Looking Backward to Move Forward – The Story of Herbert Sinclair
by Shanan Winters
It’s that time of year again. You know the one…
…when everyone around you is making their resolutions, and you’re sitting in the corner taking bets on how long they last.
Okay, maybe that’s just me.
I don’t do resolutions. The very word – resolve – means to fix or find a solution. Here’s a news flash for you: You are not a problem begging for a solution.
Sure, we all have our things-that-we-want-to-change. But seriously, for one moment, look backward. Look at where you were. Where you came from. Who were you a decade ago? Or maybe you only need to peek back as far as last year, or last month, or even last week. What have you learned since then?
Who are you right now that you weren’t yesterday?
I’m going to let you in on a secret – I, like many, deal with anxiety. I have for as long as I can remember. It used to be rather incapacitating on a regular basis. Sometimes it still is, but not as often as in the past. However, there have been key moments throughout my life that have taught me a very valuable lesson: Everything is going to be just fine.
My favorite such moment started with a gas cap.
I was in college, and I was making my trek from Washington State to Prescott, Ariz. It was a really long drive in my beat-up Volkswagen Sirocco with no radio or air conditioning. My good friend Julia agreed to accompany me on the drive to help me preserve my sanity.
We stopped and gassed up somewhere in Utah. The Sirocco got horrible gas mileage as a general rule, but after that stop, the mileage was worse than normal.
It was late, and we were tired, so we decided on a layover in St. George, Utah. Knowing that we had to cross a pretty sizeable expanse of desert in late-August heat, we decided we’d get up at 4 a.m. to start our final leg of the drive.
I decided to fill up the tank before getting a very late dinner at Denny’s. That was when I realized I’d forgotten to put the gas cap back on the car at the last stop.
With the mileage we’d been getting, there was no way we’d make it across the abyss of desert, sans services, to Las Vegas.
As we sat at Denny’s, we considered our options. We could buy a gas can and fill it, but I had very little storage room in the car, considering it was filled with all of my worldly possessions at the time. We could stuff rags in and duct tape over it, but that just seemed risky. We could fill up and hope we made it. In a time before cell phones, none of these options was appealing.
My panic rose to a full-on, heart-palpitating, crying fit. It was hopeless, we were doomed and life was ending. I was sure of it!
That’s when Julia looked at me with a big, happy grin and said, “Don’t worry. After we eat, we’re going to go find an all-night car place. We’ll explain what happened, and they’ll hand you a gas cap. It will be right behind the counter, and it’ll be a perfect fit. He’ll give it to you for free, and we’ll name it Herbert.”
See, this is why I love this particular friend of mine and why I am always happy when she’s around… she made me laugh despite my anxious fit.
We finished our dinner and headed back to our hotel. On the way, we noticed that the shop lights at the Sinclair gas station were on. We stopped in… just to see.
Sure enough, the owner was working on a couple of late-night projects. “Beating the heat,” he said. When I explained my predicament, he reached under the counter and produced a gas cap. He took it out to my car and put it on. The threads were perfect, and it fit inside the little door. I asked him how much he wanted for it. He smiled and said, “Keep it.”
To which, Julia exuberantly exclaimed, “Herbert!!!!”
Throughout the years, I’ve “resolved” to beat my anxiety more times than I can count. Have I? Not exactly. Is it better than it was 20 years ago? Oh, hell yes. It’s better than it was two years ago.
I try to remember Herbert Sinclair the Gas Cap when I get flustered over the frustrating, unfortunate moments in life that, for me, can lead to anxiety attacks. I attempt to put my focus into the positives – that people are generally good, and fortune can and will find you when you least expect it. I tell my anxiety brain to remember – just remember – we’ve been here before and we’ve made it through.
So I guess the moral of the story is: Always stay positive. New Year’s resolutions focus on beating the negative aspects of life. Live for the lessons you’ve learned, and incorporate them, one by one, into your daily life.
What have you experienced in the past that you can carry into your future in order to break cycles and unwanted habits? How can you use your own life as a stepping-stone toward the New Year?
Shanan Winters is a Phoenix-based freelance writer, editor, and novelist. Her first book is RISING: Book One of The Adept Cycle. She has avid interest in geek topics and fandoms, issues of parenting, and desert horticulture. She loves archery, cats, aviation, and board games, and has performed in a variety of Irish folk bands over the years. When not working on projects, Shanan can be found writing about writing at ShananWinters.wordpress.com.