At five o’clock in the afternoon, it’s not uncommon to walk by the Café de Flore in Saint Germain des Pres in Paris’s Left Bank and find women doing nothing but sitting at a table staring out at the world passing by. Across the city in the Right Bank, you’ll discover a woman lying on a blanket with a book in hand in the Jardin des Tuileries. Along the Seine, women will stroll (not power walk) with no apparent purpose other than to enjoy the moment.
Changing the gears (into overdrive)…
Across the Atlantic, American women are going to gym classes they loathe, writing newsletters they dread sending out each week, heading up committees that are uninspiring, eating foods that don’t nourish, taking little Johnny to his SAT prep at twelve years old, staring at Facebook or folding mountains of laundry from clothes they don’t enjoy wearing. And, we wonder why our culture is full of women who are uninspired, exhausted, struggling with her body and depressed? However, to suggest to a woman that she takes some time for herself seems as unacceptable as picking her nose in public. “I can’t do that. I have too much to do,” she’ll reply.
Personally, I’ve discovered that underneath the endless checklists and mindless doing are women living in fear, mostly the fear of the future. What if little Johnny doesn’t get into an Ivy League school? What if I gain weight? What if I’m not on Facebook and the world forgets me? What if my business fails? What if people judge me? Sadly, these false fears keep women on the treadmill of life, running them ragged.
Therein lies the big difference between French and American women. French women are ladies of leisure and the present moment is where they live. They view time very differently than their American sisters. Time is not something to fill with mindless doing to avoid future calamity. Time is something to fill with pleasure to enjoy that which you have – the now.
This is why you’ll find French women lingering over long lunches, taking a little (or a lot) of extra time to finish a project or spending her evenings luxuriating in a bubble bath. She’s not in a race to get “there.” She desires to maximize “here.”
I’m convinced that this is one of the French woman’s secrets to that je ne sais quoi we often speak about. She avoids the constant state of tension caused by bracing herself for an unknown future. Instead, she’s relaxed, fully engaged with the mystery of life.
As a woman who used to fear leisure time, my French sisters showed me that my home will not fall apart if I choose to skip folding laundry to read Proust, my daughter will not be scarred (or fail) if we only have one activity per week, or my business will not crumble if I choose to take a mini-sabbatical. A woman that carves out time for pleasure is a woman that creates space for inspiration, connection and love.
I challenge you to test drive this French feminine secret. Spend twenty minutes each day doing something just for the sheer pleasure of it – no goals or agendas other than your own enjoyment.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and fears around leisure time. I promise you that becoming a woman of leisure will make your more powerful and impactful than ever. French women know this.
Would you love to practice leisure time in the city where leisure seems to be a national sport? Join me October 7 – 14th for Le Voyage Paris: The Art of Being a Woman Immersion. Warning: leisure will be a part of the itinerary. Click here to learn more.