My daughter named our car cherry when we first got her. Cherry is a 94, now faded red, Volvo station wagon. The ac occasionally comes on. The leather is torn on most of the seats, but she has given us reliability, safety, and adventure. When you have a brand new car, it comes with this need to keep everything perfect. No one wants to mess up a new car, drop crumbs, put fingerprints on the Windows, get dog nose smudges on the windshield. But with Cherry, she was just a non stressful way to get from A to B. Functional. Muddy dog foot prints, beach sand, horse poop on the shoes just didn’t matter. Spilled juice boxes didn’t matter.
Cherry has three scratches on her hood. One day I picked my daughter up from school and we drove out to a farm to ride horses. The horses were out on 100 acres and we needed to go get one to ride. So we 4 wheel drove that car, which definitely does not have 4 wheel drive out into this huge field where the horses were, to meet our friend and get a horse. All the horses descended upon us. I guess they thought we had food. We climbed on the hood of the car to greet them all safety since they basically came stampeding towards us. One of the horses was very annoyed with the fact that we had no food. She kicked Cherry on the tire then put her front teeth on the hood and scratched her teeth down it repeatedly. My daughter and I thought this whole scenario was hilarious. Eventually our friend showed up with a saddle and reins and we got one of the horses and my daughter rode around in the pasture while I continued to sit on the hood and watch. The scratches represented a moment that was awesome. A moment with my daughter.
In the years to come no one believed us that a horse bit our car! I also tried to squeeze through the gate that day because I didn’t want to get out and push the gate wide open and the side of the gate scratched the whole car. I once backed into a tree and tore the side mirror off. It was duct taped on for some time before we fixed it.
We didn’t intentionally trash Cherry we just didn’t lose our minds when things happened to her appearance. She was just the car that we loaded the dogs into with my daughter and we had adventures in. She sits out under a tree and gets sap and branches on her. Once a year she gets washed.
The scratches, the interior, the dog drool, none of that matters. What mattered most is that we had a vehicle that allowed us to be totally free. There is only one other one in our town so everyone waves because they know it’s us in the red Volvo. It was what the car represented that mattered, not the way she looked, AND the way she looked came with some really fond memories.
A few years ago we got a NEW 98 Volvo. Pretty and perfect on the inside and out. No crumbs or dirty dogs or horse poop shoes allowed. It’s nice to have a nice dog hair free car to go places in. It’s nice to get in the car and to worry that your white pants will get who knows what on them. It’s the date care and the doctor appointment car and the cold ac car. It is way more comfortable than Cherry.
I looked out at Cherry yesterday and felt nostalgic. She represented a time in our lives when my daughter and I were flying by the seat of our pants fancy and free. Both our dogs were alive still and both of us were well. She was, Cherry was, represented, a worry free environment.
Cherry reminds me of how I want to feel about myself. It is easy to feel good about yourself in a pretty nice car when you’re all dolled up for an appointment. But I want to feel good about my self with the scratches and torn leather and all! This body has experienced awesome things and I want to look at it and feel free. I want to look at it without judgement. I want it to symbolize something more than just it’s appearance and inner flaws. I know it has grey hair and a limp but I don’t want that to matter.
We went to the beach last week.
My husband took this picture.
And I looked at it and thought it was cute and fun and it captured what I was feeling at the beach. The same thing that Cherry always gave me… A sense of freedom and joy. But as I later scrolled through the pictures that he took I saw this picture.
And I thought, ” I don’t like my body at all!” I scrolled through tons of pictures and could only focus on how much I disliked the way my figure looked. There was one with me sitting out looking out at the ocean and I can remember how peaceful I felt and yet all I saw in the picture was back fat rolls. I was 100 lbs most of my life. Due partially to being an athlete and partially from anorexic tendencies as a side affect of abuse.
I looked at Cherry and all her scratches and dents and thought how much I loved that car for every flaw it had. I looked at my own body and thought how I hated the way it looked for all it’s changes that I wasn’t used to. I want to look at myself like I look at my car. I want to embrace all of me and see beauty in the non perfect. I see beauty in others! When I was at the beach that day I saw beauty in every single person that I met and looked at. Their body did not matter to me at all.
While at the beach, I spoke to a man about a chicken farm he worked on and was riveted by the discussion. I spoke to a woman who was paralyzed after being hit by a drunk driver 17 years ago. I didn’t see them for their outer appearance at all. If there were imperfections I didn’t notice, nor did they matter. I saw different ethnicities, religions, and appreciated the multicultural, non judgmental atomosphere that the beach seemed to encompass. I thought all the way home about the man and his chicken farm and all of the information that he gave me on raising chickens. I thought all the way home about the woman that I met and the fury I felt for her that a drunk driver took away her ability to walk. I pondered laws for DUI and for child abuse and wondered if.laws were stricter if crimes would be less. If you took a woman’s ability to live without walking or left her to live in pain isn’t that worth 10 years in jail? If you abused a child and gave her PTSD and triggers and flashbacks, isn’t that worth 10 years in jail? If the laws were stricter would the crimes lessen? Would it deter some? Or would there, will there, just always be bad people who don’t care about laws and only care about their narcissistic ways? I pondered these things on the way home. I sat in my newer car, getting beach sand on the floor, thinking how nice it was to not worry about our newer car getting sand on it. I was thinking about how I love that our family focuses on what really matters and materialistic and superficial things are just not who we are. I was riding home pondering life and not worried about the way I looked.
Going to the beach gives me a free mind. I don’t think about my body or my diseases or anxiety or life. I just sit there and feel untouched by the world.
So when I got home and looked at the pictures and could only see a weight gained me, it made me sad. Sad for myself. Sad that I felt like a hypocrite while seeing worth and beauty in others but unable to see it in myself.
I went to an appointment yesterday. A woman at the checkout desk told me that I was a beautiful person on the inside and out. It surprised me. It made me think. I came home and looked at Cherry and took a picture of her. Then I went back and looked through my beach pictures. And I SAW myself. Not the physical picture but me as a person.
I have lived through traumas. My body has lived through traumas. My body has been used. My body has been an object. My body has been insulted, made fun of and told that it was not beautiful. Those are concepts bore into my being. Those concepts have been there a long time. They are hard to break. It is hard to see myself like the girl at the checkout counter saw me. It is hard to embrace every part of myself. But I have to.
I cannot look at a car with nostalgia and look at myself with disgust. I was treated with disgust. I was treated with disregard and objectified. But that does not mean I have to treat myself that way. We are not how we have been treated. We need to let our torn leather and our scratched doors be parts of ourselves that symbolize strength, endurance, perseverance and victory. I look at my car and I smile. I’d like to look at a picture of myself and smile too. Abuse makes that more difficult but it is not impossible. Our bodies deserve to be cherished and loved. Our bodies deserve to be treated with admiration. It is time to acknowledge that even though our bodies were used at one point, they are worth loving now.