When my sense of self-worth comes in large part from being self-sufficient, helpful and productive, my self-esteem has taken a blow since becoming an “expatriate” 2 months ago when I moved to Munich. Attempting to communicate in German, I sound and feel like a 5 year old. Even the basics have become huge accomplishments. Learning the recycling system and successfully recycling all our glass bottles according to color was a triumph. Yet, for the life of me, I cannot figure out where to recycle our massive quantities of cardboard moving boxes that fill our narrow hallway. Here it is forbidden (as it should be!) to throw out paper or glass in the trash. In a country run by endless regulations in which citizens self-monitor one another to follow these guidelines, I cannot fall back on my usual mode of operation: just leaving the trash and recycling on the street, seeing rules more as general suggestions, and talking my way out of trouble! Somehow, I must read the rules and regulations (in German) and follow along. I have to accept that it takes 4 weeks for any internet company to set up internet, and thus writing a blog becomes another triumph! I cannot question the 8-hour window of time in which I am required to stay in the apartment to wait for the deliveryman who may or may not show up. Tonight, they don’t show up, and this is when we get to the end of our rope (it has been stretched too far across the Atlantic!) and don’t want to be a 5 year old anymore. Nevertheless, this is exactly when I feel like having a temper tantrum!
As a life-coach and social worker, especially one who loves to spout about the toxicity of our anger, this is where I go into self-coaching mode. Anger indicates that we are feeling small and vulnerable (unfortunately our anger has everything to do with ourselves, not with them), so of course, as a five year old expat, I feel quite small. All too often I realize I cannot say what I need to say, I am unemployed for the most part, and I am learning German from square eins. (It doesn’t help that I find myself in bookstores reading the picture books with about 5 words per page!). My anger doesn’t mean that the delivery man deserved my cold diverted eye-contact instead of my usual friendly greeting. It means that I need to remind myself of why I am in this apartment waiting for a delivery.
I remember that I have chosen to build a life with an incredible partner and to learn about the world through a different lens, learn another language, and learn about myself through a different lens. I remind myself of the power of choice in my life; I haven’t been victimized to everything that happened today; I have actively chosen to order a dreamy new mattress. More importantly, I chose to move and I am choosing (present progressive means ongoing!) to be here, now.
For the past year, I have lead mindfulness groups and found ways to illustrate mindfulness as an attitude and a way of life, as well as a more specific practice of being aware within the present moment. I have taught these things to others, yet I have never been able to maintain and prioritize my own regular practice. Here I have the gift of time to begin a regular practice. I can breathe be attentive to the present moment here, while I wait for those [!?*&%!] deliveries.
This is what coaching is about, finding opportunities to make active choices when we feel a victim to this foreign and at times confusing world.
Try this favorite of mine: http://www.quietmindcafe.com/sympathetic-breathing.html