When my husband and I ended our marriage last summer, we did not have much money. We had been living off of a meagre income for a while, and so of course we had only one car between us. After the split, he moved a short drive away, which meant we would have to figure out a schedule to share the car. Since I stayed in town and could walk to stores and to the bank, he kept the car parked at his house, which was a little more out in the country. We agreed that on days I needed the car, he would drop it off in town, and have a friend drive him home. It would be an inconvenience, but it was a manageable plan. We still share the car, and deciding who gets it which week has been the easy part. It’s the maintenance and shared financial responsibilities that have caused all of our disagreements. But in hindsight, sharing the car has taught me a lot about how to pick my battles. Some things just aren’t worth fighting over, and when it really counts, I’d rather save my energy for what matters.
Our first battle over our 2003 blue PT Cruiser happened when I realized it must have been quite some time since the oil was changed. A friend had recently relayed a horror story to me about her husband destroying the engine of a Mercedes over forgetting to change the oil, and I feared we had already damaged our car’s insides. Shouldn’t my husband have taken care of this months ago? He was the one who knew about cars, or so I thought. Wasn’t car maintenance a boy job? Irritated that he hadn’t thought of it himself, I called him to blurt out my worries about the car, (a car that he had chosen to buy, by the way, not I) and after a thirty minute phone debate, I agreed to pay for the oil if he would change it. That way we could save some money on labor, and we would have the tools for next time. We took a trip together on a sweltering summer day to buy what we needed, and he said he ‘d text me a message when he’d finished the work. Later that evening, I got his message, which said only that he couldn’t do it because the car was too low to the ground. I was angry. I had bought all the materials for nothing, and wasted the better part of my day. I considered calling him right back and demanding he figure out how to do it, or ask for help. Why had he pretended it would be easy? I have always thought that people shouldn’t pretend to know how to do things they don’t actually know how to do. I picked up the phone, but put it back down again.
Some Battles Aren’t Worth Warring Over
I thought of a quote by C. Joybell C., a writer I recently discovered and who wrote eloquently on the subject of picking your battles in life.
“Choose your battles wisely. After all, life isn't measured by how many times you stood up to fight. It's not winning battles that makes you happy, but it's how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction. Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most, most, most important ones, let the rest go.”
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The following morning I drove the car to a local mechanic, gave him the box of unused oil and tools I had bought, and walked home. I ended up spending twice as much as I would have if I had just taken the car there to begin with, but it was worth every penny. It’s just a car. It isn’t worth losing a day and deepening the resentment I already felt toward my ex. There were far, far more important issues in my life. I chose to head the quote, and let this one go.
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You’re On Your Own Side
I know just walking away is easier said than done, and sometimes it isn’t clear which battles are worth fighting. When our emotions are volatile, which is natural in a divorce, we aren’t always thinking clearly. Suddenly something as insignificant as a plate can spark a heated debate. I had already fought with my ex about a laptop, a set of silverware, and even a cake recipe. None of those battles were worth it. If it meant keeping a little more peace between us, the oil in the car seemed like something I could just learn to do myself. Later, I did. My energy is better spent on fending for myself than defending myself. I have learned that no matter which battles I choose to fight, one thing is certain :I’m on my own side now.