“Idiot” No More; Well, Sort Of

For over two and a half years now, since June ‘14 — according to my most recent invoice, “idiot” lights on the dashboard of my model year 2000, Honda Accord have warned me that all was not right with our back-up car. But due to intermittent use, amazing self-discipline on my part and little new evidence to the contrary, the Honda has maintained its performance, if you can even call it that. Soon after this last visit to my local mechanic had cleared the pre-2014 dashboard indicators, the “SRS” (seat belt restraint system) came on suggesting that something was once again rotten in Denmark, and Burtonsville, too. Nevertheless, with the ink barely dry on my credit card receipt, and with our second car not being a priority, I decided to let it live and let live and hope for the best. Approximately 32 months later, my hope has been realized. No repairs have been required in the interim. However, over that same time, multiple additional “warning” lights have come on: “brake lamp,” “maintenance due,” and just recently, the infamous/scourge “check-engine” light to where four lights are now illuminated. And though, to my credit, I have been able to endure and ignore their constant reminders; but when that fourth light, the “check-engine” light came on, I feared my benign neglect had finally come home to roost. So I bucked up, called my local mechanic, and made the arrangements to drop off the Honda. Then I waited for a more detailed assessment of the damage done. A few days later, I got the call. I’ll spare you the details since I can’t explain them anyway; but the repairs were going to cost around $1000, as good as could be expected for a 17 year-old car with 95,000 miles on the odometer.

However, what I am most excited about concerning this outcome is — yes ‘excited’ is the right word — that for the first time in years I won’t have to face down warning lights in my car and alarm bells in my head about what potential car trouble and expense I’ve been putting off and likely making worse. And most importantly, no longer having to exercise the inordinate self-control required to ignore these warning lights and not to be corrupted by their relentless — literally and figuratively — reminders. It’s almost as if I can face reality again, breathe normally and not feel under siege.

Having only driven the car barely two miles home since I picked it up from “Tony’s,” I can’t yet say driving is fun. However, I can admit that driving will be less irritating, will require less mental discipline and when I look down at my car’s dashboard, I will not long for a bygone era of dashboard neutrality. Once again, as if the Honda is under dealer warranty, I will not see any indicators/lights of something I’ve neglected to do or of repairs I’m unable to afford.

As much as I’d like to think I’m fairly welladjusted and know how to process and prioritize things in my life, having cancer does seem to alter these processes and priorities. And when something simple and/or unexpected happens in your life which allows you to regain your composure and equilibrium, it helps that much more to assimilate the cancer-related conditions, effects and challenges you’ve come to expect. Not that I thought much about this eventuality when I dropped off the car at “Tony’s,” but now, having not seen any lights, I feel unburdened, as if a weight has been taken off my shoulders and out of my head. Moreover, when you’re living in the cancer bubble, burdens expected — and otherwise — tend to pile up — and on — and when one is able to catch a break/brake along the way, the positive effect is disproportionate to reality. It means so much even though it may seem like so little. Whether it’s regaining some control, solving a non-cancer-related problem or crossing an item off a to-do list; living one’s life with as few distractions as possible, generally speaking, will likely result in some comfort and joy; not the movie, but the peace of mind.

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