Changes, Prius Gear Shifts, and other Bad Metaphors

I have had the opportunity to travel for work lately.  Nothing exciting like New York or Las Vegas; but rather some meetings around the state of Oregon.  For the last two trips I have rented cars, as my previous blog detailed.  The first was the Charger, or as I fondly recall as “The Brick.”  The second was a Prius.

When the man at the rental car company told me he had a nearly brand new Prius waiting for me, I immediately asked, “Is that all you have?”  I loathe the Prius, and the last thing I wanted to do was condone its existence by getting behind its wheel.  He told me that he had an SUV I could drive for the same price.  Not wanting to spend any more out-of-pocket money for gas than I had to (my travel advance never arrived) I said, “Well, the Prius it is.”

He brought me out to the little blue hipster/middle age mom car and showed me the one thing that was quirky about driving this particular vehicle.  It had to do with the gearshift bouncing back into place after putting it into the gear you needed.  “The car stays in the chosen gear, but the shifter just bounces back, I don’t know why,” he told me.  This car also had a push button start (sigh), but unlike the brick, it had Bluetooth capability, so that made me a little happier.

I threw the car into gear, the shifter bounced back, and I put my foot on the gas pedal.  “Grrrooooaaan,” it replied, and moved forward two inches and stopped. I pushed harder on the pedal, and the car began moving slower than grandma with a walker.   At this point I figured that I probably just insulted all old ladies everywhere, and I imagined an old lady with a walker flipping me off and telling me to eat her dust as my Prius sputtered behind her.   “This car is terrible,” I said out loud.  About two hours into the trip I realized it was in “eco-mode” and once I put it in regular mode, the acceleration was just fine.  A Prius has three different modes in which one can operate, and not wanting to mess around with all of the buttons, I stuck with regular mode for the trip.

Once she was in regular mode, I realized the Prius actually wasn’t a bad car to drive.  It’s nothing I would ever want to own, but I would probably rent one again, especially because it was only $47 in gas to Medford and back.  Not too shabby.  The only thing that truly bugged me about this car was when you put it in reverse, it beeps.  Yes, it beeps, just like a delivery truck or a Rascal Scooter beeps when it goes in reverse.  As if Prius wants to make sure that you know you are going backwards.  Just in case you didn’t realize that the world was moving forward.  BEEP BEEP BEEP.  Yes, Prius, I know I’m in reverse.  I assure you this cautionary audible alert is not necessary.

It takes 4 ½ hours to get to Medford, so I had plenty of time to think.  It’s times like these when I get too far into my own head and may or may not begin exaggerating and creating emotional problems where they do not exist, nor do they need to exist.  Be that as it may, I did the “crazy BC everything-probably-going-to-shit” thing.  Eventually my brain shifted into a more productive mode, and I began thinking about why the change of something as simple as a car for a day made me so cranky.

Perhaps it was as simple as the fact that on December 31st, 2013 it will be my ten-year anniversary of driving the Blacura.  She and I have been through good times and bad.  In nine years and less than two months, she has never broken down.  Blacura has gotten me through residency in five different cities and a road trip to Oceanside, CA and back.  I know every sound, creak, groan, and vibration she gives me.  I know that she sputters briefly during winter mornings when I put her in reverse, like an old chain-smoking grandma just after waking up.

Side note: Is this the precursor to the Prius beep?  “Honey, you’re going in reverse and it’s really cold out, be careful,” she tells me, in the voice of Harvey Fierstein.

I digress.

I haven’t always been kind to her.  I haven’t had the money for esthetic upkeep, like preventing the oxidation from spreading on her side, fixing the leather seats.  But still, it’s been my longest relationship since I moved to Portland, and there was something comforting getting back inside the driver’s seat of that old broad after being in two rental cars.  Blacura is part of my life, part of my routine, and it will be sad the day I am finally making it rain and can trade her in for something new.  The truth is that I feel almost guilty about trading her in someday.  “Sorry, Blacura,” I’ll say.  “I owe you so much for the last decade.  You’re so wonderful and reliable.  Thank you.”  I’ll pat her on the dashboard one last time.    “It’s alright dear,” the voice of Harvey Fierstein will say in return.  “Go enjoy your new car, but just remember her name will never be as cool as mine.”  Then she will sputter a little and go wherever it is that Blacuras go to retire.

If the thought of getting a new car causes slight anxiety, I have to ask: what is it about change myself, and so many others, rebel against?  Are we hardwired to prefer the safety and security of our established routines and belongings?    While discussing this idea of change with my mother, she brought up the time she was getting her GED and took a class where they made the students sit in a different seat every day.  “It was so uncomfortable, but that was the idea.  People always want to sit in the same seat every day, so to pick a new seat was more difficult than you would think.”  Her instructor was forcing students out of their comfort zones in order to improve their performance.  For my mom, it worked.  She did great in her courses.

I then thought of some of my routines.  Sunday mornings I like to read the paper and drink coffee in bed.  It’s something I’ve done for years, and when I don’t get to, it bums me out.  I like the fan on at night, because the sound is soothing.  At the end of a long day, I often take a shower when I get home, because there is something relaxing about washing the day away.  I don’t like to clean or cook without music playing.  I hate eating without washing my hands because I want to get all the germs off.

For a very long time I didn’t even care for surprises, not even for my birthday, in part because my life had brought me enough negative ones to last a lifetime.   Eventually, I got over my fear of surprise, but I still hold onto to a dislike for change.  From driving a rental car, to a new haircut, to a new brand of yogurt, it takes time for me to adjust.  Recently my department at work underwent an upheaval, and I’ve considered leaving because my new supervisor has, let’s just say, a much different approach to interpersonal relations than I do.  It’s been difficult adjustment.

Even if I try better vodkas, Grey Goose will always be my favorite.   When I got to World Market, I always head straight for the scarves.  Whenever I see flowers at New Seasons, I always think of a wedding I might plan someday. Are these habits, or just personality quirks?

Why isn’t it easy to incorporate something different into our lives? Whether its saving money, exercising (which has never been a part of my routine, yet desperately needs to be) healthy eating, staying organized, keeping things clean, drinking less, or quitting smoking, these are all things that benefit our health and therefore our well-being.  Even though we know that we should eat more vegetables, drink less liquor, sweat on a daily basis, avoid sugar and simple carbs, and put on sunscreen, it can be difficult to make these things part of our lives when we are so accustomed to the opposite.

Change doesn’t just apply to our routines, but also to our emotions.  I have been a card carrying member of the Pessimist Club (I wonder if this is a real thing?) for as long as I can remember.  Earlier this year, someone called me out on my raincloud-covered worldview.  This person was very important to me, and it since wasn’t the first time I had been told that I can be a Debbie Downer, I began to actively change my structure of thinking and speaking.  Instead of saying, “I’ll never get a job when I move home,” I reframed it as, “I am concerned about the job market when I return, I know competition is tough for jobs, and I need to be prepared.”  I thought I was making great progress, until one day when he told me that my pessimism and negativity was, and I quote, “draining.”  It was one of the single most hurtful things I’ve ever heard, especially since I had been working so hard to change.

It took me some time to realize that I actually was making progress, and just because he didn’t see it, didn’t mean it was happening.  Change is a process, one that doesn’t happen overnight.  For example, I’m currently working with my parents to change their eating habits.  Instead of having them adopt an entirely new plan, I try to encourage small steps.  Once one is a part of their routine, I suggest another.  So far it seems to be working (at least with mom).  The same with exercise.  You can’t become a marathon runner overnight.  You have to build up to that kind of strength and endurance.

I think what causes us to fail in adopting change is that we try for too much, too soon.  When we have setbacks, we feel defeated.  We see it as a failure instead of a bump in the road, and then we give up on it altogether.   Perhaps the key to making long lasting change is to reframe our thought process on what change really is and how to implement it in our lives.  Perhaps what change is all about our emotions and how we feel about ourselves and our abilities.  It takes courage to make major life alterations, and if we don’t give ourselves the breathing room to make mistakes in that journey, it’s going to be nothing but a cluster F.

Change is hard, but it is an inevitable part of life.  We humans need to be like the Prius and bounce back no matter what gear we are thrown into.  (Please don’t be like the Prius and make a beeping noise when you back up.)

So here are the things I’m pledging to change:

-Exercise: I’m too old to be this sedentary.  Once I quite waiting tables, everything now creaks and groans.  Totally unacceptable, and today I signed up to use the health center at work.

-Writing: I enjoy it, and want to do it on a daily basis.  I also want to write about things not involving my emotional state.

-Being less negative:  This is something I’ve been working on all year, and I’m getting better and not aumotamicaly shifting into pessimisim.

-Dropping all my bags:  Oh snaps, this is actually in my next post… Stay tuned.

On a final note, I’m ending with this quote, because Troy Murphy articulates the concepts of change much better than I do.  (I actually don’t know who this guy is, but he seems much more legit than I am, seeing that he doesn’t need a Prius metaphor to get his point across.)

Until next time ~ BC


Meaningful personal changes are not sudden happenings in our lives. They do not come from a quick moment of insight. They do not spontaneously happen after reading a quote. They arise from continuous and consistent effort to watch ourselves and self-disciplined action which bring us in the direction of the changes we desire. We must be committed to watch our thoughts, to watch our feelings and to watch our behaviors.

As humans, we are endowed with the ability to watch ourselves. We can observe our own inner workings as if looking we are observing ourselves from the outside. If we use this grand ability in a healthy compassionate way, not in a self-condemning way, we will slowly become deeply acquainted with our inner workings. Our enlightened self-knowledge will illuminate the paths which will lead us to the places we desire to go. By our mindful compassionate approach to growth, we will find the courage and the wisdom to make the desired meaningful personal changes.

—Troy Murphy of Flourishing Life Society


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s