Getting back in the car

photoI got my car back this week, after 16 days without it.

If you missed my post about how my car was repossessed one month to the day after my father died, you can read it here.

This post is about how much has changed since it was taken from me … and how losing it changed ME (for the better).

We begin by establishing the symbolic meaning of cars.

People often dream of cars. We dream that we are stuck in traffic or endlessly driving up a hill. We dream that our car is plummeting out of control down a hill. We dream that we are in the passenger seat of a car without a driver.

Car dreams are fascinating – symbolizing our relationship with life itself – who’s in  control? – and with our own body, the ‘vehicle’ inside of which we live.

In waking life, cars can be just as symbolically resonant. A car that careens, out of control, down a hill, may symbolize a life that isequally out of control. A car in which another person is driving – and we feel ourselves the unwitting passenger – may represent the call to reclaim authority over our own choices.

Simply put, in dreams or in waking life, if you are not in the passenger seat of your life, you’ll feel out of control.

Which is where I found myself when my car was taken from me.

First, there was the shaking – and the sobbing. I couldn’t leave the house – and I didn’t want to.  My father was gone. My car was gone. Also, the reclamation process at Toyota Financial Services  seemed designed to traumatize.

“Surely, they don’t mean to be this deliberately cruel,” I said – many times – as I was ignored, misled, lied to and put on hold for HOURS (no, really – waiting, on one call, I watched a full 60-minute TV show AND another halfway through). I was forced to run from bank (they would accept only cash) to Western Union (the only payment site they would approve) – and back again to comply with their demands.

Yet, while all of this was happening,  a dream was unfolding beneath the surface of my life and leading me into a wilderness I’d not visited before.

All of my roots were loosening – nothing I trusted was left – and, fatherless, car-less, I feared I might rise from the earth and float away, lost forever outside of all nets.  This was both terrifying and wildly liberating.

And eventually, I went outside and lay down on the grass. I wanted to know if it was true, as I’d read, that the earth would open to me – and that I might find, pressing my body against the ground, the kind of mother, the kind of holding that my shaking body was asking for?

Yes. I lay down and She held me. Yes. I looked up at the sky and in the fathomless blue-beyond-blue, I found another embrace, also holding me – inside of an atmosphere of protection that made sure that I had air to breathe and water to drink and did not fry like a strip of bacon in the sun.

And there, held between the lower and the upper embrace of creation, I asked the questions that, until then, I’d never had the time nor the awareness (nor the courage) to ask.

And the earth turned below me. 

And the sky wheeled above.

And I received blessings that I will be unpacking for years – for lifetimes.

I asked for wisdom and wisdom came.
I asked for beauty and there it was, everywhere.
I asked for peace and peace was there, as it had always been – and I closed my fingers around it.

I asked for proof of angels – and puffs of white seedpods drifted from the trees, surrounding me, covering my clothes.

I asked about grief – and how three sisters could feel such different things about the same father and how it was possible to hold this loss inside a heart already shredded by the release of a son and a daughter onto the wind of their own lives.

You see, it’s all here – all in the symbols. The seed fluff floating by. The particular slant of the earth beneath the sky.

The answer to the questions: about loss and gain, love and leaving, sorrow and joy – there is even something here about the human capacity for wickedness and outrageous cruelty.

By staying home, I received all of this. By not driving away, not running from what was here. By stopping to ask and to receive whatever came in response, I came home.

family dad and me by old car

Me and dad, circa 1960

There was another thread being offered here- a thread of connection to the father I’d just lost, the father who’d taught me to drive – who’d given me my first set of keys and who had, at the end of his driving, placed his last set into my hands.

The father who’d once told me, “I used to dream of getting into a car and taking off forever – no destination, just driving.”

And maybe that’s why he wore those caps that he wore, I’m thinking.

I’m seeing things, making connections which, had I been rushing around in my car, I would have missed.

I see that for my father, who was disabled since birth – he had cerebral palsy – driving was a way of moving effortlessly and perhaps, painlessly through space. He’d walked with braces for years. Later, he’d been frustrated by his body’s inability to play baseball and basketball, to make the moves he’d so carefully studied in professional players – and in his big brothers. In middle school, my father, who, doctors had predicted, would never walk, ran on the track team. I can see that his driver’s license was, for him, much more than a piece of plastic in his wallet.

When I took possession of that wallet the first time he was in the hospital, I learned that he carried a taxi driver’s license. When I asked him about it, he told me that when he’d gone for his first road test, at 19, the DMV official had said, “I don’t know what to do with you. I can see you’re a good driver but it wouldn’t be responsible for me to let you on the road unless we were sure you were safe.”

They required him to get the chauffeur’s license, which he’d acquired after all kinds of challenges – classes, more road tests, more DMV officials uncertain ‘what to do with him.’

 “I earned that license three times,” he told me, with pride. 

At the time, I was too caught up in paperwork and angst to realize the impact of that conversation. My father needed all kinds of support and I felt completely inadequate to the task. He walked me through it. A career as a Social Worker had given him all the training he needed to train me in the ways of institutions.

And when my father entered the nursing home, I missed it again. The day he was issued a power wheelchair, a priceless gift of fluency, of movement, was probably one of the best days of his life. Sure, he had to live in a nursing home but, Wowee Wow! He could drive again!

For the next six years, “Where’s my dad?” I’d ask and the aides would smile. “Oh, Raymond – he likes to go exploring.”

My father mapped out every inch of the Hebrew Home, bumping up ramps and crossing the carpeted bridges that linked each building to the next. He covered every floor, circling, seeking out the hidden gifts of a corner alcove or secret passageway.

He’d take himself down the cobblestone path to a shaded gazebo at the river’s edge. He’d sit on the rooftop garden, which no one else seemed to know about-  a vast, open-to-the-sky world where one level opened onto another, landscaped, manicured – and, surrounded by silence and flowering shrubs, he’d read for hours.

At the nursing home, my father, I think, discovered peace.

Which is why, after he died and my car was taken from me, I began to sense his hand in what was happening to me. Like him, I was confined to my home. Like him, I was invited  – by my own curiosity – to rediscover the nooks and hidden alcoves of my own life. 

photo 1the comfort in sitting in the next room from my husband, both of us working – yet together.

the quiet joy of reading in the shade of a late summer afternoon

the return of my own inner alchemist, a gypsy potion maker who joyfully reclaimed her place at the stove

the shy return of the wild-eyed poet I’d abandoned when I thought I was supposed to write only lofty teacherly prose

I stood at the stove, stirring spices; and I raided my herb collection, decanting potions.
I soaked my crystals in salt water and recharged them in sunlight. I  plunked them into jugs of drinking water and drinking it, I felt my cells begin to sing again.

There was freedom in captivity. A freedom I had not felt in years.

Each time I detected a left-behind fragment of self, I wrote her a note, inviting her inside. I left notes to these ‘selves’ all over the house. On this one, pictured below, my husband also left a comment. 🙂


I softened and ripened. Where I had been defended – and defending – I became open and curious.

Maybe you’ve been feeling this way, too. I sense this is a much wider opening – a world-wide gesture, as the inner truth-teller (and truth-seer) of humanity arises from the collective human heart.

I discovered that I could say things like that out loud – without needing to vet them through a teacher or expert. I was speaking from my own guidance – and trusting that. Lying on the grass, on the couch, on the floor – tears streaming into my ears – I discovered what I already knew,

that I am connected to a ray of light that is relentless, certain and real.

that I am love – and that love has never once abandoned me.

that there is no bottom to this opening – or to this capacity, this love.

the the thread which I’d been so afraid to fully hold, led to love.

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  • Alice Langholt

    Of course they all lead to love, and once again, Amy, you take us by the hand and lead us there through your words. Your writing is inflused with it, brimming over with it, and simultaneously heartfelt, raw, and brave.

    Thank you, again and again, for being exactly who you are, which is a gift to all of us.

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