A couple of days ago, I bought a new car. Not really a big deal in the larger sense but this one was a little different – more so for the cars we got rid of and not what we purchased. Like most things in life, there is a lesson or something deeper in most any event or change if we just pay attention. In this case, we had decided it was time to replace our aging and high mileage SUV with something we could reasonably move into retirement (still a couple of years away) with so we wouldn’t need to have that expense hanging there and it would better position us for replacement of my wife’s car in the next couple of years. On the surface, this was merely a trade of two older cars for one new. It made financial sense as adding a large car payment at this time isn’t in our plan. One vehicle was a 2006 Saab 9-7X with 145K miles on it. The other a 2010 Nissan 370Z with less than 10K on it. From my vantage point, the loss of the 370Z was the larger loss – not huge and at this time last year I would have never even considered it. Interesting what a difference a year can make. The decision came to me for several reasons, none which most anyone else would care about and several would probably be looked at with a quizzical squint and a “you’ve got to be kidding” mumbled softly. Bottom line, when it came to it, it felt right in my heart – as well as my head. I learned to trust that a long time ago. While there is much to miss with the Z, there is much less today than when I got it. It served the purpose intended. But that is not the point here. It provided me some great feelings and was basically an adult toy – and it kind of meant, for us, we had achieved something special that we were able to buy it.
The Saab 9-7X is another matter. This car was my workhorse. It was a very nice SUV when we got it – it had more bells and whistles than I had ever had in a car before. It became the vehicle that did everything and went everywhere. It moved kids to and from college, from living home to first apartments, from barn to horse show, from Home Depot and Lowes back to our house – there was little I couldn’t get into the car and very few things I was unwilling to put in it. It took me around the Northeast as I went from one client site to all my others and back again. It was reliable and really never let me down. It was never babied and I hauled everything imaginable in it. In many ways, it had more personality than the Z.
So who really cares about this and why do I think it is worth sharing? I share this due to another aspect of our car buying experience yesterday – the part that was really about the feelings behind the obvious part of trading in something old to get something new. To me (in my usual sense), it was more looking forward as I have a new vehicle to learn about and experience. I only saw positive. For my wife, it was a tough day – and ultimately for all the reasons I love her as I do and feel lucky and proud she chose to spend her life with me. To her, the day was not to celebrate the new car – even though she was obviously happy I was happy. For her, there was a loss – one across a couple of dimensions. There were tears, and more tears. A little embarrassment (not necessary) and some apologies (also not necessary) to the car salesman – I saw neither as needed as it was clear to me what was going on. It was really the loss of something beyond the cars – much deeper and much more understandable in the larger sense. It was really about us moving on and leaving something that was important and vital in our lives together. The cars represented another segment of our life as a family of four and our growth and experience together. It was about college moves, the barn and Bear, mulching the yard, ice cream sitting in a convertible on a warm summer night. It was about the daily rides that Gunther demanded. It was about both kids no longer really being kids – as they found their way moving into being full-fledged adults. It was about us really becoming empty nesters (at least for a while) and the feelings and opportunities that only existed for us before children over 28 years ago. While the timeframes these cars spanned definitely had its share of challenges, it was really about how good our lives have been at each phase. In many ways, the tears are very understandable. We’ve been through this previously – in other situations where something that was central in our life was changed and a flood of memories resulted. Each time, we’ve sat and talked about the time and the events connected to the change. There are always numerous “Remember when….” and together we could re-experience that time together – sometimes with tears but more often with laughter and smiles. We don’t live in the past but it is important to embrace what the past has been about and often how it helps define today. Maybe we are lucky that we have a considerable amount to embrace. But in any case, there is a lesson or two here I think everyone can take note of – it is entirely too easy to get caught up in the moment or to spend too much energy thinking about tomorrow. The never-ending load of crap out there that can interfere with your life – people, politics, the economy, whatever. Sometimes it has to and there is always a need to do planning for the future. But we shouldn’t do it at the cost of losing yesterday.
Stopping to smell the flowers is critical not only for the moment but it is what allows you to retrace paths and flowers from earlier walks – the good and the not so good. But, again, isn’t that what life is really about. Cherish when and what you can.