I was driving home from training (which now refers to my time on the mats working on my BJJ!!) during the recent “Super Moon” phenomenon and the sight of the heavy orb sitting low in the night nearly took my breath away. My first instinct was not to smile in that moment and give thanks to the universe for showing me such beauty, but to reach for my cell phone in order to document and share the moment with everyone on my friends list (and if I’m being honest, maybe friends of friends of friends….). I stopped short due to a recent experience, but this near reflex struck me as so wrong.
I have my reasons…
This past month has been a bit of a doozy. I’ve been meaning to write about it, but time and time again I didn’t feel I had an adequate way of expressing what I was going through. How can I, a Bodhisattva-in-training, be taking the loss of my beloved Volvo “Black Betty” (see photo below) so hard?! I realize how silly it is to be so attached to a material thing… a car. A stupid hunk of metal on four wheels that hurtles me through space on my journey to get from place to place. A car isn’t meant to be revered as a spirit or soul, but merely a conduit for our ongoing quest to fill our lives doing (fill in the blank) day in and day out. What kind of person did it make me to be frequently in tears as I learned the fate of my CAR?!
I guess it’s important to tell the story of how Black Betty and I were brought together (yep, I’m running with the crazy idea that she was more than a machine. Forgive me). It was back in 2010, which some of you might remember was the starting point of the quest that was the basis for this blog; I was going to run everyday for 365 days in a row. It didn’t seem so crazy at the time, even when I started in January and looked ahead to my upcoming vet school graduation, a move back to the US from the UK, and the start of an internship that I knew could very well make my head explode…. as if it weren’t a big enough year, I threw a great challenge into the mix… as ya do. As the year progressed, so did my studies and my excitement to repatriate (word of the day!).
Part of the fun that spring was picking out a new car to buy, since I hadn’t really needed one for the past 5 years of living in London (still miss its public transportation)! I love me some car shopping! I’ve never known a ton about the inner workings of automobiles, but I sure love the curves of an Aston Martin Vanquish and speeding my mom’s old 3 series BMW across Lake Washington (the express lanes across I-90 rarely had police out for blood). I looked and looked and found a few things in my price range that I liked, but what I salivated for was the sporty little hatchback that Volvo had produced as an ode to a classic model of theirs. The C30 was everything I wanted, but required a little extra from the pocketbook BUT that’s where my loving parents decided to step in. My mom was with me on that fateful first test drive and saw the sheer joy cross my face as I shifted through the six speeds and zipped around Seattle’s suburbs (burning the clutch and scaring the dealer a little in the process). Apu (which is father in hungarian for you first timers) not only sat through hours of my budgeting, questioning, and fantasizing, but also cosigned when I finally locked down the price and took the plunge.
Sadly, Apu wasn’t on the earth long enough to hear about the deer that ran into my front fender as I drove home on country roads a few months into owning Black Betty, or the first scratch I caused from sheer stupidity, or about how sometimes the only thing keeping me sane was driving in convertible mode (all the windows AND the sunroof open) and throwing her into the curves with ZZ Top’s La Grange blaring. He didn’t have to be there for any of it because he was there the very first day and understood how a person can lose their sensibility and fall in love with a fun little sports car (he had a few stories of MGs that probably didn’t do much to provide a sound example for safe driving). So, Apu’s spirit was always my co-pilot!
All that love literally came crashing to an end the day I looked down at my phone the same split-second that the driver in front of me came to a screeching halt and I slammed into her Nissan’s rear end. Black Betty kept me safe. I am thankful for that, but honestly the appreciation was often forgotten as I simultaneously remembered images of my late father helping me sign the papers and the crumpled front end of my little favorite possession. We traveled over 45,000 miles of road together, crossed many statelines, survived relationships and near-misses (sometimes equally unsettling), accelerated through jobs and school, made friends and carried them to many adventures…
So, yea, I frickin’ miss my car. I can’t help myself. I really really do.
It’s like the Super Moon. How? Well, you can’t very well grasp the moon in your hands, can you?! I know. I wish I could, too. You can’t even take a good photo of it on an iPhone (which has a pretty good camera, considering).
I used to think that the moon followed me… lil’ ol’ me! I figured I must be pretty special because she (the moon is so obviously female) would race along the night sky after me as my family drove about and I peered out the rear seat windows. Once that bubble was burst, I still felt connected to the energy of the moon, but I never again fooled myself that I had any power over her. Who are we to believe we can capture something and control how it exists in the universe?!
We do. Everyday.
By grasping onto the moon through endeavoring to capture her image instead of basking in her reflective light and appreciating the moment, we miss the point of life…
By loving a car and putting so much weight from my heart onto the surface of an object, I resuffered many ounces of the million pound grief of losing my father. I was missing the point of life that I know my father understood.
As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus put it, “Everything flows and nothing abides, everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.” We cannot grasp the moon or secure our love on objects. We shouldn’t hold emotion so closely to our chests because we will smother them instead of letting them float and breathe on the breeze. We are not meant to have anything in this life forever. We should not grasp, but should offer our open palm full of love for all we get to experience.
A central buddhist teaching is impermanence. It is very simple. Nothing lasts. Nothing. Death is the only certainty and when you let these two truths soak into your pores, you can really start to live.
You can truly appreciate the beauty of the moon without the interference of how capturing and sharing the experience will alter it. It is the pure moment that matters.
You can remember the love and lessons of a beloved one without clutching the suffering of their loss over and over again by replacing it elsewhere. You can remember with a warm smile of acknowledgement. That is enough.
I guess, what it all comes down to is keeping your eyes up a bit more and your phone out of the way of you and your world. Live in the moment as much as you can and smile as life happens. When you start to feel your little sweaty paws grasping, take a deep breath and smile at letting the moment go…
It is the only way to make room so you don’t miss the next one!