It is now two weeks since we drove away from our old home in Nothern Ireland and about 10 days since we arrived in France. My life has been turned on its head as I left behind so much which is familiar. My physical environment is currently changing every few days as we explore this beautiful country. And yet I am fascinated by the fact that many aspects of my day-to-day life are very similar to how they were before. I have the same morning routine and the same bedtime routine. I have the same little habits that I have had for many years and my perimenopausal hormones are still as crazy in France as they were in Northern Ireland!
It is so easy to think that you will be fundamentally changed as a human being just because you make a big life change like moving to another country, ending a relationship or changing a job. However, of course, just because the external circumstances of your life are different does not mean that you are different.
Yesterday I found myself waking early, going straight onto my laptop to check emails and then rushing to get to the morning market at a decent time. I then observed myself wandering through that lovely French market and experiencing some more stress all of which was created by my thought patterns about what to buy and cook for dinner! Rather than being fully present and enjoying the sights and sounds of the market and marvelling at the fact that this is now my new ‘normal’ way of buying food, my mind was caught up in old, outdated programming.
Luckily I have been meditating and practicing mindfulness for so many years now that I was able to observe the antics of my mind, catch them and bring myself fully back into the here and now. I could then really experience the beauty of my surroundings and the pleasure of chatting in French with the fish-stall holder while I selected some monkfish for dinner. I was able to appreciate the intricate wonders of the window display in the chocolaterie. I could savour the smell the basil that I bought from the man who grew it.
So many people chase the dream and think that their lives will be totally different when they move to France (or any other country) but the reality is often that their lives are not really that different. The common denominator of any stress and anxiety that we experience in our lives is not really the circumstances of our life. It is YOU! We all know that there are people living in what we perceive as horrifically deprived situations in countries like India who are filled with an inner joy and deep appreciation for their lives. We also know people who ‘have it all’ and who are horribly unhappy.
I am very grateful that I learnt many years ago that happiness really is an inside job and that I have the power to change my own emotional state by learning to control the crazy antics of my mind. I do that through meditation, the practice of gratitude and many other tools which I have learnt over the years. After much practice, these are now some of my more positive habits and really enhance my life.
Will my peri-menopausal hormones still run wild here in my new life in France? Of course they will.
Will my crazy ego-mind still want to drag me into stress? Of course it will.
Will my old addictions to sugar and alcohol still be part of my life? Oh yes….how could they not when I am sitting in the middle of the vineyards and surrounded by patisseries?
Do I have the ability to catch myself before I get hooked in old patterns? Yes.
Do I have the choice as to what I put into my body and how to look after it? Yes.
Do I get to decide how I spend my precious time in this beautiful country? Absolutely.
And that is why, on the whole, I feel so free at this point in my life. Because, in my mind, I have total freedom and that is not dependent on where or how I live. It is dependent on me and the minute to minute choices that I make as to how I want to experience my life.
So, right here, right now, I choose to be at peace, to sit in awe of it all and to milk every second of this amazing adventure.