By Carolyn Vines
Global resettlement can feel a lot like being swept up in a tornado. Accompanying spouses, especially us mums with small kids, might feel trapped in the eye of that twister, watching in awe as circumstances in our lives swirl right by. Like our hapless Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, expat mums can often feel as though our personal challenges and desires go unacknowledged, unheard or downright ignored. Moreover, the lifestyle itself often creates the perfect conditions for violent winds to whip up and wreak havoc leaving us feeling powerless to control where we end up.
We all know that an overseas assignment not only uproots the whole family but also its way of life. During the transitions, when the weight of responsibility for settling the family falls on mum’s shoulders, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to control our surroundings. Even when daily life is finally coasting like the last cyclist in a draft line, a squall or two will kick up from nowhere, nearly knocking the wind out of us.
The question is how do we weather the turbulence?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the tailwinds: we learn to become mindful of the moments when our lifestyle feels effortless. In other words, we need to let the good times roll. Duh, right?
We all know it, but we don’t do it. We only think we’re enjoying the moment and therein lies the problem. Because we tend to live in our heads, where our cloudy thoughts severely reduce our visibility, we don’t even acknowledge how good it feels when the kids are settled into their new routine, most of the boxes are unpacked, and we’ve carved out a small space in which to maneuver socially. Instead, we mentally prepare ourselves for the next squall telling ourselves not to get too used to the good weather because it won’t last. We literally talk ourselves out of enjoying the sunny days by reminding ourselves just how many rainy days we’ve already had.
The Next Step
Indeed, into each life some rain must fall. Though we can’t determine the amount of precipitation, we certainly can determine how quickly we dry off. We do that by minding our thoughts. Try this: Reserve ten minutes per day for one week to write down any and every thought that races through the mind. Once we commit to this powerful activity, we practice acknowledging the quality of our thoughts. At this point, we’re not changing anything, we’re simply standing, towel in hand, observing.
The next step is simply to take note of how we feel as the result of the quality of thoughts we’re thinking. We’re not judging our thoughts nor our feelings, we’re simply allowing them to be. At this point we start noticing patterns emerging. This is where we really want to stand up and take note, particularly to the thoughts that make us feel good. After the ten minutes are up, consider the following questions. How do you feel about yourself? How does the day look when you feel good? How different does your life feel when you feel good?
Mindfulness of the good times has three immediate benefits. Because we’ve become aware of the amount of tailwind in our lives, we learn not take the headwinds so personally. Secondly, awareness of what “good” actually looks and feels like, provides a stronghold to grasp during the turbulent times. Lastly, it builds our trust in the process of life: what goes up must come down and what comes down must go back up.
Like Dorothy, we will never land in Oz if we don’t experience a tornado or two. We will never stumble upon our courage, wisdom and heart, nor will we reconnect with what we long for the most: home.
Yet, like Dorothy, without the tornado we never would have landed in Oz nor come into contact with our own centre of emotion, courage and wisdom, which ultimately reconnected her with what she loved most: Home. What do you do to weather the turbulent transition of this lifestyle you’ve chosen to embrace?
Did you know that the Netherlands has the most tornadoes of any country relative to its land area? http://www.wisegeek.com/which-country-has-the-most-tornadoes-relative-to-land-area.htm
Besides being a Certified Professional Coach, Carolyn Vines is an award-winning blogger, international speaker, author of the memoir "Black and (A)broad: Traveling Beyond the Limitations of Identity", and mother of 3 bicultural, bilingual kids. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Latin American literature.
She teaches parents experiencing mid-life crises, who also have small kids, how to unplug from their external busy-ness and reconnect to themselves and find their own solutions.