Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Classic Cars and Mid Life

The email subject line said, “I found it.”  It was from my husband who had discovered a classic car for me to buy.  I wasn’t really in the market to buy an old car, but the idea sounded intriguing. 
            My husband and I had been going to the neighborhood Cruise-Ins where local classic car owners gather on a Saturday afternoon to park and walk among each others’ ’69 Olds, ‘70’s Camaros or ‘50’s Bel Airs.  There is lots of talk about restoration, speed, and memories of favorite cars from childhood.
            I’ve always liked old cars, the smell, the feel of the old metal dashboards and thin steering wheels and the sound of the motor as it idles has a certain way of taking me back to my younger days.  Not a typical interest for a woman, but my husband thinks it’s cool.  When I was thirteen, I began driving my mom’s 1969 Pontiac Bonneville, driving around the neighborhood, my vision barely clearing the dashboard.  Then it was on to her 1977 Ford Thunderbird.  I could get about 10 of my friends in that car, before seatbelt laws.  You could go 80 miles an hour and it felt like you were driving on a silk road.  Needless to say, I got my first speeding ticket in that car!
            But the earliest car I remember was her 1950 Comet.  I was barely five years old and I clearly remember this car.   She’d warm up the car in the cold Minnesota morning while I ate breakfast and then we would get in the car to go to my ice skating lessons.  The woven, plastic, turquoise seats were still cold even though the car had been idling in the garage for 15 minutes. 
            It probably had something to do with the fact that the floor pan on the driver’s side had rusted out from road salt and all that separated mom’s feet from the road below was a piece of cardboard.  The tail lights looked like cat eye glasses with their turned up angle and the little triangular side window would pop out just a little so mom could flick her cigarette ash out of it.  In the dark of those mornings, I used to love to watch the red glow of the short cigarette butt make sparks behind the car as it hit the slushy ground when mom would throw it out the window. 
            So, when I opened the email from my husband, there it was.  Pictures of a 1950’s Comet for sale, just like the one I remember in my childhood. 
            What on Earth would I do with an old car?  We had no room in the driveway for it, I had no extra money to pour into fixing it up, although it looked to be in pretty good shape and I didn’t have the time.
            On the other hand, I thought, you don’t see old Comets for sale very often, this one was a good price and my husband said he’d help me fix it up. 
            Was I just looking for a way to be young and impulsive again?  I had been going through a bit of a rough patch.  Mid-life crisis, perhaps, and I had been wringing my hands to my husband about how life was passing me by.  I wasn’t in the job I envisioned myself in, I wasn’t making nearly the money I’d hoped I’d be making by this time in my life, I hadn’t seen the world like I’d hoped and I wasn’t even doing much writing, which I love to do.  Mid-life was hitting me square in the face.
            I wanted to turn back the clock to a time when possibilities were endless.  When the future looked like a vast field with plenty of time and no limits to what you could do.  Was I getting this car in a feeble attempt to turn back time?  To reclaim my youth?  Perhaps, but what was wrong with that? 
            We met the 18-wheeler transport truck in the parking lot near our home and it was exciting to see the car finally here!  When the truck driver backed it off the truck, I saw my Minnesota childhood all over again.  I was really excited.  That excitement soon gave way to reality, however.
            The Comet, advertised by the seller as having very little rust, had a significant amount of body damage from rust.  And, although, I was excited to get to learn how to drive a stick shift on a steering column, it quickly became evident that the transmission would need work.  The car kept getting stuck in second gear as my husband drove it around the parking lot.  “It’s okay.  We’ll fix it up,” my husband said.
            I took pictures of me standing with the car and posted them online.  A flood of messages came back from my friends:  “When can we have a ride?”, “Cool car!”, “It’s totally you!”  But, I was afraid to drive it.  The gears are hard to manage and the car just didn’t seem reliable.
            One night, my husband suggested we take the Comet out and get some dinner.
            We hadn’t gotten five miles down the road when I noticed a burning odor.
            “Do you smell that?”  I asked.
            “Yeah, let’s pull over for a minute and check it out,” my husband said.
            After a brief inspection of the car, turns out one of the brakes locked up.  We would have to sit for a while to let it cool off and then head back home, hoping that the brakes would work.
            As we sat on the curb in a strip mall waiting for the wheel to cool, I thought maybe this isn’t the car for me.  It’s an awesome car, but maybe my attempt to recapture my youth is misguided.  Maybe it’s not what I have that represents my youth, but it’s my attitude and actions.  Maybe I need to act like I’m young again instead of lamenting my age.  Maybe I was missing the point.   Maybe it’s not the Comet that needed repairs.
It was me and my attitude about life that needed a tune up.
            Or, maybe I just needed to buy a red convertible instead.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Craning my neck to see my future
Yesterday morning, I heard a raucus noise coming from outside.  I ran outside and looked up to see a large flock of Sandhill cranes migrating south right over our house.  It was loud, graceful and beautiful.  One group of birds briefly turned west, but quickly made a cloverleaf and joined their counterparts flying south.

I've seen these birds before.  Every year in late fall early winter, they fly right over out house on their trip to warmer climes.  It's breathtaking.  One year there were thousands!  It took a full 10 minutes for them to all fly over the house, all of them trilling, creaking, purring their unique and notable high-pitched calls to each other.

I was struck by the confidence in which they know where they are going.  I am aware that these birds have a kind of compass of sorts in their heads that help them find their way south, but how do they know when to go?  What exact path to take?  Why do they go every year?  Why can't I be that confident about MY life?

I'm working on that.  I'm hoping that this is the year that I change the way I look at the path my life is taking and MAKE things happen for me instead of letting things happen to me.  You know, a sense of adventure for my life.  I want to look forward to things such as travel and arrival on the beaches of Florida like these birds.  I want to pack my bags confidently and just GO on an adventure without worrying about being away from home, did I turn the stove off or did I lock the back door?  Crap!  I forgot my toothbrush!

I want to exude confidence like the sandhill crane.  Getting to that point will be the challenge.

As I write this, I'm sitting on the couch lamenting the loss of my last day of Christmas vacation and having to return to the classroom tomorrow.  Why should the last day of vacation signal the last day of  my perceived "freedom"?  Why do I dread the return to work?  My job is not giving me the satisfaction it once did, but why not think of tomorrow as a new opportunity for change?  I'm not sure.  I need to reprogram my thought processes, but that's very difficult.  It's so easy to get caught in a rut.

For now, I'll continue to look to the sky for my answers.  I've always thought that there is so much to learn from animals.  I think that they are wiser than us in so many ways and can teach us how to live.  I say this as Morgan, my cat, wakes up and yawns, repositions herself and then lays back down.  Maybe I just need more sleep.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Back in the Saddle...

I know it's been a long time since my last post.  I've been kind of busy....

At the point when I quit writing, I was doing hospice care for my beloved cat, Miss Kitty, who needed my full attention.  I was up at 4am to begin medicines for the day and the pills, liquids, injections, baths, fluids and laundry continued throughout the day.  She had been diagnosed in January with anemia from complications with kidney failure and the vet said she probably would decline within two weeks.  She lasted until August 29th.   I still can't get used to how quiet our house is.  I miss her madly.  She was a magical soul.

I also had knee surgery and started a new job and frankly, didn't feel at all like writing, let alone anything else.  I am trying desperately to pull my rear up off the ground and join life again.  My initial purpose of beginning this blog to fall in love with my life again back in early 2011 illustrates how blissfully unaware I was at what was to come, since life hit me with a force of a two-by-four-to-the-face last year.

If you ask me what my New Year's resolution is, I'd tell you that I don't make resolutions.  I don't believe that we should measure our lives by the twelve-month calendar and that life is a continuum,  but this year I might make an exception.

Yes, the standard "I want to lose weight, eat better and exercise more" is on the list.  Also, I want to cut down on my sugar, write more and invest in my writing.  I want to somehow find more hours in the day to indulge in the things that used to bring me joy and work on myself more.  I want to let go of regret about what hasn't happened in my life and embrace more optimism and initiative about things that I CAN do in my life.  By the way, if anyone has any suggestions about how to find more time in the day, let me know.  Getting up earlier is not an option, however.

Over the Christmas holidays, my family was all together and it was wonderful.  In fact, one of the best holiday seasons I think I've had in a long, long time.  We all went to see Cavalia - Odysseo.  It is a spectacular show illustrating the beauty of the relationship we have with horses.  That sentence doesn't really do it justice, but I don't know how else to explain it if you've never seen it.

While watching the show and the acrobatics with the performers, both human and equine, I had a thought that maybe those performers were doing everything they wanted with their lives.  They were making an impression on people by performing a beautiful show, they were in top physical shape, some of them hanging on to poles gracefully spinning 40 feet off the ground or holding themselves upside down off of the sides of a full-gallop horse.  They were creating art and expression and they were creating music and making life happen for themselves.  I want that for myself.  I want to be expressing myself to my fullest potential, creatively, physically and mentally.  I want to influence or coach others in a way.  I want to be thought of as top in my field, I want to be physically and mentally fit.  I want to feel good when I wake up and stay energetic throughout the day.

I know it will take baby steps, but I'm finally willing to put in the hard effort it will take.  I'm done letting life pass me by.  I'm back in the saddle.