What I Learned From A Flat Tire
I lowered the car window to hear what the man on the sidewalk was trying to tell me. “You have a flat tire,” he said, pointing to my back tire. I have a what? Really? I drove through the intersection, turned on my hazard lights, and pulled over only to find that he was right. I had a flat tire. In my defense, I did notice that something felt strange in the few blocks I’d driven. But I was so focused on getting my daughter to Hebrew school, and then myself to a workshop – that I ignored it. I kept going. It was probably in my head anyway – what do I know about cars? Well, turns out that my intuition was right. But it took a kind gentleman flagging me down to make me stop, take notice and then act.
Am I really sitting here writing about what I learned from a flat tire? Indeed. I am. Because here is the thing...maybe the flat tire was a symbol. A reminder. A message from the universe. Then again, maybe it was just a flat tire. Either way, I began to see the oddly shaped wheel as a metaphor.
Lessons learned from a flat tire
Here is what I know about tires (admittedly, it isn't much). A tire needs air to move smoothly. It needs to be refilled at regular intervals. Most tires have a recommended pressure (pounds per square inch) of about 32 psi. I also know that stuff can get stuck in tires. Nails. Glass. Stuff. And that stuff can puncture – creating little holes at first – and then big ones. Gashes even.
But there is the deal. We are just like tires. Or rather, I’ll speak just for myself.
I am just like a tire. I need to be filled up at regular intervals. Stuff sticks to me if I’m not paying attention. And sometimes, the sticky stuff takes hold – and causes the yucks. Heart yucks, mind yucks, body yucks. Sometimes I can get rid of the yucks easily like a flat tire can be patched. But other times, the stuff goes deeper.
Some flat tires need to be replaced.
(Stay with me even if the metaphor gets a bit skinny here since I can’t go to the store and buy a new "me.")
My flat tire reminded me of what happens when I don’t pay attention – The times when I make decisions based on stuff – guilt, pressure, expectations, and shoulds – instead of staying true to my why.
Look, I get it. I’ve been there. It is easy to get caught up in the adrenaline of a moment or experience. Or in the intensity of fear or anger. But if my actions and reactions are not in integrity with my purpose...they become stuff. They become shards of glass or nails on the road. They have the potential to pierce and puncture. To make it so that everything else becomes a struggle. To make me feel stuck in place.
But when I am paying attention? I can loosen the hold of the stuff. I can make sure that the ups and downs, ebbs and flows are just that. Passing moments instead of identifiers. I can fill up with good stuff... my breath, gratitude and my why. I can find my now on my yoga mat, read a book or spend a few minutes outside.
I can fill up all on my own – no jacks, wrenches, or spare tires required. And when there is a deep gash? I can call on the mechanics and roadside assistance technicians in my life – friends, family, colleagues or passing strangers – to bring me back to reality. To make me pay attention. To insist that I take focus on the present.
I won’t always be able to keep myself from deflating. There will be days when I am all about the go, go, go and do, do, do. But I have a better chance at staying “full” if I make decisions based on my WHY and the NOW.
Oh and in case you grew up with parents that believed that they taught you to change a flat tire by calling AAA, here is your chance to learn how to change your own flat tire. :)