My car died on the weekend. And when I say ‘died’, I mean flat-out kaput, never to cruise the sunny roads of Brisbane again. Margeurite, my sort-of trusty Toyota Camry, is gone.
Her untimely demise happened when I was in the middle of the Pacific Motorway — a busy eight lane freeway — about an hour from my home. She had been a little funny that day already, which is unusual — normally she’s totally reliable — and all of a sudden, I noticed that the temperature gauge had gone through the roof, so I pulled over onto the shoulder of the road.
With cars speeding past at 110km per hour, it was not the best place for my car to break down. (The tow-truck man would later tell me that in his business, that particular stretch of road is called ‘Death Gully’, because of the number of people who have died in car accidents there, inlcuding five young people in the one accident about a year ago. A high speed limit combined with not-that-great visibility is not the best mix.) I clambered out and went to look under the bonnet.
Now, I know very little about cars. I can check oil and coolant, and that’s about it. (I can also pump up my tyres, but I prefer my boyfriend to do all of the above for me anyway!) So when I popped the bonnet, it was not really with the expectation that I would actually be able to do anything to my car. Perhaps I was hoping for something ridiculously-and-glaringly obvious — you know, like a bright red arrow pointing to a loose cap that I could screw back on and be done. Alas, no such luck. What I did see was red coolant everywhere. Splashed all over the place, sizzled and boiled dry. Probs not a great sign, my inner mechanic told me.
When the tow truck man arrived to rescue me from my roadside misery, we quickly established that it was quite serious. Like, not a roadside fix. So I decided to get my car towed straight to my mechanic (an hour away, and despite the hideous cost, actually the most cost-effective solution of all the options).
As we were driving, I was sinking into that melancholy particular to anticipated financial pain. The tow truck man could sense my distress (don’t know what could have possibly given it away — my near-hysterical voice on the phone? My red-and-flustered face when he found me on the freeway after an hour of waiting? Can’t be sure!) and took it upon himself to cheer me up. To distract me. Bless.
We discussed our families — he had six kids total, a motley Brady-Bunch-style blended family; our work — he was about to head up to the mines; and his parenting philosophy — any old asshole can be a father, but it takes a real man to be a dad. Despite being entirely not in the mood to engage, I found myself drawn into the conversation, and forgetting where I was for tiny little stretches at a time.
When we finally arrived at my mechanic’s garage, and he had unloaded my car, he walked around to me and said ‘what did you learn from our trip together?’ and I mumbled something about silver linings, and the people we love being important, not the money (or cars) that we have.
He said “Look, there’s one more thing I want to tell you. My sister was born with spina bifida. So ever since she was a baby, she’s been deformed, and life has been a fight. It takes her hours to do everything, even the simplest things that I do without thinking. So every morning, when I wake up, and go into the toilet to take a piss, I think to myself ‘I’m standing and I’m pissing’ and I know it’s a good day. If you can stand, and you can piss, you know it’s a good day. Hell, you know it’s a good life.”
And with those words from my scruffy, smiley tow truck man, the door in my mind crept open and perspective crept in. Not to say I was ‘happy’ with the situation — that night, I still went home and had myself a private pity party (the only invitees were myself and a giant bag of M&Ms). I still got slightly teary on the phone to my boyfriend when I told him how much it would likely cost. But there was space and peace around those acute emotions. There was the beginning of an inner knowing that none of it mattered and it was all gonna be alright.
It’s so easy to let events like a dead-car-at-a-financially-inconvenient-time to derail us from living life wholeheartedly, with gratitude. Events like this seem to give us a free pass to spend the day (week?!!) in a shitty mood, and to eat junk food, and to whinge and moan to anyone who will listen about how hardly-done-by we are by the Universe. But with just a dash of perspective, we can connect with the truth of the situation.
So when I go the confirmation phone call this morning from my mechanic –“Jess, the car’s done. She’s dead. It’s not even worth fixing,” — there was space and peace and okay-ness around that. Because this morning, I stood up, and I went and peed. And that means that I’m having a good day. Hell, it means I’m having a good life.
In fact, I got out of my warm bed, in my warm house, and stood on my two walk-for-miles gorgeous legs, and peed in my toilet. Then I wrapped myself in my favourite fluffy bathrobe and spoke to my gorgeous-loving boyfriend on the phone. Then spoke to my gorgeous-loving mum and gorgeous-loving sister. Then I sat and ate a delicious healthy breakfast in the sun. There is no way — car or no car — that I’m not living a massively blessed life.
All it took was the loss of a $5 000 car to hammer the lesson home. I hope it sticks this time. Really, it would be cheap at twice the price.
What are you grateful for today? xx