As my proverbial light bulb came alive, I began jotting down this vaguely unformed idea on a piece of paper so as to avoid forgetting it in the moments following. My brother asked me to elaborate on why I was so frantically covering this scratch paper in some illegibly handwritten stream-of-consciousness. 'Ex-machina' was the term I'd scribbled, but I was still reeling through my own thoughts, and certainly in no sort of headspace to explain myself.
I was only about five minutes post maiden-voyage of my recently swapped 8-cylinder 302, the driving force perched comfortably within the doghouse of my 1973 Ford Club Wagon – my mobile home. I suppose it's worth mentioning that the voyage didn't go exactly as planned. I could hardly push the van (affectionately named Doug) faster than 30mph, and even when I did there were some awfully disconcerting rattling sounds coming from the engine, and the transmission would shift with a clunking sound that would make the Titanic cringe.
Having spent the previous ten days tirelessly pulling the old oil-burning 302 out and meticulously prepping a quote unquote new motor, to say I was physiologically dependent on a confidence-instilling test drive would be an understatement. But a stress-free anything was not in the cards for me, and as a result I had to step out of the situation and gather my thoughts sometime before I grabbed the nearest breakable item and put an end to it just for the sake of saying I did.
The decision to head back to the drawing board was immensely troublesome for me because 1.) I was already a week late for a job I was promised to work, 2.) there were NO guarantees that my vehicle would travel more than 15 minutes without a breakdown, and 3.) I had already spent nearly every available dollar just getting as far as I had. At this point I was not only completely devoid of expected income, but I was nowhere near done with expenditures.
Recognizing on my face the same lifeless expression and impending recklessness that he and I have in common, my brother was asking for the explanation behind my behavior. Dissimilar to his go-to method of stress relief, I tend to shut down. Where, in a comparable situation, my brother would likely keep his hands on the project through blood, sweat, and tears all the way to completion, I tend to take ample opportunity to zoom-out and wait for the answer to slap me in the face. This is where ex-machina becomes relevant again, if you were wondering. I'd scribbled ex-machina down because I had a moment of clarity that I didn't want to escape me. I told my brother the best definition of the term that I could conjure up.
"It's... maybe Shakespearean?.. I guess I don't know how far it dates back. But I know that it's used in reference to the miraculous saving of a character in just about any story." – I know, I've got a real way with words, huh? I went on using the only example I knew would illustrate my point.
"It happens a lot in Game of Thrones after they've got you convinced Jon Snow might be breathing his last, and then out of nowhere some totally unexpected character flips sides or a dragon swoops in. You know what I mean?".. He knew what I meant.
In this particular case my belief in the saving grace of an ex-machina was not only ungrounded, but it was compounding my stress. I was placing more hope in my problems being miraculously solved, when I should have been searching for the next step I could accomplish then and there. If I had a nickel for every time my dad capitalized on a teaching moment to tell me, "Well, wish in one hand and shit in the other. See which one fills up first." Apparently that lesson never stuck on account of me watching too much GoT.
Sure, I can hope that my father has the knowhow to fix my troubles, or my friends chime in for a morale boost, but when it comes down to it there's nobody but me/myself/I to make the decisions required to make positive change in my life. If I don't know what I need to know, I have to learn it. If I don't have the tools, I have to find them. If I don't have the time, I've got to make it. I have to be MY ex-machina, because there will (more than likely) be no divine intervention.
After spewing all of this onto my unsuspecting brother (albeit, a far less composed version), I stood up, clapped my hands in an affirmation of moves about to be made, and headed back out to my freakishly unfinished project. With a tweak here and a tweak there, a jury-rigged part here and a jury-rigged part there, I was back on the road with a brand new maximum speed of 60 miles per hour. Unfortunately, I was also COMPLETELY out of time to waste, so I packed up the van and hit the road.
I guess I'm saying all of this to say that I became a pretty lame ex-machina for myself, and a parting of the seas most certainly would've benefitted me more than I did myself, but I did DO in some capacity.
My problem became (mostly) solved only after embracing the fact that the hand with shit in it filled up faster.