Tag Archives: language

go-ahead-share-1

Think about all the times you had something you wanted to share and you held back. It could have been that small, but big-to-you victory. Maybe it was the bad day at work that came out of nowhere. Maybe it was the time you felt overwhelmed, lost, rejected…or completely thrilled with the path before you.

We do that, don’t we? Keep things in when we know they’d be so much better shared with and supported by someone else.

One of the biggest benefits of growing into the person you want to be, is accepting that talking it out with a friend is always, always one of the best places you can go to make sense of whatever it is you’re facing.

Talking out our troubles with friends doesn’t always erase our pain or free us from our challenges, but it gives us a completely new lens from which to see what’s there before us.

Sometimes this is harder for people who move around a lot. But, it doesn’t have to be. Deeper connection comes from taking the leap to share with others. As expats we’re often forced to dive into relationships very quickly. Rather than worrying about who we will scare off, I think we benefit from focusing on who we’ll grow closer to.

But there is no doubt it can be difficult. Even when we know the benefits of fully and honestly connecting, the hesitation we feel about reaching out and the old belief that we shouldn’t bother people with our problems (or brag about our successes) can be hard to overcome.

It occurs to me that sometimes all we need is the very first step and when it comes to talking it out with our friends – the very first step involves…well…talking.

It can be as simple as saying (or texting):

“Are you free to talk?”

“I’m celebrating! Join me for a drink?”

“Have a minute?”

“I could use an ear, are you free?”

“I’d love to bounce something off you, can I give you a call?”

“Are you free for coffee? I could really use a friend to talk to?”

“I don’t want to feel like I’m unloading on you, but I could really use someone to talk to. Are you free?”

Yes – that is actually just a list of words to get you started. It's totally something you could have come up with on your own. But – it is both not-rocket-science and totally overwhelming at times. Having that list up there is my way of reminding you that you already have the tools...you just gotta' use them. If you’ve been struggling to connect – take a minute to imagine what would happen if you committed to using one (just one) of these in the next few days.

Write down your favorite phrase. Use the ones above to plan out your own words to get you started. Practice in the mirror if you have to.

And then, whether it’s a major accomplishment or a tiny, little, barely-there frustration – go ahead and reach out.

You won't regret it!

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My 3-year-old is scared to death of Japanese toilets. Maybe you’ve been to Japan so you know what I’m talking about. Maybe you haven’t, but you’ve heard about them. I mean, they’re kind of like Japan’s most famous weird thing…from the perspective of the non-Japanese out there, that is.

She’s scared because our first night here she stared down into it as my husband did his best to decipher the various buttons. A face full of toilet water will do that to a toddler. Nothing we’ve been able to do can convince her they’re safe. My friend tells her daughter it’s a car wash. I like that idea, but it hasn’t turned things around for us. I’m afraid there’s no going back.

But, I’m not one to typically avoid the daunting…at least not for long. This week, 2 months into our life in Japan and armed with Google translate (although without a face mask, which would have been, in retrospect, a good idea), I decided to get to the bottom (figuratively!) of our Japanese toilets.

I soon discovered that the steps for figuring out my Japanese toilet were not unlike some of the biggest keys to mastering transitions as an expat. In fact, I found 4 specific expat life skills just waiting there for me on that piece of porcelain!

One: Start with what you know. No matter where you go in the world, you come in with a pre-existing set of skills, habits and bits of knowledge. Despite what it might feel like, you’re not born anew as a baby every time you move. So remember to always start with what you know, access those skills first and offer up those abilities when possible (especially when you feel new and a bit like you have nothing to offer). In the case of the toilet – I can read hiragana and katakana (the two Japanese phonetic alphabets). With this I was able to know – that button turns on the bidet (ビデ) and that word says おしり (which I can lookup…and which I now know means buttocks).

Whew! Two items deciphered - now to phase two.

Two: Pay attention to the clear and easy. So often we are so blinded (and frankly, blindsided) by our moves that we don’t even notice the things that are clearly marked. We forget to pay attention to things like hunger, exhaustion, illness, frustration or sadness. These normal experiences can get buried under the sea of the unfamiliar. We benefit from finding ways to take time out to pay attention to these emotions, physical feelings or logistical questions. What’s this got to do with my Japanese toilet? Well, the toilet comes complete with a few illustrations. So, the photo of the butt with water spraying up should be pretty obvious. Push that button and I doubt the results will take you (too much) by surprise. When in doubt – go with the obvious.

But, what if even after using the skills you already have and reading the clearly marked signs, you still feel lost?

Three: Get help with the confusing stuff. I’m a firm believer in the power of community. It’s not always easy to ask for help. We’re often trained to believe that it means we’re weak, stupid, lazy or needy. I’m here to tell you that that is simply not true. We need others. We need community. We need helpers. My clients (and friends) that are able to reach out for support consistently adjust to new experiences better than those who suffer their troubles alone. In the case of my Japanese toilet, Google translate was my very best friend. She mostly gave me helpful answers and only occasionally (I mean, nobody's perfect, right?) provided complete mistranslations like “toilet seat flights.” On the other hand, if this thing flies I’m totally signing up for that adventure!

So you’ve moved, you’re unpacked and you’re flying off into expat happiness on your Japanese toilet seat. But wait! There’s one more important step to mastering transition.

Four: Just go for it. Sometimes you’ve just got to get in there and do your best. You will get lost sometimes. You will feel like crap sometimes. You will definitely feel lonely, lost, confused and completely out of sorts. But, you will learn and you will get better every single time. As for the Japanese toilet? Well, go ahead and sit down…it can’t be that bad of a ride.

Wanna’ get better at tapping into your best expat self? Check out The Expat Activity Book on Kindle and paperback and my latest coaching offers here.

 

 

My husband once asked the staff at a hotel in Guatemala if we could have more Satan paper in our room. He meant toilet paper.

Sound familiar? As expats we perhaps have the longest list imaginable of embarrassing moments. It feels at times like we’re living in a never-ending cycle of “Gotcha!” I mean, seriously, where are the hidden cameras?!

Frankly, it sucks to feel embarrassed. Your face gets all red, your palms sweat, your heart races, imagines of crawling under the covers and going back to bed loom large.

The good news is – we’ve all been there. Embarrassment is just part of the human experience and while you can try to minimize embarrassment or the effects of it, it’s fruitless to try to completely eliminate it from your life.

But, would you believe there’s even more good news? Check this out (and read the full article here):

Researchers have found that people who display embarrassment at their social transgressions are more prone to be liked, forgiven, and trusted than those who do not, and, as a result, their embarrassment saves face (Keltner and Anderson, 2000). Even teasing and flirtation, which provoke and evoke embarrassment in the targeted person, are motivated by the desire for increased liking (Keltner & Anderson, 2000). So embarrassment is a good thing, even if at the time you experienced it you wished it never happened.

Could it be that embarrassment may be one of the major keys to living a deeper more fulfilling life as an expat? I’m thinking maybe so…

Think about it this way – every time you say the wrong word in a foreign language, inadvertently commit a major cultural faux pas, wear the wrong shoes in the wrong place at the wrong time, shake hands instead of kiss, laugh instead of cry (or cry instead of laugh) or many of the millions of other things that can happen in this crazy cultural mix – you’re telling those around you – I’m Human!! You’re presenting yourself as real, authentic, natural and willing to make mistakes in the process of getting it right. How’s that for awesome!

So, go ahead and march right on out of the bathroom in your potty shoes (ooops, that may have happened to me more than once in my Japan days)! Smile, genuinely say sorry, and keep right on moving towards your much improved You!

This morning, driving back from dropping the kids at summer camp, my husband I had a great conversation about music. We’re huge music lovers at our house and we see that permeating our kids lives as well. We were noticing that one of the greatest joys of our international lifestyle is the complicated and diverse fabric of music we have come to love. My husband and I can understand the lyrics to songs in English, French, Spanish and even a bit of Japanese. Our kids on the other hand (despite once being bilingual in English and Spanish and having a smattering of French), really don’t understand the lyrics most of the time…frankly, even if it’s in English, their native language.

But, they’re so moved by the rhythm and the energy that comes from the things they hear. Some of their favorite songs they simply request by reproducing the beat or other times they approximate the lyrics by giving a go at what they believe they’re hearing (as you can imagine, this is especially adorable).

As we were talking this morning, I was thinking about this and the way in which it’s another unexpected positive consequence to this mobile lifestyle. Their flexibility with experiences, with language and with culture is being formed in so many complex ways we never even really think of.

And, it’s yet another thing that reminds me how little actually needs to be “done” in order to make this lifestyle work. We kind of just nestle down into living, having fun and making our best go of it without overcomplicating things. Then out the other side comes a simple, unencumbered ability to dance to a rhythm that moves us – even if we never really understand each and every detail.

For the music lovers out there – here are a few favorites that we never get tired of hearing.

We love Stromae and he actually gave a really great NPR interview with Eleanor Beardsley this morning.

Such a fun and addictive song! This was a real hit of the elementary school birthday party set when we were living in Madagascar.

Ok - we LOVE this one, but be warned - the video is horribly sexist...I also can't promise that none of the lyrics aren't offensive....but, on dance beat alone, this song is hands down a favorite.

And here - just a simple, never-gets-old classic. I have to admit too - I love the fact that my kids only really recognize the Spanish one.

 

Lately I’ve had a lot on my plate. We’re packing out from our current posting in Madagascar…only I’m not in Madagascar. For most of us in this lifestyle, the international transition can be a huge source of stress. I can now say for the record, that’s true even if you’re watching the move via Skype and email.

Each morning, while I can’t completely resist the urge to grab my phone and check my email for the latest in my husband’s adventures (especially on the topic of shipping our dog which has always been my territory…my very stressful territory), I am at least trying to do it mindfully. I’m trying to at least first take a deep breath and ask myself, “Do you need to do this now? Can you pack lunches first? Get coffee? Hit the snooze button?” Sometimes…well maybe once…I did wait until I’d at least packed the kids’ lunches.

During these times, in an effort to be more mindful, I allow myself the space to reflect on all the little parts of me that pop-up in times of stress. In my book, The Expat Activity Book, I call these the “mini-professionals.” They’re the parts of me that micromanage my daily ability to be my typically diverse and dynamic self. When we’re moving, The Calculator is mentally negotiating costs and distances and timetables (all the time!). I can also be taken over by The Resolver – this one can be the most difficult because she believes that there is a right answer to every problem (and she tends to write emails that say as much). She can be especially annoying when dealing with airlines and government officials in developing countries.

One of the interesting things I’ve found is that by simply naming and greeting these parts of myself, I open up space for these mini-professionals to be less demanding. It’s a bit like acknowledging the elephant in the room. Once I admit they’re there, then it becomes easier to manage them – giving them space to help in any way they can and to shut up when I need to get something else done.

What about you? Who are your mini-professionals? Are any of them taking over? What are they good for? What strategies do you use to keep them in check? When are they at their worst? Their best?

These can be really helpful questions to ask yourself during transition – or any time. And remember, simply acknowledging is a huge first step to better understanding all of the many, many sides of your dynamic self!

I posted a great video from Brené Brown on the World Tree Coaching Facebook page today. I find her bravery, wisdom and just plain human-ness incredibly compelling and insightful. There’s so much to learn from her research into what makes people tick, what motivates us, what makes us live fuller, braver and more completely and, in the end, what factors join us in a spirit of wholeheartedness.

In the video – which you can see here – she references the following quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

The quote is commonly referred to as the Man in the Arena quote and it comes from a speech delivered by Roosevelt in 1910, in Paris. I can’t imagine a soul not being moved by the powerful and heartfelt strength of these words. How true they are.

But, in my quick (and admittedly rather limited) research into this quote I stumbled upon something perhaps doubly powerful – the comments section of the websites where the quote is presented. The beauty of these words has and does serve as a mantra for many. Many commentators speak of failure and rebound, loss and discovery, heartbreak and new love fortified. Many simply said, “Words to live by.”

From Shakespeare to Steinbeck, Mandela to Mo Willems (not kidding here – few things can inspire my inner child like Elephant and Piggie) words can very much be what we live by.

So, what words inspire you? What’s your mantra? What messages do you carry with you, in your heart and your head, that move you on through thick and thin, around the bend and back again? Here’s a gentle reminder to keep them close – on your desktop, your fridge, even scribbled on the back of your hand on a particularly rough day (although I’m guessing Roosevelt’s a little lengthy for this one). When your heart feels heavy, cuddle up to these words that give back, hold them close and keep right along your windy, pebbly, occasionally bumbling path. One. Foot. In. Front. Of. The. Other.