SHIFTING GEARS . . . GET OUT OF AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION!
I was recently in a little rear-ender fender bender. So I left my car in the shop and went to pick up the rental car. When I arrived, the selection was very limited (it was a Friday so the weekend warriors had cleared out the inventory), but there in the middle of the lot was a sexy muthu-shut-yo-mouth all-black shiny, new Mustang GT. I was apprehensive and in my typical pragmatic mode. But Stan the salesman could see the gleam in my eye as I looked her over. “You deserve it! When else would you treat yourself to driving this kind of car?” he said. (How did he know what I was thinking?!?!)
My brain was on fire! I was torn between practicality and adventure. I even felt shy, like the cute boy I always had a crush on just invited me to sit with him at lunch. I literally blushed and giggled at the thought of driving this car. I was having an Existential dilemma at Enterprise Rental Car! After some deliberation (and a little haggling on the extra cost), I silenced the resounding “responsible” voice and went with the gleam. YES, I’ll take it!
Within 5 minutes of driving my newly rented Mustang Ford, I was completely transformed! I was utterly giddy being at the helm of this powerful machine. I laughed with glee like a kid on her first solo bike ride sans training wheels careening down the thankfully empty street. I felt like I was flying — not as on a plane, but like I was an eagle soaring high in the air, majestic and powerful, wild and free. And I felt the need . . . the neeeed for speeeeed.
I was nervous as hell, too, the way it feels to be on a horse that decides to trot just a bit faster than you think you can handle. Invigorated, terrified, and unremittingly overjoyed. I felt like a completely different person!
I spent the next six glorious days with Sally (yes, corny as it is, I named my Mustang “Sally” for the duration of our temporary custodial companionship). From the beginning of our time together, a sense of wonder and adventure filled my spirit. Everyday activities were punctuated by an impatience and eager anticipation for the next time I’d get to drive that car. We took pictures together. We blasted music and sang together. We ventured onto freeways in the traffic-less twilight hours just so we could really open ‘er up and VROOOOOM! WOOHOOOOOOOOOOOO!!
It was one of the best weeks of my life! And I still can’t believe this flurry of emotions was all because of a car! But life-changing or awakening perspective can come in huge or infinitesimal packages. Maybe it’s cancer. Or maybe it’s just a Mustang.
This particular experience got me thinkin’ (of course!) about identity and story. The stories we tell ourselves about who we are. The stories we tell other people about who we are, and the ones they tell us about how they want to be seen. And how so many of these stories are really just “histories” that too often become mantras that can lock us into one path or one particular direction. We live out a carefully forged habitual life in the safety of our comfort zones, often ignoring opportunities to spice it up a bit or do something “out of character” simply because “Oh, that’s just not ME.”
The thing is, all of it is part of who we are. It may not be the everyday ongoing thing or a long-term change in direction. But it’s vital to explore new things, to re-activate a passion or interest that we set aside, even if only a small part of it, to create a spark of fresh energy. Give the voice in us that may not often be expressed a platform to dance and shout it out.
Strum a few chords on the guitar sitting in the corner, put on that dress you bought 6 months ago but were waiting for a “special occasion” to wear, take an improv class, a cooking class, a yoga class, take a sick day and go read in the park, write a poem, hug a stranger — live like a tourist in your own life, bring a sense of awe and adventure into the everydays.
Let’s not compartmentalize ourselves. All of it is one big YOU stew! And any chef will tell you, for a deep, rich, flavorful stew, it’s vital to stir it up a bit from time to time to let all the ingredients shine!
Don’t text and drive! And enjoy the ride! diggit.