It happens to everyone:
A new car, bought with your own money, freshly driven from the lot, sits unassumingly in the parking lot of your local grocery store. It’s been a few weeks, but every time you see your shiny metal beast winking at you in the sunlight, you feel a sense of pride: that’s mine.
But, as with everything in life, entropy sets in. You give it weekly washes (and then bi-weekly, and then whenever you can remember, if ever). You drag dirt in on your shoes and it collects in the nooks and crannies that can’t be reached by the 25¢ vacuum at the gas station. You discover streaks on the windows that don’t seem affected by your repeated attempts at Windex.
The grocery store parking lot.
You watch, helplessly, from the curb, as an errant shopping cart makes its way in cinematic slow motion toward your car, pushed on by a heartless wind god.
You don’t make it in time. It’s scratched. Or dented. And it will never be the same again—even if you paint it or pay someone to suction the ding out, you will still know that it’s not the same shiny metal beast you proudly drove home.
And there’s a sadness, and also an acceptance. This thing—a representation of myself in a way—is no longer the perfect thing I invested in. This thing ages and picks up dirt and rust and scratches and scars.
This thing is also our bodies.
I am constantly amazed by this weird meat suit with which I’ve so recently begun to reacquaint myself. We all start out in pristine packages, but entropy—life—happens, and we pick up the same scars and stains and dirt and dings that we can buff away or ignore or cover up or suction out, but the second we “drive off the lot” (as it were), we lose the initial “perfection” with which we entered the world.
And here’s the thing: I think that’s kind of beautiful.
Even the bad scars—like the one on my ankle that shocks and swells, the viruses that set up shop in our cells and lie dormant until they feel like waking, the disfiguring, the disabling, the “ugly”—tell an important story about who we are as living beings making this weird journey across the planet.
The acne scars, the poorly planned tattoos, the stretch marks from an endless cycle of dieting and bingeing, the pieces that make us….us is the art that colors the canvas of our lives.
I spent my life buying creams to heal the scars and hide the stretch marks, pills to burn the fat underneath my arms away, and miracle cures to rid myself of every reminder that I am nothing but an unprotected beast in a metaphorical parking lot, and there is little I can do to avoid whatever shopping carts life wants to throw at me, unless I never leave my garage.
I know how hard it is to actually “be okay” with the idea that you don’t need to lift, tuck, suction, excise, botox, lighten, fade, and tone. I know how hard it is to come to terms with the fact that you—yes YOU—are not perfect. I know how hard it is to wish, every day, that you could look like the model on the cover of the magazine, to be followed around by a professional real-life photoshopper, always as perfect and undented as the day you came out of the womb.
But I challenge you to embrace the shit out of every dent. Out of the cold virus you picked up in preschool. Out of the weird mark on your nose from the time you pierced it in college and it didn’t heal properly when your HR people frowned on piercings a few years out of business school. Out of the stupid scar on your shin from the time you tried skateboarding on gravel to impress your friends in middle school. Out of the surgery that might have saved your life. Out of all of the things that would devalue your car, but actually add value and story and dimension to you as a living, breathing, thing in a meat suit.
And I challenge you to peel out of that parking lot and hit the highway (but no texting and driving, please!)—and don’t be afraid of the stories your body will pick up along the way.