How a vintage car helped me to better understand myself

I remember that summer.  

It was the first time I had travelled overseas as a young adult.  At the end of my first year of University, my best friend and I decided to leave small-town Ireland and spend a summer working abroad.  We decided to go to California, where we were lucky enough to be able to stay rent-free in a house my uncle owned.

My uncle loved to restore old cars in his spare time, and he let us drive an old Pontiac that he had purchased shortly before we came to stay. He was going to restore it after our summer visit.

We were so excited about the summer. We were adults, we had full-time jobs and had planned a little fun.  Our uncle conveniently decided to go on a vacation of his own for the summer.  Bonus!

We kept the car clean, drove back and forth to work every day and kept it filled up with gas.

The first thing that started to go was the power steering. This was a large car, and so it was really heavy for us to turn. But we did, because we needed to get to work. You do what you gotta do, right?

Then the air-conditioning went too. Boy, was it hot. For Irish girls in California with no air conditioning, it was hot! We used to joke around that the torturous heat “built character,” and we had a good laugh about it.

Next we noticed the oil gauge was dipping lower. So we started adding oil. Every time we fueled up, we added oil, too. I mean, if we kept it topped up, everything should be fine until uncle got back, right?

The final straw was when we heard the clang, clang, clang out of the engine. We had no idea what was going on. Pretty soon we figured it out though - we had killed the engine.  Dead.

We didn’t know what exactly that meant for the car—could it be restored or fixed?— but we knew it wasn’t good. And we felt awful about it. When he got back from his vacation, I remember telling my uncle what had happened. I was shivering despite the oppressive heat. He wasn’t happy, and suffice it to say, the fallout from that wasn’t quick, easy or nice.

It wasn't until many years later that the true meaning of this experience resonated with my life.  And I'm sharing it now because it just might resonate with yours, too.

In the past few years, I've started to think about myself as that vintage car. Fabulous. Groovy. Appreciated by many. Loved by some. Not everyone’s cup of tea.

I was that car that had so much to offer, so many miles ahead of it…but it was driven until it “died” in the hands of an innocent (if reckless) driver (hint: me).

I realized I had been ignoring, minimizing, accepting, overlooking or “topping up” when annoying or concerning symptoms (stress, illness, bad relationships, arguments with partners, yucky job situations) popped up. Crossing my fingers that I could get through the next thing, the next hurdle. Hoping that it would all resolve itself by magic, or that I would arrive at my destination before the engine fell out.

Sometimes (often?) I would even blame the manufacturer—or the last mechanic who worked on my car—for the issues that keep popping up.

Boy, I can tell you that was me and my life for many years. And my engine pretty much fell out. After a childhood rife with family chaos and friction, several inter-continental moves, the birth of my own three children and the stress of being self-employed, I burned out and developed an auto-immune disease.

And I realized that blaming others for that having happened solved nothing. I could no longer play the victim of bad circumstance, poor mechanics or lousy luck.

So I changed my approach.

Instead of blaming others, I chose to forgive their errors and choices—and most of all I forgave myself. Instead of running until my tank was running on fumes, I took time out to breathe, meditate and nurture my body. My car couldn’t fix itself, so I sought the help of friends and experts. And instead of driving blindly in the dark, I began to trust my intuition to know which path was the right one for me.

I’ve finally learned to love my vintage, groovy self. I now can recognize the signs of stress and overwhelm. I know when there is something triggering an old limiting belief and how to tackle that too. And I’m sure when I need to go get an oil-change, or maybe even an overhaul.

Because I want to get to my destination and achieve my dreams, and I want to be in one groovy piece when I get there.

What about you: When is the last time you “looked under the hood”?

Note: Original version of this article was published here.


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About the Author

Tanya Tinney is a mom of three beautiful girls (including fraternal twins), wife of an amazing entrepreneurial man, nature lover, wrangler of two large dogs and chaser of three bad cats. She is equally good at baking banana bread and whipping up a killer margarita. Her passion is helping fabulous people get unstuck from their past so they can blast through current challenges and get really stuck into achieving their dreams. With three University degrees and 14 years experience working as a psychologist, most of the time she knows what she's talking about. The rest of the time she 'wings it' based on her own messy life experiences. Her approach is one of laser focus, empathy and intuition with a healthy dose of humor - along with a kick-in-the-you-know-what when necessary (and it often is!).

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