Last night, my ’99 Taurus was a few miles away from overheating. I noticed it in Kalamazoo and had to drive to Grand Rapids. So I drove slowly with my eye on the dashboard in Kzoo until I could reach a Speedway. I spotted one just before the highway and grabbed my maintenance book from the glove box.
It didn’t contain any information that would help me, only informed me that there are two types of coolant: green and orange. It did not specify which one my car used but did caution that the two could never be mixed; it said so in a very ominous way. So I popped my hood and used my flashlight app to check inside. Nothing. An empty (as far as I could tell) container. I called my dad even though he lives two and a half hours away for help. He assumed I hadn’t looked at the book. Thanks. Then he told me to buy some water, which I did, and began to turn my experience into a teaching lesson. Only I didn’t want a teaching lesson. I wanted to be home. I wanted to not have to worry about my car overheating or paying to fix it. I was potentially stranded in Kzoo on a foggy night with an hour drive ahead of me. I wanted compassion, a kind and concerned voice, a caring response.
And in some way, the experience spoke a greater truth to me. My dad wants me to grow up. He wants me to be self-sufficient. I’m not. So the compassion I once received from him has turned into the harsh but necessary nudge of a parent bird, throwing its child from the nest to teach it to fly. I’m on my own (in more ways than one). And I got to thinking that fledglings must become hardened to their environment to survive. That thought got me worrying about my own hardening perspective. When does necessity turn to that impermeable wall that we build to keep ourselves from the pain of being vulnerable or dependent on others? When do we become too self-sufficent?
I used to be hopelessly romantic. I use past tense because it’s a quality in me that has since been replaced with skepticism. Regardless, I happened across a blog the other day where a man blogged each day about the things he loved about his girlfriend. They had been together for five years and he could still find something every day about her that lit up his day. I thought to myself, “Maybe that kind of love does exist.” Of course, I kept reading. The current blogs let you know that they have since broken up and he’s devastated. Sad to say, I wasn’t surprised at all. In fact, I couldn’t help but to let out a chuckle as I thought of the irony of it, looking for hope in all the wrong places.
The truth is, I don’t believe that there’s someone for everyone or even that every person gets to experience five true friends in their lives (or however the saying goes). Look around. Out of all the people in the world, we expect this sort of bond in life. I think that what we expect is the exception and not the rule. I am happy for my friends who have found that bond. My skepticism does not question the love and committment of others but warns me only that there is no guarantee.
Sure, it was a lot to take in on a foggy night with a spare gallon of water in my backseat, but I was struck by this realization. I don’t have that reassuring voice on speed dial. I have my own common sense and resourcefulness. I have informative contacts and Google on my phone. And I’ve got to make it work for me.