Five p.m., heavy traffic and heading home an hour later than I thought I would be. The slowest light in the city turned red as I flicked my blinker and eased into the left-hand turn lane. With three cars ahead of me I stopped the car prepared to wait longer than it would take for a train to pass before I would move again. While I thought about dinner and the long day that had just ended, I noticed something out of place. Smoke. White and grey smoke near the hood of the passenger’s side of the car. I watched as it became a plume that poured into the neighboring lane. I hit the emergency flashers, I looked around for a way out of the way. I was stuck. The smoke continued to roll when the light finally turned green. It continued to roll as I drove as quickly as I could to the first available place to land it, hoping flames would wait until I got it parked and got out.

There were no flames. I left my sensible, paid off, over 200,000 miles, smokey sedan all alone in the back of a parking lot and walked into the little fast-food restaurant nearby….to wait.

After a year plus of practically no interaction with anyone outside of my immediate family, I had been suddenly thrust into something that felt like the previous business as usual. Morning phone calls and emails. A breakfast group talk on beekeeping followed by an afternoon interview about history books. Admittedly, this transitional period between COVID and post-COVID wasn’t nearly as demanding as pre-COVID. Still, it was like going from zero to fifty.

I drove the car towards home, thankfully with my husband behind me the entire time and on speaker phone, just in case. I made it six miles from home when the power steering went out followed by the battery light, followed by every warning light on the dashboard. I made it five miles from home when it wouldn’t go anymore. Off to the edge of the road she went. Grabbed my things and hopped in my husband’s truck.

Several hours later a tow truck gently placed the ole’ sedan at the side of the house. The good news was that the alternator had gone out and while doing so found a little bit of oil to burn (hence all the smoke). The bad news was that it was going to be a few days before it was up and running again. But was it bad news?

There were no thoughts of going anywhere the next morning, with that being impossible. I had the entire day at home. I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. So, I cleaned. I vacuumed, washed clothes, worked in the garden, read a few chapters of a book, caught up on a few computer tasks and sat at the goldfish pond… because I felt like doing so.

At the end of the day, the house was spotless, and my soul was happy and calm. That’s when I realized that Stay Home Wednesday, needed to become a permanent thing. It is sad that we need an excuse to turn the world off for a day, but the American Lifestyle doesn’t embrace the silly notion of simply being.

Imagine being:

Purposeful instead of Productive

Satisfied instead of Successful

Focused instead of a Multi-Tasker

Present instead of Distracted

Serene instead of Busy

Not everyone has the luxury of having Stay at Home Wednesdays. Not everyone can take even one day during the week to turn the world off. Even a Saturday or Sunday, or just one evening once a week to stay home as if your car doesn’t run, as if your phone doesn’t work, maybe as if your internet hit the fritz- it’s worth it. Again, we shouldn’t need an excuse to get off the treadmill. If you’ve felt a little overwhelmed with this current transitional period, even if like me you’ve only attempted zero to fifty, I hope this inspires you to find a way to determine your own speed limit and stick to it.

Speaking of which, the ole’ sedan is back up and running! Except on Wednesdays.

Audrey L Elder

Meaningful Living