74: Maintenance Required

74: Maintenance Required

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive

Maintenance Required

Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other.

~Henry David Thoreau

The yellow light flashed on my dashboard, illuminating the words: Maintenance Required. “I don’t have time for this,” I stewed. “I’ve got two jobs, a family to take care of, dogs to feed, exercise to get in, I don’t have time for this. When can I squeeze in a four-hour window without the use of my car?” I crumpled the foil from the sandwich I’d eaten as I sped along the freeway.

For days I drove with the light illuminated and flashing. Normally after a couple of minutes it would relent and turn off, as if to say, “Okay you might not want to listen, but I’m warning you . . .” But the next morning when I headed for my hour-long freeway drive, the light came on and stayed on. It stared me in the face day after day gloating, glaring, and never going away.

I felt frazzled, juggling a new job that had me driving all over the city, eating in my car, and toting heaps of files with me. I was never good with paper organization and now piles mounted and papers slipped out of folders. Other piles accumulated and not just the literal ones, like bills and clothing, but the metaphoric ones as well. I was drowning in my “to-do’s” and this “Maintenance Required” was putting me over the top.

I remember the last time I let the “Maintenance Required” light flash a little too long and ended up stranded on the roadside, only to be towed to the dealer and charged a whopping bill for repairs on an engine that could’ve been serviced by an oil change.

The light now had my full attention. It was obvious I was going to have to change my entire day. As a contract therapist, I am only paid for the clients I see, so canceling my appointments was going to cost me, but so would ignoring the light. As I searched for my cell phone to call the office, it rang from the depths of my purse. My client had called to cancel his appointment.

I made it to the dealer in time to drop off my car. I had at least four hours to “kill.” And then it struck me, why would I ever want to kill this time? It was a gift I could never recover. I thought about waiting at the dealer, but that seemed like punishment. My car needed maintenance and so did my soul. I found out the dealer offered a shuttle ride that could drop me at a mall. Although I had no interest in shopping, I knew that the beach was about a mile from the mall. I had my sneakers, my iPod, and my phone so I set off on my adventure.

I discovered that everything, including waiting and distance, seems shorter and closer when I mentally use the word “only.” It would only be four hours and I would have my car again. The beach was only a mile away.

I plugged in my iPod and grounded myself with the meditative chants from my yoga class. Then I listened to the self-help and motivational tapes that I’d heard before, but suddenly heard in a new way. As I walked, I dug my toes into the soft wet sand. I breathed in the salty fresh ocean spray. I felt the warmth of the sun and the gentle caress of the breeze. I was feeling so renewed and peaceful I almost felt guilty.

What a brilliant idea those carmakers have, I thought. “Maintenance Required.” If only we came with such a light.

My phone rang. It was the dealer letting me know my car was ready an hour early.

“So soon?” I inquired. “Will it be okay if I come in a couple of hours? I’m still working on a little maintenance of my own.”

~Tsgoyna Tanzman

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