Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Vacuums and Bodies Work Better When You Consult the Owner’s Manual

I bought a Dirt Devil canister vacuum when I moved to Da’burgh 8 months ago. It’s not quite the dog-hair-sucker upright Kenmore – with what seemed like 382 settings and attachments – that I left behind, but it is more portable and gets the job done.
At least it used to.

The double D came with an owner’s manual, which I promptly put in the junk drawer along with the microwave manual and the toaster oven manual and the range manual and the Cuisinart manual and Harrison Township’s 2011 garbage and recycling schedule. (I know it’s garbage day when I look out the window. If the neighbors have their garbage out in the morning, I slap on my sandals and roll the can to the curb.)

Last Saturday, Cooper the Wookie came to visit for the weekend. The boy is a very hairy Flat-Coated Retriever you can groom and groom and groom again and still leaves a silhouette every time he gets up off the floor or couch. When he went home yesterday, he left behind enough fur to stuff several accent pillows.

After he left, I took out DD and started to vacuum. I’d noticed a few months ago (yes…a few months ago…*hanging my head in shame*) that it wasn’t picking up as much as it used to, but I lived with what it could do because I wasn’t curious enough to find out why it wasn’t working at her highest potential. But yesterday, when it was merely moving Cooper hair around and not sucking it up, I gave it the attention it needed months ago.

Of course by “attention” I mean I assumed I knew what was wrong. First I checked the hose for a clog. That wasn’t the problem. I cleaned out the dirt cup, which – surprise, surprise – wasn’t very full. That wasn’t the problem, either. Finally, I disassembled part of the canister and gave it a shake – a vacuum version of a smack on the TV when the screen goes wonky. But when I reassembled the canister and turned on the power, it still had little suction.

That’s when I reluctantly walked to the junk drawer and dug out DD’s owner’s manual buried under the batteries, the loose-change bag, the matches, the box of birthday candles, an extension cords, a Clorox bleach wand, a bag of thread, a first-aid kit, an address book and a hot water bottle. I turned to page 9 and began reading the troubleshooting guide.

Problem: Cleaner tools won’t pick-up. Possible reason: 1. Hose clogged (“Nope.”); 2. Dirt container full (*eyeroll* “Duh…no.”); 3. One or both filters are clogged (*sigh* “I clean the filter all the…wait… BOTH filters? There’s a second?”

(For some reason, at that moment, I started hearing Darth Vader in my head, “So, you have a twin sister... Obi-Wan was wise to hide her from me. Now his failure is complete. If you will not turn to the dark side, then perhaps she will!” Mental note: rent “Return of the Jedi” this weekend.)

I flipped back to page 2 and the diagram of the vacuum. Sure enough, there is a second filter located inside the first filter inside the dirt cup. I unscrewed the filter and took out the most gawdawful dirty filter I’ve ever seen. I mean, that baby was filthy. I brought it to the kitchen, and it took 15 minutes of brush scrubbing and butter-knife-poking to get all the dirt out of the folds. Once it was dry, I reassembled the filter and put it back in the dirt cup, sealed up DD and pressed the power button. Holy suction, Batman! My DD was alive again.

Understanding the functionality of a vacuum or a microwave or a car isn’t innate, even though we like to think so. The whole point of an owner’s manual is to educate us on the use and care of whatever it is we bought. However, it’s often easier to assume we know what’s wrong, even though it takes us into a frustrating maze of “you have no idea what you’re doing, you idiot.”

The same thing’s true for our bodies. We weren’t born with personal owner’s manuals, but by virtue of our experiences we write our own owner’s manuals every day. Yet how many times do we hesitate to take out that manual and learn from our experiences for how best to correct whatever’s wrong? It’s easier to assume.

God knows I’ve been making a lot of assumptions lately about my body. I get caught in that perpetual cycle of thinking, ‘I know what’s wrong,’ and not stepping back and analyzing what works for me to stay fit.

For instance, the muffin top thing I’m sporting. I was looking at it the other day while eating a fistful of melba, wondering – even though the melba was in my calorie allotment for the day – where it came from.

“Um…duh, Lynn. Carbs like that cause you to gain in your belly,” said the voice in my head.

But here’s the deal. I wanted those melba in the moment. They sounded good, looked good and so I ate them, despite copious amounts of evidence in my food journals that, to the contrary, they’re not a good choice for me. You all know I’m all about living in the moment, but eating in the moment? Not so much. That’s not what being mindful is about.

My owner’s manual, when I stop being complacent and assuming I know everything about everything, teaches me to “clean the filter,” so to speak; to remember that when I eat a smoothie before a workout, I perform better, or when I lay off a few workouts to give a sore joint a chance to heal, I don’t hurt later.

Too often I am content to work with what my body can do in the moment, even when it throws out warning signs that its filters are dirty. So my goal? To be less reluctant to consult the past and instead, work with my experience to help my body perform at its peak. Complacency and assumptions can have no place in maintaining my weight loss.

9 comments:

Miss April said...

Love it! You put so much into your posts, it's a great perspective. I like this analogy, who would have thought? Thanks for sharing!

Shelley said...

"To be less reluctant to consult the past" - what great wisdom.

Plus, now I want to check to see if my vacuum has an additional filter. Might explain a lot!

Lori said...

What's a vacuum??

I tend to blow by the owner's manual on things, but I do keep them just in case in a drawer in our file cabinet. Or rather, John does that and at least I know where to find them.

I need to get focused on what worked in the past and go with it to keep things under control.

Anonymous said...

My DD, same age as yours, was acting the same way two weeks ago. I found the filter, still can't find the book, cleaned it, and it was back to normal. Today my cleaning lady came up to my office to tell me the DD had a problem. Both screw holders on the handle broke and the handle was dangling. I leave for vacation Fri. so no time to call Customer Service. Wish I could find a vacuum that would a)work, and b) last.

debby said...

Ha! I'm stuck on the vacuum cleaner illustration. I got a new vacuum cleaner a month or so ago, and I glanced at the owner's manual, and there was something or other in there about the filter. And every time I vacuum I think "I wonder what it said about the filter..." Maybe I'd better check that out, because you'd better believe a vacuum cleaner gets quite a workout around here.

val said...

I love this post, lol! It had me laughing right out loud.

I also have a phenomenally hairy dog who ruins vacuum cleaners.

But seriously, Girl, melba toast?

That'd be like eating saltines.

Or an old bun from the breadbox.

If you're going to eat carbs at the very least make them chocolate.

love you, Val

val said...

I love this post, lol! It had me laughing right out loud.

I also have a phenomenally hairy dog who ruins vacuum cleaners.

But seriously, Girl, melba toast?

That'd be like eating saltines.

Or an old bun from the breadbox.

If you're going to eat carbs at the very least make them chocolate.

love you, Val

Anonymous said...

But were you hungry?

PJ Geek said...

Ha! i blew up our vacuum cleaner last week (eveen after cleaning both filters). It seems when you don't vacuum often you have to clean the filters often too...or something.

good post..At 48 now, I only became an exercise person 4 years ago. I feel guilty when I skip workouts because I'm sick or joints hurt or aunt flo visits.Afraid I'll go back to my slothful ways. but the reality is , I get better quality and performance in workouts when I do that. I'll try to remember this and block the guilt.