My first car was a 1982 Ford Mustang.
Light Blue. Stick-shift. Reeked of stale cigarette smoke. I don’t recall how many miles were on it, but it was a lot. It was previously a rental car, driven past its acceptability to rental customers.
Now it was mine.
And I couldn’t drive a stick.
Oh I taught and tried. But me? I was never meant for the stick-shift.
But once I got past the stop signs, and shifting gears, I could fly through the country roads at speeds that felt like pure freedom. In fact, I drove so fast, I thought I’d just fly over potholes.
During one of my freedom flying days the right tire found a new pothole. I thought the tire blew. After coming to a herky-jerky stop, I inspected the tire—still inflated. Kicked it a couple of times for good measure. No problem. And proceeded to restart the car, attempt the whole gas-clutch-start-mess and head home.
That’s when I knew something was wrong.
The car pulled strongly to the right. I had no idea what was wrong as I fought with the steering wheel and clutch and stick the whole way home. Did I mention it didn’t have power steering? Fearing that I’d ruined the car, I said nothing to my parents. For weeks I drove that thing and built up the muscles in my left arm. It wasn’t until my dad noticed some balding and exposed cable on a tire, that had me confessing about the pothole fiasco.
Dad explained how a big pothole can throw the alignment off quickly. A simple realignment was less costly than the point I had taken the car to: needing new tires and an alignment. The lecture continued about car maintenance, keeping it clean, and being proactive. Not to mention something about “pride of ownership” a lesson (lecture) my brother and I were told often.
FAST FORWARD 30ish YEARS
That hideous Mustang is long gone. Yet oddly the memory and lessons I learned from it are still fresh.
MAINTENANCE AND REALIGNMENT
We’re really no different from cars when it comes to life. We drive hard, we experience freedom, we fly. And sometimes we hit potholes, or worse yet—crash.
And when we hit a pothole (or even crash) you can keep driving along like nothing ever happened. But you know something is wonky wrong. You know there is no way something “bad” like that could have happened, and that you’re still “okay” (let’s call that denial or shock). And if you’re honest, yeah, you can feel it. You struggle to drive straight. Or your crash left your trunk lid ajar and EVERYONE can see the junk in your trunk. Everyone but you that is.
And the longer you drive this way, the worse the damage becomes.
You can keep ignoring that issue—the “pothole” you forgot about? And not be too Dr. Phil-ish, but seriously “hows that workin’ for ya?”
For me, not well at all. Getting real with my wonkiness (that lesson) is the only thing I hold dear from that Mustang. Being out of alignment doesn’t just affect my drive, it affects me to my core. My spiritual well-being core.
When that’s messed up, everything is messed up. My need to be right with God and connected is more important than…anything.
DOING LIFE VIA MY GUT
I’ve come to trust my gut on when things are out of alignment. Or when something awful happens, I quickly check on it before things get out of control.
Simply put: if I’m wonky, I get myself fixed.
Sometimes that takes a while, because sometimes getting out of alignment (aka: wonky, out of whack, off kilter, 7+ pounds overweight, mentally unbalanced, marbles and knots in my back/nick, bitter forgiveness, spiritual disconnect, unmanaged awful thoughts, etc..) is a slow process. I guess it all depends on the size and magnitude of the pothole you hit, or how long it’s been since you acknowledged that you hit the pothole.
And if you need professional help—seek it.
It’s okay. It is. And it’s gonna get better. It will. And then you can drive and be more aware and proactive on all the junk that life’s road will always have.
Oh and don’t forget, not all potholes are your fault. Sure, there are some we could have avoided, and others—like the one I hit—was not there the day before. Just my luck of the draw. Junk happens.
Here’s the truth: the more we check on ourselves and stay aligned the better we run and the better we are for all the passengers, back-seat drivers, other drivers, and pedestrians in our lives.
Notice the potholes. Check on yourself. And be well.
You are always worth the extra care.