had a Hoyer lift and it saved his caregivers’ backs. He retained a sense of humor when it was in use, often cracking jokes or saying “whee!” as he was transferred from bed to chair or chair to bed.
      Colors shouldn’t be mixed too thoroughly or we’d never see the beauty of rainbows and oil slicks on the pavement.

  6. Somewhat fucking terrible. Nightmares, PTSD flashbacks, missing my friends. But also a safe, healthy family, and purpose in my own life, so.

  7. Not as fucking terrible as I was from August 2019 to December 2020 since I MAY have found a med that actually works for me. I’ve been a fucking terrible for quite a while, so I’m overjoyed to not be so fucking terrible right now.

    • Meds that work are amazing. Congrats on finding something that works! I’ll be over in my little corner cheering for you. 🙂

  8. Life for a year and a half before Covid was extremely fucking terrible. We were forced to leave my son’s beloved school, through no fault of our own. Overnight we lost our whole community and local support group. I kept putting on my big girl panties and trying to heal and rebuild our lives. But we kept getting knocked back down.
    Covid has been relatively fucking fabulous. The rest of the world joined our isolation. It gave us an opportunity to really look inward and figure out a path to healing. And, finally, things are improving.

  9. Not really FT, and somewhat FT. I haven’t lost anyone to COVID, so I feel stinky for even saying I’m even a little FT but it’s my truth so I’ll speak it. My teenage children are having a tough time with life after a year of quarantine; they get to go back to school next week finally, and are both excited and terrified. As a mama bear, this adds to the FT because I want to protect them and push them out of the next at the same time. It’s complicated.

    • **big squish hugs** Being a mama bear is tough! You’re doing amazing. I know this because you’re thinking and understanding what they’re going through and Being There for them, which is hard sometimes! But it matters, so much. Mine are in their 20s now, so it wasn’t so long ago for us.
      Hang in there Mama. You’re amazing.

  10. How Am I Fucking Feeling? If I tell that truth, will they they be Fucking-Offended? Often the question is “WHAT’S NEW?” That answer has been the same for 12 months. “I’m so FuckingFedUp” is what I’d like to say, and I soften it with “Same-O Same-O”. That’s MY problem with answering. It takes too many words to explain. It takes too much vulnerability to, so I answer vaguely, because do I WANT to offend, when we are All-In-That-Boat?
    I also feel guilty about when things are Not-So-Fucking-Terrible. I am only in knee -deep mire and others are in Neck-High-Sludge? Today I am only Somewhat-Fucking Terrible. Thanks for asking!

  11. Not horrendously fucking terrible. After six months of not seeing my parents, we are planning on an Easter visit. After cancelling several trips to Disney this past year, we are optimistically planning one for next March. My kids do some chores around the house now (that I then go and redo, but hey it’s progress). I get my second vaccine dose on Sunday. So, not too fucking terrible. But my lupus is flaring a bit, so that is making life hard, and somewhat fucking terrible. It balances out, I suppose. I’m going to go put Bailey’s in my coffee because it’s St. Patty’s Day and my 1/8 Irish self needs to celebrate.

  12. This is the day which the Lord has made. I WILL rejoice and be glad in it.

    ^I tell myself every morning, no matter how I feel. Feelings come from brain, and out-of-whack brain is a GREAT liar. So I’ll go with “not at all FT,” even though I am tired and there are certainly upsetting things today. I’m gonna do my best to offer a sacrifice of praise (which is much easier to do when things are all going well) and keep on truckin’.

    (Of course, the above is what I can write NOW, calmly and clearly in the quiet beginning dawn. We’ll see how I’m doing once my grouchy cubs and their grouchier father drag themselves all out here. Sigh. BUT the first sentence won’t change, no matter what!!)

  13. Well, I’ve been wanting to ask you how you are, since I miss your writing, but I also knew (since I miss your writing) that it was probably fucking terrible, and also that somehow you will be alright (eventually) (for a while). So I can say parts of my life are fucking terrible. I miss my mom and my aunt and my dog and not being able to handle the end-of-life stuff in any kind of normal way. I hate what the lockdown has done to my poor old dad and how hard it is to find a hypoallergenic puppy during covid. But the lifestyle suits me and I have lots of time to deal with my self, so I’m only partly fucking terrible and not all the time.

  14. Not so Fucking terrible. I made a move during this pandemic, which has kept me busy… but the fucking terrible part is I can’t go to the restaurants & bars in my new neighborhood. So that Fucking sucks.

  15. Both Kinda a little Fucking Terrible And Really Extremely Fucking Terrible.
    It’s complicated.

  16. Not really fucking terrible, actually. I recently started a new job and I love it. I feel happy about it. But I am scared, and in mourning, over the changes that are ahead as the pandemic slowly but surely comes to an end. Not because I want people the world over to continue to suffer (that has been *the most* fucking terrible)… but because for the past year the world has changed to accommodate my preferred hobbit-like way of life and after the first couple of months, and once we had toilet paper again, and once I stopped listening to the news for the most part because I only ever listened in the car and there was nowhere to go and rarely a need to go anywhere, I have felt more safe and secure than I ever did having to venture out into the world. I have experienced deeper connections even with physical distancing. And I have LOVED working from home.

  17. Oh, super-fucking-terrible, for sure. March always is high on the fucking terrible scale, and this year is just *beyond* it all. But yes, too, to the moments of occasional joy. And the peripheral-vision dog barf trick works for cat vomit, too, FYI.

  18. Not particularly terrible. And also, today, somewhat crabby. As I am not usually one to be crabby, it’s a bit disconcerting, but I am letting it be and trying not to spread it to others.

  19. Only somewhat fucking terrible today. Keith and I got to go in my dad’s memory care and visit. I’ve been able to as essential caregiver, but they’re now allowing others in, too. So I didn’t have to bear the weight of the conversation or look at my dad who it seems may be actively dying alone without any support present. My dad is doing really fucking terrible right now.

    • For what it’s worth, I’ll be praying for your dad, and for you. We just lost my husband’s sister to Alzheimer’s so … yeah.

      Much love to you all. I hope that he is able to get some joy in the inbetweens and that you are able to get as many happy moments with him as you can. <3

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