Finding happiness by loving life like a used car: AS IS
Every car I’ve ever owned was used. When I bought these cars, I often had to sign a contract with “AS IS” printed in large block letters across the paper. Being an owner of used cars has taught me what it means to accept “AS IS.”
My first car was a 1972 Toyota Corona that I called the Red Barchetta. The reverse gear stopped working, so I would have to park it in a place where I could drive forward or my friends and I would have to push the car backwards. When I got a used 1982 Honda Civic, I loaned the Barchetta to my girlfriend’s friend who wanted to visit her parents in San Diego for the weekend.
She called me on Sunday and said that my car had broken down on the side of the road. When she returned without the car later that night, she was furious. How could I have loaned her a car that would break down? I had jeopardized her life and her safety.
I remember looking at her with confusion because I thought she understood what AS IS meant. Cars break down, especially used cars that are over 20 years old (the untold secret is that even brand spanking new cars break down, as anyone who has ever purchased a lemon can attest).
What I’ve come to realize is that life is like a car. When we can accept life AS IS, we save ourselves a lot of suffering, misery, and heartache.
As the father of two sons, I’ve had to accept my children AS IS. As much as I want them to be just like me, I realize that when I try to fit them into the mini-me box, it causes us both suffering. For example, I’m a pretty neat and meticulous person, so how is it that both my sons can eat greasy pizza and wipe their hands on the couch, the walls, and their brand new jackets? Don’t even get me started on peeing around the toilet.
When I accept these two young boys as is, I am no longer bothered by the grease stains or the urine odor. That is the way it is. I can accept it and move forward or stew in my resentment all day long.
There is a Zen story about a two monks who come to a raging stream. On the bank of the stream is a beautiful woman who is unable to cross. The senior monk puts the woman on his back and carries her across.
The younger monk is aghast since monks aren’t even supposed to think about women, much less touch them. The older monk doesn’t say a word and continues walking. After miles of consternation, the younger monk stops the older monk and says, “Sir, you know we are not supposed to touch women, but you put that woman on your back and carried her across the river.”
The older monk says, “Yes, that is true, but I put her down on the other side. You’ve been carrying her ever since.”
When I don’t live life AS IS, I tend to carry around a lot of baggage about what shoulda, coulda, woulda happened. I whine, complain, and cause myself and those around me a lot of suffering.
Eckhart Tolle says, “When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.”
I would highlight the mad in madness. Whenever I get really mad, I’m almost always not accepting life AS IS. Anger is like a warning light that shines us back to the original AS IS contract we signed at birth.
On a deeper level, I’ve found that when I not only accept, but also learn to embrace life AS IS, then nothing can disturb my joy and peace of mind. I realize that having boys who pee all over the toilet seat is far better than having a pristine house that is empty.
I really miss the Red Barchetta. Looking back the “problems” with that car were what made it special. As Robin Williams says in Good Will Hunting, “People call these things imperfections, but they’re not. Ohh, that’s the good stuff.”
In my experience, living life AS IS allows us to see the real “good stuff.”
P.S. This article is published AS IS.
Photo: Flickr–Bill Barber