|Cycling the Cognac vineyards|
It’s the little things
I know many of you have only ‘met’ me through my words here, but it is fair to say that at 155cm (5ft 2) and 47 kgs (seven and a half stone), ‘little’ sums me up quite nicely, so as I celebrate my fiftieth birthday, I thought a list of 50 little things I am thankful for would be a good idea, and something I can look back on in the years to come.
I started making the list and after the first ten, my ideas slowed down, until I stumbled on the word courage. I don’t generally think of myself as a brave person. I can’t sleep during a thunderstorm (unlike Adrian) and if it’s forecast to bring strong gale force winds with it, I’m a wreck. However, it soon became apparent that most of the little things I’m thankful for have occurred because I’ve had the courage to step out of my comfort zone and choose a different, and often difficult path.
Long before we moved to France as a family, I’d had the courage to realise the relationship I’d been in for seven years wasn’t one that was going make either of us happy in the long run. The easy option would have been to stay and see what happened, the brave one was what I chose, to go my separate way and risk everything on a feeling that my friend Adrian could offer me happiness. A year later we were married.
It was another brave move to leave the UK and our family behind, when Ed was only three years old, and start again in France, where we knew no one and only had a basic grasp of the language. With Adrian working away a lot of the time, I had to be brave and take myself out of the house, creating a life for me outside of being wife and mother. Stepping out of my comfort zone and saying yes to new things opened so many doors and took courage I didn’t realise I had. In our first few years in France, as well as helping out at Ed’s school, I’d become involved in the village monthly magazine, even though the meetings with rapid fire French were incomprehensible to begin with. Then I agreed to help out at the village library, which ultimately, many years later, led to me getting paid to work at the Chef-Boutonne library on two maternity replacement contracts. Becoming known in the village also led to me being asked to stand for election onto the local council, and get elected in 2014, for a six-year term, that if Brexit hadn’t have happened, might well have been extended for another six years.
Starting a blog about our life here in France and putting everything out there for anyone in the world to read, took courage (or madness), but again it is something positive that has given me so much. Not only has it led to new experiences that have boosted my confidence, like writing for a monthly magazine, but it’s also helped me to connect with some lovely people, from every continent.
Having the courage to get on my first ever drop handle-bar road bike, aged thirty-nine (and three quarters), was terrifying, but ultimately led to a love of cycling and cycle touring, so that I now can’t imagine not owning a bike. I might never have natural grace or balance on a bike, but that doesn’t stop me turning the pedals and following on behind Adrian, whether we are cycling into town, touring around France or climbing mountains in the Pyrenees. The fact that I’ve also managed to encourage others to use their bikes is something I’m really proud of.
The French word for ‘courage’ is courage, but the French for ‘good luck’ is bon courage, which I think is actually pretty accurate. I’ve been so lucky in so many ways; to marry a good man, for our family to live a fantastic life in France and to have the health and fitness to cycle over 100km in a day, or climb mountains on my bike, but it’s taken many courageous steps to get to where I am today. As I pour a glass of champagne to celebrate my birthday, I see now that I’m braver than I thought.
We all need a reminder every so often of how brave we’ve been and how strong we really are. It is all too easy for our heads to get lost in the myriad of stuff we’ve messed up, or that we’ve not managed to achieve or that is on a wish list for the future. Not every success needs to be a huge one, or one that reaps financial reward; it’s the little things that make us (and those around us) smile that need to be celebrated.
My twenties were when I met and married Adrian, and Ed arrived in our lives.
My thirties were when we moved to France and I began to shed those excess kilos that had always been with me.
My forties were when I really discovered cycling and fitness.
As I ‘Fit into 50’ bien dans ma peau (to be comfortable in my skin), I’m ready to embrace whatever adventures my fifties have to offer.