Last week when I took my car in for service, I decided to spend an extra thirty dollars to fill the four new tires I purchased with nitrogen instead of air. For me, my car is especially meaningful because it was originally my son’s. He started the tradition of taking special care of this car, which he bought shortly before his passing, and I am proud to carry it on in his memory.
The service manager, Darren, who is likely the age my son would have been, had asked me if I wanted to continue using nitrogen in the new tires the mechanic was putting on my car. He explained that nitrogen, unlike air, is a much more stable gas and is less affected by temperature swings. Other gases, alternately, expand with heat and contract with cold, causing the tire pressure warning light to come on when colder fall temperatures hit. Nitrogen is becoming increasingly popular in the tire industry as it can help to extend the life of tires and to improve their performance.
In the moment of agreeing to the question at hand, I spontaneously added that we should all get a spurt of nitrogen inside us. This statement may have seemed random and out of place, but it actually was a reflection of my belief. When we take the time to reflect on our values and beliefs, we create a sense of balance that helps us maintain a harmony within ourselves regardless of what happens in the world around us. It may feel impossible at times, but with a little faith, anything is possible. At least, this is what I started learning nearly 39 years ago.
Darren was taken aback by my suggestion. He paused to consider what I had said and after a few moments, his face lit up with delight as he replied, “You’re right.” Then he added, “You know nitrogen makes up a part of the air we breathe.”
After we both reflected on the concept, he turned around and bee-lined back to his work area. This instance was an example of how even the smallest moments can have a profound impact on our lives.
While sitting alone in the waiting room, I heard guests on a TV talk show in the adjoining room shout and spew insults at one another. At once, I contemplated nitrogen with a new set of appreciative eyes. I thought about how rhythmic breathing is a powerful tool for managing stress and anxiety. It can help us to accept life’s challenges, foster resilience, and cultivate peace of mind.
Since I was four years old, reading a variety of books has been an integral part of who I am today. Thanks to my dear friend Bruce, who in the 80s introduced me to a book, Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, that profoundly influenced me. The book was published in 1946 and chronicled the author’s experiences as an inmate in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. This book provided me with an insight into the power of resilience and the strength of the human spirit. Frankl’s idea that our greatest freedom is the ability to choose our attitude at any instance in life has always resonated with me. It serves as a reminder that we have the power to choose how we respond to any situation, no matter how heart-shattering it may be. I always imagine Frankl escaping the atrocities around him by playing a birdsong in his mind, and experiencing a moment of peace and joy by tapping into his imagination that broke through and penetrated his reality.
Below is a quote from the book in which the author silently converses with his wife in his head.
The guard passed by, insulting me, and once again I communed with my beloved. More and more I felt that she was present, that she was with me; I had the feeling that I was able to touch her, able to stretch out my hand and grasp hers. The feeling was very strong: she was there. Then, at that very moment, a bird flew down silently and perched just in front of me, on the heap of soil which I had dug up from the ditch, and looked steadily at me.
The more I thought about Frankl and all the other random ideas, the more I realized the metaphor of how nitrogen works and how we can also take in the hardships of life and breathe out peace. It is the balance of our wheels, both physical and metaphorical, that gives us the strength to keep rolling even when the sky falls like a sharp shard of ice in the split center of our head.