Starting and stopping—writing? driving? living?

Phhoto of a lined page with words handwritten: "Once upon a time..." The pen is doodling below the words.
Starting to write a memoir: “Once upon a time…” And then what? Stop?

Start, stall, stop

I started so many aeons ago
I began with a hiss and a roar
then (I seem to recall)
I stopped

I started again with a different approach
that allowed me to do so much more
then I hit a wall
so I stopped

I discovered a problem
I cut to the core
and I started again very small
then I stopped

I started again
with attempt number four
I went from a run to a crawl
then I stopped

I'm so clever! so keen!
more than ever before!
I believe I have learned
how to stop.

~ Rachel McAlpine 2021 ~

Starting? Stopping? Writing? Driving? Living? Old age?

I don’t know what that little piece of doggerel (“S-s-starting”) means. Do you? As a matter of fact, it came to me yesterday when I was thinking about memoir writing and also about double declutching. You know about double declutching if you used to drive an (already old) Baby Austin in the 1950s.

But I’ve kept the words abstract so they could remind you of something else that you have started—and stopped—many times.

Maybe it’s about looping. If you live long enough you get to recycle the same thought 1,000 times, usually believing that it’s quite original. Loopy is not a word we hear now. I thought it meant daft, but maybe it arose from old people repeating themselves. Looping.

But no. The poem’s subject or message is whatever you want it to be. That’s the beauty of poetry: you associate, you remember, you match the words to something in your own experience.

I do know these lines are about starting, stalling and stopping. Starting and stopping are both rather difficult. Stalling just happens.

Photo of a restored green Austin Seven car, number plate BSV 945.
1935 Austin Seven reg April 1935, 750 cc Photo Brian Snelson CC BY 2.0
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6 thoughts on “Starting and stopping—writing? driving? living?

  1. I do not remember so much
    but I know how to double declutch
    I know I’m alive
    still able to drive
    but my writing is oft double dutch.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Perfect. 🙂

  2. Ally Bean says:

    I know how to drive a stick shift with one clutch, but double? You are [were?] talented. The thing I remember from driving manual is how often I stalled out!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Not talented, just driving ancient cars 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    This post again resonates with me. I love the dark green Austin car.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Two posts about old cars! I didn’t notice the continuity until you drew my attention to it.

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