Yes Everything’s Fine

Yes Everything’s Fine December 12, 2023

a winding road with Fall trees
image via Pixabay


I went to the car, feeling apprehensive.

“Apprehensive” is different than “anxious.” Anxiety is an aura of fear looking for a problem to surround. The fear is prior to the fearsome thing and it doesn’t go away once the fearsome thing is taken care of. Apprehension means you’re nervous about something, that’s all.

I was apprehensive because Serendipity has been acting up since Jimmy banged her back together. She’d been going into “limp mode” for a few moments when I put her in gear every once in awhile ever since Jimmy replaced the rotten wiring harness and the dead alternator– never for more than a minute, never something that turning her off and on again didn’t fix. In the hours before the accident, I’d finally gotten her to drive properly after a worryingly long several minutes in limp mode. When I drove her to Kroger after Jimmy put the wheel back on, she’d gone into limp mode and wouldn’t come out again. Adrienne and I had an anxious drive home, far under the speed limit with my foot flooring the gas and the hazard lights on.

Jimmy is brilliant at fixing cars, but he isn’t psychic and he doesn’t have a code scanner. A neighbor borrowed his and didn’t return it months ago. The car was going into limp mode because the computer was sensing an error, but he couldn’t guess which sensor. The only available scanner was at the auto parts store. The auto parts store was downtown.

Downtown Steubenville is literally down. Most of Steubenville is up on the shale cliff or even higher, with the altitude climbing as you drive west away from the Ohio River. But downtown is in the river bottoms, at the bottom of the cliff. There is no way to inch a limping car down empty side streets to get downtown. You have to go on Washington Street or University Boulevard, the two main arterials with traffic and a downhill slope. And I didn’t know if the car would limp or drive– or first drive and then limp, right on the steepest part of Washington with a faster car in front of me. That was why I was apprehensive.

I have been apprehensive about any number of things, lately: the car repairs. Adrienne’s new life at the public school. Taxes and expenses and student debt. But I have not been anxious about much of anything except my usual religious trauma. I don’t wake up in the night in terror. I’ve stopped having the worst of my insomnia as of a few weeks ago. I don’t go into OCD spirals and google things over and over for an hour anymore. My usual Christmas anxiety that puts me in agony until April hasn’t gotten here at all. I don’t know where it’s gone. I went to the backyard to take out the trash yesterday, and I stopped to putter over the garden. I looked up at my old stalker’s house and felt nothing at all. Not even anger.

In any case, I got in the car, feeling apprehensive but not anxious. I told myself I could abandon ship and limp back home if she started acting up in the neighborhood. I could even pull over to the berm and call AAA one more time for free, if the worst came to the worst. I turned her on, and she went into drive with no tricks.

I drove her downtown to the auto parts store, singing Andrew Lloyd Weber to encourage myself. “Try not to get worried! Try not to turn onto problems that upset you, oh, don’t you know everything’s all right, yes everything’s fine?” 

And it was. I got downtown and into the parking lot without limping.

There was a little line at the counter, regulars chatting with the staff. I waited my turn silently because I was apprehensive. What if they laughed at me? What if they didn’t have the code reader? But they did. Everything was fine. The clerk took it out to Serendipity and helped me find the slot.

I had been planning to just write down the code numbers and force myself not to Google them to find out what they meant, but only hand the numbers to Jimmy. Unfortunately for me, this was a nice new code reader that translated the codes right in front of me. I photographed them on my phone. It said there were eight of them, but when  the clerk scrolled through it seemed like just four codes each repeated once. They were all electrical problems: communication with the fuel pump, communication with the speed sensor, and something called a solenoid. Even I could tell they were leftover problems from the electrical meltdown last year; Jimmy had fixed everything obvious, and now I’d see what he had to say about the rest.

I did not have a panic attack. I didn’t even have to struggle to avoid one.

I carefully drove the car back up to the hilltop, singing. “Oh, don’t you know everything’s all right, yes everything’s fine?” 

I copied down every word of the code readings onto notebook paper and brought it to Jimmy’s house. His son promised to hand them to him as soon as he came back. I have learned that there are three kinds of codes on a car: the kind that mean “oh, you can drive on that, just get it fixed within the year.” The kind that mean “That’s a problem, better only drive on short trips until I get the part to fix it!” and the kind that actually ground you. I was apprehensive. I hoped it was an “only drive on short trips” kind of problem. I worried about missing out on driving to look at Christmas lights and taking a trip into Pittsburgh to see the holiday decorations. But I did not panic. My throat didn’t squeeze up. My chest didn’t hurt. I didn’t feel like hurting myself. I just worried.

I Googled the word “solenoid.” I’d been picturing a comical combination of the god Apollo and the Noid from those old Domino’s pizza commercials, but it turns out that a solenoid is a coiled wire that turns electricity into a magnetic field. There’s one in a CVT transmission. When that solenoid does something strange, it sends a code to the computer which puts the car in limp mode so the transmission won’t be damaged. I am learning all kinds of new things.

And then I stopped googling, because an actual mechanic was going to tell me what was wrong. I didn’t have to fix it or obsess over it.

This is not a good time to need car repairs. Rent is due at the end of the week before we can even start thinking about Christmas. But I didn’t panic. I just hoped it would all work out.

Adrienne got home from school, and told me all about her adventures. We made soup for dinner. It wasn’t a terrifying day, just an annoying one.

I wonder where my crippling anxiety has gone, and why it hasn’t come back.

Maybe it’s because my stalker has finally passed away and isn’t constantly tormenting me. Maybe it’s because I’m not trying to be a good Catholic anymore but accepting that I’m doing my best. But it’s gone.

I hope all my other problems disappear so easily this Holiday season. That would be wonderful.

I think it really will be all right.



Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.








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