I test drove a new car today.
It was shiny and unblemished next to my worn and pockmarked almost-sixteen-year-old car. Its pristine surfaces spoke not of its past but whispered of its future.
This was a car that has never disappointed me. Never failed to start or stuttered to a stop. No red flags have ever lit its dash. Whereas my car is sullied by my memories of its betrayals, this car has not earned a reputation of any kind.
And not only had this car not disappointed me, I had not done any damage to it, unlike my car with its scraped rear end from a misguided back-up attempt and its interior covered with mud and dog hair. You see, I have long since stopped putting any energy into my car. And it shows.
But this new car is different.
It suggests a fresh start. A clean slate.
It has the allure of promise and the taste of potential.
It’s enough to make me recoil from my old car, the mostly-faithful machine that has carried me through my entire adult life. I know her; I can drive her without a thought, every button and pedal activated by years of muscle memory. But as the years have advanced, I’ve grown tired of her. I’ve let her go and then poked fun at her grubby appearance. I’ve started to focus on when she lets me down rather than the 130,000 miles she has carried me without complaint. I grow frustrated at her nonfunctional trunk and laugh at the antennae that looks to be in need of a hearty dose of Viagra.
And, of course, the new car only seems so great because we have only shown each other our best sides. It has not yet revealed its little annoyances and shortcomings and I have not presented it with sweaty limbs after a run or a muddy dog after a hike. Everything is great when it is only possibility.
Because even though I test drove a new car today, I was really test driving a new life.
I liked the image of myself behind the wheel in the shiny, new vehicle. You see, I’ve grown embarrassed to be seen with the old and unkempt one. The new car felt like a better reflection of me. I enjoyed the fact that this car had no memories, no past. No baggage. It was as though I could start fresh just by buying a new vehicle. I made the promise to keep up with new one, to attend to dirt and grime along with the recommended oil changes and tire rotations.
New is intoxicating.
And not just for cars.
Our relationships can take on a sense of dissatisfaction just as easily as an old car. Any relationship that has traveled the miles will carry the marks of past fights or disappointments. An established relationship reminds you of your shortcomings and your mistakes. If you fail to take care of your marriage, it will show its age just as with any vehicle.
The hint of a new relationship is just as alluring as the pull of a new car. It’s why people so often leave established relationships for someone they just met. The routine spouse cannot compete against the shiny new showroom model that is full of promise and potential. A new partner does not yet know anything we choose not to reveal; we can pretend to be the airbrushed versions of ourselves. The everyday is replaced with the excitement of the unfamiliar.
It’s hard to compete against beginnings.
They hold a special power. They allow us to dream and explore, often through a land of make-believe.
Because the thing about beginnings is that they cannot last. Just as that new car loses value as its driven off the lot, a new affair loses its luster as soon as the blinding dust of lust has dispersed and reality intrudes into fantasy. The strength of the appeal of the new is found in its novelty. And nothing stays novel for long.
I test drove a new car today. But then I returned home to my old (usually) faithful with the commitment of having her oil changed this weekend followed by a good cleaning. Because sometimes the best thing you can do is ignore the lure of the new and take care of what you have.
At least until she leaves me stranded again. At which point, I’ll set her up with my mechanic and run off with a new model. I can only take so much:)