By Kate Kerry Spencer
I did not need, or want, a new car. I knew that to my core. My little grey SUV, Hoagie, had gotten me everywhere I wanted, and needed, to be for the past 11 years.
To car people, 11 years is a very long time. In the course of that time, the car value depreciates while the little dings, dents and miles grow. None of that mattered to me. Hoagie was my buddy. From work to play, in sun and snow, it wasn’t just a means of transportation, it was a four-wheeled friend.
Yes, I know. Anthropomorphism is one of my strong suits. I name my cars and attribute human characteristics to them. It’s not the worst habit to have and I’m in very good company.
And yet, I am not a “car person” in the way that seriously devoted car people are. I never browse car lots, or research new models online, or go to car shows, or admire cars that I see on the road. Mostly because in addition to naming my cars like family, I also see them for what they really are: transportation. I don’t care so much if they are pretty; I care that they are reliable.
Reliability became a fundamental need for me during the years that I was driving from home to work to hospital in an infinity loop while my husband was waiting for a heart transplant. During that long, critical time, Hoagie became a kind of life boat for me, a four-wheeled safe haven.
To me, that little grey SUV was 11 years young and had taken me safely to and from some of the scariest, most challenging times of my life. I had no need or desire to replace the wonderfully worn Hoagie with anything new. My husband, however, who did indeed receive a healthy new heart, had plans of his own. That plan included me buying a new car as a segue to him buying a new one too.
Being a car person, he had already done scientist-worthy research of the top-rated cars in every category. He was beyond enthusiastic about the whole car buying idea while I, rundown with the flu and happy with Hoagie, was way less enchanted.
I finally agreed to look online at four cars in the small SUV category. As we looked at the first car, something felt familiar about it. I grabbed my phone and scrolled through my photos, looking for one I vaguely recalled taking in the parking garage of my workplace a couple of years ago. It’s the only photo of a car I have ever taken, and it was the same brand and style that we were looking at online. Hmm, I thought. Maybe, I should at least take a look at it in person, but only if they had it in the deep dark blue I was looking at online.
Turns out, they did have the car in the deep dark blue, but in person, that color just felt like a bruise to me. As I turned to walk away, resolved to not look at another thing, I saw a different car. It was the color of the sky and something in that color made me feel lighter than I had felt in a long time. The test drive was just a formality. I knew this was the one.
I had a long talk, admittedly one-sided, with Hoagie. I thanked him for getting me safely through some of the hardest days and nights of my life. I hugged his interior. I kissed his dashboard. I had a very good cry. I wished him well with his new person, whomever might be lucky enough to have him.
It was an ending and a beginning. And now, a new chapter of life. I hope to travel those chapters a little lighter than the ones most recently behind me. When I’m on the road, either for business or for fun, I feel like there’s a lot of great adventures ahead of me. I named the new car Sky and she’s a beauty in my eyes. The real beauty in life is just the one that makes you happy and lighter and free. Find it and explore the world with fresh eyes. Life deserves to be seen with fresh eyes, and so do you.
This morning, before you begin your day, put your hand on your heart and take a few cleansing breaths. With each inhale, imagine being nurtured by that new breath. With each exhale, imagine letting go of something in your life that weighs you down. Seek the one thought or action that will make you feel lighter today. Then think of simple ways you can light the heaviness of someone else. Is it giving someone you have hurt a sincere apology, or finding patience with someone who annoys you for a reason you can’t even remember now? Open your heart to a greater lightness of being and pass it on.
Kate Kerry Spencer is a Pacific Northwest writer, editor, and publisher. Learn more about her upcoming memoir, Smoke: A Story of Love, Lies and Cigarettes.
Smoke is the story of fatal consolations--tobacco, denial and deceit--and the second chances that can come to us in the most unlikely places. For this mother and daughter it was a rehab center where the two women wrestled with cigarettes, scrambled brains and each other--and in the process, found the long way back to love.