All! I've been so anxious to be back with you again after last week's somewhat epic and lengthy post about me buying a car with a manual transmission without actually knowing how to drive it.
Yeeeaaaaaaahhhhh. That was really stressful.
But I've gotten some things out of this process, and not just the ability to now drive the car. Let's settle in and chat!
Friends...last week was LONG. There were swear words (real bad ones, too :0). There were tears. There were so many setbacks. There was an overwhelming feeling that I would never get it right and learn how to drive this car. I barely slept. I lost 2 lbs. This was FOR SERIOUS.
On Saturday, I gave long suffering Mike a much needed break, and went out with my mother-in-law to a big, empty parking lot for about 2 hours, just practicing getting the car going from a dead stop. That was the foundational skill I was struggling with the most, and indeed, the one most people struggle with when they're learning to drive a stick shift. She observed that I was releasing the clutch pedal too quickly, thereby causing the car to buck around violently even if it did manage to get it going, or stall if I didn't simultaneously give the car enough gas. Once we honed in on that, and fine tuned a few other things (I wasn't waiting for the clutch and gas to "catch" together before releasing the clutch slowly and easing on more gas) I noticed that I was getting the car going smoothly. Once I was getting the car going smoothly with some consistency, I began to realize that my feet were doing A Thing and that what they were doing could be duplicated again and again and again. Each time I did The Thing, I did not stall, or buck, or generally cause the car considerable angst.
Suddenly, I felt that magical moment deep down in my feet when the clutch and gas pedal met in perfect symphony, and the car would begin to move forward. If I then eased my left foot off the clutch, rather than rushing it, like I *had* been doing, I was GOLDEN. It truly was a matter of feel, and once I felt it, I committed it to my muscle memory. I practiced it another 300 times just to be safe ;-) but I knew a breakthrough had been made: I had learned how to get a manual transmission car going from a dead stop into 1st gear, and I had learned how to do it consistently. THAT is the key. Not really understanding what works and what doesn't on a consistent basis, not having The Thing going on with your feet, causes you to lurch and stall. Lurching and stalling causes you to become frustrated and anxious. Becoming frustrated and anxious causes you to lurch and stall even MORE. It's like learning to drive while on a continual, evil loop down in Satan's School of Driving and Minion Training. You know. In HELL.
After what felt like the 90th loop around the parking lot, I drove confidently to the exit and put on my right blinker. I was ready to drive out in traffic, and I knew it.
We drove around for about 30 minutes, coming to tons of stop signs. Each time I got the car going with ease, and upshifted from 1st through 5th gears with no problems. I had it, and an enormous weight had been lifted from my chest.
Granted, my downshifting into turns still needs some work, and I still have never driven on the highway. Being on an incline and rolling back before moving forward again makes my heart stop beating. I'm certain that I'll still go through some small setbacks along the way until I have a lot more experience under my belt. BUT. I've come a long way, baby. I can drive myself places now, and I've been doing so ever since. It's going to take a lot of experience before I can get in the car without butterflies, but I can officially say that I have learned how to drive a stick shift.
So, on our progress chart, we have this:
Week 1 - F bombs. Sobs. Throwing of self onto steering wheel in despair. Stalls, stalls, stalls.
Week 2 - Butterflies. Pep Talks:
"You can do this, girl. You can totally do this!"
"Go little Fit, Go! That was a good one!"
Hopefully, people think I'm simply using the Bluetooth to talk on my phone. :0
Surges of hope. Feelings of accomplishment. The joy of knowing that I truly am not too old to learn new and challenging skills.
I know it's just a car. But it feels like a really big deal to me. I took something that I'd always wanted to learn, something that did not come very easily to me at all, and I worked at it until I could do it. This is something that could apply to so many things in life, yes?
Sunday I went to Piercing Pagoda with my friend Brandy to get her ears pierced. Brandy had never had her ears pierced because of a very deep seated fear from her childhood. She had always wanted to do this, but thought she wouldn't be able to because the anxiety felt so debilitating, like something she could not overcome. I relate very much to debilitating anxiety, and so this weekend we took on some scary new things together. Brandy got her ears pierced. Afterward, I got very emotional and cried, telling her how much I loved her and how much it has meant to me to have met her and become her friend. How much she inspires me to try new things, things that I am afraid of, things that make me learn and grow as a person. Yep, right there in the middle of the mall. :0
I felt God's hand in all of this. Maybe I needed to get Fit so that I could challenge myself in this new way, and become a stronger person, a lifelong learner. Perhaps it'll inspire courage in me at some future point in which someone really needs me to be brave. Perhaps it was so that I could be there for Brandy, so that we could face fears together and grow from that. Perhaps it's so that I will continue to grow in empathy and charity towards others. I suspect that it is ALL of these things.
It was a good weekend, a really good one, filled with faith, family and friends. We went out to dinner with my in-laws on Saturday following the 5 pm vigil Mass at our parish, in which Henry served on the altar (I drove us!). It occurred to me that this truly is the good life.
That's my week in review. Work is pretty intense right now, but it's going well. Our teaching for the semester will be done in early November, and I'm really looking forward to that. I'm headed to the NY Sheep & Wool Festival next weekend, and I'm REALLY looking forward to *that*!
I miss chatting with you all in Tea Time. We'll be back to that soon enough!
How are you all doing? Do you have any stories to relay about learning things that actually apply in multiple ways? Let's hear them!