Life Lessons From Under the Hood

Fight for the things in life worth holding on to…

Left my bat cave [the basement where I write] Saturday evening when hubby asked for a little help on the car. He’s been outside fixing, replacing, and tuning up the car since the sun rose for Monday’s inspection, the sticker that is technically 11 days overdue. We’re crossing our fingers and hoping we can get through another inspection without any big surprises.

Remember last year? “Sure Mrs. Paulus, your car will pass, after we replace all four wheels, the axle, the brakes, the engine, and that tiny little fuse that can only be reached after taking the entire car apart.”

“How many hours are we talking? What kind of loan should I take out? Will a kidney suffice?”

“The entire job, if we do it right, requires at least 52 hours of labor and yes, we do accept high functioning organs. But to be on the safe side, I’d plan for two.”

“Two thousand?”

“Two kidneys.” Mechanic with grease smeared across his forehead does not flinch. Laugh. Or wink. “Just in case.”

“For that,” I have a bright idea. “Don’t do it right. Just fix it enough to pass. I’m not looking to drive to Alaska. I just need to buy a little time, say a year, before I buy a new car. Work with me here. I’m not a doctor, but I think the last guy on ER that gave up both kidneys…Yeah, I don’t think that’ll work.”

“Well then, we can’t pass your car.”

Wahhhhh!Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but it was bad enough that we ended up donating our ’92 Camry. There was a gasoline leak that was irreparable. The honest mechanic, yes, they do exist out there, told hubby that he’d be fine driving it until some driver smoking in the next car is stopped at a red light, flicks his butt toward the Camry, and Kaboom! Minor gas leak leads to a firework show. And it don’t have to be da fourt’ a’ Ju-ly.

So we paid our last respects, kissed her bumper, and watched her roll out of our driveway for the last time. Sometimes you just have to let go.

And sometimes you have to be willing to get your hands in there and replace old parts yourself. So you can save some money. And your organs.

So hubby’s working on removing two broken sway link bars. He only discovered they were broken when he lifted the car to change the brakes. “Huh? I wonder why these two bars are just hanging by a thread? Could they be important to the optimal functioning of the vehicle or just cosmetic?” Well, more like “Holy cannoli! When did these break?” and “Oh Shnap! We drove all the way to South Carolina and back with the car like this?”

He’s showing me the old one and how he’s having trouble getting it off. It is really rusty on the attached end and even as he tries various wrenches and turns, the piece loosens slightly but barely budges.

“Just cut it off.” I think that’s a good idea.

Hubby shakes his head no. That’s not how he does things. Gently attempt to remove the part the way it was put in first. Then when you’ve tried every way possible to back the old part out and cleaned out any residual specks of the past, then, and only then, do you insert the new part.

I nod as I listen to him explain his approach. The method that requires patience, detailing, time, and straining of his neck and back while he twists and turns into awkward positions to get just the right angle. And right there and then, I have my writer moment… 
This is like life.

“Pass me the long screwdriver.”

“The yellow one?”

“Sure. That one works.”

And as I face the trials of dimming light, summer’s first mosquitoes, and that old rusty sway bar that just doesn’t want to come off, I see how this picture parallels our different approaches to life.

I’m the type who wants to get rid of the bad stuff pronto. Arguments, disappointments, regrets and the like. They’re inevitable. They happen in all of our lives. If I had my way, I’d run past them at the speed of light into the future. And fill those gaps with good times and hugs and kisses asap. Because I like to move on. Move up. And Move forward. I’m not one to linger. And I prefer the grace side of life’s equation. The grass is greener on the side of forgiveness and second chances…IMHO.

Hubby does not approach life like this. He’s about the meticulous dealing with the past first. Not rushing through the process which can lead to cutting out parts that were actually fine or missing areas that needed to be cleaned out or removed. Which can then lead to revisiting the damaged area. Time and time again. Additional repair. Do overs. Removing parts that were installed backwards because you were so focused on the hurry part of the equation. Sigh.

Learned a lot in that little moment. How I need to slow down. And if that old rusty dangling sway bar is a symbol of my heart, I need to think about how every time I make a conscious decision to look past that one area of struggle, it’s not going to disappear. If anything, it will cause more damage by lingering. Like pouring a glass of lemonade into a cup that just had milk in it, without washing the cup out first. No matter how sweet the lemonade is, the drink cannot be enjoyed as it was intended with the threat of curdled milk looming in those last sips.

I’m not trying to sound all gloom and doom. I get that life is imperfect and we all walk imperfectly through the ins and outs of daily conflict and sticky relationships. But when you get an insight on how you can walk this life a little more fully and a little less messily, and you don’t do it, you’re not only short-changing yourself. All the important relationships in your life suffer. Because if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. It’s the age old economics of energy. You only have so much.

It’s like what I shared with a marriage group a week ago. “Now that you have all these great communication tools under your belt, this does not guarantee that you will no longer fight. In fact, you might fight more now. But now you know how to fight fair, and you can’t just get away with dirty fighting, because you’ve both identified your bad habits. Trust me, you will go there. Fourteen years later, plenty of marriage education classes later, we [Sun and I] still go there. BUT, you don’t have to STAY there. In fact, you can’t stay there. You know too much. You don’t have to stay stuck. One of you has to humble yourself in the moment and remind your partner, ‘We know better. This has never worked before and it won’t work this time. Let’s take a break and do a do over. With the tools we’ve learned.'” And remember to hug and kiss at the end!

So as I walk back into the house, I spend some time examining my heart. I want a clean heart. One that loves with the full potential it was created for. One that loves without the smokescreens of self-deception, selfish motives, fear or guilt. It won’t happen overnight. I’m not talking heart transplant right away. I’m actually thinking of doing things Sun’s way. Taking one part at a time and combing through the details before running head first to the next thing. It won’t come naturally. I’m sure I’ll stumble back into my old ways time and time again. But I see the wisdom in slowing down. Sometimes in the whirlwind, a slow dance grounds you and reminds you why you’re alive to begin with. Not that it won’t be painful. 

Like getting your teeth cleaned. Cherish the oral hygienist who’s willing to scrape away the plaque between your teeth, because if he or she rushes you to the bubblegum-flavored fluoride treatment,  sure you might be momentarily happier, but you’ll probably be back next week with a cavity and a root canal.

For the record, there was a time when I thought I had to clean house before having company over. This is the expected order in society. The most ironic thing about God to me is the fact the he wants to come over, whether I vacuumed or not. Because truth is, dust settles seconds after I remove the last layer. And those things I swept under the rug or shoved in the closet, my heavenly Father can still see. In fact, he chooses not to look past my junk, because he knows deep down how desperately I long to be clean and how I can’t do it on my own. That was, in a nutshell, what attracted me to God in the first place. Unconditional love only makes sense if the person who loves you accepts you the way you are but refuses to leave you the way you are. Does that make sense? Because its not about “live and let live” as most people want to say and walk away these days. That’s easy. But it’s not love. 

And for someone who has trouble admitting that there is junk in my trunk, I revel in the fact that the God who made my heart holds my hand and helps me to face my messes, one mistake at a time. If I let him. When I let him. And, on those occasions when I’m ashamed, disappointed, or afraid to ask, his words remind me that his Grace is sufficient. New every morning. And he’s right here waiting for me.  

So with Father’s Day around the corner, I have to give a shout out to my Heavenly Father, the maker of my heart. He’s patient enough to work with me, helping me to clean out the rusty parts of my heart and he promises to give me a new heart. Cuz sometimes, the damage is just irreparable.

Funny thing is, in the end, hubby had to cut it out. The old sway bar, that is. But he tried everything else first. And the new part slipped in like a perfectly fitting Cinderella slipper. Because of all the prep work that preceded the replacement. 

Life lessons from under the hood. Never know where the next one’s gonna come from. But when it does, I promise to write it down. And share the wealth. Cuz that’s what it’s about. One beggar showing another beggar…

Happy Father’s Day Lord! I don’t say I love you enough. But I do. Love YOU! ♡♡♡

**Got any Father’s Day traditions you’d like to share? Is Father’s Day an occasion you look forward to or just want to rush past? 

**If you LIKED this POST, You MIGHT also LIKE:
“My Hotty Under the Hood”
“Looking Out From Under the Hood”
“My Sexy Spring-Cleaning Spouse”

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