Yesterday, as I limped down the street wearing too-high heels, my dress coat, carrying a workout bag, my purse, and my computer in my arms, I thought to myself, this is not how I imagined coming back when I left the house.
Some days are just like that. I once had a day in Australia where the normal highway I took to work was closed due to an accident, and I was poorly detoured through what felt like all of Melbourne, along with what felt like the rest of Melbourne. I was taken through clogged streets I’d never see again, made wrong turns, became hopelessly lost. I remember feeling so strongly that we live our lives in these little tracks, well-memorized and comfortable, and underneath us looms an entire abyss. One little crack in our world and down we go, to places that are always there, but which we rarely see. And maybe all the missing people just fell down a crack and couldn’t find their way back.
Yesterday, I was driving to work and I had the radio loud, and I was driving next to a big truck doing about 75. Oddly enough, I was thinking about the fact that I needed new tires. My dad had told me this about six months ago, but with the Disney trip, then Christmas to plan for, I just hadn’t budgeted for them. I was thinking that now I had some Christmas money and it would probably behoove me to…then I started thinking about something else, and noticed a sort of whupping helicopter noise, which I thought was the truck. I eased off on the gas and suddenly in my driver’s side mirror I saw smoke, a bit of rubber flying off, and the car began to fishtail and lose control.
Once I got the car over to the side of the highway, I smelled burnt rubber. My tire was just shredded – only a few bits of tread clinging. I sat for a moment amidst rising panic. Again, we travel our little tracks and then when you find yourself sitting on the side of the road, in a dust of snow and dead dry grass, cars whooshing by you at abominable speeds, you are lost. What do I do? Who do I call? I mentally flicked through the catalog of people I could possibly call and rejected all of them because honestly, I thought, there’s nothing they can really do to help. Sitting in my car, I Googled ‘what to do when you get a flat tire’ (really) and then clarity and calm started to come back. I knew my ex-husband had signed us up for Triple A a few years ago, but I didn’t have my card and I didn’t know if the membership was still active, or in his name, or what. I called them and they confirmed that the membership was still active. While I was talking to them, arranging for a tow, mentally wondering if my tire rim had been damaged, I saw blinking lights in my rearview and Employee 29 pulled up behind me in his MDOT van.
“You don’t just do things halfway, do ya,” he cheerfully bellowed over the highway noise. “Let’s get your spare! Cancel the tow – I’ll get you going!”
We unloaded my spare tire, my dress coat whipping in the cold wind, and I resisted the urge to hug him when he had it on the car and sent me on my way. Instead, I shook his hand fervently, smiling up into his wind-chapped face, and thanked him from the bottom of my heart.
The benefit of shopping local is that you might just have a Firestone within walking distance of your house, and they would very likely be able to scramble to fit you in to spend that Christmas money on a set of brand new, excellent tires for the car you plan on driving until it dies because you love it so.
And you may be able to drop your car off right then, with the spare still on, and walk home, and think about philosophical things like cracks in the world.
So here is why this boring story is important, and here is why it is more to me than a minor mechanical inconvenience / expense.
Somehow, I’ve changed. It was probably when I hit bottom a couple of summers ago, lost weight and hope, and decided to go on an antidepressant. Taking that pill every night is part of what changed me, but there was more, and now I am truly changed. The old me would not have been able to handle this situation. I would only have seen the negative. I would have panicked and cried, and called someone to come help me figure out what to do. I would have seen it as some sort of reinforcement that I’d fucked up, that I didn’t have control, that forces were aligned against me and it was better, safer not to be happy because that other shoe is waiting to drop.
The new me sees it differently. The new me sees how wonderful it felt in that moment, shaking hands with Employee 29 on a windy roadside, beaming. The new me sees the reminder that in scary moments there are things and people that can help, and most of all, that I am a good, smart, capable person who is worthy of being helped, and my scary moments are not a judgment or a punishment, they are a part of being human, part of life, and, in some cases, an opportunity. I don’t need to panic. I can feel the momentary fear and bewilderment, but now I can let it pass, and see the funny side, the ironic side, the options. I can accept help and express my gratitude to the people who help me, through telling them in simple terms how grateful I am and how much their aid means to me. And at the end of the day, I can sit in Firestone reading a library book waiting for my car to be done, watching traffic lights on the dark street outside, and feel so, so, so blessed that however I came to this place, however long it took me, I am here now.
“God gave us flaws, and something I learned – He doesn’t see them as flaws. There’s nothing wrong with the way He made us. The universe forgives all.” – True Detective