Thanks so much Simone for asking me to contribute to your Wellness month.
It’s been a really enriching experience trying to articulate what Wellness means to me.
Here it is in a nutshell… mmm, tome.
Wellness = Harmony
Finding a balance between family committments, quiet time for my art and building up associated projects, time with friends and squeezing in a relatively regular physical routine.
Ideally that means paying equal attention to body, mind and spirit.
And what does that require other than super human doses of self-discipline and time management skills ? Good friends. Coffee. Faith. Healthy diet. Sufficient sleep
(thankfully you can’t see the hour I’m up writing this ;) and an ingrained sense of humour.
For my own peace of mind, and the subsequent sanity of those who inhabit the same house, I do strive to create and maintain that harmony on an on-going basis.
Bugger it's hard!
Going out for that run when it’s been raining for so long I wouldn’t be surprised to see Noah sailing past, takes a will power I have to wrench from the soles of my Asics most days.
But the glorious feeling of having exorcised my inner demons after an hour's jog (even 40 minutes sometimes), and forced my body to breathe, makes me a much sweeter person to live with.
I can feel it in the kids' reactions.
You know, a bit like ' Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!!'
I find that I deal with our internal family dynamics (read: screaming children) much more calmly and wisely when I've allowed myself 'me' time, and pushed myself out the door to exercise, meditate or paint.
I also find that taking some time out every day for exercise and meditation means I focus better and become more efficient, rather than dispersing myself in a panicked flurry of activity that best resembles a blowfly trying to get out of a bottle.
Something I’ve found really helpful when I inevitably slip out of the groove is trying not to beat myself up about it, but being kind to myself and making a firm resolve to get myself back on track as quickly as possible.
Most times… Most… I do.
It's important to me.
It also goes hand in hand with the ideals I try to instill in my messmonsters : being kind to and tolerant of ourselves and others when we slip up.
It’s all part of the equilibrium…
What role does food play in wellness ?
Arrgghhh ! I LOVE food.
Too much. I'm an epicurean and a glutton by nature.
I love a good party and for a long time my social calendar would fill up sometimes 6 months in advance, almost every weekend.
My nickname when I started working was ‘Foodie’
This was never a problem when I had no children, no committments other than work and I could train all the excess off.
Three kids and 13 years later it finally sunk in that time was no longer on my side, and that my body was going to change just like my mother's and grandmother's.
I had to wake up and smell the coffee (without the pancakes and maple syrup)!
What wellness really embodies for me then is moderating the amount I eat and generally watching what type of food I eat.
Let me be clear about this, declining rich food goes ENTIRELY against my gluttonous character.
But preparing healthy, organic meals is right in line with my taste buds, the way I like my body to feel and the values I want to teach those little beings who spend all their time observing my every move.
Fortunately, I am a sucker for crispy chicken skin, roast potatoes and confit de canard, which FORTUNATELY only make me feel dull and heavy.
It takes great personal sacrifice for me to refuse that extra roast potato or 5 that I really don't need!
Problem is, I also live in a country where most meals have an entrée, main and dessert.
I find it painfully unfair that my gorgeous French friends manage to restrain themselves systematically to a portion half the size of mine.
The jury's not out yet for me on whether it's due to ‘rigeur’ or lack of appetite!
In any case no other French woman I know is capable of eating a whole tin of condensed milk in one day like I am.
So in the name of ‘Wellness’ I've had to develop some cunning strategies to steer clear of the traps ;-)
One is just not buying the temptations. The other is sport. Again.
Not for burning the extra kilos off, but for helping to ward off the sugar cravings.
Luckily also, nature is sometimes on my side.
Since I've turned 40 I feel particularly uncomfortable with an overfull stomach.
I have to admit I’ve made friends with the surprisingly satisfying notion of ‘moderation’ and practically ousted the instant pleasure inherent in succumbing to temptation.
Wellness : trusting and respecting the sensations my poor body goes through – whatever the immediate sacrifice!
Sigh : No pain. NO Gain, as they say !
All this waffling has led me to another realisation.
Wellness to my mind is essentially about knowing myself, being crystal clear about what I really want for myself and my family, and taking the appropriate actions to achieve that.
It took me a long time to stop deluding myself that my body was going to look like my pre-child, 28 year old body again without considerable time (that I don’t have) and effort.
It's also taken till now for me to accept that I will never be able to get the multitude of projects I want to set up achieved in one lifetime.
That realisation allows me to redefine what is most important and concentrate all my energy on one or two worthwhile aims.
Accepting myself as I am (warts 'n' all as they say ;-), as well as my external constraints, has gone a long way to cultivating an inner calm that I associate with wellness.
While I haven’t exactly resigned myself to a life of rollers, hair nets and muffin tops, I have accepted the different stages of life so I can make them work for me instead of against me.
By now you may be asking yourself if I am some demoniac weirdo who single-handedly represses her inner cravings for fine wines and roast spuds and forces an organic diet of grated carrot and lemon juice on her children, while simultaneously running a marathon and deftly folding the week’s washing in the blink of an eye.
Don’t be fooled ! I couldn’t do it all on my own.
Come hell or high water I go on a meditation retreat two times a year in Wales after which, regular, ongoing contact with the participants helps me keep on the straight and narrow when weakness threatens to settle in! There’s a gentle reminder in there that I'm responsible for my own happiness - another cornerstone in the ol’ homeschooling curriculum à la Ange – and need to take appropriate measures to ensure it.
The sooner we see we're responsible for our own happiness, bodies and actions the sooner we're free to become who we really are.
To get there though, we all need a cunning plan, fool proof strategies, a helping hand and some external motivation from time to time.
Lord knows I do anyhow.
I’d be a quivering mess without my fabulous girlfriends and various ‘mentors’ who’ve popped up at the right moments in my life.
All in all it's a bit like tending to a garden I guess.
There are days when I'd say I can't be bothered to go out and weed my garden because it’s too much effort. In some areas of my life, particularly ones I love, like sport, meditation or even calligraphy, I'll talk myself out of making the effort required to start.
Paradoxically, these are the very actions I most associate with wellness and feeling great ‘in my skin’ as the French say.
My grandest intentions are easy prey for flimsy excuses like : 'I only have an hour and there's still the dinner to cook, the kids' work to mark, a mountain of washing invading the laundry …’ etc.
However, if I don't take the time needed to look after my own garden; it rapidly becomes over over-run with weeds (bad attitude, bad habits, bad hair days, bad breath !) running completely wild.
Although there is beauty in a wild garden, all the potential it has to really blossom can be strangled under those weeds.
ellness to me means frequently tending to our own garden so we can make the most of the harvest and share it with those around us.
Ange lives in France and writes the blog Signed by Ange ....
Ange lives in France and writes the blog Signed by Ange ....