Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Let's perfect perfection

Following on from last weeks ‘perfect’ retreat here at Les Cerisiers (and I use the word ‘perfect’ advisedly) there has been much reflection and sharing of thoughts between Mark and I and our wonderful new friends across the Atlantic.

Today an interesting blog was forwarded to me penned by Brené Brown http://www.ordinarycourage.com/ on the subject of perfection.

To quote a little of the text:
‘For many years I believed that being my best self meant trying to be perfect. After studying shame, authenticity, and courage for ten years, I realized that I was wrong. Yes, it took that long. I'm hardheaded and I was very invested in being right. Here's what I learned:
Being our best selves is about cultivating the courage to be vulnerable, authentic, and imperfect. Perfectionism, on the other hand, is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It's that simple. Perfection is not about healthy striving or being our best, it's how we protect ourselves’.

Brené ends with a rally cry for a protest against perfection: ‘A protest might sound a little dramatic, but in this world, choosing worthiness is an absolute act of resistance! My new battle cry: Authentic and messy is the new perfect!’

As I stirred pumpkin soup in my kitchen, I mulled over the definitions I hold on what perfection is. Perfect- is it something to strive for knowing, as all of us do, that it is something we shall never attain or is ‘perfect’ much simpler than that? Does perfection mean ‘without flaws or faults’ or does it mean (or do we choose it to mean) complete and whole? Perhaps it is more a question of semantics. Without perfection how can we ever be perfectly happy?

I have recently started a series of three minute interviews with tutors and facilitators who come to Les Cerisiers (Karen Ely will be our next star respondent). One of the questions asks for them to describe the elements of a perfect day. No-one has come up with wanting to get out of bed with perfect hair and make up, slip into a size 0 dress then step out onto a perfectly manicured lawn. Ironically, most peoples ‘perfect’ day does not include any element of idealised perfection.

It strikes me that when people (women) talk about wanting to be perfect, they are talking about living up to other people’s ideals and not their own. Learning to be true to yourself, to living an authentic life is, in my humble opinion, what it’s all about. To turn
Brenés first sentence around ‘being perfect means being my best self’ and understanding that we are enough, whole, complete. Perhaps we could have a campaign to proclaim that we’re perfect just as we are?

Here are some perfect friends enjoying the perfect end to the perfect evening in my idea of the perfect venue- just for good measure.

Monday, 13 September 2010


Do you have those moments when time stands still and you know that in a few moments time, things will never be the same again? Well, I had one of those recently. For 5 years I have followed my dream to establish an activity centre here in Southern Burgundy. Marketing campaigns have been launched, interviews have been conducted, phone calls (seemingly by the thousand) have been made, friends and family have rallied to the call and arrived with paint brushes and mops. Holiday makers have come and spent their holidays here enjoying the space, generosity of the locals, views and the house itself, I've listened to their thoughts of how to make this place even better and implemented some of their suggestions, and throughout all this time, Mark has worked away in the barn turning it from a ruin (see photo on first ever blog) to a usable environment where people can come and do what they love to do - writing, painting, music or, as is the case right now, taking time out in a group to reflect on life and plan the way ahead.

So, there I stood on Macon Loche TGV station platform as the train from Paris pulled in. On board was leading retreat organiser and facilitator Karen Ely and a group of women from North America. This was the moment when I moved from being someone who really wanted to own and run an activity centre to being someone who does own and run an activity centre. And the barn (or 'Atelier' - workshop as it has been renamed) has certainly seen some activity this week. To start the week off on the right note, friend and wine buff Mike Harper hosted a wine tasting event breathing life and colour into the rich history and characters that makes the wines from this region known the world over. Next up Alexia Fachon, yoga teacher and all round health and vitality motivator, came to run a yoga session that left everyone feeling rejuvenated and ready to face the day ahead. Two local musicians, Michael Carver and Roland Walrawens, rounded off the week by entertaining and teaching our American guests with a medley of much loved french folk songs - the acoustics were put to the test and passed with flying colours.

As I sit here in my office typing this, I hear laughter coming from the open windows of the barn. The air is warm and the last faint scent of lavender hangs in the air. Having an activity centre was a dream, an experiment to see how far I could follow my aspirations before 'reality' kicked in and I hit the barriers, real and imaginary, that are so common in the human condition - no-one will come, I won't find the support, well known tutors won't be interested. Well, I now know that you can leave the job you no-longer love, buy the house in the foreign country, renovate a barn to create a beautiful space, ring up people who are leading lights in their field and invite them over to run events- and they will come. I now know, beyond any doubt, that it is possible to achieve anything you put your mind to.

The barn, Atelier, feels different now. It's not just me who has noticed. It has a warmth, a sense of purpose about it now. Talking to my best friend Brenda yesterday, I mentioned that it felt as though all these special people had left something of themselves behind. She corrected me -'It's not about leaving anything behind, it's about adding something special to make the place even better'. The people who came and supported this first event as either guests or as participants have made this such a success. Karen will be back next July with a new group of retreaters (or is that retreatees?), Nicola Slattery arrives in just a few weeks to bring art to Les Cerisiers and courses for the following months are filling up nicely.