Far too often we slip into denial or turn away when faced with circumstances we find unpleasant. Earlier this week I did exactly that and learned a lesson I’d accepted, but failed to apply.
In Pema Chödrön’s book, The Places That Scare You, she asserts that it’s often our refusal to admit life’s impermanence. After all, to accept that “everything is in process” is to not only acknowledge that life holds joy, but, too, suffering. Chödrön, a Buddhist nun with a great many books to her credit, asserts that we believe resisting impermanence protects us from suffering. The truth is the opposite. Suffering exists regardless so all we’re doing is becoming rigid when flexibility is needed. When rigid in the wind we view ourselves as a separate entity and are more likely to break. Inflexible and isolated, we cling to self-importance while filled with stress and worry. When we accept impermanence we bend in the wind. Accepting impermanence is to realize we aren’t alone, and coupled with flexibility provides a freedom with less stress. Rather then self-importance we have a flexible identity.
I became living proof this week.
Last Monday I went out to my car and noticed my rear, passenger side tire was low on air. I became rigid. Ignoring what I’d read, I instead dwelt upon the hassle involved with having the tire fixed or, worse, having it replaced. Living in the future instead of the present, I focused on my day’s plans instead, drove to an air pump, and discovered there was only 10psi in the tire. Again my learning whispered in my ear and again I ignored it. I aired the tire to 35psi and focused on having fun.
That evening I thought about the tire. Was the pressure dropping again? I had a meeting to attend on Tuesday and worried about missing it. Maybe the low pressure was a fluke? Maybe. Maybe not. Besides hassle, a low tire also meant finding a shop I trusted since I haven’t lived here long. Who wants to deal with that?
The next day I checked the tire 60 minutes before my meeting. Flat. Pancake flat. I stared at it wearing my dangling earrings, dress, and sandals. I could have swore or cried or jumped up-and-down, but instead I nodded and saw clearly the road I’d taken myself down for 24-hours. I smiled and acknowledge that life is joy and suffering.
I walked back inside, pulled out my bicycle, and rode the 3.5 miles to the meeting, stopping at the library on the way because I had a book due. The next morning I changed my first tire in nearly a decade without complaint (actually, I was proud of myself) and drove to a shop where the tire was pronounced DOA with a spike in the sidewall. The place I chose was fast, efficient, reasonable, and everyone was friendly. I could hear the mechanics singing to music. My efforts on Wednesday cost me no more money than they would have on Monday, but Monday’s rigidness cost me effort, inconvenience, stress and the opportunity to limp the car to the shop. All because I didn’t want to face unpleasantness. Lesson learned and (finally) applied.