I was fed up with my car: there was a rock chip in the windshield directly in front of my face, a squeak when I released the brake pedal and it wallowed and bounced on worn-out struts. A bad idler pulley made a whirring sound when using the AC, the tires shook above 70 mph, and an exhaust leak rumbled beneath the passenger floorboard. I wanted to get rid of it, but a better car would set me back $5,000 in addition to the pittance I’d receive from selling my clunker.
I had a choice—continue to suffer or take action. I chose the latter and began chipping away at the list of annoyances. I disassembled the rear brakes, lubricated some rusted areas, and reassembled them eliminating the squeak. I fixed the rock chip, ordered new struts, bought a new pulley, balanced and rotated the tires, and purchased a new exhaust gasket. In no time, the annoyances would be history.
I soon noticed that fixing those problems did not bankrupt me or take much time, yet I suffered and complained about them for ages. I noticed something else: the annoying things did not keep me from having a good relationship with my car—my attitude did. I placed the blame on the car and nearly abandoned it. But the car was just being what it was. It had no power to change itself. I was the one who needed to change.
When I finally chose to get my hands dirty, something strange happened. I bonded with that car. The dirt was the car’s blood and I was a surgeon elbow deep in it saving its life. When I stopped being the problem and became the solution, my relationship with the car changed. I liked it again. It no longer seemed like a stranger. We were partners, just like in the beginning.
All along, it was me at fault. I refused to hear the car’s cries for help. I shirked my responsibility in that relationship and my expectations were out of line. With a little time and effort, that annoying car might just be one of the best cars I’ve ever owned.
We all do this every day: we shirk our responsibilities in our relationships with family, friends, cars, jobs. We complain day in and day out, and we long for something better when we are perfectly capable of turning every one of those relationships around with very little effort, saving ourselves years, or perhaps a lifetime of suffering. Instead of running away, we can bring ourselves peace and strengthen bonds that might otherwise be permanently lost.
Taking a moment to reflect, we may find that our complaints are a compass pointing the way to a happier and more fulfilling life.
Image courtesy of Kenga-LAS, Flikr