My Messy Life

I rarely make bad decisions…really.

How do I know this? Easy answer: because I am, and have been, happy with my life. Not “materially-because-I-have-succeeded-and-‘acquired-things’-that-people-are-‘supposed-to-get’-happy”. But just really deeply satisfied with how my life has gone. My life is good. I am happy. Things are going pretty smoothly. Sure, there are things I am working on, things I want to change, things I am evolving in myself. But overall, life is just good.

I like to think this is because I pay attention to the little decisions.  At the micro level, I make good decisions so when those particular decisions grow up and pollinate bigger decisions…the bigger decisions bear the fruit of the seeds I have planted at the smallest level.

Yesterday at lunch, I walked out to my car and saw oil dripping in large quantities out of the front end of my car. I immediately “traced” my decision making process to see how I arrived at this mess.

1. This oil-filled moment started over a month ago. My car reached the mileage where it needed its next oil change. I was going out of town; I had a lot to do. I thought to myself, “I’ll get this done when I get back.”

2. When I got back, I really never wanted to take the time to go get an oil change…so I hadn’t… yet.

3. But I knew that my car needed oil. It’s an old car; it goes through oil…so I bought one of those gallon jugs of oil and topped off my oil.

4. I did this several times over the past few weeks, and as I did, I kept thinking, “This will extend the need for an oil change a bit…”

But underlying these thoughts, I was also aware I was being both cheap and lazy. I didn’t want to spend the money on an oil change and I didn’t want to take the time or effort necessary to go to an oil change place. But I ignored these aspects of the thoughts (more laziness).

5. The day before yesterday (the day before the “mess”), I went through the exercise of topping off my oil in the parking lot of work when I arrived.

6. That evening as I was driving home I heard a noise in my engine; heard something fall and hit the road.  I immediately “knew” I had forgotten to put the oil cap back on my tank when I topped off the oil that morning. You would think I would remember to check this when I stopped and even go to the parts store to replace the cap…but noooooo. I was too busy, too distracted. I literally did not give it a second thought…until I saw the oil-mess.

These six moments flashed in an instant in my mind, in all their fullness, to how they all contributed to the mess I was seeing when I walked out to my car at lunch yesterday. I put them together, and “saw” how when I drove to work that morning the oil heated up then “exploded” under the hood when I turned off the engine.

It’s really difficult to get angry, to feel frustrated, and to feel helpless with the facts of my own creation of that moment, messy though it may be, glaring in my face.  And the good news was it was not a problem with the engine. It was just a mess that needed to be fixed.

The irony (AKA “karma”) in this case, is the key factors to this messy-oily-moment were the ignored “cheap” and “lazy” thoughts. The outcome was I had to take extra time and effort and spend more money (or money I would not otherwise have spent) in the end. If I had just gotten the darn oil change…this would not have happened. I have to laugh.

I am fortunate—and I continue to be fortunate—in that I *mostly* pay attention to the details of my thoughts, actions, and feelings at the micro level. The lessons that come my way, the effects of my own decision making go like this example: The “problems” that arise are generally not much more than messes (some bigger than others, some not quite so literal). I can trace how I have participated in making this mess and I learn from the lesson which, I believe, minimizes the need for other “bigger” lessons.

Life is good; messy sometimes, but good.

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