6 Speeds to Joy

Country roads in Massachusetts

Raise your hand if you have ever stepped on a clutch that wasn’t there.

Last week I finally got the opportunity I have been waiting for since 2014 to drive a car with a stick shift. After owning six standard transmission vehicles, I succumbed to (slightly) diminished reflexes and bought an SUV. I’ve been whining wondering every since whether I would forget how to drive one.

We grew up with standard transmission vehicles – not because my parents were particularly adventurous, but because standard transmissions were significantly cheaper. I simply had to learn or never go anywhere.

Those of you who know me would not describe me as adventurous. And yet. I have won more than one game of “two truths and a lie” by my account of careening around the Amalfi coast driving a stick shift on my honeymoon. In fact, since my husband was less familiar with the clutch at that time, I drove us all over Italy. Still not lying.

So back to last week. We had a house guest who generously offered to let me drive his car. I snuck out before 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning and drove the country roads around our town for almost an hour. I was nervous, but it came right back to me. I didn’t take the car out on the open road to get into sixth gear. The point was to actually shift. A lot!

I spent that glorious hour thinking about the person I was when I drove around Italy, and in each successive vehicle, and how I could recreate the simple joys of those past lives. The year 2020 has weighed most of us down. Those of us in leadership positions feel the pressure to protect our residents and staff, while also opening up the economy and providing “normal-ish” services with restrictions that would be laughable if we didn’t have to implement them.

Pro-tip: plant roses near the septic system for this result.

And who couldn’t use a little more joy? We just have to work a little harder to find it when our accustomed ways are inaccessible – like traveling to Europe or having a draft beer at a bar. Here is what I am working on:

  • Spending time outside, including weeding.
  • Prioritizing walking over running.
  • Using up the gallons of sourdough starter discard making pizza creations once a week. (Confession – I went through the amazingly soothing and yet tedious effort to create sourdough starter and have yet to bake anything with it. But the discard is in heavy rotation.)
  • Planning travel adventures.
  • Making lists of books to read and checking them off.
  • Planning home improvement projects.
  • Not attending night meetings.

How about you? Do you have a stick shift story to tell? (My journey ended after having to queue up on a steep parking garage ramp for what seemed like hours after a Red Sox game.)

Are you finding joy close to home?

Do you still, on occasion, throw your arm across the passenger seat when you brake hard as if you have a twelve-year-old next to you?

Let’s practice – maybe actually smell those roses?

2 thoughts on “6 Speeds to Joy

  1. Re-reading some Guy Gavriel Kay and some new books, Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones, and Butter and N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became, gardening (pulling weeds, mowing the lawn) at synagogue, spending as much time sitting on the front porch saying hello to neighbors, pedestrians, and dog-walkers (living in an urban neighborhood with a porch about six feet from the sidewalk), running up and down the middle of Hope Street (fairly busy thoroughfare in “normal” times) first thing in the morning, visiting my brother and father, writing some journal entries to friends, and an occasional ice cream at MEA’s in Halifax. Still to come: going to more take out places in Providence such as Bucktown and Dune Brothers, binge watching more episodes of Lucifer and the second season of Black Lightning, a trip to the Cape probably without much time at the beach, and perhaps ending up with a dog in our household by the end of the summer. Not happening for a long time: concerts, dances, road races, dining in, almost al retail shopping except for food and sundries.

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