Depending on my mood, sometimes I think back longingly on walking to the weekly market with its fresh veggies, fruit, meats and cheese. Other days, it’s the croissants that I miss. The countryside with its rolling hills and vistas pop into mind and the antiquity of buildings that have stood through so much history.
All of these things made it an unforgettable experience. And they are all part of a bigger picture of what I loved the most about spending a month in France: SIMPLICITY.
There was no running around to activities or social events. We cut back on how much time we spent working. We went most places as a family, and all our usual outings were done on foot or by bike. We bought groceries for a day or two at a time. We had easy access to trails and footpaths for walking and biking. We could walk one hundred yards to the bus stop and take a twenty minute bus trip into the city.
Simplicity meant being present to each experience as it happened.
Missing from the experience was the five of us going in five different directions to activities, birthday parties, school or church functions. No driving through suburban sprawl with stop and go traffic, big box stores and massive parking lots to navigate. There was no need to be multi-tasking the way I do at home with dinner, multiple homework assignments and kitchen cleanup all going on simultaneously.
Even sitting here in my office, looking out at the sun-dappled maple tree through my open window, I hear cars on the road, a continual hum of one after another going by. In this moment, the sound conveys to me the imbedded busy-ness of our culture.
And now I hear a helicopter flying overhead, punctuating the air with more noise, a staccato that grows louder and then quieter and then louder again.
Stillness is not part of the ambiance this morning.
All of this human-made noise speaks to me of our running around, our need to achieve, to seek every opportunity, to not miss out, to have everything we need.
And, I kid you not, as I type, the sound of the train whistle joins the chorus.
It makes me want to jump up and yell, "Stop! Just stop! Be still! Be here for this moment. Can't we just be here for right now?"
I don’t think I can drown out the cacophony of trains, helicopters and cars on the road. But I can hear it – and I know it is a message for me.
I am aware of what has been missing since we returned from our trip.
So, I am just going to pause for a minute and sit here.
Okay, that was actually hard. My wiring has gotten used to the rapid-fire, productivity model that I have been cultivating the past few weeks.
I have been running around like everyone else: buying schools supplies, stocking up on a months worth of groceries, signing up for soccer clinics, catching up on work, helping with homework, tackling house projects I am eager to finish.
I wonder if what I loved most about France was really what I loved most about my life in France. Simpler, quieter, experience-oriented instead of achievement-oriented. Since we've been back, I've been in get-it-done mode.
So, instead of looking for a visually pleasing photo to go with this post, I am going to go be still for a few minutes.
I can still hear the cars speeding by, so I may have to close my window.
For now, it will have to be enough.
What is your current relationship with stillness? How do you know when your stillness/movement ratio is out of balance?
When was the last time you chose an experience-oriented activity? If you were to choose one for today, what would it be?