You can’t curb joy

frankarlaOne week ago today I got in my car and headed east towards the Berkshires. The day was cold, but sunny – perfect for the short one hour drive. My destination was Kripalu, which is a yoga and wellness retreat center. It has been years since my body has taken a yoga class, but my goal that day was not yoga. My friend Karla McLaren comes in from California to every few years to teach there, and we were overdue for a visit. Karla and I first “met” through blogging almost 10 years ago, when blogging was in a different era. We then met up at Kripalu a few years back.

Making my way through the town of West Stockbridge, I listened to the voice on the GPS interrupt the podcast of Dear Prudence that  I was listening to, telling me to turn left and right. I turned left and was immediately stunned as my right front wheel smashed into the curb. I was just able to make that right turn and pull over. How did this happen? Here I was, less than 5 miles from my destination and my tire was slashed from the impact, flat as a pancake.

Here I was, stranded in my vehicle in a charming town less than 5 miles from destination. My typical response would be to boil over like an untended kettle on the stove, yet all I could conjure up was one brief expletive as I dug my AAA card out of my wallet. Tapping the digits out on my phone, I noticed a car stopping next to me. Apparently these people had seen my hubcap go flying the other way (I had not given the darn thing a thought) and they went out of their way to bring it back to me. They also wanted to know if I wanted help, but I held up that AAA card as I thanked them.

It seemed that it would take about an hour for someone to get to me. In prior days of my life, I would have looked like a cartoon character bouncing off the walls going bing-bang-boing with fury. My observational self noted the difference, but could not get more than a slight feeling of annoyance that I would have less time with Karla , and arrive too late for my delicious Kripalu lunch! Some may curse the ubiquitous smart phone, but I was grateful to be able to text her with my situation.

With little else to do, I gazed at the porcelain blue sky above me and the street and houses around me as a prayer began to form in my heart. No, I’m not going to spell out what the prayer was, but let’s just say I as thankful to not have been made a slave to my own anger that day. As a person who often sees a wait of more than a few seconds as an affront to my being things were good.

Tap-tap-tap! My body leaped up in response to a guy walking his dog, and trying to get my attention. He wanted to know if I needed any help. Yes, here we are in the current America of fear and isolation and this guy, not unlike the hubcap bearers of earlier, is being kind and helpful. Letting him know I was fine, he waxed into a story about the death curb. Apparently curb-crashing is all the rage in West Stockbridge; I got the impression that this had been happening for years! He was followed over the course of the hour by two other people who stopped to check in on me and tell me curb crash stories.

The AAA driver showed up an hour after my call, as promised. He too regaled me with tales from the curb. “Knew right were ya were when they dispatched me!” he said. “A few hours ago I was here and the lady lost two tires! You are lucky!”  (You can read more about the curb of crashiness right here. )He changed my tire, told me that I would probably need a new wheel as well, since the rim was totally bent. Reminding me to drive carefully on the tiny donut spare, he went his way, and I went mine. My tire pressure low dashboard light was a reminder of the situation.

One hour of my life, spent on the side of the road. Instead of the acid churn of rage or injustice that might have swept over me like waves on a stormy beach, I felt fine. Good, actually. What was going on?  Maybe this is some post-Camino development? Sure, I have reacted to things well in the past, but perhaps I just was not expecting it today. Living in the land of gloom and doom, anger and rancor, with threats of external fear being played on a loop, I felt just fine. In fact, I felt grateful!  Joyful, even!



Kripalu cafeteria. Photo by James Martin SJ

Arriving at Kripalu, I made my way inside. Lunch was ending, but Karla had gathered up some provisions for me, and we enjoyed a lovely meal together. That’s communion, you know! Bread broken and shared. You may or may not know that Kripalu was once a Jesuit seminary, but that was way long ago. I gazed around, imagining the buzz of Ignatian activity that took place there at another time. This caused some joy to bubble up in me. On a prior visit to see Karla, we found the St. Ignatius mosaic, now obscured by a heavy velvet curtain. I had a picture, but I can’t find it right now. Here’s a photo of it uncovered.


After lunch we took a walk, the air bracing and sharp. Making our way down the hill, we traversed through some woods, sharing stories and histories of trauma and pain transformed into the good of our lives. More joy.

lifeguard-chair-kripaluAs we got closer to the pond, I noticed the lifeguard chair, with a cross in it. The Jesuits left in 1983, but their spirit remains! Imagining God as the divine lifeguard made me smile inside. And then more joy – right before my very eyes as I stood on the shore of the pond. St Ignatius was right, God can be found in all things, in all places.

joy-on-iceA day that could have been lost to anger, rage, impatience, and despair was anything but, proving to me that at least for that one day,  joy could not be curbed. Driving slowly on my spare, I made my way back home, with joy ever-present in my heart.

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3 thoughts on “You can’t curb joy

  1. Fran, how lovely. I will need to make a point to visit Kripalu this year. I also wrote about anger this week, and like you, I have recently observed and adjusted my response to it. Such a powerful emotion, when channeled creatively. We have no shortage of reasons to be angry, and stepping back from it as you did here is difficult, but oh, the joy!


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