For many years – most of my adult life, probably – I began each day with a list in the way Victorians often began their days with prayer. I used lists to create calm and order; to make sense out of what was often overwhelming. Lists were my prayers.
So given my personality, it’s sometimes a challenge to live a gentler, slower life. Since moving to the village of Marseillan in the Hérault department of southern France last September, I’m attempting to let go of my London habit of eternal busyness: that creeping, underlying belief that having too much on your plate is a sign of virtue, success and popularity.
I am still working the same amount here as I did in the UK, while in addition wrangling the wreckage of an old house. This should all be quite anxiety-inducing for someone as steeped in busyness as I am, but somehow, it’s not. It could be because, despite the never-ending list of things to be done in our new home, I still feel like I’m on holiday. We came to Marseillan en vacance for so many years that, on days when it feels a bit much, just walking down onto the harbour for moules-frites gives me a summertime-spring in my step.
When we moved here, my husband and I promised each other not to become obsessed with the renovation to the extent that it blocked out all other things. We’d seen this happen to other people and it was both terrible for them and terribly boring for everyone else. We knew we needed to live here, to work, and to go out and do things just for fun so that this house we love doesn’t descend into one massive bricks-and-mortar To Do list, thus sucking all of the pleasure out of our great adventure.
We’re letting the house take its time. Our priority is fixing the roof, wiring and central heating, but we aren’t rushing at the other, more aesthetic decisions like demented decorators with a clipboard fetish. We’re living with it; letting it be. This has been a challenge for someone formerly known as the Checklist Czar of East London, but it comes with its rewards.