And the car stops too.

Gazoil and diesel are the same thing, maybe you new this because you speak French. Maybe you did not know this and by following what you thought were the directions on the gas cap and the pump you found yourself stranded in a medieval village in the French countryside. I did the latter and so this is a story about dealing with frustration, fear, anger and disappointment. Also how to remember that feeling okay and being okay are not always the same.

The facts here are not particularly interesting, obviously a mistake was made. My husband and I both had opportunities to go slower and get more information, but we neither of us did and so when we went back to the car in Cadouin after visiting the 11th century abbey, the car would not start. The regret started immediately. There were the normal frustrations and the added foreign travel frustrations. No one likes a broken down car under the best of circumstances. You definitely don’t like it in a country where you don’t speak the language and the rental agency you booked through in the US stops being helpful because you are not in the US (hello, you let me make the foreign reservation, where did you think I was going to be!).

The first gift was that the woman on the phone in France, whom I finally did reach and thank god for the internet and connectivity even in remote medieval villages, spoke English. Almost everyone I have met on my journey thus far speaks more than one language, it is to say the least humbling. She was kind and helpful and I did a good job of not screaming out of sheer frustration. That second part is not really a compliment to myself but it is an acknowledgement of the reality of human emotions – we often direct our feelings onto those around us which is unfair and unreasonable so I am patting myself on the back for holding it together in a time of stress. It’s like any kind of exercise, the more you do it the better you get, and for sure your interactions improve as a result.

The tow truck came and the words for “shit out of luck” are universally recognizable. What there are not a lot of in medieval villages are rental cars, indeed the closest replacement was in the city of our ultimate destination. The rental agency, staffed by people who in general were great was not so good at understanding the English for “call me a cab.” The guy I found via the internet understood enough so that turned out okay too.

I can now look at the situation and say it was a great opportunity to practice patience and faith and trust and serenity. I can see where I still have work to do: staying out of fear when I am not totally in control of a situation, and trusting that the person on the other end of the phone will do what she says she is going to do (75% of the time she did). I still have to work on letting go of what is over, no matter how much I think about it I can’t go back and redo now that I see how obvious and easy the solution was.

I can learn from the situation of course, I can remember these lessons for the future because certainly there will be other opportunities for practice. I can focus on the memory of sitting on a park bench in a medieval village watching the sparrows flitting in and out of the rafters of a thousand year old abbey just like they have been doing for a thousand years. If the car hadn’t broken down I would not have been sitting on that bench.


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