Words and wrenches

“I never take on a restoration project without a donor vehicle. You never know when you’re going to need an extra part because the original one was rusted, or missing.”

I was taking a stroll through a familiar place; a manufacturing plant, operated by one of my mentors in Columbus, OH. He’s a hot rodder, passionate about the delicate art of car restoration. When rebuilding a car, he performs intricate work on every detail of the car.

It’s this attention to detail that really sets his work apart from others in the industry. Every detail, from the paneling of engine covers to the temperature of the car when it’s being repainted, is performed. Prior to repainting a car, the entire body must be warmed to prevent the paint from ‘folding’ as it dries.

I’ve been reading through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig. It’s a story that follows the thoughts of a man as he travels through the country on a motorcycle with his son and friends. I found a lot of similarities in the artful way he described the relationship between rider and cycle; each caring for each other as they navigate their way through the countryside.

You can only do one thing when you’re riding a motorcycle; ride the motorcycle. It isn’t a good time for phone calls, status updates, or conflict with others.

A recent trip to Ohio reminded me of the work it takes to maintain, repair, and enjoy relationships.

Our family has always maintained a very strong bond. We’ve also shared some harsh interactions with each other. Maybe one day we’ll get it right. In the meantime, it can sometimes feel a bit like a roller coaster; some moments feeling wonderful…others, not so much.

I was wrestling with the ‘not so much’ moments; wondering why they occur, how to avoid them, and what lessons they held. It struck me that I was the cause of the problem – even when I wasn’t.

“It’s a mighty thin pancake that doesn’t have two sides” – Wim Plaat

Owning mistakes isn’t fun. I’d rather have diarrhea or find myself with my cheek pressed against the cold side of a toilet after a long night out. Yet, mistakes are our teacher.

Words are a lot like roads. The wrong ones can take you down a very difficult path if they aren’t corrected, owned, and rebuilt – with the same level of care taken in a car restoration; piece by piece, step by step…not moving on to the next step until each one has been tested and approved.

I wouldn’t question the correction of a wrong turn if I were driving to a vacation. After all, it’s a lot more fun to be laying on the beach than stuck in Arkansas. Accepting your mistakes/words is the first step in reaching your end destination.

As a writer, I do my best to make the world a better place with my words; painting lessons, experiences, and observations with the stroke of a QWERTY keyboard.

As a human, I recognize that even my best attempts to do well can turn into painful mistakes, arguments, or words that have the power to destroy.

At the end of the day, I think it’s important to recognize that we don’t always get it right. I certainly don’t. Maybe someday we will.

I’ve found that my worst mishaps have been met with forgiveness and grace; given unconditionally. It’s this forgiveness that helps correct my mistakes, and gently guide towards a future, healed from the past.

The most beautiful stories are built around the moments when our scars become our strength.

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