La joie de Vivre

Our daily lives are FULL! It’s a part of our culture and our identity. American society prides itself on being busy. After all, if we’re busy it must mean that we are important and that the “stuff” that we’re filling our days with is important. Our participation in these seemingly important events is integral in their success. I remember how modern and trendy I felt in college, when I was able to take a full 18 hour class load and still work 2 part-time jobs to pay everything my scholarships did not. I felt self-sufficient and capable. But then, after I graduated full of honors and feeling unstoppable, I completed my “college experience” by teaching ESL in a small city in the southeast of France. There I was introduced to a very different style of living.

The pace of life was half the speed of what it had been at home in St. Louis, Missouri. Like so many francophiles before me, I actually found it difficult to adjust myself to a slower pace of life. I was surrounded by beauty, but frustrated at being forced to take it one slow bite at a time. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the slower pace of life and the love of beauty are intertwined together. The French feel that if you’re rushed, then it’s impossible to notice the little delights that are actually all around us.

It took me months before I could just sit on a bench near the sandy square that was usually the site of the local boules games and enjoy myself. I walked daily from elementary school to elementary school, just breathing in the atmosphere. I learned all of the scents along my path. I began to distinguish the ones that I liked from the ones that I did not. I also learned the French trick of the perfumed scarf. Have you ever wondered why the French LOVE their scarves so much? Well not only is it a decorative addition to any outfit, it is also the perfect place to spray a little perfume for whenever you need a little extra confidence or a little foul odor coverage (think lots of bodies in tight quarters…). I would spritz my scarf with my favorite perfumes and dab my nose anytime I needed a quick pick-me-up. What a simple way to improve the moment. Speaking of perfumes….. I never understood the need for a signature scent until my year abroad. I quickly noticed that all of the put-together men and women around me smelled good! Just by walking near a perfumed individual, my day improved. Such a simple concept, yet so underused by Americans. Fortunately for me, I was engulfed in the French mode of thinking. So l soon found myself in a Douglas (a large cosmetics and perfumerie, competitor of Sephora). The French have a knack for making even browsing a delight. I was able to sniff my way throughout the store. The only interruption being an older security guard who rather than questioning me about my activities, simply offered his opinion on some of the possible perfume choices. There was no flirtation involved, he simply felt that a scent is something that should match and complement the person wearing it. And only in France could I spend an entire afternoon making this supremely important choice and not be accused of wasting my time.

This same attention to detail that allows the French to spend an entire afternoon in search of the perfect scent pervades their entire cultural mindset. Searching for beauty and joy is in their mind  an honorable endeavor.

The search for beauty and joy is what drives them. This search requires slow methodical investigation. The end result is that they have a beautiful thirst and zest for life that we as Americans tend to lack. They don’t allow themselves to get bogged down by a quest for things. Nor do they fill their time with chores, activities, and other time-stealers. They actually avoid becoming what we call “soccer moms” as being a mommy-chauffeur is considered a negative thing. It implies that a mom is at the beck and call of children or in other words that the kids are ruling the roost.

So here’s the million dollar question: can we truly have a  joie de vivre or joy of living when we are constantly running from place to place, and never give ourselves time to stop and smell the roses? I would suggest that if you start to question WHY you do what you do, you may find that the answers are not what you expect. We often do things solely because others say we should. Many children’s activities fall into this category. As mothers, we are constantly told to give our kids music lessons and physical activities and tutoring (you know, just to give the kids an edge…). The reality is that in the grand scheme of things, none of it will really matter that much. Wouldn’t it be better to teach our kids and those around us how to find joy in everyday life? How to look around at the amazing beauty that God has created and take the time to thank Him for it?

So I know that this blog isn’t directly health-related, but given that the two most frequent reasons I hear for not exercising or eating right is not enough time or too stressed out, I consider this a very important topic. Our health begins with our mindset. So is yours what you want it to be?


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