Tag Archives: embracing life

Fast Times, Fast Cars

Sometimes I think I was born 10 years too late.   If I had arrived in 1945, I would have grown up living “American Graffiti” instead of just loving the movie. Poodle skirts, bobby socks, and pedal pushers would have filled my closet and Bill Haley would have blasted from my radio. As a teenager I felt drawn to Elvis (even went to see him in concert) and I often imagined myself dancing on American Bandstand.   All I wanted to do was to race into adulthood – fast times and fast cars called to me. During this time, I had my share of bad boys and it was one of those “bad for your heart” guys that first introduced me to the idea of drag racing. It stuck with me and when I created my list of 60 things to do before I turn 60, I was quick to put driving on a race track near the top of the list. I was thrilled to learn that it was possible to drive your own car at a local speedway and scheduled an evening to test my skills.

My companion for the evening, Art, was a car guy who had agreed to use his muscle car instead of risking the transmission on my leased Hyundai. He allowed me to drive the hour to the track to get a feel for his car. I was only interested in being behind the wheel and learning how to accelerate and brake. Art rattled on about the track, the rules, and something about the tires. While he used terms like “reaction time,” “stage area,” and “time slip,” I listened patiently, only wanting to get there and go fast. I nodded my head, asked a few questions, and channeled my inner Danica Patrick.

Arriving at the speedway I immediately began to take in the culture. More men than woman, more leather than denim. There were pick-ups, corvettes, and motorcycles. Young couples, old guys, long hair, and flag bandannas.   People knew each other, hoods were up as they chatted over carburetors and spark plugs. The evening air was chilly and the smell of gas was everywhere. The constant drone of racing engines provided the backdrop for the guy reporting race times over the PA system. When he wasn’t shouting results, the music ranged from the Beach Boys to Alan Jackson to Styx. A little something for everyone.

I was excited as we approached the line of cars, eager to take my turn.   But that anticipation quickly turned to frustration by the long wait…at least an hour before we could turn the corner onto the track. Really? Two cars could race at the same time, less than 20 seconds per run…what could take so long? It was a bit like being stuck in a traffic jam, not knowing what was causing the delay. I was anxious, eager to get going. I used the time to check out the group of guys gathered around their motorcycles. Greying beards gave away their ages and I imagined them as a group of accountants and attorneys also playing out their fantasies. I could almost see Pinky Tuscadero strutting her stuff among them, stomping out her cigarette with the tip of her stilettos!

Once we got to the front of the line, Art wanted to go first; it was after all, his car. I tried to memorize the details, the light signals that told him to hit the accelerator. Art sat patiently; knowing the exact spot from which to start. When the light turned green, he hit the pedal…hard! A concrete barrier separated us from the car in the other lane, so there was no chance of a collision. I watched the strip of pavement stretched out in front of us, watched as we sped by the grandstand. In just 15.25 seconds we hit 90 MPH and crossed the quarter-mile mark…the end. A brief thrill, slightly less than a roller coaster, more than a toboggan run. Would it feel different when I was behind the wheel? Would it be more of a thrill being the driver rather than the passenger? I would have to spend another hour checking out the businessmen in leather before I would find out.

Finally, it was time. As we turned the corner to take our place on the track, I noticed three young men sitting on the side of the pavement. They seemed surprised to see a woman my age in the driver’s seat but they smiled, waved, and offered an encouraging thumbs-up. I was nervous, worried when I rolled over the starting line and had to back up. Nervous when I looked at the light panel. That’s when it hit me. This wasn’t only about holding on to the steering wheel, it was also about holding on to all the excitement that surrounds me every day. It was about embracing what is in front of me and enjoying what happens on the way to where ever I am going. I gave a thumbs-up in return, and turned my attention to the race. When I got the green light, I gripped the steering wheel tight, pushed that pedal to the floor and took off!

It took me .6 seconds longer to cover that quarter mile than it did Art. But who cares? Not once did I look in the rear view mirror; what is behind me is behind me.  I paid no attention to the car in the other lane, because it wasn’t about winning the race. It was about taking notice of what was in front of me….what is in my path! In 15.85 seconds, I freed myself from my own expectations of what I should be doing at this point, freed myself from acting my age. It felt glorious!

The following week when I was enjoying dinner with Art, we reviewed the night at the speedway. I shared that I wanted to go back, but this time on his motorcycle! He smiled and held my hand as he congratulated me on a successful race. We did a couple of shots of hard whiskey to toast knocking drag racing off my list, and made plans for fly-fishing, hot air balloons, and shooting bows and arrows!

Maybe I was born in the wrong decade. Maybe not.   But as I approach my own 60’s, it is about living the life I have and not looking back at what I don’t.   Pedal pushers are now capris, saddle shoes are now Keds. I often dance the twist in my living room and I have tickets to see the Turtles this summer.   So much waiting for me….and I don’t need to get there fast.

Susan Emmerich is the author of A Girl on a Bike, available through Second Wind Publishing and amazon.com. Sometimes serious, other times humorous, this collection of essays on life transitions invites the reader to ride along on a journey that includes adjusting to an empty nest, aging parents, divorce, and again seeking love. The author resides in Cleveland OH where she continues to discover miles of new bike trails.

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Live out loud

Life is too deep for words, so don’t try to describe it, just live it. -C.S. Lewis

Today started out like any other.  I was up and at the computer before anyone else in the house had even opened an eye.  There was stuff I needed to do, stuff I really should do, stuff I wanted to do, and the other stuff.

I started with the first two categories.  Since I am self-employed and work from home, by 6 a.m. I had updated a client’s web site, checked my work e-mail, and started a blog post.  I finished off my pot of coffee and showered once I knew I would be able to tell the body soap from the hair conditioner.  I even considered taking the dog for a walk before it got too dang hot outside.

That’s when it happened.  That’s when things got goofy.

“Psst.  Got a minute?”  It was a male voice, whispering.

Looking around, I didn’t see anyone.  And since the voice lacked a distinct Texas-drawl, I could safely assume my husband wasn’t the owner of voice.  The voice being male, I could also safely assume the voice didn’t belong to either of my children, them both being daughters and all.

“Pssst.  Over here,” the voice repeated.

“Um, God?  Is that you?”

“Yep.  Nice of you to remember.”

I grimaced.  “What can I do for you?”

“We need to talk.”

Gulp.  “We do?”

“Yep.”

“I’m a little busy.  Is this going to take along time.  I have to have this blog post done today you see. . . .”

“And I have a Universe to see to, so I promise to make it quick.”

Gulp.

“You’re seriously forgetting some things.  I know you don’t much care for change, but really, Nichole.  You’re taking it a little far.”

“What do you mean I don’t like change?  I’ve been considering a new hairstyle.”

“And those boxes in your living room?”

“Oh, those aren’t mine.  The kid is going to college next month.  But you probably know that, don’t you?”

“Yep.  But you aren’t taking it very well.”

“She’s my baby!  Do you know what’s like to lose your baby?  Oh, yeah, I guess you do.”

“I never said it would be easy.”

“It’s just that, well, she’s going to leave on her adventure.  She’s growing up and will be starting a life, an adventure, a journey, all on her own.  I want her to be happy and healthy and successful in whatever she decides to do.”

“Yep.”

“I’m so proud of her.  And so worried about her.”

“Did you tell her that?”

“Tell her?”

“Yep.  Tell her.”

“Okay, I promise to tell her just as soon as she wakes up.”

“Good.  Now about that shirt.”

“My shirt?  It says ‘Live Out Loud.’  I got it when I went to visit my parents.”

“Yep.  But are you doing it?”

“Visiting my parents?  No, I’m at home.  Oh!  You mean living out loud.  Well, I’m a bit shy you know.”

“There’s plenty of ways to be loud.  And plenty of ways to live.”

“Yeah, I suppose there are. . .”

“She knew that.”

“She?  Knew?  My kiddo is just sleep . . . .  Oh, you mean Jolee.  Did you have to take her?”

“It was her time.  She was tired of fighting.”

“Lung cancer.  She didn’t deserve that.”

“You know better?”

“Sorry.  But I will miss her.  I already miss her.  Her celebration of life is this afternoon.”

“I know.”

“God, I’m not sure I can go.  I really don’t like funerals.”

“Celebration.  Of.  Life.  It’s BYOB, remember.”

“Yeah, but. . . .”

“Her family should know you love her.  Her family should know they aren’t the only ones who will miss her.”

“I suppose.  It’s hard, though.  I’m about to cry just thinking about it.”

“I know.  Jolee understands.”

“Of course she does.  She was one of the most understanding people I even met.”

“Learn from her.”

“Excuse me?  Learn from her?  You took her, remember?”

“Live out loud.  Learn from Jolee. What do you admire about her?”

“Her humor.  Her ability to laugh at herself.  The way she always looked on the bright side of everything.”

“So do it.  Honor her by emulating those things you admire in her.”

“I’m not sure I can be as easy going as she was.  You just didn’t give me that skill.”

“Work on it.  But didn’t you also admire the way she told people how important they were?”

“Well, yes, but I’m not very mushy.  I get embarrassed when people thank me in public.”

“Work on it.”

“Yeah, but—”

“No buts.  Do it.  Besides, it’s better to give those messages in person rather than have to go through Me.”

“True.  I promise I’ll work on it.”

“Good.  Start now.  Remember those things you thought you needed to accomplish today?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t.  Move those to the ‘should do’ list.  Every day there needs to be one thing on your ‘must do’ list.  Just one.”

“Just one?”

“Just one.  Live out loud.  Tell people how much they mean to you.  Make the world a better place.  Laugh.  Don’t worry about being embarrassed.  Make sure the people you love know that you love them.  Live.  Out.  Loud.  The rest is icing on the cake.”

“Live out loud.  Got it.”

“And, Nichole?”

“Yes, God?”

“Start now.”

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Let It Be

I know you’ve seen the video, everyone has. It’s been emailed and remailed, Facebooked and Twittered, blogged and Gathered, clogging cyberspace with the message: Let It Be. At first I thought that perhaps this was the answer to my confusion over the death of my mate of thirty-four years. Just go on with my life and let it be. Forget my grief. Forget the pain of losing him. Forget trying to make sense of it all. Just . . . let it be.

My second thought as I continued watching this very looooong and repetitive song (Sheesh! What was Paul McCartney thinking when he wrote it? Not much, apparently) was how my mate would have enjoyed seeing all those faces as they are today. We have so many of them in his movie collection, and they are always that age, the one they’d reached when they made that particular movie (such as a much younger Sherilyn Fenn in The Don’s Analyst or a very young and fit Steve Guttenberg in Surrender).

My third thought was let what be what? And that’s where the thoughts stalled — in a semantics word jam.

I finished watching the video, thinking nothing, just watching the parade of faces, but now I’m wondering if Let it Be is really a philosophy I want to embrace. It seems too accepting of life’s vagaries and not enough of . . . well, embracing.

The whole purpose of going through grief is to process the pain and the loss, to mend your shattered life and heart so that one day you can embrace life in its entirety once again. I haven’t dealt with all these months of tears, anger, frustration, emptiness, loneliness, pain, just to spend the rest of my life letting it be. I want to let it be me — the one who’s strong enough not to have to simply let it be.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of More Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fire,  and Daughter Am I.

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Filed under life, musings, Pat Bertram, writing