Barnyard Saints Blog: A breakdown on breakdowns

Walker Roman surveys the broken-down trailer in Norwalk, Conn. — Danielle Mulcahy

There’s always a “could have been worse.” In this case, Walker and I looked at each other and said, “At least we didn’t die.”

Yes, we broke down. Yes, we are OK. No, we are not giving up … not yet, at least.

I found a seat on a sidewalk curb next to our mobile house on a residential street somewhere in Norwalk, Conn. Looking down the unfamiliar road, I sat and simmered, almost surprised at how angry I was, but not necessarily surprised at the breakdown — the truck had been giving us grief since we bought it. Luckily, we were close to a friend’s house where we took refuge.

We thought we could get the truck repaired and carry on like nothing happened. But the local garage gave us a grave report. What we needed, it seemed, was a new tow vehicle. Our next destination was Washington, D.C. But rather than risk getting stuck in some Kmart parking lot there, we decided to make the very minimum repair and limp back to family in Massachusetts. It was crushing to know we hadn’t even left the neighboring state before we were forced to turn around.

Once we (read: Walker) did some calculations, we began to realize that our budget couldn’t take on another truck while paying for the losses of the old one. Perhaps there is some way to save our existing truck, but is it wise to put more money into a vehicle that keeps coming back to bite us? We are still sitting in limbo, waiting to hear the final evaluation on the old truck, and it’s painful to have no idea what the next week will hold. The beauty of our partnership is our polar-opposite natures. Walker wanted to hold back and be financially responsible. I was ready to jump off the cliff and build the parachute on the way down. Walker told me when I scream adventure, he clenches.

This week has been a learning experience in dealing with adult things, like truck breakdowns and budget meetings with my partner, but the most valuable takeaway is understanding how to move forward in hard times. When I was angry, I was ready to blame everyone from the jerk who sold us the truck to the current economy. After that I just felt guilty, and placed the blame on myself for not being a good enough artist, or being unable to contribute to society. I finally allowed a dark doubt to slip into my inner dialogue and had to look it in the face, dissect it, and see what it was made of.

Once I did that, I could understand where Walker was coming from, I could understand the foundation of why I was so upset, and proceed to move forward and find a middle ground.

Yesterday Walker shared an article about finding happiness. Its timing couldn’t have been better. I listened to him read it, anticipating the sappy, same old “inspirational” Internet list you find floating around on Facebook feeds. My ears perked up at its unusual suggestion. Rather then ask yourself, “What do I want?” the author proposed a much more useful question: “What pain am I willing to sustain?” Every significant achievement comes with a struggle. We can want the result all day, but to make it happen, we must commit to the unique pain of each want. It’s how we endure these unavoidable negative experiences that shape our lives. The quality of life is not determined by the quality of positive experiences, but the quality of negative ones. To be good at dealing with the negatives is to be good at dealing with life.