If there is anything that cancer taught me, it was to treat myself more kindly. My BFF tried for years, mind you, years.This is because she gets regular facials, facials and she tried to get me to pamper myself and failing that, simply put myself first once in a blue moon.
I admit I was not very good at it until post-cancer when treating myself became part of my recovery and a matter of my health.I really had no choice in the matter.I learned from traveling on business to Europe that the Europeans, generally speaking, they really know how to live.During my recent business trip to Europe I took especial care to take note of the things that Europeans do and we Americans and especially cancer survivors should be doing as a matter of course:
1.Food is the best part of life.Most Europeans still frown on ‘le junk’ and eat only the best, most pristine food they can afford or cook for themselves.No tasteless instant oatmeal is found in the average European breakfast.Something to think about next time you zip through those Golden Arches.
2.Take your time.I’ve yet to see a European rush through a meal.It is like, against the law or something.A waiter would never dare to try and hurry a solitary diner out of his establishment in order to clear a table and seat someone new.By the time you leave the table from any meal in Europe you are sated, reflective and relaxed.You are anything but stressed.
3.Style is a daily choice, not a sometime thing.Particularly in Italy, style is pervasive in impeccably designed clothing, home goods, nearly everything you see.You find you don’t need 25 pairs of shoddy black shoes, you need three pair of pristine, perfectly made, impossibly chic shoes.Your espresso maker, which you use on a daily basis and don’t just have around as something to impress visitors actually lasts for ten years because the design is well tested and of impeccable quality.For me, this all translates into living better and again, less stress.
4.Trade offs are part of lifestyle choices.Europeans know if you are going to drive a six figure car then something else is going to have to give, probably in the arena of real estate.Most Europeans I know have lived in the same flat for years.And again, they don’t own junk, they limit their spending to really high quality food and the best they can afford in household items.Saving for a premium item is not unheard of as credit cards are not as easily come by as they are in the states.Less debt equals less stress, just ask the Greeks who are learning their economic lesson the hard way right now.
5.Vacations are mandatory, not elective.I believe that there is a direct connection between the health of any country’s current economy and how many vacations their citizens take.This is why Italy will never have the Gross National Product of say, America or Japan.But Italians also don’t usually die of a massive coronary standing up in the subway at the tender age of 41 either.So, while we in America are unlikely to get a month off to party at the beach any time soon, I say take those vacations.Nobody ever improved their quality of life by burning the midnight oil when they should have been taking their kids on Space Mountain.
6.Make physical activity a lifelong habit.I know of very few 80-something Americans who exercise beyond moving from the sofa to the recliner.But everyone’s mom and dad, retired usually, in Europe are active and tend to stay that way.I have friends in Germany whose dads still hike the Alps (daily mind you, daily) and Italian women in their 60s extolling the virtues of Pilates.I’ve watched Grandmothers in Norway take their grandkids cross country skiing as the way to get home from school the way American grandparents do runs to Taco Bell.And it goes without saying that everyone I know in France rides a bike and I mean they ride all the darn time.To walk several miles a day to and from the metro to get to one’s place of work is a fact of life, not a ‘green post-hippie transportation choice’.
7.Family is forever.Nobody in Europe is surprised when I tell them I babysit my granddaughter three or even four times a week when my daughter works and that we are a tight knit family.My self-absorbed American counterparts however, are all about discarding their parental responsibilities the second they dump their kids off at some second-rate college.And worse, they brag about it.Parenting is not something to be completed the second your kids turn 18, at least not in Europe.Family is forever.It goes without saying that family support is essential for cancer survivors and longevity in general.
8.Be discerning in your choices.Which is the better way to spend your money? On a $60 bottle of toilet water that reminds you of the South of France with every spritz or on cheap boxed wine that gives you a serious hangover?
9.Turn off the TV, unless it’s truly important.OK, so Europeans are totally obsessed with soccer and most wouldn’t miss a game if their lives depended on it but they are not all eaten up with the latest reality show either.It’s ok to have your favorite show to tune into but it’s also ok to go to an outdoor concert or a museum on Sunday just because you can.
10.Stay involved.Every European I know can and does converse on any number of news-related topics.The big story when I last was in Europe was how Fabio quit as coach of the English soccer team.I think because he is Italian I was sort of to vaguely blame somehow but that aside, Europeans keep up with current events and the news.They read, stay involved, keep abreast of global events.I know of no Americans who ask how the elections for a new British prime minister are going (save for me) but every European I know wants to talk about Mitt and Obama and what I think of the upcoming election.Come to think of it, I know of no Americans who know the name of an actual Prime Minister of England until it’s made into a movie starring Meryl Streep.
People, people, people, current British Prime Minister is David Cameron.Sheesh.