Nothing is permanent, and everything is temporary, whether we want it be or not.
I drove tonight, making my way home from tutoring rather blissfully. I was excited to make it home, drink a glass of wine, and then drift of peacefully into a soft slumber before another stressful day at work. The days have been weighing on me recently. February and March are always crazy with the trimester ending, report cards being due, and the dreaded standardized tests in childrens’ fickle hands.
But I was headed home, ready to relax, when all of a sudden, my car kerplunked into yet another one of Chicago’s finest potholes, making the undercarriage of my car scream, and my lungs gasp with shock. My steering wheel turned indignantly to the left, dragging the entire body of the car with it. I flashed back to only two weeks before, when a replica of this same incident occurred just a couple miles north. I muttered a few expletives, got out of my car, examined my tired, kicked it a few times and cursed a bit more, until I reentered my vehicle and drove it to the gas station across the street.
I think life has been telling me to slow down recently. I’m going a mile per minute, exhausting myself with every movement, action, and word, trying to make up for time I feel like I’ve lost, or desperately trying to make sure I don’t miss out on any opportunities, or maybe it’s all in a sheer avoidance of confronting some things I don’t want to confront.
Just two weeks ago, I woke up in the morning, and careened briskly down my hallway at about 5:30 in the morning. My face was buried in my phone, checking the weather, checking my e-mail, and doing a million other things I probably should not have been doing while walking. Needless to say, Mother Karma reminded me that it was important to slow myself down a bit by knocking me flat on my ass with a small patch of ice that lay right outside my front door. It seemed that, within a matter of seconds, I was lying flat on my back, staring up at the milky morning sky, residual light from stars twinkling in the distance and my breath wandering up towards it, hiding the stars temporarily in its mist.
My back tinged with pain, and my shoulders radiated the screams of my nerves as I slowly regained my composure and crawled to my feet. I walked in a curved line for the next twenty feet, both my thoughts and perceptions discombobulated. I got to work, realized I had shattered my iPad from the fall, and continued my day begrudgingly.
It wasn’t until later that day that Mother Karma decided to knock me down again. I was driving, trying to get to a “first date” as quickly as I could, when my car unexpectedly hit a pothole. What’s interesting is that I took a different route that night than I usually did. I thought it would be quicker; I thought I could get there more efficiently by taking that route, and so that’s what I did. However, it wasn’t until I hit the pothole and drove on both my tire and my denial for about twenty minutes before I became lucid and realized the reality of my situation. I was driving on a flat tire.
When I was a kid, I used to get headaches all the time. In hindsight, they seemed to come out of nowhere, but I always remembered complaining of them. Perhaps it was the occasional motion sickness or my allergies, but I always remember feeling them. And it would seem that when I wasn’t having one of these headaches, I would always forget about them. I’d forget about how terrible they were, and forget that ever had or ever would plague me again.
Likewise, as soon as the headache would usurp all of the good feelings within my skull, I would realize just how precious the times I had without the headaches were. Eventually, I started promising myself that I would be sure to remember what it was like to be without a headache–that I would begin to appreciate the times when I was feeling good. But it never really seemed to happen.
What’s difficult for me is that, when I am in a phase that is undesirable, I find it hard to imagine that I’ll be out of it, and I promise myself that I’ll appreciate the good times when they’re around. And that’s how I feel again. I don’t understand how to cope the ebbs and flows. I don’t understand how to trust the highs, while anticipating the lows. I don’t understand how to appreciate the good, when all history teaches me is that, just around the corner, something bad awaits.
I suppose what I can take out of this, though, is that no matter what phase we’re in, it ultimately seems endless. When we are in times of blissfully ignorant elation, those times seem endless; we are unaware of the other things around us, we are truly present, and we are unable to focus on the fact that those moments of elation are nothing but fleeting. Likewise, when we are in moments of painfully ignorant despair, those times seem endless, as well; we are wholly aware of our pain, and unaware of most other things around us. We are present in our sadness, and unable to focus on the fact that those moments of sadness are nothing but fleeting, as well.
When I sat tonight on the side of the road, with my flat tire sinking my entire car along with my mood down and to the left, I thought of my previous state of mind, just moments before, ready to take the rest of the night off, happy to be going home, looking forward to a good night’s sleep. And then, my mood had suddenly and unexpectedly transformed, into frustrated, fed up, and at my wit’s end with the stroke of bad luck in which I seemed to be drowning.
But eventually, before I knew it, my tire was changed, I was on my way home, and that moment of frustration was alleviated by the kind man who changed my tire–ironically, the same one who had changed it for me two weeks prior. Side note: I know how to change a tire; I just didn’t have the tools. And yes, that side note is meant to be a double entendre.
Changing Our Flat Tires
So what’s the point in this story? I’m not sure. Does it have a double meaning? Were my flat tires, headaches, and falls to the ground signs to slow down and change something? Maybe they were, and maybe they weren’t. In fact, it doesn’t really matter, because all that really does matter is that they happened, they were temporary, I got through them, and now I’m appreciating my full tires, my clear head, while carefully watching for any rogue patches of ice that come my way.