One of the many things we love about France is the slightly slower pace of life. However, at the same time our life seems more hectic than ever; it’s a total contradiction I know, but true. We have never been busier, but we also find more time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life!
All I seem to see these days are articles about “me-time” and the importance of finding time for oneself. I am not the type of person who can really take myself off and spend an entire morning at a salon; even at the hairdressers I get fidgety, I’m too impatient, and I’m always thinking of the other things I could be doing!
The Collins Dictionary defines “me-time” as follows: “……the time a person has to himself or herself, in which to do something for his or her own enjoyment.”
In my case I suppose when I’ve finished everything on my list that requires complete concentration, then my special time is always enjoyed while I’m doing something else. I know this is cheating but if I can kill two birds with one stone then it must be fated! Most of my special time comes while I’m doing one of two things; either I’m mowing the lawn, or I’m at tennis.
I do a great deal of thinking when pottering along on my little red tractor, with that wonderful scent of freshly mown grass; it’s a smell that I find quite intoxicating, and to me it epitomises summer. Of course, I can’t cut the lawn in the rain, so this means I am always mowing in good weather, when the sun will invariably be shining and no one can talk to me for I simply can’t hear a word they say. I become totally immersed in my own world and sometimes I’ll think of nothing but the garden as I see what needs to be weeded or cut back whilst I ride past, deep in thought, the spinning blades underneath me cutting through their work. Sometimes I’ll think about future goals and I’ll wish I could get the job done a little faster as I’m keen to get on with my plans, but that’s the beauty of my red tractor and my mowing – I can’t go any faster and I ‘m forced to take my time.
As for tennis, I seem to sit for hours virtually uninterrupted at the girls’ matches, or when I’m watching one of their lessons. On Tuesday evening I was a very happy spectator. Millie was playing in a tournament an incredibly pretty club some twenty minutes away. The intense heat of the day had cooled a little and there was just the merest hint of a light breeze; Plenty of people were watching and the atmosphere was happy and relaxed. I couldn’t help but think what a perfect way it was to spend an evening, watching one of our daughter’s play a game I love. The benches were extremely hard and apart from the odd glance at my phone I didn’t do much thinking as I was too busy keeping track of the score. That is the nearest I get to time alone, and to be honest I wouldn’t want it any other way and with five children it never will be any other way. So can I still call this ‘me-time’? Or do I need to be thinking about myself while meditating in silence? Can ‘me time’ be simply time spent alone while involved in something else?
Most of us know that looking after ourselves is essential for happiness. But do we take the time to think about what looking after ourselves actually means for each of us? Exercise, sure. Eating well, yes. Drinking plenty of water and sleeping sufficiently of course. But there’s more. Enjoying time with friends and loved ones is also an essential part of living a healthy, happy life. Which brings me back to the French lifestyle I talk about so often. The French take time to enjoy a long meal; they take time to talk and spend time with each other and we did just this on Sunday with a few friends over for a barbecue. It happened to coincide with both Izzi and Roddy’s birthdays and what better way to celebrate than in the garden, cooking with friends.
When I am super busy I’ll wonder why on earth I invited twenty people for dinner, and my inner voice will be screaming “I don’t have time for this”; but the fact is I need to make the time and by inviting friends over I have to do just that. We are very fortunate that all the children help, without them it would be utter chaos, but they pick flowers, they lay the table, they help to cook, they run down the road to the boulangerie and come back laden with baguettes. It’s a real family affair.
With the arrival of the weekend the weather took a turn for the better; it began to really feel warm and the skies finally turned blue again. There was that distinct scent of summer in the air; I hoped it would last. We’ve escaped very lightly. The floods in Paris and the north of France have been awful. We didn’t get the rain, just the rather grey skies and the sun went temporarily into hiding. The Charente Maritime is meant to be the second sunniest place in France after Provence and the Langeudoc-Roussillon. One French friend who lives about thirty minutes inland from us arrived for the barbecue and looked at the sky and said “We’ll get a storm,”.
“No, it’ll go around us,” I said. “it always does; it builds in the north and heads east,” and sure enough it did just that with the blue skies immediately overhead remaining resolutely in situ all evening. This is the real Charente Maritime microclimate that is much talked about.
Brocantes are another sure sign that the summer is here. Roddy and I spent a rare couple of hours together visiting a local one at the weekend that is one of my annual favourites in a really pretty little village.
It was just past midday when we left, that all important lunch hour. All around the field people were sitting at their stalls with a smaller table laid out behind them, tablecloths in place and all sorts of delicious foods were being unpacked. We heard several corks being pulled, and while things were still for sale, lunch was also being eaten. Customers still wandered and chatted to vendors whilst they ate, but nothing could prevent the pleasures of a proper meal, even at a brocante.
We came away with a few treasures, old knives and vintage linen which I couldn’t wait to get on the line, so it could be washed and ready for use!
I read recently that “solitary time can help us have a better understanding of ourselves, our thoughts and our emotions”. The weekend was far from solitary, but it was a time to relax and kick back and have fun, to appreciate life, our family and our friends. I wonder what my old headmistress from school would think of all this. My reports very often read “thoughtful of the needs of others” a phrase I was extremely proud of, even if the rest of the report was a little less favourable, “chatters too much”and “could try harder” seemed to feature far too often. But at school we were taught to not think of ourselves and to always put other people first. It’s hard to change something that was drummed into me for the first 18 years of my life!
Tell me – do you think “me time” is vital for our wellbeing and if so, what you do; do you manage to find time for yourself?