Since Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on the Caribbean and the southeastern states of America, I thought this would be an appropriate idiom.
This phrase can be taken in the literal sense, where someone is trying to keep his feet (here) on the log, or above water.
But, that is not what we really mean when we say “I’m just trying to keep my head above water.” It has nothing to do with water, per se, and everything to keep oneself from drowning in financial debt, from dropping from exhaustion, from being overwhelmed with emotional tension.
This phrase is used a lot in middle class America because most people are staying afloat with their bills and obligations, they are barely keeping their heads above water. It was more serious when there was the housing bubble that turned into a housing nightmare as many people could not keep their head above water and lost their jobs and houses. Actually, many of those people did drown in debt, which means that they could not keep up and lost.
Which brings me to Hurricane Matthew. As I type I have a very recent picture of St. Augustine, Florida, in my mind as it is being hammered by the winds, rain, and storm surges. Beautiful, historical St. Augustine will take a while to recover. But it will. They are barely keeping their heads above water there, both literally and figuratively, but they are.
What saddens me more is the devastation of Haiti. Once again, this poor nation who can not keep its head above water is drowning again.
It seems they only get over a hurricane, earthquake, tropical storm or a mudslide and it happens again. This is what Haiti looks like today after Matthew. Not only did over 800 people literally drown, could not keep their heads above water, but now they will not be able to figuratively keep their heads above water — where are the jobs to come from if this is what is left of some parts of Haiti? And without jobs, there is no money, and if there is no money, there is no food, no clothing, no shelter — what we say are the essentials. For Haiti, it is beyond keeping their heads above water. Now it is survival. Food, clothing, shelter.
The housing bubble turned nightmare was one thing, and a very costly, devastating crises to go through, but then there is Haiti, and countries like Haiti that have nothing after a natural disaster.
Personally, I would much rather lose my house in a country where eventually I will be able to find work vs. a country where the work does not come easy.