It has been a rough week for my poor old car. I knew it was over-the-hill when my dad gave it to me, but the good ol’ Corolla was a real trooper. Together we’ve driven down the east coast, out west, and even very far north. He was patient with me as I learned not only to drive manual, but to drive at all! That car drove me to meet up with people I love and has taken me far away from people I don’t. It even puts up with the embarrassment of the occasional ticket. Never punishing me for the shame it feels being parked on the curb during Wilmington street cleaning. Ahhh, I really love that car.
However, it has been struggling more lately and first needed a new clutch (the equivalent of a hip replacement). Then, in an unfortunate series of events, he had his rain-guard broken, a violation of personal space, and was ripped of his 7 year old sound system. I felt so bad for the old guy.
But despite his troubles, the car keeps on trucking (or Corolla-ing!) That was, until the other day. For work I had to drive down state (about an hour and a half) for a 2 hour meeting and then immediately turn around and drive back. I knew it was going to be a hot day and that the drive was going to be silent and long, but even without the radio I knew the AC would keep me comfortable. And it did! For the whole ride down I avoided the 90 degree heat and humidity with perfectly cold air. In fact, I thought it was a bit chilly, so I even turned down the AC. Lucky me.
After the meeting I hopped into the old guy to head back home. I am sure you know where this is going, but I will tell you anyway. The AC fizzled and stopped working about 5 minutes into the ride. This was not ideal, but manageable since there was some wind. Before long, I began to sweat in my work pants and blouse…gross. But that was not the worst part. Right as I reached a half way point, traffic came to a shrieking halt. And with that, the heat lay on me like a wool blanket. There was nothing I could do but embrace the sweat. For the miles that I could see ahead there were two lanes of stopped traffic. Trucks and cars and SUVs all jammed in together. The SUVs began one by one turning around illegally through the grass median. I thought about doing the same, but then I remembered I was in a Corolla. Unlike jeeps, they are unfortunately not build for any form of off roading.
So there I was—tired, sweaty, hot, stuck, and without any company. There was a lot of potential to get very frustrated, very quickly.
But something else happened. Instead of getting more hot and bothered, I simply reached into my bag and began to read some magazines. It was as if I took a lesson of patience from my old car. As he was patient with me during terrible driving hours and teenage years, I too was patient. Today was just not a good day for us. It got me thinking about two yoga niyamas, santosha and tapa. I have talked about santosha (contentment) before, but tapa is something that I have to continually work hard at. Tapa meaning austerity or self-discipline, and in yoga philosophy has been described as the ability to withstand discomfort and struggle. It challenges us all to work through things like hunger and thirst, discomfort of poses and postures, and for me on this particular day—maintaining calm and contentment through heat and traffic. I had to come to a zen state, which was not easy.
It was however possible. My own contentment was reaffirmed when I finally reached the point that created the traffic in the first place—a terrible accident. There were 3 fire trucks and 2 ambulances and as I took a glance down off the highway I saw an eighteen wheeler laying on its side, limp like road kill. It had tumbled and ripped apart on its way off the highway and into the woods. As I passed I was thankful it wasn’t me in the truck and I was glad I hadn’t wasted the last hour sitting in traffic angry and upset. I may have been a little late to my next appointment, but I wasn’t early to die.
I am not in any way claiming to be a saint. Deep down I know that had I had company in the car, or if the radio wasn’t stolen, or if the AC worked, I may have ignited some serious road rage within. I guess what I am saying is that the obviously bad situation I was in gave me some clarity; I was reminded about how fortunate I actually am. The silence and the time alone helped me to reevaluate my presence. All I can hope now is that the next time I am in traffic, I remember to do some yoga.