When I was in high school, my Dad taught me to drive a stick shift car. My first vehicle was a banana yellow Ford Fiesta (can’t recall the year) which had a broken gas gage and a leak in the driver’s door. Every time there was rain, I would have a wet seat belt strap mark across whatever I was wearing, because the rain would soak the belt. But it got me from point A to point B so I was grateful for it, and the ability to drive a non-standard transmission.

If you drive a stick shift you know that you have to move through the gears in sequential order. It’s a gradual increase (though it has admittedly been years since I have driven one now) that requires an increase in gear number to be commensurate with an increase in speed. Makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense, is that a lot of US don’t operate that way. And by “US” I am referring to myself. I had this A-Ha moment recently while taking a long walk in nature. I realized I’ve spent most of my adult life living as if I had only two gears: On and Off.

Either I am working, working, working or I am under the covers with far too many Wegman’s chocolate chunk cookies and a Netflix Binge-a-thon. I am in motion at the speed of light, or I am crashing into a sofa or a bed without the strength to do one more thing before I land.

I recently retired from my 8 year Corporate job that, in addition to taking care of Zach kept me extremely busy. Particularly in the days I traveled for business. I took great pride at the rapid pace with which I could effectively pack for a three day trip to Atlanta, or Florida or NY. Shoes, belts, jewelry all coordinated, I had this down to a science.

And when I hit the seat of a plane or a train, in those first 10 minutes before, and after I’d pull out my laptop and try to cram in as much as possible before take off or touch down, I would soak in the comfortable seat and just relax for a minute.

But for the most part, I was on, or I was off. Two gears.

Now that I have a different schedule (aka the one that doesn’t require 50+ hours a week at my “day” job) I am moving a little more slowly. Not much, but enough to notice. Maybe I am in third gear or sometimes second? It’s hard to tell, but honestly anything but “on” and “off” feels foreign to me.

There are things that need doing, but they are not urgent. I can go to bed when I am tired but not yet in a coma, and (get this!) I can sleep until I wake up instead of rising when my 5am alarm goes off (and has since been discontinued). I am in uncharted territory, but in a good way. I am curious about what other people do with “down time” since I’ve have never really had any.

What do people do with all of this time? Are people really walking around not stressed? Rested even?”

This experience of operating in more than only two gears has been revolutionary! I am only a beginner, but I am starting to realize that perhaps I should run more like my Ford Fiesta, and move slowly, gradually into higher, faster gears, and to also slow down less abruptly. It’s a lot easier on the old transmission!

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