Keeping a Promise

08 Apr 2022

By Anne Postic

Is a promise to yourself hanging over you like an April rain cloud? Just like New Year’s resolutions, many years ago I made a vow that there would be no more resolutions, no more self-promises I might not fulfill. Since I never kept them, they only made me feel guilty and incompetent. Doesn’t the world do that for us already? Why, I reasoned, would I pile more on? That’s just bullying, right? Right!

Motivated by a long-awaited trip to Europe, I had pledged to myself to learn how to drive a stick shift once and for all.When we were newlyweds, my husband taught me the basics. Then I got pregnant and decided the risk wasn’t worth the benefit. Given even the slightest incline, no car behind me on a hill was safe once the light turned green. All that stopping and starting was pretty rough on my bladder, which was also being used as a trampoline by the growing baby-to-be, so I quit.

By the time I was ready to try again, the car was long gone, and I didn’t want to destroy a friend’s car with my cringey gear grinding. My husband wasn’t going to leave me for trashing his car. Friends are easier to lose, though, and I like all of mine.

Years later, that bladder-jumping baby is now a 23-year-old man who works in France. We decided to visit him for Christmas and New Year’s. Because of my inability to drive a car with a manual transmission, we paid extra to rent a car in Europe, where most people know how to actually drive. Over the years, I’ve learned to shimmy past the little bit of shame I feel every time they hand over the keys, emphasizing that the car is automatic, pour la dame americaine. Whatever. Just give me the cheese (and bread, and foie gras,
and chocolate).

This time, we were handed the keys to an enormous van, the sort of vehicle driven by church groups or people with too many kids. We only have three children, but they have grown rather large, making the Peugeot Traveler seem like a good ride. That is until one of us put non-diesel fuel in the diesel tank. Thankfully, we had the sense not to start the car, so it was salvageable. Had we turned the key, we would have owned it – destroyed engine and all. It would be in our backyard now, probably serving as my office, which could have been nice… but I digress.

The only replacement car available had a manual transmission. My husband bravely agreed to drive. The rental agent watched as he started the car, muttering under his breath that he wished the guy would just look away because that’s a lot of pressure for a rusty stick-shifter. My husband was forced to chauffeur me the rest of the trip, and I knew what I had to do.

In January, Google led me to a stick shift driving instructor just an hour away, so I booked a three-hour lesson as well as a hotel room and a massage for that night to help me recover. My instructor Lee was incredibly patient. After about two hours of lurching around the parking lot, he was even relaxed enough to check a text on his phone. I felt really proud. Self-promise resolved! (Though I would still like a sign warning drivers behind me on a hill at a stoplight.)

I was so inspired by conquering this simple task that two weeks later I watched a YouTube video and learned how to sew on a button correctly. I may count that for next year’s resolution, but there are plenty of other things I should know. Like, how hard can it be to tighten an old socket so plugs don’t fall out of it? (Don’t worry. I’ll turn off the breaker first.)

I hope this confessional inspires you to accomplish whatever it is you would like to conquer. If not, might I recommend that you resolve to quit bullying yourself in the meantime

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