Drop the Top
Making Decisions that Bring You Peace
By Anne Wolfe Postic
In October, a lovely young woman rear-ended me at a stop sign. She was sweet and honest, apologizing profusely and accepting responsibility immediately. When she asked for a hug, I obliged. No one was hurt, so we exchanged information and went our separate ways. Hooray! Right?
As it happens, my car was totaled. No big deal, since her insurance was footing the bill. Months passed as the insurance adjuster dealt with some personal problems, seemed overwhelmed at work, and took a well-deserved vacation. Then the holidays came. At the time of this writing, the claim lingers, unresolved, but that’s a whole ‘nother story, as they say.
Silver linings and mundane joy are my jam, so I let my 14-year-old son choose my rental wheels, which lead to a selection of American muscle cars. They were fun! But the last one, a Mustang convertible, stole my heart. I fell hard, and even decorated it with Christmas lights for the holidays. Giving it back was going to hurt.
For months, I agonized over whether to buy another new car or something used. My frustration grew while I waited on a settlement, the imaginary storm cloud growing with each unanswered email. I missed out on end-of-the-year deals, and dreaded using savings to get a new car. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, I thought, what if I need every penny to escape to…I wasn’t sure where.
The Mustang was the vacation no one could take. A short drive to the grocery store — top down, wind in my hair, heated seats activated, and Englebert Humperdinck blasting from the speakers — felt like a trip to somewhere new. Or at least a weekend getaway.
My feelings about returning to the family car game were not mixed so much as negative, but I knew it was the right thing to do. Or was it? On not quite a whim, I visited my favorite purveyor of used cars. After some discussion, he delivered the verdict, “If you came here to be talked out of the Mustang, you came to the wrong place.” I slept on it, woke up the next morning feeling at peace, and asked him to find one. It arrives next week! But I digress.
Decisions come with adulthood, and perfect choices are elusive. You ponder options for days (or weeks or months). You lie awake at night, wondering which job is right, if you should get a dog, or whether the teal velvet sofa is practical. You wander the aisles of the grocery store, unable to put your finger on what exactly you want. So you come home with a bunch of mismatched groceries and order pizza, which isn’t what you wanted either.
The best way to manage that anxiety is to do something. How do you start? Flip a coin. If you’re disappointed with the result, go with the other choice. If you feel relieved or happy, stick with it.
Still unsure? Make lists, pros and cons. Which list was the hardest to make? If there aren’t enough pros to justify an option, move on. Did you struggle to think of cons? Decision made!
If that doesn’t work, ask for advice. May I recommend someone who will tell you what you want to hear? While our car dealer friend is definitely an expert, and I knew I could trust his advice, I’d also seen quite a few sporty cars on his lot. If you ask someone who knows what they’re doing, and they give you the advice you want to hear, you still got good advice.
Ask yourself what happens if you make the wrong choice, whatever that is. What’s the worst case scenario? Can you live with that, or is the benefit not worth the risk? After researching Mustang safety ratings and reliability, and being sufficiently impressed, I realized that if a drop top doesn’t bring me the joy I imagine, I can sell it. Very few decisions are irrevocable, even the big ones.
Children crave control. Adults soon realize that control isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and choices can be stressful and consuming. Acknowledging that there is no perfect choice, and often no clear winner, goes a long way if the goal is not to win, but to achieve peace. After all, my used Mustang might be someone else’s less than perfect choice, but I bet we’re both sleeping just fine. And I can’t wait to drop that top as soon as the sun comes out.