Driving along the idyllic US Highway 95, across a several hundred mile stretch of empty wilderness that goes from Idaho, through Oregon, and down into Nevada, I noticed my “check engine” light come on. Not too alarmed, I checked my gauges. Everything normal, engine sounds fine, feels fine, and smells fine. I continue driving but a moment later the check engine light is joined by the “engine protect” light. Somewhat concerned I double check my temperature gauge. Normal. Hmmm. Must be low on fluid. Should have checked that last stop. Maybe I should –
Now the engine light starts flashing. I have time enough to think aloud, “uh – that’s not good.”
Suddenly the engine turns off. The dash console lights up like a Christmas tree, and I lose power steering. Just coasting now. There’s no shoulder to pull off onto, the road drops off steeply into a ditch. I turn the ignition on and off try to restart the engine, and it finally fires up again. I am looking around for any place to get off the road now. I see a spot but the whole thing happens again before I can get there. Luckily I am able to coast and using all my strength to turn the wheel (now unassisted by power steering) I manage to get off the road.
Under the hood, I find that the coolant is indeed low, and I soon discover why. Alerted by flecks of coolant on the fan and elsewhere in the engine, I look for and soon find a steady dribble of coolant leaking from the radiator. Time to call in the bad news.
After alerting my company’s over-the-road breakdown department, I put all the water I can find on the truck into the coolant reservoir and continue driving. I keep hoping to find a fuel station or some place that will have more water, but all I find is an abandoned looking gas station with a closed sign in the window. A few miles later the engine stops again.
So here I sit. Luckily there is at least phone reception here (can’t imagine how or why this is so) and I am able to communicate my plight to the OTR department. Help is on the way in the form of 2 gallons of water from the nearest service station. After that, the goal is to make it 1.5 hours further to Winemucca, NV for repairs. Meanwhile the load I am carrying is getting less and less likely to be delivered on time.
Unexpected set backs like this happen occasionally on the road. One minute you’re driving along knowing exactly what to expect for the next few days and the next minute your plans have been changed for the next week. It takes some flexibility to roll with these punches, especially if the change in plans is precipitated from something you yourself did. In that case it takes not only flexibility, but some kindness, compassion, and even forgiveness.
I don’t know about you, but I often find it is easier to forgive other people’s mistakes than it is to forgive my own. The pain that comes with realizing I could have done something to prevent the present crisis is deep, personal and hard to forgive and usually leads to self loathing, rage, and depression. No amount of internal dialogue or positive self talk ever seems able to untie this snarled knot of guilt and betrayal that reveals itself every time I make a serious mistake. Not long ago, however, I found a way to cut the knot without bothering to untie it. The key is to address the feeling of rage itself, not the imagined reasons behind it. I found that, though rage is not something easily dismissed, it can be postponed – postponed long enough, in fact, for the conditions which caused the rage to change. When I postponed my rage I found that, before I knew it, the initial problem was either dealt with or no longer relevant and my rage evaporated.
The reason for postponing rage was fairly simple – it clouds judgement and can easily make a bad situation worse. This, I found, was not good enough reason to dismiss my rage – I felt fully justified in being angry – but was reason enough to put it off until the situation was dealt with and there was no risk of me making things worse. The result was that as the situation resolved itself, so did my rage.
At some point I hope to learn a kindness toward myself that does not feel anger at painful mistakes, but in some ways I think reacting to pain with anger is natural so I don’t really know if there is a way to erase it completely. At any rate, postponing anger allows me a bit more flexibility in my life when I am confronted with unexpected changes, and perhaps this method may help you as well. Whatever lies in store on your personal road, enjoy the ride and never lose hope; because change is just around the bend.