30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 30: Happiness Now & Driving with Thing 1

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This is it! Today is the last day of my 30-day blog series based on Judith Hanson Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

June 17 — Only you can give yourself permission to be happy. We grow up when we realize that no one is going to tap us on the shoulder and say, “Now you have done enough so you can be happy.” Take a deep breath and make the decision that you will connect with your own happiness for the next five minutes. At the end of this time, make the commitment for the next five minutes and then the next. Know that your ability to be happy lies within you, only you, and is not dependent on your circumstances.

FIVE MINUTES?!?! IS SHE OFF HER ROCKER?!

Sheesh. Let’s try for fifteen seconds. I don’t mean to sound crass, but let’s be honest.

how much do I love Roz Chast? Um ... a lot. (c) Roz Chast, The New Yorker

how much do I love Roz Chast? Um … a lot. (c) Roz Chast, The New Yorker, Conde Nast Publications.

The other day I let my oldest, who is now 16 and change, drive my massive SUV up the driveway. The only thing he’s ever driven has been his little red car when he was a toddler and then a go-kart every summer in Connecticut. So I pulled the car in front of the house and I said, “You take the wheel and pull it in the driveway.”

He doesn’t have his learner’s permit yet, but he was going to drive all of 30 feet and we live on a private street and it’s August and no one is in town and the squirrels are hiding and there was nothing alive within 400 feet of the car. I thought, “What’s the damage he can do?” (Hit the basketball hoop pole, run over his brother, use the wrong pedal, steer the wrong way, go too fast… they were all possibilities and he’s still teenage knees and elbows, but I surmised that the screw-up potential of this situation was pretty low.)

So before he inserted the key, we had a quick chat about the pedals and the steering wheel and the fact that my Toyota Sequoia is a 2.5-ton killing machine. He strapped in and turned the key. The engine roared. I showed him the tachometer and how its needle responded to the rev of the engine. He revved the engine and thought that was pretty cool because the vehicle raised a little in response. We went over the brake pedal and the turn of the steering wheel. I showed him the gears and that “P” does not mean “passing” and that “D” means “drive” not “down.”  He was ready.

“The gears won’t change until you put your foot on the brake, so remember that.” I said.

“Ok, Mom.”

“Put it in drive,” I said.

He did. Three gears shifted effortlessly.

“Let your foot gently lift from the brake pedal.” He lifted his LEFT FOOT OFF THE BRAKE.

“STOP! STOP! STOP!” I said. “Press the brake. Put it back in Park.”

“WHAT? Why?” he asked, almost in a squeak.

“It’s my fault. You only use one foot to drive, use your right foot, or you will forever drive like Grandma Mimi,” and he laughed. My mother drove so badly that it’s verbally indescribable. You need to ride in the car with me for my rendition.

“Right foot only? Got it.” He tucked his left foot below his right knee in the footwell. “Shift to Drive?”

“Yes. Go ahead. Shift to Drive and release the brake very slowly. The car will roll, you don’t have to TOUCH THE GASSSSSSS… Take your foot off the gas!!!”

“WHAT?!”

“Honey, it’s a V8. I know this likely means nothing, but it’s a very powerful engine. When you first start this engine, it’s all about revving itself, so it’s high tuned at the start. When you shift into Drive, the engine goes down a bit, but it’s still ready to rock… Put it back into Park.”

He was ready to kill me. Matricide was not out of the question. He huffed and put the gearshift back into Park.

I sat and went through any possible scenarios… I repeated just about everything we’d already gone over and I felt at this point we were close.

“Shift it back into Drive.”

Clunk clunk clunk…

“What’s L2?” he asked.

“Never mind that. It’s for hills and snow.”

“Oh, so it’s for Pennsylvania,” he said, smiling at me as his dimples deepened. His eyes twinkled.

“Yes. Pennsylvania. Sorry. I’m tense. I’ll be fine. You’re great. Let’s try this again. Gentle pressure off the brake as you move your right foot to the gas pedal. Then when you feel the car is slowing down, gently press on the gas… you’ll get a sense of it.”

And off we went. A full fifty feet from the front of our house up our driveway. He did alright, until it came to the brakes.

We lurched forward when he pressed the first time.

“AGH! Why did it DO THAT?!” he moaned, mad at himself.

“Because you pressed really hard. You saw the bushes getting closer and you stood on the brake. If you weren’t wearing your seat belt, you’d probably bump into the steering wheel a bit…” I said.

“So this car, this giant thing is like the ultimate training tool for life… ” he said.

I wasn’t sure where this was going.

“It’s like a pound-for-pound reflection of everything I do. If I steer the wrong way, the car goes the wrong way. If I press too hard on the gas, the car goes too fast. If I slam on the brakes, the car knocks my face into the windshield…”

“Yeah, something like that. It’s the ultimate truth-teller: it does everything you tell it to do. It’s trying out a new babysitter. The house might be quiet and tidy, and the kids might be in bed when you get home, but you’ll hear all about how the babysitter was when everyone wakes up and talks about it at breakfast,” I said.

I didn’t go into the fact that some cars, most notably Toyotas and GMs (and the old Audi 5000s and the ironical and aptly named Pontiac Fieros of my teenage years) accelerate on their own or catch fire all by themselves, but he seemed to get the point, that if something goes wrong when you’re driving, it’s very likely your fault.

“It’s frustrating. You can’t lie to a car. There is no easy way… It’s not very easy to do. No wonder they don’t want us texting and playing with the radio. I could barely get it into Reverse without wanting to scream.” (He had lots of frustration trying to just shift one tick from Park to Reverse. I won’t even go into manual transmissions with him yet…)

“No. You can’t lie to a car. They are like small children: they will do whatever you tell them to do and so you have to be really smart about what you tell them to do,” I said.

What does this story have to do with the quote?

Not a damned thing. I just felt like telling that story. It’s hard to share my life in 500 words or less. There’s lots going on these days.

Relative to the quote: Yeah. It’s totally liberating when we realize that:

1) we are not responsible for anyone else’s emotions or reactions — EVER! EVER! EVER! (please, if you read just this post, please please get that into your head),

2) stuff doesn’t make you happy.

3) you make you happy.

4) five minutes of happy really builds on itself and when that happens, you get very protective of your happy; you don’t want to be around people who bring you down… that’s another great sign that you’re in alignment with your happiness (I prefer “contentment”).

Thank you. Thank you for following this series or reading this post or subscribing to my blog or taking a momentary interest in what I have to say. I don’t do giveaways because I’m not that clever, but I do appreciate your being here. I like to think that my giveaway to you is perhaps a loving scrap of insight into your better Self.

Whatcha Think, Smahtypants?

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