New Car, Old Mess

New Car, Old Mess

I’ve always been messy.

Even as a kid, my parents had to bribe, threaten, and beg me to clean my room. My desk at school was a pile of crayons and old math tests and my father once found a box of chocolates I’d hidden away in the back of my closet seven years before.

I wish I could say I’ve improved, that I’ve grown up and out of those habits but unfortunately that’s not the case.

My husband, Jason is just the opposite. His idea of a mess is not emptying the dishwasher.

It’s been a challenge, learning to live together that way but we are working toward a balance. Jason often mentions that my anxiety might lessen if I lived in a more “peaceful” environment. I often mention that I don’t like it when he tells me what to do.

I try to keep my piles of shoes by the front door to four pairs or less and I look at the ten books stacked by my bed as an improvement. Only ten!

These days, the only place I can really let my freak flag fly is in my car – the last frontier of Jessica’s mess.

But last month, I sold my sweet, little Toyota Yaris. It had been with me for eight years and even though it was the kind of car that felt like I was driving a go-cart on the freeway, I had loved her.

I get sentimental about stuff like that.

When I was little, my parents sold our Jeep Grand Cherokee without telling me and I cried behind the garage for an hour before they found me. I looked at them with as much resentment as I could muster and screamed, “How could you give her away without letting me say goodbye.”

To avoid a repeat of that, I decided to spend a little time with my Yaris before the buyer came to pick her up. I washed her, I sat in her, and when I knew I couldn’t avoid it any longer, I began to clean her out.

What I thought would take thirty minutes, took two hours.

Some of the things I found in my car included: a New York Times from 2013, a melted stick of deodorant, two metal spoons, wrapping paper, a wine opener, a tube of lipstick, and a love letter from an old boyfriend.

I even found an old manual that told me how to set up Bluetooth in my car. I have Bluetooth? I quickly set it up and called Jason from the driveway. “I’ve had Bluetooth this whole time!!”

He hung up on me.

As I read the letter from a boyfriend I hadn’t seen in seven years I thought, huh. Maybe Jason has a point.  Maybe I would feel better if I wasn’t stockpiling spoons.

When my new car arrived – a Toyota Prius – I made a promise to myself. I would keep this car clean. The new car was the beginning of my new, more peaceful life.

That first week I drove down the freeway feeling so light, so free, so weightless. I finally understood what Jason was talking about. I could think more clearly in this car, without antiperspirant or old newspapers rattling around me.

I’d been so afraid to throw something away that had value, I’d kept hundreds of things that didn’t.

A few weeks later I got home late. I was tired and hungry and just wanted to get inside and collapse on the couch. I noticed there was a magazine in the back seat that I wasn’t quite done reading.

That’s okay, I thought as I locked the door.

I’ll get it later.


This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum.  You can find them (and me) here. 

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