Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | September 15, 2013

The Great Chastisement

So, just about two weeks ago my car died on my way home from work just getting off the parkway. Because I was still technically on the parkway, $200 down the drain just to get towed. Once at the mechanic, I got the word that my fuel pump was done and it would cost $950. I was $200 short. A friend had offered to lend me money if I needed it and even the mechanic, who I’ve gone to for years, was willing to give me a payment plan. But it was a very emotional moment, for a tai chi guy who values his independence, to be in this situation. But I choked back the tears(yeah, I teared up on front of the mechanic), and told him to go ahead with the work. If I can’t get to work(public transportation would be three buses and over three hours), well, you know what happens. The next day, the mechanic calls and tells me the frame is rotted out and not to do the work. The car is done.

There is a great scene in a Bruce Lee movie where he is trapped in an enclosure and there’s no way out so he sits down in the lotus position, puts the nunchucks around his neck, and sits in silence and waits. The room finally opens and he proceeds to do his Bruce Lee thing. So my initial inclination was split. Do I just sit and wait for things to develop on their own, or do I take up the responsibility of being a partner with the Higher Power in my life and act accordingly? We all want to solve our problems when they hit, and I’m no exception. I asked for help. Friends and family got me to and from work. I walked wherever I could. A serendipitous text from a friend I hadn’t talked to in a while connected me to the guy with the car I’m now driving. A good friendship led to me being able to borrow the money needed to get the car I’m now driving.

There is a deeply engrained sense in people that when bad things happen, it is in some way a great chastisement from above. In tai chi, we know, things happen. But bad things are also an opportunity for reflection and self improvement. The external is almost always a reflection of the internal. And if the Universe was trying to move me somewhere, I wondered through the process if it was just to put me through hell for a while until I got another car so I could go back to doing what I’ve been doing. That’s the one part of this I’m still reflecting on.

I’m very grateful that the right people were in my circle at the right time to help me through the difficulty. I’m grateful I had the will and the stamina to walk for miles and get done what I needed to get done. Throughout it all, I’m glad I had the perspective to step back and observe the process and how it was playing out. In fact, it’s still playing out.

I reflected on the synchronicity of things and on the idea of things playing themselves out behind the scenes. It’s somewhat trite, but maybe it was for the better because I was one big pothole away from sitting in the cab of my car in the middle lane of the parkway watching the chassis roll on! It was pretty dangerous.

My other instinct during this was to go into a sort of green beret special ops mode of thought of doing what I needed to do to get through it. The walking, the savings here and there, making my own meals, ironing my own shirts, making my own coffee, a dollar here and a dollar there. Of course, the great chastisement for me will be the smoking. The cigarettes are the biggest expense and the thing I need to quit and I still haven’t done it but I’ve got to. It’s the weakness in my life.

So, the upshot is with the help of others, I now drive a 2004 Hyundai Sonata in excellent condition with 143,000 miles on it. I have a personal car payment to make that I can afford. And having gotten through the short term crisis, can begin working on the mid term stuff–a better paying job perhaps, a part time job maybe, some areas of self improvement. My approach to life is very tai chi, but also very self responsible and being a co creator and partner with the Higher Power in the workings of my life.

And I also wonder how things would have played out if I went zen all the way and sat in lotus with the metaphorical nunchucks around my neck and waited.


  1. Hey Mike! I was wondering why hadn’t seen you for awhile. I am glad the situation worked out for you. Your blog post was actually moving for me. I think you and I struggle with some of the same issues and frustrations. I found your post very honest and brave. Well done!

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