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November 24, 2023

How My Mechanic Taught Me To Re-Engineer My Grumpy Thoughts

Navigating my mornings of making coffee, journaling, and meditating around Roo’s morning potty run has become somewhat stressful these days.

The success rate of getting it together in the morning to take her out before she pees on the floor is low.  There are a few reasons for this undesirable time crunch I face each morning upon waking.

First, I don’t have a fenced-in yard, so I can’t just let her out without accompanying her. Secondly, there is little privacy from my close-by neighbors once I step onto my porch.

“Getting it together” means I have to find my glasses or contacts, dress appropriately, and locate her leash.  If I’m taking her out with her leash in one hand, I’d prefer to have a coffee in my other hand. And so, prepping the French press is now a necessary urgency to my mornings as well.

In my half-blind stumble to find lenses, clothing, leash, and coffee – it sometimes takes more time than poor little Roo can wait.  She puddles on the floor.  Sometimes by the front door, sometimes trying to hide in the back office. Doesn’t matter where, no one wants to start their mornings by dealing with dog pee.

On one such drizzly morning gone wrong, I was midst-scolding Roo for her puddle when I heard a man walking on the path passing the front of my house, hollering hello.

It was 8:15 in the morning on a Saturday and stupidly early for friendly hellos from strangers.

I was in the middle of leashing Roo to a chair on the front porch, so I could clean up her mess, change out of my pajamas, and then do all the coffee-making things when the man stopped opposite me.

I ignored him and tended to Roo.

“Hello!”, he shouted cheerily.  I looked his way and realized the man standing before me was my mechanic.

Mechanics in Nicaragua are an interesting sort.

They can fix everything.  At least they will tell you that.  This mechanic of mine I had called 8 days prior to help me fix the electronics in my windows.  He assured me he was on his way and then never showed.

His name is Eddie, and he is a highly skilled 3rd generation mechanic. And, truth be told, even if he failed to show up last time he promised, I’m lucky to have him. Eddie guarantees his work, not something you easily find out here in Nicaragua.  Another huge plus is that he also speaks English and can come to his customers instead of us driving to his shop.

That’s especially fortunate for me. Dealing with broken autos on my own, it’s always several layers of struggle when something on my truck breaks.  I lack in-depth knowledge of all the inner workings of a motor, and I lack knowledge of the words in Spanish I need to communicate what’s wrong and how it will be fixed. Plus time to break away from work to drive the 45 minutes to the mechanic . . . . I get irritated just thinking about it. It’s all a headache and more often than not, I end up abandoning my truck for a few days until I have the time, money, and capacity to attempt Spanish for the truck parts that are broken this time.

Eddie is a good mechanic, but it was 8 in the morning.  On a Saturday. I wasn’t exactly grateful to see him on my doorstep.

I scowled at him.

He kindly asked, “Hey is Dave home?”  My neighbor.    

“I have no idea”, I said and looked down at my frenzied 3-legged dog.  “Is he expecting you this early in the morning?”

Eddie just looked at me.

“You know, the electronics for my windows are still broken.  You never showed up last week.” I pointed out.

“Well, I can do it for you now!” he said, with genuine cheer and helpfulness in his expression.

I paused. In the first hour or so of my mornings, I’m still in my dreams, in my pajamas, in my private space . . . I’m not grumpy, necessarily, I just need time. I don’t want to see most people in the morning.

And I didn’t want to work on my car now.  I wanted coffee, to take Roo out, and have my morning back.  But between Roo’s puddle, and Eddie on my porch, the day clearly had other plans for me.  I gave in and followed Eddie down the rain-splashed path to my truck, Roo hopping alongside me.

Eddie energetically set about dismantling the side paneling of my doors to get to the failed electronics for my windows. Roo leaped into the back seat of my truck and mischievously began knawing on a plastic cup.  I set about finding a stick in the wet bushes nearby for her to chew instead.

I’ve been more exasperated than usual by her.  She’s in full-on puppy mode, and disciplining her is never-ending. She has 18 toys of varying textures, but she still prefers my shoes, my books, and rolls of toilet paper.

The rain began to pitter-patter down a little more forcefully. Eddie kept working.  I glanced at Roo, dry, and now happily chewing to pieces a muddy stick on the fabric of my back seat.

Standing barefoot in the rain, mosquitos the size of hummingbirds began to bite, leaving welts on my bare skin the size of nickels.  I was still in my pajamas in the parking lot, as the rain dripped down around us. My ankles and calves were scraped with mud from having sought out Roo’s stick to chew while we waited.  There was no coffee.

“Do you have children, Eddie?”  I asked him while he dismantled some kind of motor-thing from my door.

“Yes”, he replied and carried on to tell me their ages.

“Are you married?” he asked me.

“Nope,” I said.

“So,” Eddie continued, “No one to tell you what to do? You don’t need to ask permission or check-in. You can just do what you like.  You have freedom.  I love your life!”, he said, with emphasis on the love.

I looked down at myself at that moment: muddy, bug-bitten legs, standing in a puddle in my pajamas. .  . a morning coffee still just a dream.  My tri-pawed dog was happily staying dry in the backseat of my car, creating a new mess for me to clean up later.

I said, “Yeah, but being solo still means I have to call a mechanic all the time instead of sending a husband out to fix things for free,” I grumbled.  “I don’t have help with any of the life maintenance things a married couple could more easily balance out.”

Or at least make me coffee, I thought.

“Yeah”, said Eddie, dismissively, as he screwdrived something into the side paneling, “Maybe sometimes you need help, but still. You have freedom. You can do anything you want.  I love your life,” he said again.

Eddie had his back to me and was adjusting parts of my car I hadn’t seen before, but it struck me then what a gentle reminder I was being handed at that moment.

My morning had gone askew, as so many mornings with Roo (and Tino, actually) have gone before. My truck, part by broken part, is constantly being worked on, and yes, I was in public in my pajamas in the rain too early on a Saturday morning and not feeling at all in control of my day.

But Eddie had a point.

In that rainy, bug-bitten, irritable moment, I realized I had a lot to be grateful for.  I started to re-engineer my thoughts.

  • Grateful I didn’t need to drive my truck 45 minutes to a mechanic and waste half a day because my mechanic came to me instead.
  • Grateful it was only pitter-pattering rain and not storming.
  • Grateful Roo is actually a good dog, alive and healthy, and mine.
  • Grateful I could afford to fix the truck, and grateful for the communication in English.

And I do have freedom.  Not all the time in every way, of course not, but we can always rewrite our negative thoughts into positive thoughts when we remember to be grateful for the things that are working out in our favor.

When we default to the negative, that just lines up our day to be less good than it could be.

But if we take a minute to look at the bright side, even in the rain, even with broken trucks, and even with naughty pups, and even in the morning – we really can take charge of how we feel.

For all the work I do around personal growth, life coaching, and even teaching workshops on gratitude and mindset, you’d think this mental pivot would be engrained in my mind.

You’d think I would be able to default to my own advice when less-than-ideal situations meet me in the morning, but I suppose I need reminders too.

And this time around, I have my mechanic to thank for that.

~ Christy

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