The Used Car
He said in bed one night, as I caught him studying me, “……..you know, it is kinda’ like buying a used car. You love the model, but it has those dents and scratches.” He was staring at my face, and actually referring to me. I bolted up and said, “What?” The indignation that I felt was off the charts, and all I could do was stare in disbelief. But as time passed, and I had run that comment over and over again in my head, I had actually come to understand it and ultimately, appreciate it.
We are all just a compilation of experiences. For some of us, those experiences are vast and defining, and for others they are limited. When dealing with loss, grief, loneliness or even depression, it is not uncommon to search our past for the answers. Recently, I was recounting my past to two friends who were not aware of my history. They inquired as to why and how I have the resilience I do, as they defined it. I quickly answered that I believe it is part DNA and part experience. Coming from a very strong matriarchy, and raising a strong and impressive daughter, it dawned on me that DNA and the past experiences become one. While telling the story of my grandmother, who lost both of her daughters in their forties, I realized where I had come from. She was a grand woman, with deep blue eyes and premature snow-white hair; she epitomized the regality of German Jews. Born and raised in Upstate New York, from parents born and raised in Upstate New York, she looked at life pragmatically and made the most of her situation. When asked how she was at any given time, “I’m good Babe, how are you?” There was nothing soft or melancholy with Gram, she accepted her lot and moved forward with grace and determination. I am her granddaughter.
When a person deals with grief at an early age, I believe their coping skills are keenly developed. Much like learning a foreign language when young, the ability to cope becomes innate. The perspective that you garner, gives you a different lens from the rest of the world. When you are young and endure, you are often expected to pick yourself up and move forward. That is grit. Grit to endure, to intellectualize the loss and to plow through. Plow through with the understanding that life is worth living and that there is joy and there is love if you make the choice to find it. At least that is the attitude that represented my world.
So, back to dents and scratches. As my finger traces the scar on my knee from surgery or trace the eleven lines between my brow, I realize that my dents and scratches are battle wounds. Wounds develop from the wisdom of age, from experiences that molded or accidents that have shaped me. Scars can be beautiful. We are all scarred, we are all damaged. Like the tree that loses a major branch in a storm, often a more beautiful branch develops on the other side of the trunk. We are emotionally so similar to the tree. With the advent of loss or pain, people often develop other attributes that make them metaphorically more beautiful. Whether it is insight, depth, compassion or knowledge, our branches grow to enhance our beauty. How boring life would be if we didn’t differentiate ourselves through scars, or dents and scratches to find our uniqueness.
However, are the twists and turns and obstacles in life necessary? That question becomes the conundrum. The riddle is, do we actually need the loss and grief to gain the insight and depth of feeling, or are we better off left alone to an even ebb and flow of events. I am not quite sure there is a correct answer to that puzzle, and in fact, is all the pondering just compensation for enduring pain. Regardless of a correct answer, what exists is finding your way, moving forward and growing. It is much easier to accept the status quo when there is no disruption involved. Life continues as you had envisioned and everything “works.” But, when there is a wrench thrown into life’s story, and the narrative doesn’t play out as you have imagined, that is when the story begs for a new ending, and the characters and events evolve.
So, back to the dents and the scratches. The contrast between a young love of a 20 something and the romance of a 60 something reflects the dents and scratches. In idyllic young relationships people look for perfection. Shiny new faces and bodies scream of hope and anticipation. The relationship of a more seasoned adult takes into account past loss, imperfect relationships and possibly parts that may not work just right. But it is those scratches and dents that allow us to love again. To accept imperfection as not just reality, but beauty. Expectations are often more realistic and appreciated, and disappointment comes with understanding and acceptance. Emotional evolution. Once again, the passing of time gives us wisdom and clarity that creates a kinder and gentler love. The relief of not having to imitate what was or search for the shiniest penny is the opening to the next chapter, if you allow it to be.