23 Sep

Much to my grandparents’ dismay, my dad raced stock cars in college, causing them fear for his safety as well as the wild streak running through him that propelled him towards dangerous thrills. Consequently, he never drove cars with automatic transmissions. Some of my earliest memories include sitting on his lap while he drove (which of course freaked my mom out) with my hand underneath his on the gear shift. I can still feel the size and strength of his hand placed over mine as we moved the stick from fourth, to third, through second and into first – the vibrations of the gear tingling in my palm.  

Being my father’s daughter, I learned to drive on a stick but that was in the days when you could zip around San Diego’s freeways never hitting traffic. If I had a stick now, my legs would probably shake from having to put in the clutch so much while in gridlock. The only time I ever drive a stick now is when my car is in the shop and the mechanic loans me his beat up pick up truck. But I will never forget the sensation of downshifting – a feeling engrained in my body long before I learned how to drive. The somatic knowledge that when the car shifted to first, turned right and began a steep incline while I was half asleep in the passenger’s seat, we had reached Shadow Knolls Dr. and were almost home.

While off from work these few days, I knew there was one day that I had to designate for tasks and chores I’ve not had time to do. I dreaded this because I knew that would take me out of relaxation mode and back into doing mode. I was right. Yesterday, I went from first to fourth, jamming my gears. Now I’m trying to slow back down to first. But how hard it is to slow down when used to driving in fourth on the freeway 24/7.

They say it takes at least ten days to truly unwind on a vacation and that most people typically have to return to work just as they were beginning to relax (or before they reached that point). I would agree. I’m sure the day I go back to work will be when I’m finally letting go. When my incessant TMJ has finally let up. 

If shifting is about rhythms, what has happened to ours’? What of our natural cycles for sleep, rest, work and play? How has technology and electricity and the demands of making a living altered that?

The other day a friend of mine returned to me the baby blanket I knit for her first born child. I looked at it in astonishment realizing it has been seven years since I’ve held any knitting needles. How in the world did I have the time and the patience to knit her son a blanket? I have tubes of water color paint sitting here on my table that have sat for three months now without me opening one. And I’m sorry for that because these things are good for my soul.

In order to down-shift, we have to make it a priority; a necessity; a medical order. Or it can become the latter at some point. Grinding the clutch. The transmission shot.

One Response to “Down-Shifting”

  1. Kevin Brangwynne September 23, 2009 at 10:19 pm #

    Glad to see that you’re considering those things that are good for your soul a priority! Way too often they are the things that are “overlooked” or “pushed aside” in a busy schedule and there is usually a heavy price to pay for that. I was too busy to exersize for about 5 years and I started feeling horrible…ran out of breath tying my shoes! So glad I re-prioritized and made time for working out…it probably not only extended my life, but I’m a heck of a lot happier! Maybe we think we’re being “selfish” in taking care of ourselves, but I think everybody in our lives are better off if we do. So take care! I’m praying for you!

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