Here's Me, Now
Day 1: Here’s me, Now
Last shot on my camera roll. A run last night with hubby and friend.
Friends made in Beijing visiting us in Germany. The whole family is here and it’s as if the last three years just melted away. Kids and adults just reconnected and picked up where we left off.
It’s magical. And so affirming of the value of friendships and the special nature of expat friendships.
So, me right now is in a happy place, surrounded by people I care about. Able to host them in our home, eat good food together (pizza of course), remember old times and make new memories that we can look back on the next time we meet. Because there’s sure to be a next time.
No matter what life throws in our way.
Passport. Some of my associations with this most important document are:
A Day in the Life...
I’m sharing a very different day I had this week – It was very exciting to leave our town, nay, our state (!) and take the train to a meeting/presentation.
It has been so very long since I did anything in person. While it was wonderful to get out and I love taking the train it was also completely and utterly exhausting – as new experiences can be.
This quote (from a yoga teacher) comes to mind as it applies to so many types of challenges:
“Can you continue to breathe, even when you’re feeling challenged?
Can you continue to deepen the experience even if the moment is difficult?
The moment is one thing. Enjoying it, smiling and breathing, that’s advanced. “
Learning how to smile and breathe through the challenge. That is a goal worth striving for. Wether on the soccer pitch, the yoga mat, navigating adolescence, a new culture or any other challenge – and there is always something, isn’t there?
My wish for you is to be able to smile and breathe through whatever the challenge, to enjoy it because soon it will be over and become another part of who you are so you can face the next challenge – stronger because of what went before.
EASE in the context of an international transition and making a place feel like “home” is always tied to the people and connections I make.
Once you have your tribe, your connections, things become lighter, easier. You have someone to turn to, someone to laugh with, cry with, moan to, rejoice with, someone to go exploring with and celebrate wins with.
You have people that become your village to raise your children in, to reflect back how you’re doing and support you when you need it – while you do the same for them.
Surprisingly, there is an inverse relationship between speed of connection and its longevity. Expat friendships made quickly often go deep and last a long time – way past the assignment and other international moves.
It isn’t always easy – sometimes it’s frigging hard and takes time – but keep looking for your tribe wherever you go. With friends anywhere becomes home and life in the worst hardship post takes on more EASE.
Photo of the British School of Beijing, Shunyi Parents Association team, 2018
Some borders are drawn on maps, others are in our heads. Some feel natural (rivers, mountains, ethnic groups, tribes…) while some seem pretty random.
Is it a human need to define borders? Boundaries? Mine vs yours? Or is this a construct we’ve created?
As a land surveyor I appreciate maps and the effort that goes into determining exactly where a border lies.
As a human I sometimes look at maps and just shake my head at straight lines drawn across rivers, mountains and tribal lands – defined by a handful of men in a room far away from the actual place.
This pilon in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park marks the border between Botswana and South Africa but here neither animals nor humans care.
In other places borders are more important and many lives have been and are being lost over “lines” but they are symbols for so much more: belief systems, culture, freedoms, values and traditions.
We defend those lines because they represent part of who we are at our very core. And sometimes we belong to different places, across different borders – just like the gemsbok in the Kgalagadi National Park. And that’s ok, too.
I give you: my rice cooker!
Once upon a time in Switzerland we had work-study students from Singapore come for three months. They brought all their necessities, which for them included a rice cooker.
We shook our heads in disbelief and with (sadly) an extreme lack of understanding.
Fast forward 15 years and we’re living in #China.
I soon realized (after failed attempts at cooking rice on a fickle gas stove, a microwave rice pot, and by the “quilt” method) the convenience and delight of a rice cooker and haven’t looked back since. Try it!
Very much looking forward to reading about all the other delightful discoveries for this prompt!
Living a globally mobile life we cross a lot of physical and metaphorical thresholds but what comes to mind today is motherhood thresholds.
There are many. Entering motherhood, from baby-mom to toddler-mom, to Kindergarten-mom, … , to teen-mom, to mom of adults, and so many others in-between.
What is really tricky is standing on and crossing various thresholds simultaneously, trying to meet each child where he/she is currently at and accompanying their journey.
And adapting as their needs change. Being there for them while also learning to let go. Wether it’s while learning to walk or eventually taking flight.
What thresholds are you currently crossing?
Sadly we’re not naturally very playful parents – we have our moments but it’a not all lightness and fun around here.
Both my husband and I fulfill the stereotypes of engineers & first borns pretty well and are serious, fact driven, argumentative, explosive and both like to have the last word.
Our poor children.
On the flip side, we recognize this and do make an effort to tamper down those qualities and let a more fun side out.
Getting a dog was a brilliant thing to do in so many ways but the element of playfulness that she brings to our lives every day is at the top of the list.
Irreverent, happy, playful, forgiving, loving and silly she brings out the best in all of us.
She brings the lightness & friendship we all need – and especially needed during simultaneously being in lockdown & repatriating.
How do you integrate play in your life? I’d love a few more tips!
What do you carry?
Literally – I carry a Marry Poppins bag full of any- and everything my kids, my dog, me and random strangers might need.
Figuratively I carry biases & stereotypes I’m learning about. I carry strong opinions and a bit of waffle (indecision). I carry confidence and massive insecurity. I carry my stories and those others have shared with me. I carry worry and anxiety and hope. And it’s all mixed up together.
What carries me?
Literally – my feet. I’ve been teased about them all my life but I actually love them. They have taken me around the world, paced darkened rooms with crying babies and walked me into and out of uncomfortable situations.
Figuratively I am carried by my family, friends and colleagues. By experience and hope. By skills I have learned and ways I have found to help and support others.
To continue to carry what I choose to carry I have to take care of what carries me. Otherwise I am hobbled or collapse and cannot continue.
That means investing in good, supportive shoes and solid self care & connection. Making sure the shoes still fit and finding ways to continue to grow and contribute. Because change happens and we must adjust our support systems over time. Both literally and figuratively.
Words of Wisdom
This quote by #AlbertEinstein is true on many levels but just look at the evidence when taken literally.
Movement helps alleviate stress and helps us feel better overall. There is evidence that it improves memory and a number of other mental & physical health issues.
Don’t believe me? Try staying put for a few days and see how you feel…
Children naturally move but as we get older we stop. We become too busy adulting and forget or ignore what our bodies tell us.
Let’s learn to listen again and get moving. Even 10min a day can improve your overall health. You have 10min. #noexcuses
What words if wisdom do you have to share?
What roles do you play? Have you played?
We could probably all write a book about this so I’ll just focus on a new-ish role: community member. A neighbor encouraged me to join the local choir a few months ago and of course it’s a great way to meet new people and get involved in the local community. It had been a long time since I sang in a choir but the fun factor is still there and I’m very glad I got over my hesitation and did it 💪🏻.
What smaller roles do you slip into on occasion?
A school shooting every 6 days in 2022 in the USA.
It’s unimaginable. How do you send your children off every day?
While I am 100% against guns, I am also realistic about changes to gun laws in the USA.
But there is another aspect – who are the shooters? Why are they doing this? And what can we – each and every one of us – do to prevent more violence?
Without knowing details I can be pretty sure these people are desperately unhappy, scared, and deeply insecure. They lack a sense of belonging, contribution and support.
This is where you and I come in. Every human can show humanity and compassion to others. Wether you are a parent, aunt, uncle, teacher, friend or stranger on the street.
Speak to children and teens. Notice and complement behavior you like. Give them opportunities to help and be needed. Build relationships with the young people you encounter.
You don’t know what impact the smallest interaction, the act of “seeing” another human will have on them. It might change their day, it might change their life.
#mayonthemove2022 is about cultural ties today. Care and love for children is universal across all cultures. While it may look different in different places we all love our kids.
We must extend that love and care beyond our family so that children that don’t have the support our kids do, don’t feel the only way forward is to harm others and so bury their own pain and fears.
Hold your children tight and set them free. Encourage them, let them be a part of things, to know they contribute and are needed.
And then, speak to a child or teen you don’t know today. Say something encouraging to them. They think you’re uncool anyway so you have nothing to loose and we all have so much to gain.
Rituals & Routines
I’m a huge advocate of establishing and maintaining routines and rituals. They give us stability and consistency and let our minds rest.
This is important for parents and kids wherever you live but is especially relevant when transitioning and adjusting to new locations.
When so much is changing it’s nice to have a few things that stay the same.
But they must be enjoyable and relevant. It’s ok to stop doing something that doesn’t feel right or becomes forced.
And it’s great to create new routines and fresh rituals. Such as my morning dog walk.
Over the last 2 years this has become such an integral part of my day that I really miss it when I can’t go.
What small routines accompany you through the day?
Perspective – I’ll take this one literally.
I turned my desk by 90degrees this weekend. It gives me better lighting, a new view and a different background for Zoom calls 😆. It also feels better no longer to have the door at my back.
A small change that shakes my space and thinking up just a little.
What are your thoughts on perspective?
I’ve already posted on Perspective for #mayonthemove2022 but here’s another important post that the map maker in me has to share.
Flat maps are projections, ie perspectives, of a lumpy, somewhat spherical object whizzing through space while turning on its own axis.
They serve various purposes but are never true representations. Three major distortions occur when we try to flatten a 3D object: area (size), direction and distance.
The Mercator projection (image 2) most commonly used was designed 500 years ago by Europeans for navigation. The extreme distortion of size (eg compare Greenland to Africa or Sweden to India in all three images) led and leads to a skewed worldview (and racism).
Each projection is a highly complicated mathematical model with its own pros & cons.
But we have GPS now so it’s time to work with newer projections.
Here are two: Winkel-Tripel, (image 1) which optimizes all three distortions and is used by National Geographic. AuthaGraph (image 3) is a new map developed in Japan and is proportionally perfect. The shape of the continents however is slightly skewed. See images on Instagram here.
Another take on #perspectives
This is me – reading all the May on the Move 2022 posts and enjoying watching connections being made – in the comments, by re-sharing salient posts, in real life.
I’ve spent more time off screen, working on in person connections since I realized I’ve been avoiding this part of “arriving”.
Covid hit just after we repatriated and lockdowns and quarantine were no problem for my introverted self.
But its time. Time to join other people, time to meet in real life, time to “be” where my feet are planted.
While I really enjoy social media platforms and the real connections that are made in this virtual space, I will be spending less time here and more soaking up the world around me.
Thank you @thefrustratednester and @mother_city_time for hosting #mayonthemove again and providing us with thought provoking prompts and the chance to create deeper connections and understanding.