My car started making very peculiar noises. I worried that something was seriously wrong with my means of transportation. I worried that I would soon need to find a place to pull my car over, out of traffic. I was worried that it was night time and dark. I checked for the check engine light. There wasn’t one yet. I berated myself for not being the kind of man who knows how cars work and how car’s talk and how they ask for help. I did the usual magical thinking that the noises would be fleeting and were just normal weird noises made by old cars, similar to the weird noises made by old drivers, such as myself.
The noises did not stop. The check battery light came on. I began rooting for my car to make it home. I worried that it wasn’t going to. I mentally whipped it like an exhausted horse close to the finish line, knowing that to do so was so silly.
It almost worked though. My Toyota Corolla crapped out at the bottom of my steep driveway. I was just off the road and away from traffic. I wondered if I could get the car to go up the grade.
At that moment of going from worry to wondering, gratitude started slipping into my awareness. How glad I was that my car, of all of the places it could break down, chose my driveway to do so. I experienced gratitude for the over 150 thousand miles that car had carried me and my loved ones, never leaving anyone far from home, rarely complaining about a thing.
I thought it might be the serpentine belt. I wondered when I’d had it changed last. I wondered if I’d ever had it changed.
I wondered why I always intend to record the car’s maintenance, (which in my case is usually unscheduled), but seldom do or have trouble accessing it, given that it is recorded in the form of a receipt crumpled up in the glove compartment, with a bunch of other stuff.
In my wondering, gratitude mode, I began to wonder if I could restart the car and get it up the driveway and out of the way of my wife’s car, who needed to get to work the next morning. I was grateful that I tried and that it was not a dead horse I was whipping. I laughed out loud when the car reached it’s normal home parking spot.
I had gratitude that I would be soon telling my wife, face-to-face, about my good fortune in making it home, rather than having to make a roadside cell phone call asking for a lift.
It wasn’t long, however, before the worry crept back in. How much was this repair going to cost me? What if the great mechanics that I have used in the past were out of business? I had a doctor’s appointment coming up in two days, how was I going to get there? Why oh why hadn’t I saved more money for my retirement? Might I need to learn bus routes that I could walk to, due to being unable to afford having two cars?
“Stop it!” I thought. “Stop this worrying. It will do no good and harm to my mood.” I began to wonder, if I could diagnose and fix the problem myself. This time, I laughed at myself silently.
The next morning, I popped the hood. A man who doesn’t know much about cars, needs to know how to open the hood of a car. Such a man needs to be able to say that he looked at what was under the hood and determined either A) there was obviously one or more things out of place that he had no idea how to address or B) Everything appeared to be in order, therefore the reason why the car won’t run was not obvious. This must be done to provide a mechanic with introductory information.
There is another move, the ignorant car owner can attempt and that is to squirt something on something under the hood to see if that makes a difference. I thought that maybe the rain we had been having had lead to corrosion on the car battery leads and a little squirt of WD-40 would protect my credit card from use. Good old WD-40 lubricant is kept right near the duct tape in my do-it-yourself arsenal. I was glad that I was so armed, because the engine roared to life.
I worried that which was too good to be true, often wasn’t. I decided to check the engine while it was running to see if I could find where the serpentine belt lived under the hood, just to see if it looked happy. I quickly found it, determined it was dead and that the pullies that it pulled weren’t pulling. I quickly shut off the engine. I have had serpentine belts on other cars that I have owned take water pumps with them when they died and knew that my credit card didn’t want that.
It was wonderful that my trusted mechanics were still in business and even though business was good, they just might be able to at least, take a look at my car that very day. I wondered how long it would take for the tow truck to arrive.
It was there in less than an hour. It wasn’t a tow truck, but a flat bed truck. It was less than twenty minutes before I was wondering what my landlord might have to say about the excavation job to the lawn sloping up from the driveway by the edge of the flatbed as it carted away my Corolla.
Of course, I worried how much repairs were going to cost. I did receive a discount for paying cash. There was no discount for worrying.
It was Mark Twain who wrote, “I have survived many catastrophes that have never happened,” to make the point that much worry is a waste of time and energy.
As men, we can quickly go from, “why this, to why now, to why me?” to make problems big and small and worse. Sometimes, men can build a mountain from a mole hill of concern, to prove that they are man enough to climb it. Not such a good idea.
Men are often the “go to” problem solvers of things mechanical and/or dirty and/or dangerous and/or expensive. Not saying they always are or always should be. Just saying this happens quite a bit. Men often worry if they will be able to “man up” to the occasion.
Before my car made it home, made it up my driveway, got repaired the next day and took me to the gym for a workout, it (in my mind) dumped me by the side of the road in the dark without a flashlight that worked, humiliated and closer to the brink of broke.
My worry had taken me on that trip for no good reason.
A great life hack, try substituting the verb, WONDER, when you have worries. Wonder about how your situation is going to work itself out. Getting curious can loosen you up, where worry can make you tight. Men do some of their best problem solving when loose, and some of their worst, when tight with worry.
Stereotypes associated with the grimly determined male, can lead to making grim situations grimmer. Believing in such stereotypes can cut off creative, intuitive solution finding. Such beliefs can choke off feeling feelings, that once felt, help clear, center, and calm the problem-solving mind.
When you wonder about how a situation is going to turn out, instead of worrying about how it might turn out, don’t be surprised if this shift allows for gratitude to flow regarding how the situation could be worse. Don’t be surprised if it facilitates awareness of resources and abilities that may have gone unrecognized in the worry state.
It is up to you, of course, if you want to worry about what will happen to the USA and the world, or wonder about it. My guess is that if you are worried, there is no lesser chance that you will do anything helpful about that, than if you wonder about it. You might actually find wonder brings more clarity about what you can personally do, about your concerns. For example, if you worry that the USA will become less kind to oppressed groups of people, you may wonder more about your kindness to others in general. You might wonder if you are as kind as you can be and if not, what you can do about that.
Remember, when worried, try replacing “worry” with wonder. You may turn a situation of worry into a wonderful one or at least one that doesn’t suck as much.
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