In Return to Me, one of my favourite movies, there’s a scene where Grace, the main character, finds out Joe, her best friend Megan’s husband, has invited over a blind date for her. The recent recipient of a heart transplant after being ill since she was 14, Grace hasn’t dated much and is understandably anxious, especially when she learns her blind date is an ex-priest.
Joe, seeking to reassure her, says “It’s all right, I’ve already told him you’ve had some work done.”
“What?!” Grace exclaims, frantically looking for her scarf so she can cover up the part of her transplant scar that isn’t hidden by her shirt.
Megan chastises her husband, saying “God, Joe, she’s not a Buick!”
When facing medical tests or surgery, however, the body as a car analogy isn’t too far fetched. A blood test is similar to checking a car’s oil. I once felt a kinship with our family’s blue caravan because its engine failed and had to be replaced with an engine from another car and that reminded me of my transplant. I’m due to go into the shop (hospital) to have my spark plug (pacemaker/defibrillator) changed.
There’s something comforting about referring to your body as an inanimate object. If I treat my body as a thing, I can detach myself from it. Enduring multiple IV pokes, heparin shots, and surgeries is not a big deal because as a driver is not their car, so I am not my body.
Except the car analogy falls apart with one simple fact: when my body is hurt, I feel the pain. Although I’m sure some drivers feel physical pain when they find out their car has been damaged, it isn’t the same thing. Instead, human beings are a complex combination of body and spirit.
However much I dislike my body, if I don’t respect it and take care of it, it won’t take care of me. We have to work together because without each other, both of us would be lost. After all, a car without a driver doesn’t go anywhere, and a driver without a car is limited in where they can go. I may have a lemon here, but I don’t have the option of selling it and buying a new one. As Glenn Holland says in Mr. Holland’s Opus, “I’m going to have to stick with this one until the wheels fall off.”