Monday, August 12, 2013

Back in the Saddle

     Climbing the hill, I sat behind the wheel and pondered with amazement everything that had happened over the past three quarters of a year. It was well into August. And I looked back with clarity over the past nine months.
In mid-October of last year I was short way into a much-anticipated road trip, or what I like to call, a sabbatical. I had spent a long time planning and even longer looking forward to this getaway. I had not been able to take a sabbatical the year before. I was aching for this. Looking forward to it strengthened me.
I packed up my truck the day before but had been planning for weeks. I had my route planned as well as a menu of what I would cook for myself. I even had a book I was going to read. And I also planned on spending a lot of my time at my campsite planning the novel I wanted to write for National Novel Writing Month. I was going to sit at a little picnic table and write in a spiral notebook. There would be mojo there. The campsite is only accessible to four-wheel drive vehicles and closes in the winter. The air conditioning in my truck doesn’t work so I planned the trip to be just a few weeks before the campsite closed.
After getting gas at the Costco in Victorville I headed up Highway 395 going north towards Ridgecrest. Less than 40 miles from Victorville the rear differential on my truck began to grind itself up. I got to the side of the road and saw smoke curling off of the rear end. My road trip was over.
Broken down on the side of Highway 395

The truck being loaded on along with my camping gear... and hopes for a sabbatical

Ready to unload at my house where it will sit for 9 months.

I had the truck towed home and tried not to wallow too hard in misery. I was going to skip blogging the next day but then went ahead and wrote what happened. It took months for me to even get up the courage to try to diagnose exactly what was wrong with it. I don’t know what held me back from trying to get it fixed. I don’t know if I was afraid of it being broken beyond repair or if I felt so miserable that I began to have self-esteem issues and thought I ought to never get it fixed and just be miserable.
I finally pulled myself together and had the truck towed to my mechanic. He diagnosed the problem and told me I would need a new gear assembly for my rear differential and he told me about a wrecking yard to get in touch with. All this initiative was exhausting. But I managed to contact Liberty Auto Dismantlers and play email tag with them regarding exactly what kind of drop-out I needed. I ended up taking them the old part. In less than a week they had my replacement. I took it right to my mechanic. The part was about the size of a human head and weighed about 70 pounds.
Last Thursday I was feeling sorry for myself again because I wanted to meet my friend for coffee like we try to every Thursday. Prajna and I have managed to get along with only one car most of the time. But now there was a scheduling snag and rather than try to solve it I contacted my friend and told him never mind.
I don’t know if I enjoy sulking or not. It kind of seems that way.
Then a few minutes after noon, my mechanic called me. The truck was ready. I felt giddy. I didn’t care that I needed to be a work in less than an hour. Prajna was happy to drive me to the shop. I got the keys and thanked my mechanic several times.
I wondered for a moment if I would remember how to drive a manual transmission. I did. I took the truck across the street and hosed it down. I ejected the Mark Knopfler CD of calm guitar-driven music that I had been listening to when I heard the sound of my differential failing. I put in one of my old favorites, Born in the USA. Then I headed home the back way. It still had a full tank of gas. As I drove I reflected on everything that happened over the past nine months.
I had taken the spiral notebook to Starbucks one Sunday afternoon shortly after the breakdown. I had planned my and then went on to an epic win at National Novel Writing Month. I had celebrated my 20th anniversary and turned 46 years old. I had gotten my thumb snapped in a rat trap. I had started writing my memoir and made a few significant choices in life. I had learned I would be an uncle again. A lot had happened without me driving my truck anywhere. 
I stopped at the top of the hill and took one picture to post on Facebook. 
 With the caption "I'm back." I left it up to others to decide if that was the truck saying it or me.
That Thursday was the first time I had driven my truck with eyeglasses. I took it gently over the hill, all the while breathing sighs of relief. It perhaps felt like a bitter thirst had been slaked, but that’s too bombastic. Because while I did feel like a part of me that had been missing was finally back, I couldn’t help the other feeling I had. Reflecting on all that had happened without my truck, I realized that a lot of good stuff happened. The mojo I thought would be at the campsite had been with me all along. I didn’t have to click my heals together. I just had to act on the desire to work hard at something. It was there when I planned out my November novel and it waited on me until I finally took some initiative and got the truck fixed. I don’t know why I waited so long.
So if there is another catastrophic failure, worse than the last, of course I will be disappointed and upset, especially if I don’t get a chance for a sabbatical. But it won’t be the end of the world. I proved to myself that I can manage without it. I also showed myself that if I want to accomplish something I can’t wait for the wind to blow everything into place.
I am thinking about taking the road trip that I wanted to take again this coming October. I want to take the same route I had planned the previous year and sit up at Mahogany Flats and write outlines and character descriptions. And here is the odd thing I realized. I am looking forward to National Novel Writing Month more than the Sabbatical. Planning out my Novel will combine the two though. Pretty soon it may turn into all I think about. And it will be a good thing to meditate on after months of blogging aboutloss.
Like in life, sometimes one just has to get their own rear-end in gear.

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