blog, self improvement

How Driving Iron Man’s Car Changed My Life

audi R8_Marlene Bitzer
Photo by Marlene Bitzer via pixabay

 

This isn’t life in the fast lane, it’s life in the oncoming traffic.
Terry Pratchett

I was Iron Man once.

It all started with an invisible birthday. You know, one where you have appropriately low expectations and still you come away disappointed. Instead of getting resentful or angry, I did the grown-up thing and bought my own damn gift.

Back then I was deep in the trenches of life, juggling my practice, children, spouse, and parents. Everything was top priority except me. While driving home late one evening a sleek black car passed me by, slung low to the ground with a restrained purr. I watched it disappear in my rearview mirror, knowing I’d never be able to own anything like that. Where would the kids go, and the guitar, and the cello, and the dog?

But a seed had been planted. Months later, I booked myself a supercar experience day. It was time to change the script.

Go Your Own Way

When I’m a bit sad I just go for a drive in the country, quite fast with my music up.
Calvin Harris

The world is full of people ready to tell you why you can’t do something just because they can’t envision themselves doing it. I turned up to an old airfield for the track driving day feeling both apprehensive and excited. Everyone I asked was busy that day so I went alone, and soon found that all the other women there were part of a couple.

Did they regard me with pity, disdain, amusement, or disapproval? I chose not to worry about those possibilities, and instead watched the cars flying around the track. We were all there to enjoy fast cars, and their opinions of me were unimportant.

Other people’s expectations and judgement will throw you off course. Often the best plan is to keep your own counsel. Don’t talk about what you will do. Just do it, and let actions speak for themselves.

In The Driving Seat

I am not reggae, I am me. I am bigger than the limits that are put on me. It all has to do with the individual journey.
Ziggy Marley

We listened to our safety briefing, and then the instructors came to collect each couple for their drive around the track. While I watched the first few people take their laps, a man asked me if I’d really come alone. I told him it was my birthday treat to myself, and he gave me a pitying smile.

“So there’s nobody to take photos of you? Well, never mind.”  

We say pics or it didn’t happen because modern society runs on proof that can be posted to social media. But photos are only a proxy for experience. Memories matter.

In the end, there’s only one person in the driver’s seat and that’s you. Don’t wait for someone else to agree, go out there and do your thing regardless.

A Helping Hand

I used to have horrible cars that would always end up broken down on the highway. When I tried to flag someone down, nobody stopped. But if I pushed my own car, other drivers would get out and push with me. If you want help, help yourself – people like to see that.
Chris Rock

Soon it was my turn to be called. Joe, my instructor, was totally unfazed that I was alone. He pointed out the controls on the Audi R8 and let me get used to the unfamiliar paddle shift.  Signs around the track reminded drivers when to brake and change gear, but with so much happening it was hard to take it all in.

That’s when the calm voice of my instructor cut through my adrenaline, giving instruction and suggestions. This intense driving experience took me back to being a new driver, overwhelmed by inputs from every direction. As hard as it seemed, I had to take a breath and listen, even as I also steered through curves and held on down the straights.

Find a coach or mentor for your activity, whatever it is. Be humble about your lack of knowledge and respectful of theirs. Open your mind and be teachable, and you’ll find yourself going further and moving faster.

Need For Speed

If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.
Mario Andretti

By the start of my last lap, I relaxed a little. The car was unlike anything I’d ever driven; more powerful, more precise, more responsive, more everything. My top speed of one hundred and thirty-two was more than enough to keep me happy.

My instructor had other ideas.

After steering through a fast chicane that was already a favourite, I accelerated towards the second last turn.

“Keep your foot down,” he said.

“Really?” I eased off, obeying years of ingrained caution.

“Not yet.” Joe seemed unconcerned by the rapid approach of the Brake Now sign.

We barrelled towards the turn, every red light flashing in my brain. Surely this was certain to end badly?

“You’re all right. You have time.”

At that moment time slowed down. Joe had put his life quite literally in my hands, so I had to trust myself too.

The brake sign was a distant memory and my mouth was dry, but I focused, listening for one word. Nothing else existed.

“Now.”

I braked hard. The car responded to my every command, following the curve cleanly and then bursting forward in an explosion of glorious speed that took me all the way to the finish line.

You can go further, harder, faster than you believe, with a little encouragement at the right time. Going beyond the limits you set yourself even once is exhilarating, building self-belief and the confidence to dare again.

So stretch your goals, ask more of yourself than you think you can do. If you can be that person urging someone on, do it. Show them the faith they don’t yet have in themselves.

Photo by Daniele Fantin on Unsplash

A Dream In Parts

A psychologist said to me, there are only two important questions you have to ask yourself. What do you really feel? And, what do you really want? If you can answer those two, you probably can leave your neuroses behind you.
Harold Ramis

I drove home buzzing after my track experience in a sensible family car that suited my needs at that time. Parking, speed bumps, vandalism and lack of interior space would have made daily ownership of a supercar impractical.

But any dream can be broken into parts, some of which are within your grasp even if you have to stretch. The first step is to know what you dream of. The second is to look for ways to make it happen.

The dream of owning an R8 that had been ignited by a chance encounter seemed impossible. I had to rethink the parameters.

Consider renting, borrowing, or sharing a dream.

For a short time, enjoy the benefits of a fast car, a beach house, or a city penthouse. Then give back the keys and walk away without having to worry about the grim realities of upkeep and insurance.  

Before you do even that, dig a little deeper. What do you really want? What does the car, the house, or the title of CEO really mean for you? Uncovering your motivations steers you in the right direction so you won’t spend time and energy in the wrong place.

For me, the car represented more than the money needed to buy it. It worked perfectly. When I asked, it responded. For once there was no compromise – I got exactly what I wanted. Having complete control was exhilarating.

Dream car = total freedom.

Every time I see an Audi R8 I smile and remember. That joy alone, repeated over years since my drive, repaid the cost and difficulty of making it happen a thousand times over.

So the next time you find yourself fantasising, ask yourself what does this dream represent? How can I bring it within my grasp?

Then ignore the naysayers and make it real, just for you. You deserve it.


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blog, Pat Aitcheson writes

How to Escape the Blame Game and Reclaim Your Happiness

leave blame behind and take control

balloons-boy_bugent
bugent via pixabay

We all have baggage.

Yours isn’t the same as mine but it’s all heavy. It weighs us down in the present because we can’t face the future without looking back at what happened in the past.

And then we place blame.

“I can’t succeed as a writer because my English teacher said I lacked imagination.”

“I can’t get close to anyone because my mother said I was unlovable.”

“I lack confidence because someone said I was ugly.”

Blame lets you off the hook. The blame game is satisfying because it allows you to simultaneously wallow in past hurt and dodge any remedial actions. It’s not your fault, you cry. People or life or the universe did you wrong. You can’t help the position you’re in.

Well, guess what? That story you tell yourself and anyone who’ll listen is BS.

Not My Fault!

A few years ago The Secret by Rhonda Byrne swept to the top of bestseller lists all over the world. It sold people one beguiling idea: that you could bring about anything you wanted by asking the Universe for it. It repackaged ideas about the power of positive thinking that had been around since Think and Grow Rich was written in 1937 and brought them into the modern age.

But this bright smiley idea has a dark side. It’s this; if bad things happen, you brought them on yourself by negative thinking. Got laid off? Ill health? Betrayed by someone? You weren’t thinking right and now it’s your fault.

This idea is insidious and fails to acknowledge that some people have very real challenges that aren’t necessarily avoidable. Nobody chooses a hard life if they have a choice.

In this case, something bad happened and it was not your fault. You shouldn’t blame yourself for events that are out of your direct control.

Fault lies with whoever caused the event.

Blame is something you lay at the feet of the person who caused it.

But while they are responsible for causing the event, you also have a responsibility. It’s your job to fix yourself.

Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

Still On The Hook

Understand you’re not letting the person responsible off the hook. If your father was a violent alcoholic, he made his choices and acted accordingly. Your task now is to choose how you go forward from the place you find yourself in through no fault of your own.

Constantly pointing back to the past won’t help. You have to accept the task of building your own happiness, without either sacrificing it on the altar of blame or outsourcing it to someone or something else.

It’s not necessary to forgive what happened. Remember that forgiveness is a gift for you, not a prize for wrongdoing.  You get the benefit; you release yourself from the burden of grief and move forward with a lighter heart.

That might be too much to ask. But it’s not necessary to forgive or forget. What you must do is focus on yourself and your future.

Time To Take Charge

It may not be your fault, but it is for sure your responsibility to fix it.
Will Smith

Will Smith posted a short video in which he explains his idea. He advocates reclaiming your power by facing the truth of your situation and any necessary change head-on but leaving fault behind.

Once again, the person with a strong internal locus of control is better equipped for the task of forging their own path. They’re used to setting their own standards and goals before working out how to achieve them. They accept help if needed and work together with their advisers to succeed.

The person with an external locus of control believes that when things happen to them they’re relatively powerless to change the outcome. They look for answers and remedies outside themselves and are typically passive observers of their lives. They want to be saved. They get angry when the solutions don’t magically appear and don’t expect to exert any effort to achieve them.

But It’s Not Fair

I know the world isn’t fair, but why isn’t it ever unfair in my favor?
Bill Watterson

From my first day of school, I faced relentless bullying. It never really stopped as I got older, it simply changed. The boys chanting names behind five-year-old me all the way home gave way to the woman who was enraged that eighteen-year-old me got the university place that rightly belonged to her son. And so on.

I was hurt and confused and angry. I wasn’t at fault, I simply existed in the same space as people who thought I shouldn’t be there. Many tears were shed in secret.

We all live in a story of our own making. Sometimes we write the script, other times we speak other people’s words. We don’t always control the scenes. But our lives are stories, and we can change them.

The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.
John Pierpont “J.P.” Morgan

So you’re going to take a long hard look at some of the scripts that run your life. You’re going to be brutally honest about how you react to the bad stuff. And you’re going to change and do better.

For me, that means acknowledging things that have happened without laying blame. Blame is a trap that steals both agency and hope.

People act at their current level of thinking, and they cannot do better until they think better. It’s not my job to change their minds. It’s my job to change mine.

I have to do the work of repairing my wounds, grow a thicker skin, strengthen my resolve, and claim the life I want. It’s not fair and it’s not right, but that’s life and we deserve to thrive despite it all.

Get Up That Ladder

If lightning strikes your roof, you can cry or curse the weather. The rain will keep coming in as long as you fail to fix the problem that you didn’t cause.

Or you get out the ladder and call someone who can help because you’re the one getting wet. Choosing to stay wet? That’s on you.

Stuff happens. It is what it is. What the future will be is up to you.

blog, Pat Aitcheson writes

Is love ever a mistake?

better to hope than to love

rose petal red_malubeng
malubeng via pixabay

Love. It’s the greatest good we have as humans. Most of us chase it all our lives, and sometimes even find it. But in the nature of these things, finding and keeping is not the same thing. I wrote elsewhere about different kinds of love, but romantic love is the one the songs, films and books mostly hold up as the ultimate.

We say love is forever and yet we know it is not. We enter into contracts and exchange rings that symbolise an unending circle. And we quietly build exits and escape clauses.

We hope and pray that love will last, but objectively everything that has a beginning has an end, as The Matrix Revolutions had it. It was a remark by Jake Lira of @thecreative.cafe that got me wondering about the wrong turns and detours we make in search of The One. He asked: is love ever a mistake?

Perhaps there are no mistakes, only progress we can’t see at the time.

Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.
Søren Kierkegaard

If we look at life this way, it gives us some hope. When things seem to be going wrong, we are simply taking an unexpected turn on the road of life. Those footprints cannot be erased anyway. We can’t deny our past; we can only make peace with it.

With this in mind, we are able to look back at past experiences and take what can be learned from them. Some loves are like flowers; beautiful and doomed, and all the more precious because they are ephemeral. What we should treasure is not this idea of romantic love, in whichever way we live it, but the capacity to feel love not once, but many times.

As long as we are able to try again, the possibility of grasping love remains. And the emotion that keeps us going in its absence is hope.

Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.
The Architect, The Matrix Reloaded (2003) The Wachowskis

As Pandora found, when all is lost, hope is the tiny flame that lights the darkness. And the deeper the dark, the brighter it shines.