Talkin’ About the Car Wash

If you’re familiar with old songs from the 1970s, you’ll know that the post title is a line from a song by Rose Royce—the titular song of the 1976 movie, Car Wash. (Go here if the video is not below. Some YouTube videos I’ve posted have disappeared in other posts.)

When I was a kid, I loved going to the automatic/tunnel car wash. Loved watching the big brushes on the sides of the car and the huge blowers. And just when I thought the car wash was over, other services my father asked for (like wax or an undercarriage wash), would begin. The more time in the car wash the merrier, I always thought!

My younger brother, however, was terrified of the experience. He would cover his eyes and sink low in the backseat. My older brother and I made fun of him, because we were exercising our sibling right to torment him. Yet as I look back on that today, I feel bad for mocking him for something he genuinely feared.

It’s interesting how as kids, our first response to someone else’s fear was often to laugh, especially if the fear is not one to which we can relate. “Fraidy/Scaredy Cat!” “What a baby!” Ever hear those phrases? I’ve said them. It’s what kids do.

There are some fears we grow out of. But others linger longer than childhood.

Awhile ago, someone told me that more people than ever are suffering from anxiety. It is certainly on the rise among teens as this article mentions. Many people have had debilitating panic attacks. But instead of empathy, some have been given advice along the lines of, “You need to get over it.” I wish I could pretend that these words weren’t uttered to someone I know. But they were.

That’s why I think of the car wash and the empathy I withheld from my brother. I didn’t understand the fear, so I didn’t offer support. Even into adulthood, sometimes I thought a push in the form of a platitude was enough to motivate someone whose situation I didn’t really understand. I ignorantly assumed that emotional obstacles could be readily surmounted in a short time span. That is, until I went through a period of grief myself.

Sometimes a kick in the pants is necessary to motivate someone who has the power to move on but procrastinates. But some emotional seasons go beyond a pat answer. Grief, anxiety—neither has a preset limit. Just when you think you’re out of it, like a car moving along a conveyor belt at the car wash, another stage begins. It’s over when it’s over.

So from now on, I’m giving pat advice the brush off. Daily I’m reminded to be quick to hear and slow to speak* when someone shares his or her pain.

Car wash image from clipartmag.com. Grief image from the Ridge Meadows Hospice Society.

*From James 1:19.

Dreams

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
From Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore

I miss the dreams I had as a kid, flights of fancy so feathered and unfettered, I hated to wake up. I’d soar off cliffs and over seas. Oh, how I would fly! Or, I went on daring spy capers, intricate plots surpassing anything Ian Fleming, John le Carré, Tom Clancy, or Robert Ludlum could devise.

At a young age, I was a seasoned warrior—the victor of many dream battles, some won only by waking. And when a monster came to call, one beyond my ability to defeat, I still had an escape—the ability to soar away, high over its grinning maw.

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I know. We grow up and get busy with work, bills, kids, and problems like taxes, unfaithful significant others, and health issues. We’re weighted by worries, pain, and loss. So tethered to the earth, who can possibly soar in a dream?

Lately, my dreams have become angst-ridden things, like hands fluttering. Recently, I dreamed I had an advisor who had the look of Matt Smith from Doctor Who, all gangly and twitchy.

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He handed me a paper with a big red F on it, then proceeded to harangue me for not having my entire novel written before the end of the semester. Though I pleaded with him, the grade remained unchanged, a beacon to my incompetence in his eyes.

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At other times, I’ve had the dreams many of us have—not enough credits to graduate; the discovery of a paper due minutes before class; tests for which I didn’t study. Oh, the scenario has switched sometimes: buses and trains I missed; endless train journeys I’ve taken, but never to reach my destination; cars misplaced or stolen.

Life in my dream state. Sometimes I don’t recall my dreams upon waking. Still, a lingering feeling of anxiety drifts after me into the day like a dark cloud, and I’m grateful I don’t recall the plotline of that particular nightmare.

Maybe my waking dreams need to be taken up and flapped and snapped like a rug—to shake away the dust and sediment of doubt or despair. Or, maybe they need to be gussied up—brushed and curled and reminded that they exist, that they are beautiful and possible, and that the time to realize them is, and always was, now.

Then maybe the landscape of my night dreams would expand. Maybe I would return to those visions of sugar-plums. Or better yet, take a flight so glorious—no wings required. Just me and the air.

Oh, how I will fly!

Need a new waking dream? Reach for the sky with me. Together, we’ll soar.

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Pictures from digitalspy.co.uk; photos-public-domain.com