For those of you not aware of what “overdrive” is in a car, I’ll try to simply explain it. Overdrive is a gear in the transmission that is less than a 1:1 ratio with the engine. Effectively, the wheels turn faster than the motor.
It's great for cruising at higher speeds. The engine doesn’t have to work as hard, so it’s a more efficient use of fuel. There is so much weight and momentum behind the car that it could happily glide along with barely any input, needing only to overcome wind resistance and the occasional uphill segment of highway with a millimeter more depressing of the accelerator pedal.
However, there is a large drawback to overdrive. Whenever there is a requirement for more power, or a significant loss in speed to make up for, the engine has to work extra hard to return to stasis. The driver has to press the accelerator even further. The transmission has to abruptly shift out of the overdrive gear. More fuel is burnt, the noise gets louder, and all of those moving parts have to take on more stress just to get around that slow truck or steeper hill. The larger the amount of speed to make up, the harder all of the contraption has to work, just to get back to overdrive.
It is much the same for me, almost four years out from Megan’s death. For the most part, I’m happily cruising along in life in overdrive, which, although the word itself sounds a bit like it means “charging ahead”, really just means that everything is in equilibrium and routine. Life isn’t so tough most of the time. Sure, there's the occasional moment where the wind or the slope slightly increases, but there is enough momentum behind it all to largely coast past it.
But when moments occur, either in one large, stressful roadblock, or multiple instances of “losing speed” seemingly one after the other, it’s much harder work than it would have been in the past. My stress becomes elevated, the transmission in my mind has to shift gears to power through the smallest bit of resistance.
Perhaps, to continue the metaphor, Megan was one of the spark plugs in my engine. Losing her put me down on power. Stressful moments now have to be dealt with more aggressively, more directly and deliberately pressing the accelerator. Failing to “punch it” may bring me to a complete stop. Tiny things, that in the past would have been coasted by, are now more significant.
I am much, much more AWARE of stressors now. Having your spouse die kind of has a way of heightening one’s awareness about anything that seems out of sorts. As it turns out, being more aware also means my responses are in turn more potent. I’m noticing my fuel gauge starting to drop closer to the “E”, which means some action needs to be taken in order to keep cruising along happily.
I would presume that most of you know that when you’re running out of fuel, the best course of action is to refill. That’s coming in a few weeks, at Camp Widow in Toronto. It will be a welcome break from the road.
Once I’m topped back off though, it will behoove me to acknowledge that there will ALWAYS be resistance or obstructions on any path we take. Anticipating these, and smoothly reacting to them well in advance will always be more efficient than stomping on the brakes, and then the accelerator, just trying to get past some random incident.
For a gearhead like me, I'm able to put my own journey into simple, automotive terms, and realize that although I was in a metaphorical crash four years ago, my vehicle has been repaired. It will never be shiny and new again, but I'm able to keep it going and drive it with the care and attention that operating a car deserves. Sure, it needs more maintenance than a new one would, but it's bought and paid for.