The funniest thing happened to me the other day. While standing in line at a Subway I looked out of the window into the parking lot long enough to see someone drive away with my car. I watched the man and my car until both were out of sight from my vantage point. In that moment I had a flashback to the time in high school when I raced out of our back door one morning to get to school only to stop dead in my tracks like Bugs Bunny with one foot on the ground and one foot pin-straight in the air, shocked at the empty spot where I had parked the night before. It had snowed two days earlier, so you could literally see the footprints of the thief and my tire treads as they left the farm.
In that moment there was sheer panic as I yelled into the house, “Dad, where’s my car?!?” But in that same moment last week, it was completely different. There was no shock, there was no stomach drop. I didn’t run out to the parking lot in a pathetic attempt to rundown the person. Instead I thought, “Well, God’s trying to tell me something.” I had a momentary thought to call the police, but then I chuckled to myself (yes, chuckled in the midst of this) that I could only describe the man as a Caucasian with a black mustache—as if there aren’t thousands of them around Houston.
After ordering my sandwich and walking out to the parking lot I realized that it was not my car that was stolen; someone had the same exact car as me (dust and all, I swear!) and had simply been going about their day. I chuckled again, got into my car, and drove back to work.
What had happened to me during this typically scary and emotionally-driven situation was that I had totally accepted what life was throwing at me. I could have stomped my feet and thrown a deserved tantrum, bawled my eyes out at my woes and become a blubbering mess on the street curb, lamented at the CVS treasures I had just gotten moments earlier that the thief would now unjustly be enjoying, and tweeted about the tragedy with some snide and all-knowing remark about how mankind is upside down. But instead of expending all of that energy and making a fool of myself running out of the Subway and in front of this car (only to find that my car had, infact, not been stolen), I went with the flow instead. The consequences of my car being stolen were obviously going to be bad. I was going to have to call someone to pick me up from the parking lot, file a police report that would go nowhere, perhaps try to track down the local chop shops (not a worthwhile pursuit for the beater car), and then of course go back to commuting with Paul to work until we shelled out a few more thousand dollars to purchase another used beater car. Yet, I just accepted the card I was being dealt.
Truly, this was the first time I think in my entire life I have just accepted something.
I am not a blissed-out, terminally balanced yogi, nor can I follow in the altruistic footsteps of Chris McCandless who donated all of his money ($25,000) to charity, abandoned his belongings and life, and roamed into the wilderness of Alaska to live free of consumerism, greed, and practically everything. You see, I want to continue saving money, I enjoy most of my belongings, and I want to stay in what I see as a comfortable life. I have goals, dreams, ambitions, and I want and need just like everyone else, which is why I realize how hard it is to just accept where you are in life. But having just experienced this moment of pure acceptance has made me want to share the experience in the hopes that more of us can experience it in the future, and in an area that seems to bleed into all other areas in our lives: our finances.
Whether you are scraping by, not scraping by, comfortable in your life or keeping up with the Jones’s—accepting where you are in life is sometimes the most difficult thing to do. I have been in debt, I have been out of debt. I’ve had times when there was $2,300 in my account after four years of scrimping and saving. I’ve had times when there has been much more in my account. I’ve lived in foreign countries on shoe string budgets. But if you and I can do it, if we can just accept where we are financially in life and learn how to manage your money from there, we might just have a chuckle before being able to calmly and rationally move onto our next step. Whatever that next step may be.