My car, myself

Today, I have come to the decision that everything that is wrong with my car is a direct reflection of my life. Strange as it sounds, I have done so many cosmetic repairs to my vehicle at my own expense that were caused by the carelessness of others. No accidents that I have caused. Just random acts of violence against what was once a loving shade of grey, green and blue paint. It has become so frequent that I finally called a truce with it’s sleek metal body. I gave up repairing it when I reached $5,000 in body work out of pocket. 


The signs are clear that I have finally ceased to believe it is possible to keep it looking smart. My front bumper is half gone – almost to the license plate. The wheel well on that side is missing it’s sleek, black coated trim. Two separate events. The glow of the silver duct tape that holds the side to the front is lovingly pieced. It reminds me of good upholstery work I would expect as a designer. I must say, if vehicles could hold with tape, mine would be exquisite.

My automatic side door jambs and complains by grinding itself after being hit by an errant grocery cart. Or maybe someone threw someone else against it. It is hard to tell because I wasn’t there to defend it. The bumpers have all been dented or scraped by what I can only assume are people that really NEED backup cameras so they are warned when a car is within striking distance.


For whatever reason, while attending to my morning coconut mocha at the Starbucks drive-thru, my car began to speak to me.  It started as a little cry for help and then escalated to a squeal.  Like a fork being dragging along a metal plate. Obviously, the brakes. I am no genius when it comes to cars, but I do know that when I hear this on another car, I cringe. I have never let anything in a vehicle I have owned get to this point without repair, so quite frankly, it was shocking.


Now I can barely get by the embarrassment of the front end with my damaged “Explore Glorious Idaho” license plate. but as I travel down the sand laden roads of what was once winter in Edmonton, my vehicle screams continuously in utter disgust. Like it is being violated by the driver. Meaning me. Attract attention much? What is worse, is I am told a two week wait to get in. Nothing is more mortifying than thinking I must allow my good car to wait this long.


There is no drowning out the contempt coming from my Odyssey. I have tried to turn up the stereo as loud as my speakers will take. And despite me, it gets louder. I am not sure why I think that if I can’t hear it, that everyone else can’t either. I just put on my sunglasses and look straight ahead.  


So here’s the rub. I have been dealing with grief in my life since the impact on our family of the economic turnaround of 2008. Grief is not just a process you move through when someone passes on. It comes in many forms. The loss of my home by short sale, the loss of my retirement to someone at  Leiman Brothers (who I am convinced is sailing the Atlantic coast to Barbados), the move from my home of 18 years in the mountains (where I loved to live), the loss of my job working in mental health (that I loved and did so well), the loss of my closest friends (who were my family), the loss of my husband’s peace of mind and health due to a stroke (likely from the stress of everything), the insult of the $3,000 increase in my husband’s health care premiums (which we had faithfully paid into for 18 years) and the later loss of my health to a bout of cancer and hereditary arthritis. All this in a short, six year span. When I look at it on paper, it is really more stress than most could endure. But my father raised me to be a good, strong Irish girl so I remain soft-hearted, yet stoic. My core beliefs have helped me through it all. And a lot of love from my husband and daughter. 


But that damn screaming car! The violation of it’s beautiful body and it screaming for attention symbolizes everything that has occurred in my life in the past 6 years that was done without my knowledge. My acceptance. My permission. 

There are no concrete reasons for what happened to me and my family. I can’t find my retirement (we would BE retired now – but that doesn’t look promising) and I don’t know where the 6 figure equity in my house disappeared to. I am not sure why my physically fit husband had a stroke (which he thankfully recovered from), why insurance companies who have received over $350,000 in premiums from yours truly think it is OK to gut you when you are down or why I was selected to endure a battle with cancer that blindsided me. I know that moving was essential because of the elevated cost of health insurance so it was a decision we had to make to keep us safe. But not unlike all of this, I am not sure why my sweet car has been the target of so many unkind and uncaring people who have damaged all four corners of it without leaving their name or even a note to say they are sorry.


Maybe it is acknowledgment of the damage that is important to me? Or maybe I want to believe that people are better than this. I think that it all goes back to accountability, integrity and character, which are incredibly important traits in anyone I choose to build a friendship with. 


One of the greatest lessons of the past 8 years is that I control nothing. Absolutely nothing. I had a false sense of safety and control. My husband and I believed we were secure. We followed all the rules we were taught. I park within the lines. I read what I sign. I believe in a hand shake. And for some foolish reason, I want life to be fair. So maybe this life is about learning that I must live in each moment with gratitude and be thankful that I am surrounded by love and relationship, despite all of the damage being done around me, to my so-called “stuff”. Sure, it has impacted me greatly. It has shattered so much of what I believed and trusted to be true. But I am still here. I am still a forgiving and kind-hearted person that hopes for only goodness from others. And I still fight for fairness for all.

Until a unicorn appears, I think I better go buy myself some ear plugs and hope that the “Brake Pad God” hears my fondest wish to get my sweet, reliable car into the garage as soon as possible.

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