More often than not, the problems we meet with are opportunities in disguise. Opportunities to help us learn and grow and expand our capacities. I marvelled this Saturday afternoon at how far I’d come in just one week.
Precisely seven days earlier I got sideswiped while driving on the highway at speed. Then three days later I managed to blow out a tyre. The bright winter sunshine dazzled my eyes and I didn’t see a curb jutting out in a shopping mall parking lot. I certainly felt it though, as I drove into and over it, and immediately realised I had a flat tyre.
Just one of these events would have been sufficient to floor me in the not-too-far distant past. And yet I dealt with both situations in a way that made me feel good about myself and about the world.
Not immediately, though! When I blew out the tyre, at first I plunged into inner darkness. How could I have been so stupid? What else bad was going to happen to me? Why had I made such a mistake now, when I had to take my car into the body shop the next morning?
These negative thoughts had their negative effect. As I left a voicemail message for my manager at work to tell her why I wasn’t back in the office yet I could hear the flat monotone of my voice. The despair in it. The depression.
All I could think of was getting a tow to a tyre shop. But in my state of shock, and hunger, I couldn’t think of the name of my roadside assistance organisation. I called the tyre shop I use and became even more despondent as I realised this wasn’t an easy fix and the logistics of how I’d get back to the office that afternoon so I could get everything I needed to work from home while my car was in the body shop, etc., etc., etc., overwhelmed me.
Finally, I used Google to find out the name of my roadside assistance program and I called them. I found myself in a soulless back-and-forth with an AI expressionless bot voice. Really??? That’s the last thing you need when you’re rattled and need help. Finally, I kept repeating “I need help” to the bot’s every question, and then, mercifully, I found myself engaged in conversation with a lovely, friendly, human and helpful young lady.
She asked me if I had a spare tyre in the car. Of course! In my funk I’d forgotten all about it! And would I like a CAA technician to put it on the wheel for me so I could drive in the immediate present? Would I?!?! Oh yes, I would please!!!
Depression started lifting. Hope became a possibility. The young lady informed me the truck and driver would arrive in about 25 minutes. So I went into the pet food store I was headed for when I had the accident. No sooner had I entered it than my phone rang. A male voice said, “I’m here.” What??? In four minutes??? Unheard of!
What a lovely young man. He worked quickly and efficiently and even checked the pressure of the “doughnut” tyre he put on to replace the blown-out full-size tyre. And very importantly, with care and concern he lectured me on the spare’s limitations in such a way that I listened to his warnings.
He left and I took a quick walk back to buy cat food, where something else uplifting happened. The nice young lady working in the store gave me a really good carrier bag for my purchase without charging me for it. Little things mean a lot when you’re dealing with adversity, and I told her what she’d done for my spirits with her kind gesture. I left the store with both of us feeling good.
Next stop was the gas station before heading back to the office. I stood in the cold by the pump and found I had the capacity to affirm to myself and the Universe that I was fine, and that I could cope with all this. Unused to this version of myself, I marvelled at this inner freedom and fortitude I had.
Back at the office I told my friend and colleague what I’d done. I still hadn’t eaten yet, so thoughts of “I’m stupid” had found a way into my psyche. She told me her story of doing exactly the same thing years before. So now I knew it was a mistake people sometimes make, and it wasn’t just me being stupid. I thanked my friend.
At the end of the workday I drove home much more carefully than usual, using just one highway instead of the usual three, and watched my speed very carefully, thanks to my CAA young man. Next morning I drove to the body shop and took a cab home.
I called the tyre shop. The process seemed quite complicated. Bring in the car on Saturday to find out if I needed a full set of new tyres, which they’d order on Monday and I could get the work done on Wednesday. I didn’t love this situation as it meant more days working from home. However, I resolved to deal with it.
A “chance” text from my manager reminded me that Monday was a holiday in most of Canada. I called the tyre shop back and asked for the original young man I’d spoken with earlier. He was on lunch so I posed my questions to this new young man. It was as though a dark stormy sky with rumblings of thunder changed instantly to a bright, sunny morning. He informed me they had a set of tyres in stock in the right size for my car and I could bring it in Saturday and get the work done. Simple!
I now had two plans in place. And in fact everything worked to plan! I picked up my renewed car from the body shop at the end of day on Friday. I was even happy to pay the extra money we’d agreed on to have the driver-side boo-boos I’d caused from time to time erased. My car looks so pretty now!
I got up early the next morning to drive to the tyre shop where they completed the work in the quoted amount of time. It cost less than I had prepared myself to pay as I didn’t need an alignment, and I spoke up for myself about getting a discount on the front passenger tyre due to the warranty on it when I had it replaced in 2020.
(If you live in Canada, go to Kal Tire for your tyres. They’re really good and although the up-front cost seems high, they offer such value and warranty length that in the long-run it’s absolutely worth it. Peace of mind is priceless!)
So now you know why, on Saturday afternoon, I marvelled at what I had accomplished in one week. I survived getting sideswiped and getting a blowout and I now have a car that looks brand new with four top-of-the-line all-weather tyres.
Just as importantly, I’ve learned a couple of good lessons:
Don’t drive hungry. There’s no law against it; nevertheless it impairs cognitive functioning. When I looked back at my driving history I could see three instances in all where I couldn’t judge reality properly because I needed food to feed my mind.
The importance of physical activity for optimal functioning. Recently I told an old friend from 50+ years ago in England how pleased I am to see myself moving from moping to coping. When he said I’ve always been like that I blurted out, “Rubbish!” in my characteristically subtle way! 😀
He took me back in time to when I was a teenager doing judo. I got through to the finals of the women’s brown-belt category in the English championships, only to finish as the runner-up.
“And what did you say then?” my friend prompted me.
“I’m coming back next year and I’m going to win it,” I replied.
“And you did win the championship,” he said, “along with your contest-grade black belt.”
I felt stunned. I’d completely forgotten that I once had this kind of capacity. This resilience.
Here’s what I think happened. The more drink and then drugs came in, the more I became physically inactive, with the exception of dancing in smoke-filled Montreal night clubs. I’ve always seen substance addiction as being the main cause of my downfall. However all the focus nowadays on the importance of moving your body for your mind’s sake as well, helps me see how empowering physical activity is for the mind.
My dear departed friend Tommy Phillips used to say, “The body is a helluva place for the mind to live.”
Nichiren Daishonin, the 13th-century Buddha and founder of Nichiren Buddhism, said: “The body is the palace of the ninth consciousness, the unchanging reality that reigns over all of life’s functions.”
It’s up to me whether I give my mind, my consciousness, a palace or a hellhole to live in. No prizes for guessing which option is more attractive!
💜. I love your wisdom
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Thank you so much! That’s proof right there that the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo works! I was born with almost no wisdom whatsoever! Any that I have now I have acquired, mercifully, along the way!