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What I Learned in France

La Réserve B&B, Giverny

How do I begin to describe the best things about my recent trip to France? Let’s start with my newfound love affair with Air France; new friends; Maison Laudrée’s legendary macarons; the Eiffel Tower at night; the gilt and grandeur of Versailles; the d’Orsay and Rodin Museums; decorative French Ironwork; tall walnut doors and old parquet floors; La Réserve B&B in Giverny; the beauty that is 1010 Park Place’s own Esther Zimmer, inside and out–Essie came from London and met me in Paris!–or that water is served in wine bottles.

I learned several things about self-care, although to my surprise, not where I expected to find it: in the Extreme Self-Care Retreat.

The best thing about my trip to France was understanding the importance of unplugging from everything. After mother’s death; selling the ranch; moving twice—in 16 days—and a to-do list that seems to grow by itself in the middle of the night, I needed a vacation. Except for posting my blog and some photos to Instagram, I disconnected and relinquished the familiar and embraced “la différence.” Incase you didn’t catch that… Make time to unplug from everything!

As far as self-care… Most of us have reached the age where we know what we should be doing to take care of ourselves. We know what foods to eat and that we need to exercise, stay hydrated and find time to play. The hard part is actually doing them… and then doing them on a regular basis.

Extreme self-care starts with not fooling ourselves that we’re eating healthy foods and getting enough exercise. An honest look in the mirror will tell us—and those around us—that’s simply not true. Extreme self-care is learning to set boundaries; how to say “no,” and putting ourselves first. It’s not selfish. It’s self-preservation.

Extreme self-care is creating an authentic life; one we don’t fill up with junk because it was cheap. It’s paring down our environment so the only things around us are things that fuel our soul and bring us peace. Extreme self-care is MAKING LIFE COUNT.

After standing in front of the mirror, what if we make a list of 10 things we need—as much as air itself—to create a healthy, positive difference in our lives? The top two things I need on my list are unplugging and connecting with friends in person, not online.

Today I spoke with a special friend who’s recovering from cancer treatment. We talked about finding our “new normal” after cancer and decided what we really find is a new perspective. We see life through a different lens. For me, that’s what extreme self-care is all about. We view our lives with the intention of making life count. We embrace the things we’ve put off, or feared, like losing weight; changing jobs; getting out of a bad marriage; cleaning out the garage or maybe… What if we sell the house, lease an apartment and travel?

What do you see through your lens of extreme self-care? What’s stopping you from creating it?

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27 thoughts on “What I Learned in France”

  1. Extreme self care…I love that! Making ourselves practice it, seems to be a constant challenge. Focus and creating good habits is helping , but it’s not the whole answer for me. I’m searching! It sounds like you had a marvelous trip! xx

    • Practicing what we preach is the challenge, but it’s more than how we treat our body. It’s how we nurture our spirit as well. I’m off to work in the garden with my dogs. Then I have my eye on a Netflix film I haven’t seen. xoxox

  2. So glad to hear your trip to France was so uplifting. And you are right we deserve extreme self care.

    • Pat, The hardest part is practicing what we preach. Not sure there are many of us who’ve really mastered that skill.

  3. Thank you! This has inspired me to unplug from my Facebook addiction while in the UK. Instagram and blog posts only. My self care involves escaping our insane political atmosphere and immersing myself in theirs-Brexit! Thank you

    • …and I know you’re taking beautiful photos with your iPhone. Facebook keeps us tethered to other people’s lives, while it uses up valuable time we could use to live our own lives! Enjoy the UK! xoxo, Brenda

  4. Sounds like it was amazing in so many ways. Happy you are returning refreshed and inspired!

  5. This hit me at a time when I, too, am re-evaluating what self care constitutes. I was inspired by research that shows that the best thing you can do when you are over 60 is to learn a new skill, one that takes years to master. For me, that doesn’t mean a villa in Giverny. It means mastering the art of watercolor, something I have always found intimidating but am ready to start!

    • I couldn’t agree with you more, Stacia. The skill I’m mastering is growing an online content site, and it takes all of my focus. In addition to the death of my husband, not having had a vacation in over five years and recent personal challenges, I needed some time to unplug. While in Giverny, I tried watercoloring and yes, it’s a difficult, intimidating skill.

  6. I knew you would love your time in France with Ann. I always question why we take so long to realize if we don’t take great care of ourselves what can we give to others? One of life’s ongoing lessons. I’m glad you’re home and inspired! xoxob

  7. Great thoughts, it’s hard for me to remember the importance of unplugging and spending some time connecting with people outside of the internet.

    • Me, too, but there’s no substitute for a real, give and take conversation that sparks our imagination, makes us laugh and where we can look into the other person’s eyes without a screen between us.

  8. What a wonderful post, Brenda! And not just because of the lovely mention – although thank you for that too! Extreme self-care is so important but can be a challenge when there are so many things competing with our time. Recently I decided to start practicing extreme self-care by choosing a few things to get really good at, rather than doing a lot of things not very well. And by ‘things’ I mean actions which have a positive ripple effect; calling my parents every week without fail, going to bed early, creating a new painting every month, submitting my 1010 Park Place blog on time every fortnight! We – especially women – have so many roles to play and it’s impossible to be amazing at every single thing, but just choosing a few actions to be good at has already made me feel so much happier and more fulfilled. Of course, the other stuff still needs doing, but it’s OK if it’s not done perfectly and I’ll add more things to improve on over time! Essie xx

    • Essie,
      You paint as well? Not sure I knew that. I hope you’ll share one with us someday. It’s the little things managed well that allow us to tackle the more time consuming items on our to-do list. Checking them off our list gives us a sense of control as opposed to being overwhelmed with our lives. Going to bed a bit earlier is one of the things I’ve been trying to master and getting back to my yoga and stretching. They all help me get a better jump on my day. xoxox, Brenda

      • I do and I will! And yes, I picked getting good at going to bed early as it has so many positive knock-on effects. When I get a good night’s sleep I do my workout, I eat better and I drink a lot more water because I know that helps me to wake up feeling refreshed. And when I do all of those things I get more of everything else done! 🙂 Essie xx

      • My 17-yr old daughter swears by yoga! ARGH!!! She just turned 18! One of the reasons I need to start to practice better self-care.

  9. Self care is so important. I always use the oxygen mask analogy: if you are depleted, you can’t help anybody else. Glad you engaged in some good self-care in France. xo

  10. A lot of really deep, DEEP questions in this post, Brenda. Your photographs are beautiful! I’m going to be thinking a lot over the next few days about those 10 things I need…
    Thank you, friend.

    • Val,
      I think the bottom line is to always act in our own best interest. As Jen Lawrence pointed out, “the oxygen mask analogy” is perfect. Take care of ourselves before we take care of anyone or anything else.

  11. Oh how I wish I could have been on that trip with you … and I would have loved meeting Esther as well! Your words really hit home Brenda. Last month while caring for my dad, I unplugged from work, my blog and writing for 1010 Park Place. When my husband joined me the second week, I asked him to bring me my laptop. I never even turned it on until the night before we left. I had no interest. Now that all is well and we are back home, I am enjoying my creative outlets again but with a new sense of what it means to unplug. I am trying to organize my time better and to prioritize what is important and letting go of things that aren’t. Thanks for sharing and reminding us to make life count! xoxo

    • Elaine,
      I’m glad you didn’t have your laptop with you that first week, because on top of everything else you were dealing with, you might have been tempted to work. Prioritizing my time better is number three on my list of self-care items. Right on! xoxox,

  12. Hi Brenda, It sounds like you did need a little TLC. I hope you are refreshed and doing well. I am doing a 3 day backpacking trip this weekend to my head together, no phone or PC. It was great meeting you at BAM!

    • Wish I were going with you this weekend. Kim fueled my hiking wanderlust. Have a great time; stay safe and unplugging may be the best thing you can do for yourself. xox

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