Years ago, I was introduced to the phrase “blowing the stink off” and it stuck with me. At the time, it was in reference to the engine of a car – getting it out on the highway and opening it up so that the gunk and grime that had accumulated from its around-town usage could be cleaned out of the system. The idea was to do this periodically so that the engine would perform better, last longer and generally “run cleaner”. From experience, I will say the effect benefited both the car and the driver. Over time, the practice of “blowing the stink off” has become a regular ritual and has demonstrated its practical applications way beyond the scope of my car.
At its core, this practice is an invitation to cut loose, shake out your feathers, and let wind and gravity cast off anything that is dragging you down, holding you back or otherwise clogging your system. We all have them – the barnacles that somehow attach themselves to our hulls or the bugs that get pasted to our windshields, whether they are persistent “shoulds”, annoying replays of scenarios or interactions or perhaps lingering regrets that are really minor in the grand scheme of your life. The bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter where they came from or how or when they attached themselves to us – it’s that they are here now and they’re ugly, unnecessary and tend to hold us back because of their excess weight and “drag”. They are just parasites along for the ride – YOUR ride.
Just imagine how free and easy your ride might be without them. If you were to blow the stink off every now and then, how might your journey be different? Consider this: if you have come this far with the barnacles attached to you, imagine what you will be capable of or how far you would go if you were to clean the junk out of the trunk – to get rid of the back-seat-driver sort of stuff that slows you down, distracts you from the scenery and causes you to burn more gas.
Sounds wonderful right? You might be thinking, “it’s not that easy…you’re making it sound so simple.” Maybe. But what if it were that easy? What if we could cast off our barnacles or blow off the bugs by going out on the open road and just revving our engine up a bit – and letting the wind and gravity be our allies? Ever make your way onto the highway and watch what happens to the bugs that are desperately clinging to your windshield? What happens to them as you pick up your speed? Gone! At least most of them are. Sure, you might still have one or two that hold out – just as you have one of two issues or habits that will take a bit more elbow grease to remove; I’m not denying that. My point is this: for the majority of bugs, you don’t even need to turn on your windshield wipers to cast them off. In this way, perhaps you can increase your visibility and clarity without much effort on your part.
Personally speaking, I have a number of ways I like to blow the stink off – my own stash of methods that are tried and true and have endured the test of time. Sometimes I run – the leave-your-lung-in-the-parking-lot sort of runs that are so foreign to my 39 year old body. Probably one of my most relied upon methods involves popping in some rockin’ music, cranking up my car stereo as loud as it goes and singing my heart out. The boom-boom of the bass and drums as my voice merges with Aretha, Annie Lennox, and Eva Cassidy has easily and effortlessly dislodged even the most tenacious of my barnacles. There are also occasions that involve other people – like crazy dancing to disco with my five year old (we call it “getting our ou-oos out”) or going on a roadtrip with some of my best girlfriends and howling with laughter as we share our thoughts about life and tell our women-tales. Regardless of which one I choose, they all rely on two factors: loudness and laughter. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
We are a society that thrives on struggle, toil and sweat. We work hard. We even play hard. So I recognize that this simple (dare I say “fun”?) way of blowing off our stink can be a radical move for people. But what if it were just that easy to lighten the majority of our load, but we resisted the notion because we were taking ourselves (or the barnacles and bugs) too seriously? For some, blowing off the stink can be a terrifying proposition because it means letting go or saying goodbye to those things you have come to know so well. It means stripping down and being seen by yourself and others for who you really are. It might make you feel vulnerable and naked. Ultimately, it signals that you are taking responsibility – when it is just us, there is no one to blame or distract us. No excuses.
Of course you are absolutely entitled to cling to those particular barnacles with which you identify and are not ready to part ways with – those tough items stuck firmly into our front grills or perhaps worn as a hood ornament – I’m not suggesting you go cold turkey. What I am inviting is some curiosity and experimentation: how many bugs might fly away on the open road if given the chance?
Whatever your particular vehicle you are in at this phase of your life – an ocean liner, a mini-van, or an ice cream truck – ask yourself if it’s time to blow the stink off. Gather some friends or maybe go it alone, but find a stretch of open road that calls to you and open it up – let your particular engine do what it loves and watch as the bugs, barnacles and excess luggage get carried off by the wind. Smile to yourself as you look in the rear view mirror and see what you’ve left in your wake. Above all, have fun with it and notice how free and easy it is to travel without it. There will be plenty of opportunities to struggle and sweat later. Dare to let this one be easy. See what happens.