My Owner’s Manual

My friend Michelle has a new baby.  I fully expect her to walk into the studio one day soon and garumph: “I wish these things came with instructions ’cause I’ll be dammed if I know how this kid works!!”

Babies don’t come with instructions, sadly.  None of us do.  But our cars do. And so do our washer/dryers and our DVD players.

But wouldn’t it be fantastic if we did come with some instructions?  A little booklet labeling all our parts and what they do and how to fix them if they  stop working?

With “Owner’s Manuals” in hand, we could look up how to replace a fuse or where the jack points were when we had to fix a flat, or how to adjust the steering wheel, and what to do if our airbag deployed.

Then, wouldn’t it be great if we could just hand our “Owner’s Manual” to our mothers, our spouses, our children, our bosses, and say, “Here, look on p. 32 to know what to do when I’m running hot.” And there, on p. 32 it would say, “Send flowers for no reason.”

With instruction manual in hand, they would know if this was a good time to move in for a long heart-to-heart, or if the fix was to just give us a lot of breathing space.

We are so complex, aren’t we?  And we’re all so different in our needs and in the ways we operate.  We need manuals!

We don’t come with them, I know, but c’mon, once we’ve reached a certain age, we KNOW how we operate. And think of how great it would it be, not to mention how much misunderstanding it could avoid, and time it would save, if we just wrote it all down and gave it to the people we live with?

That’s been my project this year: to write my personal Owner’s Manual.  How Kath Works.

There’s stuff in there about what to do if I go flat, if my door jams, if I don’t start, if my windows stop working, what to fuel me with for best performance, how to replace my spark plugs, how to read my instrument panel.

After I complete my manual, I will use it as a template and make one that you can use to make your own.

(cool, huh?)

It’s been an absorbing and fun project. My engine has been really running rough since I watched Gasland.  There’s been an ominous rattling sound coming from under the hood and nothing in the manual thusfar suggests a fix.

So I had to learn about it, and come up with one.

And what I discovered in the past few weeks is that when that kind of sound is heard I need to get in there and find the source of the dissonance.

And the way I “search” is by cleaning and purging my physical environment.

It has always been this way for me.  Whenever I cannot figure something out, I clean.  I organize. I throw things out. I polish.  I create filing systems. I iron.

Cleaning is a symbolic ritual.  In the act of cleaning my physical environment: pressing, dumping, organizing, dusting, tidying, I gain clarity on my “issues” as well.  Cleaning gives me time to think.  As I dump stuff and things, my mind dumps its toxic load into the task at hand, and becomes clean and clarified as well.

The thing rattling ominously under my hood (hood=mind) was Truth.  I had buried it there under comfy-ness and complacency and an unwillingness to be uncomfortable.

Gasland has forced me to look at where I live, and why I live here.  It’s forced me to define what “quality of life” consists of for me, and what I need from my “place.”

It has brought me to my edge.  It has forced me to define what I really value and what I am willing to fight for, and what I’m not.

The “fix” for what’s rattling under the hood is not going to be easy.  It won’t get fixed in one session in the shop.  But I have an “action plan” in place now.  I can drive again, because now I know what’s causing the rattle. It’s serious, but not fatal.

Hopefully I can deal with it for a few more miles until I have to take dramatic action. I am not a person who can “cross her fingers and hope for the best.”

I need to act.  I also don’t believe in wishful thinking, nor do I trust that people will do the right thing.  I don’t believe that “something good will come out of this.”

Nothing good will come out of this.  But at least I can see what’s happening and I have a plan for survival.

5 thoughts on “My Owner’s Manual

  1. Awesome . When I use to go to a Pentecostal church the thinking there was that the bible was a guide book for people . But I think it only works as a guide if it is read by the individual and their interpretation. Proverbs was the best book for me. As I go thru life now , really living, giving my opinion and being friends with a vastly varied group of people , I remember how what Proverbs had to say has helped me stay out of some sticky situations. The bible I have was put out by Robert Shculler , the positive tv preacher. I can’t tell you the last time I read it but it did have some good tips. YOU started my day out on a good note .


  2. Welcome back Kath!!!

    Being that we are all in the same boat regarding the gas drilling in the area, I’d be very interested to hear more about your plan for survival. Short of moving, I don’t know what to do.

    I’m digging on your manual idea. One thing in my manual should be: Crabby? Overheated? Too hot? Take me to a movie where it’s cool, dark and they have giant cups of ice cold lemonade!


    1. Chelsea,
      Guess I should have been more specific. It’s not that I don’t think that people will do the right thing in general, it’s that I don’t think they will do the environmentally right thing when it comes to gas drilling here in PA.


  3. Hi Kath … so miss your inspiration, but totally understand your silence in view of the environmental wrongs that will continue to be committed in our area in the name of gas. I keep wondering if I will still be able to live here a year from now. Our gasland is closing in on us very fast. Two websites that I also visit each day are: and They don’t provide comfort or inspiration only information.


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