A little over a week ago, I bought myself a used Nissan Altima. After over 10 years of driving and a minor accident, my Toyota RAV4 was written off by my insurance company. It had served me quite well, but it had clearly seen better days. I had the option of repairing it and bringing it back to legal standards or taking the insurance money and buying another car. I opted for the latter.
After discussing the matter with trusted friends, I decided to buy a car priced at or around $2,500. I saw an ad for the 2000 Nissan Altima at $2,200 and knowing the general trustworthiness of Japanese cars, I negotiated it down to $2,000 and bought it. Not surprisingly, the car isn’t without its issues, but it has been maintained well and it’s still a little under-driven at 230,000 kilometers.
Last Thursday night, I headed out of the city to a nearby town where my parents reside. I was thinking about dropping in after running some errands. I went to look at some of the show homes in town and I got to talking to a man managing one of them. As we made small talk, he asked me what I did for a living and I told him that I was involved in online marketing and exactly what that entailed; blogging, podcasting, social media and email.
Not surprisingly, he mentioned that he might be looking for someone to market a project he was developing. I say that it’s not surprising because, as I go about my day, I often find people in need of the services that I offer. Content marketing and social media are kind of a big deal right now.
So I got to talking with this gentleman for the better part of an hour, but he needed to close the show home and I needed to be on my way. So I said, "talk to you later" and headed out. However, as I went outside to start my car, the engine wouldn’t turn. Not even a sound. I decided to go for a quick walk and try again a little later. Still nothing.
Luckily, my parents were home and I was able to call them up and they said they would come and pick me up. I also called up the motor association to see what could be done about my vehicle. I decided to have it boosted and see what would happen. With any luck, the man coming to my aid would also be a mechanic and know what to do about my car.
My parents arrived on the scene in short order. It was another hour before the man in the truck showed up. He tried boosting my car, but it became fairly apparent that the battery was fine. Alas, he wasn’t a mechanic, so though he could have towed my car, he wasn't able to determine the problem. Moreover, I couldn’t have had my car towed at that point because all the garages were already closed.
I can’t quite explain it, but I felt the hand of God on this series of events. If that’s not a part of your reality or you don’t believe in the spiritual, that’s fine, but this is my story. Not that I should feel a sense of the divine on this moment any more than any other, but sometimes I feel as though I am being led by the hand to something I would have missed, neglected or failed to observe.
So we went back to my parent’s place and we had a bit of supper. My mom said to think of this as an “enforced vacation”. I was dumbfounded. That’s the term I had been looking for! Enforced vacation!
Throughout August, I had a bit of a break. I am an entrepreneur so I couldn’t outright cancel everything and take a vacation, but by and large I had time to rest and recouperate and do what I wanted to do during the day. I had been searching for a term to describe it, because to me it felt divinely directed. I had come up with disciplined vacation, but that didn’t sound quite right. I was looking for a way to put it into words, and here my mom brought it into being.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, my stepdad got to talking about a record he brought back from a local thrift store he’d been volunteering at. He described an old man who talked about motivation and vibrational energies and so forth. “Norman Vincent Peale”, my mom guessed. No. I probably chimed in with Zig Ziglar or Brian Tracy. No. Then it came to me: “Earl Nightingale?” Bingo!
My stepdad procured a copy of The Strangest Secret LP. This got my attention, because, in the last two years this audio has meant a lot to me. Though I’ve been pursuing a personal growth journey since October 2007, a whole new world of books and resources opened up to me in the summer of 2011. That’s another story for another time.
That night, I was a little bit restless and couldn’t get to sleep right away. I thought about any meetings or engagements I might have booked for the following day. I thought about what needed to be done; getting the car towed to a garage, having it looked at, getting it repaired, checking my email…
Well, I did end up having to cancel one engagement, but all in all the fact that I wasn’t mobile didn’t throw off my day that much. It just meant that I probably wouldn’t be able to publish a new podcast episode, and I might miss posting an article to one of the blogs I manage. All things considered, it wasn’t earthshattering.
In the morning, I arranged for a tow truck and after a bit of calling around I opted to bring the car to the local dealership. Though I knew that I wouldn’t necessarily be getting the best service for the premium they put on it, it was the only place that suggested they could take a look and begin work on it the same day.
With that settled, I sat down at the kitchen table with my stepdad and he shared about his brother. I won’t retell the story in its entirety here, but suffice to say his brother overcame a long-time addiction to alcohol and had a calling placed on his life. Apparently, my stepdad also felt the call, and long story short they both ended up going to school; ultimately to seminary.
Because I was in the process of reading Og Mandino’s The Greatest Mystery in the World, I had mentioned how there were mysterious circumstances surrounding the fictional meeting of and friendship between him and the wise “angel”, Simon. It’s interesting how some things line up in life with such serendipitous timing and how life mimics art. At this point, my stepdad pulled out another resource for me: The Greatest Success in the World, also by Og Mandino.
Speaking of Mandino, apparently he succumbed to alcoholism at one point himself, and he was even on the verge of committing suicide. Plugging in to great books is what helped him to manage his addiction.
In any case, after returning from the dealership, my mom took me to the electronics store so I could pick up a phone charger and a cheap set of ear buds. Her workplace was next door, so she took me on a brief tour and I had the chance to meet her coworkers. I also accompanied her on a quick grocery trip.
Then, we went to my grandma’s house, which is located in a smaller town within 20 minutes of my parent’s home. We had lunch together, and we even went for ice cream afterwards. Somewhere in the midst of this, the dealership called me and told me that they couldn’t get the car to not start. So, we collectively agreed to leave the car under observation overnight.
After we returned to my parent’s place, I felt drowsy. I laid back on the floor in the living room and listened to a business audio on my iPod. My parent’s miniature poodle also positioned himself by my feet. I stayed there for a while.
Drowsy as I was, I knew my parents needed to distribute a local community magazine to homes in the area. Though they did not directly ask, I volunteered to help as I knew that it would add value to them. It would also be pretty good exercise if nothing else.
As I walked around the community placing the magazines on people’s steps, I ran into an attractive young lady. She was friendly and conversational and also my type, so I lingered and made small talk for a while. As it turns out, she was recently married and moving to the States. Well, if nothing else it was the meeting of someone new. You never know where your next significant friendship, business partnership or relationship might come from.
Perhaps thanks to the physical exercise, I got to sleep quite quickly that night, but instead of temporary insomnia, I kept waking up every hour or so with fading images of strange dreams. At this point allow me to put your concerns at rest and inform you that, generally, most of the time, I sleep just fine. It was a bit of an off-week for me in the slumber department.
The next day, I took the car that wouldn’t start back into the city. The dealership told me of issues I already knew about; issues that shouldn’t necessarily stop the car from running completely. The car probably is in need of maintenance, and I still plan on bringing it to my mechanic. The reason I didn’t do it sooner is because the mechanic I wanted to see was on vacation and out of town.
“Where is this all leading?” you may ask.
This isn’t the story of how I ended up with a new car. This isn’t the story of how I came to a particular realization or epiphany. This isn’t the story of how I met my future wife. This isn’t the story of how I found out my car was a lemon; though that might be part of it. No, if I were to be completely honest, I don’t think this story has entirely played out yet.
What I do know is that it was an opportunity to spend some time with my family. Surprisingly, my time with my parents was still quite productive and I still marvel at all we managed to do on Friday. Somehow it worked out with my busy schedule and I don’t feel any less productive for it.
Regardless, God had me key in to the events that took place on this particular weekend. For what purpose, I don’t know. I’m sure that it will all come to light.
This is the story of how I found the extraordinary in the ordinary. After all, isn’t that what we - artists - do?