My husband and I just purchased our first hybrid vehicle. Cars mean many different things to people – the “American Love Affair” with the automobile is totally a thing. They are idolized, customized, personalized, and anthropomorphized, from KITT to Lightning McQueen. Ad campaigns focus heavily on the personality of the potential car owner (those Subaru dog commercials get to me every time). For the curious, this love affair has its roots in an interesting story involving a 1961 TV show, Groucho Marx, and urban planning. Who knew?

But for me, a vehicle can almost feel like an extension of my physical self. Cars also show up in my dreams. Like, all the time. Often my first thought about them is that they represent “how I move through the world.” Symbolically, they can also represent personal freedom, the journey through life, or how you approach obstacles.

Anyway, the whole hybrid proposition was an essential new consideration for us from the environmental standpoint. But what does it mean, internally, to drive a hybrid? To have half of your energy derived from dead dinosaurs, and half from the same kind of power that lights up your outdoor holiday display?

I’m sure many of you already knew – but it was news to me – that the electric battery charges whenever we coast or put our foot on the brakes in our car. It’s called, appropriately enough, regenerative braking. In other words, whenever we’re not actively using gas, we’re building up the store of electric energy. There’s even a nifty little graphic that pops up on the dashboard that shows us when and how it’s happening.

This information was a bit mind-blowing to me. Imagine…hitting the brakes, coasting, in essence slowing down or actively letting go, recharges the machine and allows you to travel much further.

Boom. That’s it. That’s the metaphor – slow your roll, friends. Post over.

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OK, just kidding. How often do we convince ourselves that if we push a little harder, stay up a little later, or take on just a bit more responsibility, we’ll get more done or be more successful? Cram all the things into all the available time. We must use our time wisely, not fritter it away!

As a result, how many times do we hit the wall, exhausted and depleted, riding in on fumes to our next stop? Or to our next year?

You might be familiar with The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz (which I will confess I’ve not read because this nifty YouTube video explains it well enough). It references the observation that elite athletes who incorporated short and frequent recovery rituals into their performances had much higher outcomes. Those who pushed hard throughout, (in essence, never “letting up on the gas”) did not.

I was talking with someone recently about how for them, this particular season is not the “fun” holiday – it’s often the stressful one. The one that comes with all of the expectations (we were in agreement that Halloween is superior in its flagrant expression of pure enjoyment). Most of us can’t park that holiday car in a locked garage and throw away the key for the sake of recharging. And beyond the winter celebration situation, you may fear that you can’t completely stop all of your activities without losing your momentum, or forgetting your place, or even getting accused of wasting time (the horrors). Yet it seems, in most ways, the reverse is true. There’s even evidence that something like regular meditation seems to create more time for us (which, I think, is the effect of bringing more energy in by slowing the system – essentially the same thing as regenerative braking).

I wonder if, in all of the busyness, you could give a hybrid experience a try?

We don’t have to screech to a stop, but we can make some different decisions. What are some little ways you might tap those brakes, or tap into some breaks? What are the activities that you know well enough that you can coast a bit? When could you breathe? Be still? And what might happen?

Because I hope to coast a bit myself, this will be the last post of 2023. Thank you for reading – I’ll see y’all next year.