This is where I am sitting as I write this and I just had to share this photo with you because it is so beautiful here this evening!
After a fabulous couple of weeks in Mirabelle (the motor-home) exploring the glorious South-West coast of France, we arrived here near Belves about 10 days ago. We are house-sitting in an incredible house for the whole of October and looking after Chewie and Jabba the labs while their owners take a holiday. Our two dogs are also with us so we have quite a pack to walk every day but it is worth it for the opportunity to spend time in this incredible setting for free.
The October weather has been glorious so far and today the temperature soared to a glorious 28 degrees. It is now 8 pm and I am still sitting outside in a t-shirt. My skin is brown and my body is loving all the challenging hilly walks with the dogs on the Camino (which runs right beside us), my daily swims in the pool here and lots of yoga. There is literally zero stress from day to day at the moment and part of me still thinks that I am on holiday. The reality that this is my new life hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
I think that this is partly because we have had so little interaction with any kind of local community since we arrived. We have been moving around a lot over the last 8 weeks and we have been pretty self-sufficient in terms of keeping each other company which as been wonderful. Eoin and I are best buddies and we have lived and worked together since we met 8 years ago so we are used to spending a lot of time with each other. However, we have met quite a few couples who have moved here and have made the mistake of becoming totally dependent on each other for company and haven’t made the effort to get out and make new friends or create a sense of community around them. This always ends in one or both of them wanting to move back ‘home’ – mainly because they haven’t made France their real home. We will NOT be doing that!
Having felt pretty isolated socially where we were living in Northern Ireland one of the things that we are really searching for here in the Dordogne in that sense of community. We want to find our people, our tribe. Eoin wants to find fellow musicians to jam with and other creatives and I want to find my sisterhood of like-minded women who are interested in spirituality, well-being, the divine feminine and such-like. So, whilst the house and area we end up living in are very important to us, the existence of that community is actually going to be the deciding factor in terms of where we end up buying.
We have been asking for signs and literally reading signs and posters in every village we visit to see what is going on. There is yoga, t’ai chi and a few other musical things but nothing has really leapt out at me. Then last Wednesday, in a small village near us, I saw this and my heart raced. A gathering of women only 5 kms from where we are staying which is on this weekend! I couldn’t believe it but went online, checked it out and signed up immediately to attend for the day yesterday. Sadly Eoin is in Ireland this weekend and I couldn’t leave the dogs all day every day so that was as much as I could commit to. But I paid my money and was all set to go. Then the fear kicked in……
“OMG it is all going to be in French! They are all going to be French! All the workshops will be in French! I am going to have to communicate with complete strangers in French and talk about lots of things which I don’t have the vocabulary for.”
I could so easily have talked myself out of it at that stage but instead I realised that if I really want to integrate into life in this beautiful country then the only way to do it is to push myself out of my comfort zones and go for it. I also reassured myself that a gathering of conscious women like this would be a very safe place to make mistakes and to be encouraged in my still rusty French.
Don’t get me wrong, my French is OK. In my early 20s I would have considered myself pretty fluent and it is all in there somewhere but the truth of it is that, since we arrived here 8 weeks ago, I have had to speak remarkably little French. Eoin and I obviously speak mostly in English with each other, in the campsites that we were staying in most people were Dutch or German and all spoke English and even in the Dordogne nearly everyone we interact with has great English. We dont enjoy French radio and we have only had access to English TV in the houses where we have stayed. So it is very easy to be lazy but I am determined to get back to my previous levels of fluency and to exceed them. So I insist on speaking French (even if the shop assistant or market trader insists on speaking to me in English!) And, of course, the more lazy you are and the less you use it, the more likely you are to tell yourself that you can’t do it……a never-ending cycle. The only way out of which is to push out of the comfort zone and speak as often as possible – USE IT OR LOSE IT!!
So off I went yesterday with a rainbow of butterflies in my belly but a strong knowing in my heart that this was exactly what I had to do. And, as always, my heart was right.
I found myself in a beautiful setting surrounded by 140 women from all over France who were there to explore what it means to be female in this crazy, speeded up modern world we live in. I attended workshops on a variety of different topics which interest me and I understood nearly all of what was being said. I learnt new vocabulary and I asked people around me if I didn’t understand. I introduced myself to the organisers who are a group of local women called Les Femmes de la Source (a coincidence that our wellbeing centre in Belfast is called Source….je ne crois pas!) and I explained that I was Irish and had just moved here. I told them a little about myself and, within an hour, I had invitations to different events and to several of their homes over the next few weeks! I even felt a very strong emotional connection or familiarity with a couple of them so I am excited to see how those friendships develop.
At several times during the day I felt tears of gratitude and joy welling up as I realised how beautifully the Universe can orchestrate things when I get my own fear and limiting beliefs out of the way, become clear about what I desire and then follow the signs.
I had dinner with 4 women at the Festival last night and was able to join in an animated and passionate conversation about miracles, the Law of Attraction, manifestation and intention and I fell into bed last night very tired but VERY sure that we are in exactly the right place at the right time. I even dreamt a little in French for the first time in a couple of decades!
Our tribe is here and I am very excited to get to know them all more and to find a home nearby that allows us to spend time with them. It is incredible to think that I could have missed out on all that because my crazy mind told me that my French wasn’t good enough! So often we actually don’t need language to be able to connect with people at a heart and soul level anyway because we can pick up so much from people’s energy if we really want to and a genuine smile, openness of spirit and sense of humour can go a long, long way in a foreign country.
What an inspiring post – particularly for those of us hoping to make the move and worrying about our poor French
My partner just has school level French and decided to see it as a challenge to become reasonably fluent in his 60th year this year! Go for it!
Well done, Jenny! Your post is so inspiring!
Merci, Teresa. I hope that life is treating you beautifully. xo
I do nowadays – I used to be so shy to speak French. But now I just plunge in with the wrong tenses and in some cases the wrong, but similar, words. People are very kind and I’m always pleased if they put me right. My problem is remembering it the next time. But hey ho I believe familiarity is the best tutor and the more you do it the more it becomes second nature.
Yet again so so inspiring I love the new life you are creating and look forward to your next blog.
I heard about your story and Blog from a friend here in Wexford and I just loved reading that blog about your day in the group.
Myself and my wife are most definitely at some crossroad in our life and she has always wanted to move to the south of France. A place she visited many years ago and wanted to go back to. I have never been dispite doing many other travels. We are both creatives and I have worked for many years as a therapist and hold workshops in creative writing and while I love the work some days my heart tells me I need to find people I can connect too more. We live in a small village and are isolated at times and motivation gets low to even try mix more and work takes over. We have at present our house up for sale and we think of moving near a town but would also love to explore the idea of taking risks. We are making plans to learn French as our first step. I will look forward to your blogs and hope that we will find our road on our journey. Mitzie and Rita Ann
Hi Mitzie and Rita Ann
Thanks for your kind words and I am glad that you are enjoying the blog so much.
Learning French is a great first step but I wouldn’t let the language stop you from moving here. There is so much English spoken especially in the South, that you would get by easily. I strongly recommend the move! Just back in from my daily siesta in the sun (with a blanket) on 22 November!!