After thirty minutes of waiting for the tow truck I decided it was time for an inventory of all the things I had to be thankful for. The first was that I hadn’t had an accident. You would have thought I had. My neck was stiff from battling with the car. The problem I was having happened once before. I’d managed to get the car going then, but not this time. The second was that it wasn’t dark like the first incident. The third – it wasn’t snowing. Snow would have made this feel like an avalanche of stupidity.
All things to be grateful for but with street noise in the background it was a challenge to be thoughtful. My attitude of gratitude quickly gave way to trouble-shooting which is more my strength than being Zen-like. How would I get home from the car dealership? Assuming the car required more than a day to fix, how was I going to get to my doctor’s appointment? How would I get back to the shop once it was ready? The things I was thankful for were replaced with new concerns. All of those required involving other people which I hate to do.
Fretting made me hungry so I decided to go into the coffee shop nearby for something to eat. When I went to pay I couldn’t find change in my bag. The gal behind the counter told me not to worry about it and started to reach in her tip jar but I wouldn’t let her. “No, I’ll find some, I always have change. It’s no problem,” she said. “No, I’ll find some,” and before any more debate I did. I couldn’t bear the thought of a college student parting with her tip money. Heading out the door I thought I really have a hard time taking help from anyone don’t I? Then I found a penny so the question was shouting at me. It’s probably time to think about my fierce independence when I get back to the car.
The tow truck driver arrived leaving me no time to reflect. He gets my car started and tells me I can drive it to the dealer. Absolutely not I’m thinking. I don’t want to get stuck on the highway if it dies again. After I’ve surrendered my pride to call in the first place, I want the car towed! We go back and forth like the cars flying by. This is ridiculous given the fact that he’s an “AAA” contractor and I’ve already paid for the service. He should take the car wherever I ask him too but this F150-guy is not going to back down. I’m not getting anywhere with him. Then he pulls the “ace card” with me and says, “You don’t need to be intimidated Miss I know you can’t do it.”
Now the pride I was trying to overcome is seething. It would have been worse if he’d said “little missy” but “intimidated” really lit my fuse. My ego had been bruised enough. I hop in my car faster than Danica Patrick chasing a checkered flag. Off I go weaving in and out of traffic to get to the dealer. I don’t remember calling my Mom to come get me. In the service bay I find out I won’t have the car back that afternoon. Zac, the service advisor, is trying to be encouraging not realizing I’m more upset about needing to ask friends up for rides than I am the car. A Toyota is easier to fix than my psyche.
The irony in the ordeal is that I was frustrated the day before with my neighbors for not asking the boys to shovel their driveway after it snowed. Then there was my Mom who made me crazy, by making an appointment for acupuncture without mentioning it to me. Why hadn’t she consulted me? I’ve been needled more than a pin cushion? The guy she was going to see was not right for her. “Mom, you can’t go to him. He’s off the deep-end. Oh, I didn’t think to ask you,” she said.
Back home I collapsed on the couch and thought what a hypocrite I am. I’m the first to get frustrated with my friends when they don’t ask for help but I can barely stand to ask for a few rides. Where did this come from? How has my independence become a character flaw?
The answer came before my question hit the ground – I was raised that way. Self-sufficiency was a requirement in my childhood. My Father divorced my Mom when I was three years old. He lived out of town and she worked full-time and went to school. Lots of kids find themselves in this position and it could have been worse. It wasn’t the Great Depression it was the 70’s. I was a latch-key kid with a green ten-speed that took me wherever I needed to go. I made a mean fried egg sandwich for lunch every day and mastered the Easy Bake oven. To entertain myself I read every novel I could get my hands on gravitating toward stories where I found resourceful characters. These were my self-help books. I could relate to the Boxcar Children who were orphans. I hadn’t been abandoned but I was alone and richly rewarded with praise when I did well.
Unfortunately, children are great recorders but terrible interpreters and I soaked in the kudos believing independence was what was expected of me. I worried that if I couldn’t handle things on my own, my Mother might leave me too. What would I do then? This worry was the soundtrack of my life. It fueled years of overachieving which has been a blessing and curse.
A healthy appreciation for what you can and can’t do is a good thing. If you don’t know what you can do you won’t ever exercise those abilities. That would be a waste of the talents God has developed in you. We all need to feel competent. We all take comfort in knowing we can do things for ourselves. Likewise, we all want to feel loved and admired.
The flipside of the coin is the trap. It’s easy to become so insistent on doing things for yourself you become prideful. The need to feel capable has you cursing when you need an extra hand. Help is a four letter word in your vocabulary. When you do ask, you think what could I have done to avoid this? It’s a crazy cycle God doesn’t want for anyone.
When Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” he didn’t mean only treat your neighbor well, he meant treat yourself well too. Like I want to be helpful to my neighbors they want to be helpful to me. A person has to love themselves enough to receive love. It’s not fair to give and not accept in return. Inner strength doesn’t come from being capable it comes from being vulnerable. God’s love and our neighbor’s will never change us if we don’t accept it.
These are hard truths for me and maybe they’re hard for my neighbors also. When Glo hired a handyman to change the light bulbs in her kitchen she didn’t want to be a bother. It hurt my feelings. If she saw me walking to the grocery store it would hurt hers. I can’t expect her to ask me if I don’t ask her. The same holds true with my Mom.
As for the tow truck driver, maybe the guy was raised like I was. He thought he was doing the right thing by pushing me. From the look of him I don’t think he’s had the easiest life. He probably looked at me and thought lady you don’t need any more help. He was wrong though, I did. Fortunately Zac was ready for me at the dealership with coffee and few kind words.
Maybe if we all treated ourselves like we treat others we’d be happier. I don’t believe it’s true that it’s better to give than receive. I think they’re equal and the balance is where we find good health. I know that’s what I’m hoping for in the year ahead. That – and my car starting!