My twin boys just turned 14 years. We are in the midst of puberty oeps I mean they are. A confusing period for them and also for the parents. It is a threshold for them, they are on their way of becoming man. It is a transition phase for all of us. My kids have travelled the world with us.
They have lived, since they were born, in 4 countries, that means 3 to 4 years in one country and then moving to the next. We are now 3 years back in Belgium, for them a new country to explore. For us, the parents, a country filled with our own childhood memories.
As a family we were very used to a mobile life style and we were getting pretty good at it. This 3 to 4 year rhythm of change is still somehow in me. I feel the urge again for a big move, however we are staying. Now we have a new challenge and that is learning how to stay!
Learning how to stay
When talking to fellow repats and TCK’s I often hear the complaint about how they are not able to adjust to the seasons in Europe while being used to more tropical climates. And off course the outside world has an influence on us.
The connection with your environment is of vital importance in your feeling of belonging. We do have a connection with people but also with nature, the sun, the moon, they all have an influence on us and vice versa.
The changes we see around us affect us, that is for sure. We are dealing with change every single day. Every day is different. This is my second spring back in Europe and still I am getting used to the seasonal changes. After a soft winter we enter spring. I have been used to different seasons. This rhythm of the seasons influences our daily life, in winter people stay indoors more, wear different clothing, and wear socks and closed shoes, but also people tend to look more inwards in wintertime, as if it is a good time to let go of some old stuff that we do no longer want to carry. I was used to different seasons where the rain would wash away the dust from the dry season and water the gardens so things would grow again and again.
I remember when my kids experienced autumn in Europe for the first time, we saw the falling leaves, and then in winter trees completely leaf free. The next thing they asked me: “mum are the trees also going to lose their branches?” Although they did learn about the 4 different seasons in their international school, they had never really experienced it. And that is the difference, we can learn and read a lot about how it is but if we did not experience it we do not really understand it.
And of course there are also seasons in tropical countries, yet they are different from the seasons in Europe. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? But not always so easy. The demands, distractions and needs of the external world we share are not always aligned with inner desires and knowing. And both are always changing so what worked in wonderful harmony in one place will require inner shifts and outer changes in another. It is the great dance of the human life, to integrate our inner and outer worlds so we can live in integrity, receiving what we need, offering what we bring. Like many things in life they follow a cycle, a never ending cycle of change.
"The best thing about memories is making them"
Rather than making new year’s resolutions this year, we tried something different. We, as a family have made a first start to filling our jar of memories.
Since we like to make an effort to adjust again to our new life style in Belgium, I decided to start to collect nice memories of our ‘new’ home country experience. Because I noticed that after the first excitement of returning “home” was over, I started to refer to the nice memories of our life abroad.
Every day we are collecting new memories for a later day . So while enjoying the ‘present’ moment I also am aware that I am collecting memories for later because precious memories are like an open fire that warms you during the cold winter.
I try to be much more aware of the beautiful and precious present moment while being aware that this moments will be treasured later in life. The jar of memories will help me to remind me that life is what you make of it and we are living in the present while collecting memories to enjoy in the future.
On new year’s eve we all wrote down the nicest, most treasured moments of 2013. These papers were folded and put in our memory jar. At the end of 2014 we will read what we have written and add new memories of 2014.
I will start 2014 as a memory collector!
All the best for 2014!
What should I do about the wild and the tame?
The wild heart that wants to be free,
and the tame heart that wants to come home.
I want to be held.
I don't want you to come too close.
I want you to scoop me up and bring me home at night.
I don't want to tell you where I am.
I want to keep a place among the rocks where no one can find me.
I want to be with you.
-Jeanette Winterson -
Painting by Beatriz Martin Vidal (www.beavidal.com)
Most of my friends, colleagues and clients who have had expats experiences when asked to describe the feelings that pops up when thinking back on how it was “the expat life”, say: “it has double feelings”. And that is exactly so, a lot of mixed feelings are involved when living abroad and also upon returning home.
I often refer to that part of me that longed for home when I lived abroad as “the tame” and that part of me that longed to go abroad and to be free as “the wild”.
Having mixed feelings on how you are living your life can cause internal conflicts. It is good to take time to look at internal conflicts, untangle these conflicting parts, name them and ask about their intentions. Allow both parts to be here and give them the attention, love and nutrition they need so they can co-operate with each other rather than fight each other. Feeding both parts will help to solve internal conflicts and so can help you to live a happier life.
Being able to hold two opposite ideas at the same time in my mind reminds me that I am so much more than these two opposites.
We all have parts in us that need attention and need to be fed. Do not neglect these parts of you that help you to become the person you truly inspire to be. Do not be freighted by paradoxes but find the strength to hold both in your mind and heart so both parts can enrich and feed you to become the whole person you inspire to be.
"Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to navigate them "
source image: Rob Gonsalves
If happiness was a country what would it look like?
How would you name the capital of happiness? Who would live there?
Would it be an island, would it have a costline or would it be landlocked?
Happiness is not so much a state of being, rather it is a never ending ability to navigate through life, not avoiding change and difficulties but rather embracing change and accepting that difficulties are part of life.
If happiness was a country it would not be a country without problems or difficulties, it would be a country where people use an inner compass called resilience.
Resilience is your ability to get up after a fall. We all encounter fall backs in life and life changing experiences can be overwhelming, how we react and deal with change is an important factor in experiencing happiness.
Different elements can help to stimulate or develop your inner compass of resilience:
1. Self-knowledge is an important factor. Being aware of your reactions when in difficulty and
knowing your preferred coping mechanism are important factors to deal with change.
Asking yourself the right question: Why am I having such difficulty with this?
Knowing what you want and what is important to you will help to determine which actions
2. Accept reality don’t fight it. Resilience is about accepting your new reality as it is. You can
scream and shout about it or you can choose to accept the situation and take action to
make something good of it.
3. Reframe and choose a different perspective. Looking at your difficulty from different
angles, also called reframing, is a cognitive ability that sheds new light on a situation
in order to creatively look for alternatives.
4. Trust the process. Take appropriate action to deal with the problem and trust the process
that things will get better, not by itself but by taking actions in the direction you want to go.
5. Trust in the goodness of the world. Positive attitude towards life, believing in the
goodness of the world, embracing support that is out there, are key elements to deal with
If you want to know more about how to take your life into your own hands, you are welcome to come enjoy the workshop by Brenda Davies on 23/11/2013: 'Creating the Life you would Love to
Live' or on 2 4/11/2013: 'From Then through Now and into your Future'. For more details feel free to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new” -Socrates
Letting go of my expat life and embracing my new life, is not an easy one. I realise now that it was more easy to move from one place to the next that resettling in my ‘ home country’. In my latest post I describe that my home country as changed and so did I. Coping with this change and with changes in general, is not straight forward, we all deal with change in our own way. With every transition, be it changing jobs, changing countries, a part is about letting go of the old, known and the
other part is about embracing change, the new.
Before we can embrace change we go through several stages. Understanding our process can help us deal better with change. The Kubler-Ross research team came up with S.A.R.A.H. This model acknowledging that as people meet with change they generally have the following reactions:
Sometimes one change in your life can lead to different changes, also on the personal level. If you like some guidance in the transition you are going through or you want to make the most out of the changes you are dealing with, feel free to contact us.
The nomadic life of expats brings with it a never ending cycle of
expectations and also disappointments. As you move from one place to another you always have expectations about that place.
I always liked this part most of my expat life: a new country with new hopes, new aspirations and expectations. Dreaming about how it will be and having expectations of a place or a person is not a bad thing it makes you fall in love a bit with the place or person but dealing with the disappointment when expectations are not met is a much greater challenge and maybe the real challenge in life. I quite like having expectation about my own life, and I am very much trying to deal with disappointment when these are not met.
I try to have realistic expectations but as life goes they are not always met. I don’t think I will want to give up having expectation on life in general and more particular on the expectation I have set for myself. Why would I? For me there is a link between motivation and having expectations… If I cannot have any expectation towards my life why would I even bother to do anything to live up to these expectations? They define the life I want to live and what I want to achieve. To prevent disappointment or fear , we may deny anything we secretly hope for. We presume if we don’t have any expectations, we can’t be disappointed. The truth is we all have expectations, some too high some too low.
The key question is: how do you deal with disappointment?
Are expectations not just your beliefs projected in the future?
If your expectations are not met you probably needed that reality check. And this is where
the shoe fits. When returning back to your ‘home country’ the people around you and you upon returning expect ‘a sameness’. When returning to our ‘home country’ the people around us expect us to behave, think and share the same ideas. And that is when the stress comes in, we cannot live up to that expectation. We have lived a totally different lifestyle in comparison to most of the people in our ‘home country’.
Our international experience has made us who we are. For all those years abroad expats were
excused to be ‘different’. When I was living our international life nobody was surprised to see differences because I was not from that place. Now back home we expect to feel sameness with the people around us while reality tells us, you have changed and the people in your home country have changed.
source: Matt Wisniewski
Being a returning expat, an ex-expat, a returnee or how you want to call it, has many challenges. It is like a big wave. You can overcome a lot of difficulties by understanding what is happening. Compared to the literature on moving abroad, the literature on returning home is quite confined. Here’s a brief description of reverse culture shock and some tips.
The weather is nice, at last the summer has started in Europe. It is like people come alive again. Holiday has started, my house is a busy buzz with the kids around. Being used to nice weather all
There are many different reasons why people experience returning to their home country as difficult. Apart from every person his/her own personal issues there are lots of similarities as well.
Resettling in your home country is not an easy task. What made me come back is not always so clear.
A recent discussion on Bloom facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Bloomcocreation, is still triggering my mind. I decided to sit down and write something about this. It concerns the cultural factor. How do we experience our own culture and how do we experience other cultures?
Currently I am living in a very multi diverse European society and I sometimes wonder how all these different cultures interact and deal with often contradicting beliefs systems. And how did I deal with this when I lived abroad?
Is culture a chain around your ankles holdings you back from personal growth? Or is it an opportunity to look at yourself? What parts of your own culture suits your inner self? Can you choose which parts of culture you integrate as if you were picking out clothes that suits you well?
Do you see culture as an opportunity or rather as an obstacle for personal growth?
I believe that culture can be as liberating as it can be restraining, it all comes down to being aware of your cultural self and making conscious decisions. For me it comes down to being aware of how you perceive culture and how you deal with that part of you that is related and structured around cultural beliefs. Negotiating with yourself and society at large on what parts and aspects of culture you integrate or not is a process that can be a key factor for personal growth.
It is this negotiation you have with yourself on who you really want to be that can create personal growth or not. It is your choice.
What parts are holding you back to be the person you really inspire to be?
Since we moved back to Belgium I have a strong feeling of not fitting in any more.
Resettling in Belgium was a conscious decision. We decided that, the kids, my partner and myself, should return back to Belgium after living abroad for 12 years.
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