Today was a relatively great day.
I overhauled my little Honda Rebel and did a bunch of cool stuff like draining the oil and the gas, removing the gas tank, taking the carburetor apart and cleaning it, and figuring out the air filter was ridiculously dirty. It was a complex process. I set everything out on a table, tried to put all the screws next to the pieces I'd taken off, took pictures on my phone so I'd remember what things were supposed to look like, that sort of thing. But I'd never done anything like this project before. The most I'd ever done on the mechanical end of a bike was change the oil and the spark plugs.
Of course, I did have You Tube, and a friend to help me, and a good dose of country music in the background. And I only ended up making one trip to Auto Zone due to a slight change in game plan on the air filter. It took the better part of my Sunday, but I was so excited to be learning how to fix things myself that I didn't even care.
Besides, it wasn't my Harley, so not quite as daunting. This bike is 14 years old and paid for. I don't ride it very often so I figured even if it was taken apart for a couple of months and I was learning how to fix it in my spare time it was still worth the process. Except…
When I put it all back together and refilled it with oil and gas, it actually ran.
Not only that, but it ran way better than before, which for some reason I totally didn't expect, even though that was, well… the point of taking it all apart in the first place.
For some reason, every time I work on one of my bikes and accomplish whatever it was I set out to do, I feel wildly happy inside, even if it's just installing some highway pegs or changing out the tail lights. Turns out I really like building things and fixing things.
As I rode that little Honda down by the lake on a test ride later in the afternoon, I couldn't help feeling fantastic.
Funny how you can have such a great day and then at the end of it find yourself staring at the curtains, wondering what's wrong with you. How life can close in on your mind regardless of what you've accomplished in the big picture. It's not about what we've done, it's about who we are, and it made me realize that we have to make peace with ourselves on a daily basis.
I haven't made peace with myself in years. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever made peace with myself.
Several months ago I just thought “screw it. I'm done with society's dictates, the fashion police's rules, all of it. I cut all my hair off and stopped coloring it. It's the second time I've done that in the last five years. The second time I've attempted to stop caring what the world thinks and just learn to be happy with myself.
It's relatively easy – as long as I don't look in the mirror.
It wasn't until I was sitting on my deck looking at my grease smeared legs that I realized I'd gone to Auto Zone in a partially chewed ball cap I was wearing backwards on my head (so I could use my camping headlamp to see what I was doing on the bike). I felt the wisps of gray hair sticking out the little round spot on the hat and said to my friend:
“Oh my God. I went to the auto parts store with my hat on backwards looking like this?”
He gave me a really puzzled, guy-like look and said “What? You look fine.” 🙂
Sometimes I have to remind myself that it's not always about me.
This balance between loving ourselves and loving others, allowing others to love us and to love themselves, tiptoeing through this dance of life and navigating complicated relationships takes an enormous amount of time and patience. Kind of like pulling that carburetor out and cleaning all those tiny jets with a small length of guitar string.
Is it worth it in the end? When you're humming along at 55 mph without the engine giving out?
When you're sitting in your garage surrounded by parts, not knowing if it's all going to work when you get it back together?
I'm not sure how to make my life hum along at 55 mph with no breakdowns. I'm not sure that's even possible. Everything breaks from time to time. But learning how to take it all apart and put it back together is a pretty important skill to have. And I'm learning. Luckily, I have some friends to help me along the way.
And there's always You Tube…