Saturday, September 27, 2014

Out of alignment

I knew I should have taken my car in sooner. It was pulling to the right, but I ignored that. I was too busy to get it realigned, and, besides, who wants to shell out money just to have the wheels straightened out? But because I procrastinated, those wheels wore down prematurely, and I had to pay a bundle for four new tires.

I knew I should have kept my cool. I was sick and tired of being in the kitchen, but I needed just a little longer to help finish up a Valentine’s Day treat. Besides, I’d done this kind of project a hundred times before. Shouldn’t I be able to finish this time as well? But it was all too much, and I snapped. It wasn’t pretty, and I wasn’t nice. And as soon as I got "excused" from the kitchen, I felt bad, and I later had to apologize to my family.

"Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance."  ~Brian Tracy

Realignment. Some cultures call it “getting centered.” I call it saying a prayer, reading the scriptures, going on a walk, taking a salt bath, or, if I’m really lucky, taking a nap. Most of us know when our emotional treads our getting worn down, but we often try to push ahead regardless, which is its own kind of reckless behavior. By neglecting to fix ourselves, we can damage relationships unwittingly, but, unlike children, we adults don’t always have the option to stop for a nap or timeout. So, what can we do to avoid “collisions” in our lives?

We can breathe. Just breathe. I’m not kidding.

Several months ago I realized I wasn’t using my lungs properly. In fact, I was in such bad respiratory shape that when I was not taking very shallow breaths, I was actually holding my breath altogether! Since then, I’ve had to consciously work on what should come naturally. So, doing yoga (heretofore the exercise of weirdoes moving in slow motion while burning incense and chanting) has become a lifesaver. In fact, it’s now an almost essential part of my days, mostly because it’s re-teaching me what I once came into this world already knowing how to do: breathe.

Of course, we can’t do yoga all day long any more than we can avoid stresses entirely. However, as Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Which is why my tires could have lasted much longer had I taken time to regularly align and balance them. Similarly, my work in the kitchen, though exigent and needful, would have been, in the long run, more helpful and pleasant for everyone if I’d simply had the good sense to take a short break.

We’ve all heard we should put on our own proverbial oxygen masks before trying to help others through crises. In the same vein, sometimes in order to "realign" ourselves, quickly resetting our thoughts, feelings, and expectations, all we have time for is just one deep breath.


  1. I love this metaphor. I do have a question: what happens if you know your car needs a tune up, alignment, oil change etcetera, but you truly can't make it into the shop? Perhaps you've loaned the car to a friend. Or you have no money. Or your schedule is so jam-packed that you have no time. Or you have nobody to take you home after or watch your kid while the car is in the shop. You know you need to take that car in. You know NOT taking it in is risky.
    But what happens when everyone's day falls apart while you are waiting to get your brakes replaced and your car back? What happens when you have no time or room to stop for a second, even when you've tried to eliminate all inessential activities? What happens when the people you want to ask for help are just as busy as you are and have no time? How do you go out of your way to get to the shop when you are barely making it through a normal day?

  2. To the person above: You get down on your knees and pray and then ask someone for help. Maybe someone old like me who has been through what you're going through and knows how it feels, but made it through and now has time to help others make it through....To Janet: You're back!! Woo hoo!!