It was one of those end-of-summer/beginning-of-fall Michigan afternoon days. The sky was the color of blue so common in drought-afflicted California, which I’d been missing sorely all summer while suffering in the humid purgatory of midwest peninsular living. My bumper-sticker-covered black RAV4 was humming down US-23 on the way back from selling shimmery violet eye shadow to a high school friend’s 13 year old. U2’s Achtung Baby tape was on a loop and Mysterious Ways had never sounded so good.
Moments after getting on the highway, I noticed that the gas light had blinked on, but I wasn’t concerned. I was sure I could make it all 40 miles back with the two gallons in reserve. No big deal. Multiple times I had engaged in the “let’s see how many miles I can get out of this tank of gas” experiment, and I was certain I had no reason to fear. Until I did. I’d just passed the “Plymouth Rd exit 1 mile ahead” sign when there was the teensiest skip in my motor. Like a heart dropping a beat. And my own heart sank. More beats dropped. I wasn’t sure if I should keep going 80 miles an hour and attempt to get to the exit and gas stations more quickly or drop down to 60 mph and hope for further distance. It didn’t matter.
My car began to slow. And slow. And slow. And I put on my flashers and coasted on the side of the road, cursing the rumble strips as they diminished my chance to make it. I rolled to a stop right in front of the exit sign and about half a mile from the nearest gas station. Kinda far to walk while lugging a gas can and close enough to watch all the exiting cars that could have stopped for me fly by at speeds high enough to shake my vehicle with their tailwinds.
I called AAA and they sent a skater guy in a mud-spattered monster truck to help me. Evidently roadside assistance companies are moving toward the Uber model. My rescuer spends his days hanging out at the skate park in Ann Arbor, waiting for calls, since most of his work came from a certain radius around that park. Works great for him. He’d forgotten his gas can, so he filled up an empty washer fluid container he had rattling around in the back and cut an Aquafina water bottle in half to serve as a funnel so the gas could actually make it into my tank. Adapt and overcome. Excellent. And then I was on my way, an hour after coming to a halt.
366 miles. That’s what I was able to get this time around out of 15 gallons. 24.4 mpg from a 15 year old car. Mother Google informs me “up to 25 city and 31 highway.” Maybe I shouldn’t be so impressed. But now I know the outside range and will do a better job of stopping sooner once that little light goes on.
Experiments don’t always have spectacular positive results. But that’s the point of doing an experiment, right?
To. See. What. Happens.
I’m a recovering perfectionist/efficiency-hearted woman. I have a lovely and useful blend of Germanic love of order and Latin joie de vivre/relaxed-ness. (Please forgive the sweeping ethnic generalities. I know they don’t apply everywhere to all people but they’re useful here to me because I do have German and Italian blood.) For a long season of my adult life, despite that one time I dyed the powdered milk green when I was a kid and then had to drink the entire pitcher myself, I was reluctant to try something whose outcome was uncertain. I didn’t want to waste my time and not have anything awesome to show for it. I was a bet-hedger. And then…I don’t know what little voice whispered to me this new mantra, but it’s been making a big difference in my life as of late.
“Let’s do an experiment.”
Let’s do an experiment! Let’s make jam with chia seeds instead of pectin and see what happens! Oops. It exploded as soon as the lid was turned after a couple of days in a cooler with uncertain and most likely insufficient cooling. Good to know. NOT A FAILURE. Just a point of information. Must eat more quickly. Must replenish ice. Or must make jam with more sugar (it doesn’t turn as quickly).
What about writing every day for 10 minutes? What would happen if I did that? Turns out, a creative explosion. Forty Artist Trading Cards created, an idea for a journal, a phone call to a friend that led to this blog getting created, a tiny effigy of the cover of the book I will publish some day, asking for encouragement to keep writing and getting it.
Or switching what I normally eat to a fat-based diet (working on reprogramming my body to burn fat for fuel instead of glucose). I now get a MONSTER headache if I eat sugar and my whole being feels a lot more than eight pounds lighter. I don’t have low blood sugar crashes. Getting hangry isn’t something that happens anymore. Carbs don’t have as much power over me as they used to, although I DID just put a spoonful of sugar over some fresh-picked raspberries and then cover them in cream. Life is too short not to eat raspberries, sugar and cream.
Or two Saturdays ago, in closing a Mary Kay party (Yes! I sell Mary Kay – comes shop with me! www.marykay.com/nwhite), when I tried some words my director had given me: “Option One: you join my team, I teach you to do what I do and you get skin care and color at 50% off for the rest of your life. Option Two: I sell you product at full price and you go home and use it and feel beautiful. Option Three: You hold a party and get a bunch of FREE product.” One of the guests said “So what’s it mean to join your team?” She’s a welder who lives in Detroit. I wouldn’t have pegged her as someone who would be stoked to sell make up. But guess what? She just joined my team last night. And, turns out, she IS stoked to sell make up. All because I did an experiment.
Attempting new things with a spirit of inquiry instead of as something that HAS TO WORK or it means XYZ about me is such a lighter way to live. I’m grateful I’ve discovered this now and sad it wasn’t sooner. Perfectionism is a tight, constricted, juice-less way to exist, and there’s nothing in me that wants any of those things in my life.
What’s an experiment you’ve been wanting to do? What would happen if you approached with gentle curiosity any new thing that’s been hanging out in the corners of your mind, whispering “What if?”
Why not try?