Feel the Fear and Speak French Anyway!

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 20171010_175951and 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! Continue reading “Feel the Fear and Speak French Anyway!”

A Pair of Old Beach Hippies!

Us on beachAs I write this, I am sitting in Mirabelle (our motor-home) in a beautiful campsite and I can hear the roar of the wild Atlantic which is less than 5 minutes’ stroll from our ‘front door’.  We arrived here almost a week ago after an overcast and quite damp 10 days house-sitting in the Gironde.  When we left there last Monday we decided that we wanted to chase the sun and, thanks to Eoin’s brilliant weather app, we found it.  We have had a blissful week here with lots of sunshine, swimming in the waves, cycling, yoga and general outdoors living in temperatures in the mid to high 20s.  My skin is feeling sun-kissed and my body is feeling very healthy (if a little tired after a long time in the ocean yesterday).

Our two dogs are still staying with friends in the Dordogne and we decided to make the most of these two weeks of total freedom with no commitments to anyone apart from ourselves.  When we arrived here on Monday we told the receptionist that we would be staying a couple of nights but after two nights we realised that we were both really happy, relaxed and loving the place.  It was only our minds that were telling us that we “should” explore more of the coastline and see or do more.  We both dropped the word “should” from our vocabulary a few years ago so we decided to stay put until we both feel the urge for a change of scene.

Beach feet

Continue reading “A Pair of Old Beach Hippies!”

New life, same old me!

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.

21534373_10155585388422593_468782885_oLuckily 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. Continue reading “New life, same old me!”

The Freedom of Simplicity

21125387_10155556176792593_5186998666097518413_oWe have now been on the road for one week and are gradually settling into our temporarily nomadic lifestyle.  So far we have spent nights in Northern Ireland, Dublin, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Portsmouth and a few nights in two different towns in the Loire region of France.  Our original plan had been to stay in a different place each night as we travelled down through France from Normandy to the Dordogne so that we could just do a couple of hours’ driving each day and explore the country we were passing through.  However, Tuesday saw a change of plan……

We spent Monday night in the car park of Portsmouth ferry terminal so we could get the early crossing and we had a restless night and an early start.  When we arrived in France on Tuesday at lunchtime it was hot and as we drove South the temperature and humidity kept rising.  By the time we arrived at our campsite after nearly 4 hours’ drive, we were all a little frazzled.  It was one of those days when I was sweating as I sat still never mind putting up the awning and getting ourselves unpacked.  The dogs were hot and stressed too.  By the time we got set up for the evening, Eoin and I were, quite frankly, f**ked!  All the busy-ness of the last few weeks, getting used to motor-home living, travelling with the dogs and finding our way around new terrain had finally taken its toll.  We sat down under the stars for dinner that night and decided that we all needed to take the next day off and just ‘land’ in France.  So we stayed for two nights and moved on yesterday but again, this morning, we both really felt the need for stillness so we are staying another night in the lovely campsite where we are right now.  It has been a great decision just to take things a little easier on ourselves and to have a couple of lazy days in one place without having to pack up and move on.  This afternoon it is raining heavily so we are putting our feet up and making the most of the enforced rest.

 

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Tomorrow we have a reasonably long drive but the reward at the end of it is that we are dropping Samson and Delilah off with our friends in the Dordogne who are dog-sitting for them for the rest of September.  We love the fur babies but they are just too big to travel around with in Mirabelle and it is also very unsettling for them. So this will be best for all of us.

 

I guess that we are still in the process of unwinding from the sale of our home, possessions and car and all the work that we had been doing in the background to simplify our lives before we left Northern Ireland.  Even at a combined age of 109 years old, we both have great energy levels which are helped by our healthy lifestyle and excellent nutrition but we definitely had underestimated how tired we actually were.

Continue reading “The Freedom of Simplicity”

Happy Birthday to Me!

21284437_10155560063147593_876971505_oTomorrow is my 49th birthday.  In a lot of the spiritual circles I move in people talk about the importance of the number seven and how our lives flow in seven year cycles.  Today is the last day of my seventh seven year cycle and the significance is not lost on me as I arrived in France yesterday to start my new life here.

When I reflect on where I was in my life seven years ago I am reminded that it was around that time when we realised that dad had developed Vascular Dementia and much of the interim period has been focused on sharing his care with my brother and sister.  Dad eventually passed away last summer and just before then I had started to hear an inner nudge which was telling me to “make space” in my life.  I had no idea why but I know not to ignore those soul whispers and so I took the apparently crazy decision to step back from the 1-1 Life Coaching work which had sustained me financially for eleven years.  I stopped taking on any new clients, gradually wound down my coaching practice over last summer and took on a team of accredited coaches to carry on the work I had been doing.

At almost exactly the same time my only child, Georgia, graduated from university in Belfast and moved to Dundee to live with her partner and embark on her Master’s Degree.  Within the space of a few months I realised that I was no longer caring for or supporting anyone for the first time in twenty one years (notice the end of another seven year cycle!) and the word FREEDOM kept rattling through my consciousness.

And now I sit here in a campsite in France inside our motor-home with no fixed abode, no home or garden to maintain, most of my possessions sold, a large lump sum in the bank, three businesses in Ireland which I can run remotely and total freedom to do and be whatever/whoever I want.  A bit like when I started writing this blog, I have a big blank page in front of me and I can make the next seven year cycle into whatever I choose.

So, what will it be?  What will I create now?  What next? Continue reading “Happy Birthday to Me!”

Chaos and Reorganisation

on the roadWe left all that is familiar to us 48 hours ago and drove out of our home in Northern Ireland for the last time in Mirabelle, our new motor-home.  I am writing this on the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead having spent our first couple of nights in Mirabelle – one in a layby near our friend’s house in Newry and the second in a campsite on the beach just outside Dublin.

We are slowly getting used to life in Mirabelle and our new living space which is smaller than any of the bedrooms in the house which Eoin, me and our 2 dogs, Samson and Delilah, have shared for the last 4 ½ years.  It is compact and pretty cosy when shared with 2 large dogs and I am glad that they are only travelling with us in it for a week before they go to stay with friends in the Dordogne for the rest of September.

The dogs seem to be feeling a little like we are……discombobulated is the best word for it!  Everything is new, everything is unfamiliar and every time we stop and open the door of Mirabelle the dogs step out into a new world.  They have led very sheltered lives since we rescued them both.    They have lived in the same home, with the same garden, the same walks and the same smells for the last 4+ years. They haven’t travelled, they haven’t visited other peoples’ houses, they haven’t been in a motor-home, they haven’t stayed in a campsite and they certainly haven’t been on a ferry.  They are off their food and Delilah is seeking constant reassurance.

I am feeling much the same as I ‘unplug’ from the life which we have just left.  All our normal daily routines have disappeared and I still haven’t adjusted to the daily move from one place to another.  I am still getting used to our compact living space and trying to find ways to make it easier to live comfortably in it.  My body is getting used to our new bed.  I am a light sleeper so I am easily woken by Samson’s vocal doggy dreams, car doors banging outside, people chatting around us and Delilah barking every time she hears a noise outside.  At this moment in time I feel hung-over even though no alcohol was consumed last night.  Sleep deprivation has that effect on me. I am jealous of Eoin who has just sat down beside me on the ferry and gone straight back to sleep.  He has the gift of being able to sleep anywhere regardless of what is going on around him.

I wonder how long the discombobulation will last for and how soon life on the road will be become the new normal for us?  Continue reading “Chaos and Reorganisation”

This could be my last day

When I become very conscious of this fact – that everything passes, nothing is permanent and this could be my last time – then my present moment becomes much more vivid and much more alive.  Because I want to remember it.  

I let go to feel the fall
And know that I’m alive
I see my breath and think of God
And everything I have

This could be my last day
This could be my last day

From “This Could be My Last Day” by Duke Special

With only 10 days before we leave this beautiful home and all that is familiar to us here at Eden we have started into the ‘last times’.  The last time we will go to the supermarket here.  The last time we will walk on our favourite beach.  The last time that I will bake a cake here.  The last time that family will be in this house…….

SandD with Mournes

Today I was lost in thought as the dogs and I walked over the fields around our home here in the lush, green, damp Co. Down countryside.  The to-do lists at the moment are enormous as we prepare to emigrate to France next Friday and let go off 3/4 of our possessions before then.  My mind is busy and in full planning mode which I am very grateful for, if not a little exhausted by!

Jenny and Mournes

But then I was stopped short by the joyful dance of flock of swallows who were diving and skimming along the long grass which we were walking through.  I was suddenly drawn right back into the Here and Now and intensely aware of the beauty of the present moment.  I stood for about 10 minutes watching the swallows, admiring the Mourne Mountains in the distance, seeing the green, undulating landscape with fresh eyes created by the knowledge that this was one of the last times in my life that I will walk this particular walk which I know and love so well.

That got me thinking about all the last times in my life so far that I didn’t realise were last times until it was too late (bear with me…it will make sense!) Continue reading “This could be my last day”