Title translation: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
After months of finding creative solutions in Switzerland, sleeping on an air mattress, and living out of a suitcase, I’m finally back in South Africa. And as many of us return to our homes or move to our next assignments, we quickly realize that what was already hard as heck, is now a double whammy.
The first is all the typical, strenuous challenges of (re)adapting to your new location. But this time, regardless of where you’re landing, you’ll *also* need to deal with the sapping pandemic. (Plus, already depleted emotional reserves, uncertain for what’s ahead, and pressure to pretend like you’re not falling apart. But hey, I’m paraphrasing.)
This week, we’re going to borrow confidence from an expat who took a tough transition and turned it into her watershed moment for transformation.
When French Bias founder Marie returned to where she didn’t want to be, she felt “swallowed by sadness.” But instead of remaining in her state of grief, Marie summoned her will and pulled me in by her side. Then, with a little ingenuity and a whole lot of determination, Marie custom-made her best life.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- Expat Grief Fog
- Squished by English
- Vengeance out of the bottle
- The disdain for Square 1
- Exercising your agency
Listen to the Full Episode
Featured on the Show:
Bad timing, too busy, world in crisis… All excuses that don’t stand a chance against your determination for a better future you. You can continue to crouch down and feel like a perpetual victim of circumstance, or you can partner with me, who’ll make you stretch onto your tippy-toes. Year of Transformation is your lever, so pull the switch right here, and take your breakthrough.
- Sundae’s Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
- Sundae’s Facebook Group – Expats on Purpose
- French Bias Blog – By Marie
- Marie on Pinterest – Connect here
- Marie on Instagram – Connect here
- Marie on Facebook – Connect here
- Year of Transformation – Join now
We’re delighted by our nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!
Full Episode Transcript:
Hello. It is 09:30 am in New York, 3:30 pm in Johannesburg, and 8:30 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-orientated coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations. I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.
I’m excited to be recording this podcast back in my normal office in South Africa. And I’ll tell you what, this weekend I was so tired on Saturday. I was feeling what all my clients reported feeling that week, and that was depleted. I was messaging with a friend and I’m like, “I’m so tired” and my friend goes “didn’t you just move across the world this week?” I was like, “oh, you’re right.”
This is a transition that has slammed me off of my feet all day on Saturday while I was working to rejuvenate my energy resources. And I don’t know about you, but if you’re listening to this now in September or 2020 you might be feeling depleted not from an international move, but just from COVID fatigue this ongoing pattern of not knowing when things are going to get back to normal or even what the new normal is. So listen, this is important.
I know things are hard. I know that you’re feeling depleted and there is no more of an important time than now to think about you and how you take care of you and where you’re living with purpose and meaning for the very reason that we don’t know how long this uncertainty is going to last. We don’t know when we’ll get clarity and whatever that is in your life that has been put aside because of the wonkiness that’s going on globally.
And so today in this episode of Expat Happy Hour, I’ve invited a very special guest who was here to share her story on when she was facing uncertainty and how she got to the other side and it reminds me of a quote that I know from Bryant McGill. Bryant McGill says, “Real transformation requires real honesty. If you want to move forward get real with yourself.” And this is exactly what our special guests did.
It is my heartfelt pleasure to welcome Marie from the French Bias Blog today on Expat Happy Hour. She agreed to come on to share her journey of transformation. It is totally unscripted, we had no idea what I was gonna ask her or what she was going to say. I simply invited her to come on and share her journey with us. It’s like a before and after story.
Before when things were really hard and she was sitting in the uncertainty, and after where she’s on the other side much much stronger as a result of it because she was willing to get real with herself. Listen in to this story from Marie.
Sundae: All right, so I’m excited to welcome our first guest Marie from the French Bias Blog. Marie, thank you for being here this morning.
Marie: Thank you for having me.
Sundae: I know that you got up early this morning to make time for this. So I really appreciate it!
Marie: Anytime, Sundae.
Sundae: Okay, so they’re going to be like check out your blog in a little bit. We’ll have it in the show notes, but tell us a little bit about who you are, and how did you get to where you are now?
Marie: Okay. Well, I’m Marie. I’m French. I have two kids, ages four and six and I live in Michigan in America. I’ve been in Michigan for a long time, like over a decade and I did an expatriation for two years in Germany and upon returning from Germany to the US. That’s how I reach out to you.
Sundae: Why did you reach out to me then?
Marie: Because it was six months before our return to the US and I started to feel a little anxious and I was on the verge of really falling apart. I’ve been an expat for a really long time but it was a unique situation at the time.
After over 10 years in the US, I was experiencing what it would be like to be in Europe. So all of a sudden I was experiencing the European lifestyle. I was close to France so I could see my family way more often and with my husband for the first time, we were on the same footing in terms of dealing with our specific language
I just spoke French, he spoke English. We were learning German together and the kids were learning German with a community. So it was a perfect balance and to me was my ideal life and the prospect of coming back to America, all of a sudden was just terrifying.
Sundae: One thing I really admire about what you did, one, you’re an experienced expat right? Like you’ve done this before, you had so many years in your belt and I appreciate so much about what you did, you reached out because you knew that there could be a better way instead of just letting yourself spiral. You made a change in the other thing I think that you did was pretty impressive. Which not everybody does, is you started to look for a better way to make this transition rather than questioning your relationship.
Marie: You know, and I think it’s all my years of experience being an expat. I knew I was going to go through the roller coaster of emotions. So I just knew what was coming but this time what made it different is I could see that my husband would just go home, just be fine.
I could see that my kids were young enough that they would handle the transition well but I was just really sad about it. You know, I just all of a sudden, you know, America is a country, I mean US is a country I’ve always loved but all of a sudden just the fact of going back there, didn’t feel fun anymore.
Sundae: But that’s why I think it’s so awesome because you weren’t as far as becoming resentful to your partner or to your relationship or anything. You said, “okay, I need to do this differently.” So we went on a journey together and you’re in a completely different place than when we first met. What’s different now?
Marie: Well, I’m back in the US and I’m happy now. That’s the main thing.
Sundae: Yeah, what was it like before?
Marie: Before I just got to the US, we were moving back to our old house. I had to get the kids to our new school. It was just a lot of changes and I was just trying to get it all together. You know, I like many moms out there, just trying to have the family adapt as best as I could and you just hold it together and I think I just didn’t let my emotions really be processed.
Sundae: So what was the first step for you in that whole process?
Marie: Well you know when we met over Skype, I think the first step for me was to acknowledge my feelings. Acknowledge that I was just sad and I was experiencing grief, you know? The grief of just letting go of the life I had, letting go of all those people that I miss but having a plan to see them again. But I was just very very sad.
I would say even borderline depressed and just letting my emotions, acknowledging my emotions, letting them out just processing the whole grief. So I could move on.
Sundae: That’s amazing. And how did you do that? Like what did you do to make space for that?
Marie: First it was an acknowledgment of those feelings and just letting it be okay, you know. Because sometimes when you are in an expatriation, there’s much pressure to adapt and be okay and with your family so that you just kind of go through the motions.
But you just didn’t judge me. Gently to say it’s okay, let it out. So I just took the time to even cry just as simple as that, just cry and let it out.
Sundae: That’s when I think about what square one of change, the death, and rebirth where you just really sit in that. Nobody likes the name of that square because it’s death and rebirth. But it really is just allowing yourself to sit in your emotions and give yourself permission to be there and not run away from it.
Marie: I think it’s all about processing the feelings and then also welcoming the emotions without guilt or without judgment because that was another thing. I stayed in the square one for longer than I wanted to.
Sundae: So I love how you called it, you said you welcomed your emotions. Everybody, you know this recording is happening during COVID and everybody’s sitting in emotions that are really uncomfortable. So you say that so beautifully and I know how hard that is. Like allowing yourself to sit in that discomfort is really courageous of you Marie.
Marie: Well, you know, I kind of learned the hard way that if you don’t do that, then it’s worse. You know, you just bottle everything up and then the emotions come out eventually right, with a vengeance.
Sundae: One of my friends says, “the truth will always find you.” So everybody who’s listening, seriously, Marie is so full of wisdom right now. Allow yourself to sit in the emotions. Give yourself permission to be there. It’s part of the transition. Give yourself space to cry to grieve whatever that is. And then what did you do?
Marie: So then when everything was done and when you just let all your emotions be processed there comes a point when you’re like, “okay now what?” Now It’s time to take action so we looked at my life and really try to identify what would make my life okay in the US.
What I was missing. Just kind of imagine my ideal life and how would I be happy and then just make it happen.
Sundae: Yeah, so we basically looked at what are the needs are not getting met and how can we creatively get those needs met?
Marie: Exactly. So for me, it was about finding a balance where I could pass on my language without being squished by English because all of the sudden I was in a community where English took over like rapid fire.
Sundae: Right, and anybody who’s listening knows how if you don’t get to speak your language, it’s like suffocating your culture out of your family. It’s part of your identity.
Marie: Exactly. I’ve always spoken French to my kids, but we went a little bit further. We reached out to the French aliens, to open a class for bilinguals. I just sought out my French friends a little more, we did play dates, and then I had to also find space for the German which I registered my kids in a German School for a few hours a week to keep it alive. And this was very important for me and then also to create moments with my family. So I decided I was going to take every summer to just make that happen.
Sundae: Yep. One of the things I really admire about you that comes through so clear in the way that you have really mastered this transition is you’ve been very much in touch with what you want, and then intentional in your every day to make that happen.
Instead of just sitting there and going, ‘oh I miss French culture, I wish my kids spoke more French” and stopping at the grieving. You really exercise your agency. You took control where you did have it and invited more French in the heart of Michigan, which I think is amazing.
Marie: Yeah, but that could only have happened after I processed everything because when you’re in the period of grief, it just fogs up your mind. You’re just too overwhelmed by what you’re feeling to even see a path or see clearly so that process really helped me just getting more clarity and being more intentional about what I want with my life.
Sundae: So first I’m seeing the grief. You process your grief, you process your emotions. You got really clear on what your needs were and after that, you could stand from that more empowered place. How did you get that strength? Like you just don’t go from grieving to empowerment what happened in between.
Marie: Oh there were months in between.
Sundae: What did you do?
Marie: A month of processing my emotions, and a month of meeting with you getting a pep talk because you were a nice cheerleader. Just removing all the barriers, the limiting beliefs, you know things that come up that prevent you from acting.
Sundae: Do you remember any of the limiting beliefs that you had any of the lies you were telling yourself that kept you stuck?
Marie: I don’t want to remember.
Sundae: I’m not gonna put you on the spot, but I’m just curious. See this is what’s great. If you can’t remember then obviously you’ve moved on, right?
Marie: I mean some of them were I’m not confident enough or I’m not good enough, pretty much. Because even though I was an expat for a long time, I’ve been through a lot, you just question the fact that you’re falling apart. After years of experience being an expat you’re like, “oh my God, maybe I’m just a joke, why can’t I do this all the sudden”
But every expatriation is very different, you are in a different stage in your life and I think grief can come many years after, for a lot of different reasons.
Sundae: Well totally and honestly with my work I work almost exclusively with experienced expats and what I’ve seen and this is naive of me. I thought when I first started with my company, I thought I’d work with new expats and some experienced ones, but I realized that it just gets harder as time goes on because life gets more complex and your way longer and stakes are higher.
So it’s true, and I also want to point out how I think that you just even using the words “falling apart” is so courageous and authentic because what frustrates me is everybody pretends like they’re all okay at pick-up and drop-off but that’s okay. Everybody’s dealing with something and I think there’s this culture of, one thing I really hate is this idea of not just survive, but also thrive.
I know it’s a nice thing in English and it’s you know, good sounds good together. But it’s like some people are just trying to get by and it puts people under incredible pressure when they think everybody else around them is thriving, and I’m using air quotes with my fingers right now, when in fact everybody is human and going through the messiness of their life because that’s what being human is.
Marie: And you know when I was looking out for resources on expat life and repatriation and things like that, all expat stories are put in a good light. “Oh it’s so incredible.” There are little ups and downs, but now there’s incredible difficulty. Stop minimizing what it’s like because it’s hard, you know, it’s great but it’s hard.
Sundae: Yeah, totally. So what are you most proud of when you think about how far you’ve come and all the work that you’ve done? What are you most proud of?
Marie: Well, I’m proud that I sought help when I needed it. Because if I didn’t take the steps to reach out to you, I mean I could have been in that square one for a year, two years. Who knows.
Sundae: Yeah and now you’re taking amazing care of your health. You’re implementing all these great things with your family. You’ve even done some crazy things with your house. Tell us more about your blog with French Bias Blog. Why do you do that? Why do you do what you do?
Marie: Well, you know, I started the blog when I was in Germany just because I found myself as a stay-at-home mom, and I really wanted to do something productive or something during that time besides taking care of my babies. So I did that and then it’s also allowed me to put things in writing, like process my feelings a little, just having a step back and having to explain yourself, you explain your feelings, explain the expat life, explain the raising multilingual kids things like that. It just kind of helped me alongside to just have more clarity. Or even meet online some people that were in the same situation as me.
Sundae: Well, I can’t recommend your blog enough because what I think is so good about it, for those people who want to check it out is one, you are someone who’s done the work.
You’ve lived through the hard stuff. You’ve processed it. You have come up with strategies to really get clear on your needs and then find creative ways to get them met in your everyday life. I think that’s amazing and it’s not filtered.
You’ve got straight talk about that. It’s a gorgeous website with wonderful things, but you’re not hiding the hard parts, and you’re not stuck in just complaining about it either.
Marie: Although I have my latest blog post with a grump about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Sundae: You guys have to check this out because it is so gorgeous. Who is brave enough to be French in America and take on the iconic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’ve been next to you. I support you even though I love peanut butter and jelly.
This is important to voice. So Maria is someone who totally gets it, she has a bi-national family, she’s raising multicultural kids. Just like so many of us, her work focuses on not only expat life, but also the multicultural family and some really great things around food, which, who doesn’t want to learn about food from someone who is French check it out.
You’re also on I believe you’re on Pinterest and Instagram. Okay, so we’ll put that In the show notes as well. What would you like to tell our listeners? You know, there are some people here who are feeling like you. Kind of wondering if they’re going to slide into a negative spiral, frustrated where they are in their own multicultural life or transition, maybe even looking for more purpose and meaning. What advice do you have for them?
Marie: Just reach out, reach out, and get help because there’s an incredible community of expats that are going through the same things. So yeah, I mean there’s no shame in getting help because when I see who I was two years ago and who I am now, I don’t think I would have accomplished this if I didn’t reach out for help.
Sundae: Yeah, you’re amazing. Marie is incredible. I have to say as we’ve worked together, you’ve consistently impressed me, how you’ve taken on the challenges. Because I know myself like this stuff could feel scary, this stuff can feel hard and you just did it right even though it was all of those things.
And now you’re really reaping the benefits from it. So it’s so awesome to be able to work with you and thank you for doing what you do, and this is one of the things that motivates me so much to support people like you. You have an impact on people’s lives through your blog, through the wisdom that you share and that just lights me up because it makes me feel like I can have a bigger impact through an individual who has an impact on other people’s lives. So keep doing what you’re doing.
Marie: Well you too, Sundae, because you’ve been my cheerleader, my coach, my friend, everything. It was awesome working with you.
Sundae: I feel so lucky. So if people are curious, I’ll talk more about it at the end of the podcast, but we’re talking about Year of Transformation and the free Facebook community that you can get that support with, that I’m part of is Expats on Purpose. So either one of those places are great resources.
All right, Marie. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you for joining us. I am so honored to be part of your journey and I remember one of my favorite things when I work with people is I remember our first call and it’s like burned in my mind how people physically look and what their energy is like but I always remember that first call because I see the difference now.
Do you remember how you felt when we first hopped on the phone together?
Marie: Yeah, I don’t think I would make a full sentence without tears.
Sundae: The word that comes up for me is like a deflated balloon. And now you’re like one of those I don’t know. Is it Captain America from Marvel? Like, you know Superwoman poses. Like yes, there’s vulnerability, but there’s so much strength and so many tools at your side now. And the transformation of your energy and the toolset that I’m watching you use activating your life, is incredible. So, thank you so much.
Marie: Thank you.
So there you have it. That is from Marie from the French Bias Blog. Her tagline is “Half French. Half American. Full fun!” This woman is amazing. Go check out her work because you can tell she’s done all the work on herself, within her family to be able to offer you Insight that is deep and straight to the heart of the challenges that we go through as multicultural families.
Here are some things that I’m taking away from a conversation with Marie:
- If you’re in that process of uncertainty and you’re feeling lost or totally unhappy about an upcoming transition or where you’re at, is to acknowledge your emotions. As hard as that can be, going back to Bryant McGill’s quote of getting real with yourself. She put a name to how she was feeling and her feeling was grief.
- To make space to really process those feelings and her reminder is if you don’t, it gets worse. What I’ve seen in my practice as well, is if you don’t, you start to turn those into other emotions like resentment and that can impact your relationships in ways that are unjust.
- Ask yourself, “now what?” When you’ve done the hard work of processing your emotions sitting in what’s hard, be courageous, and ask yourself, “now what?” Nancy D Solomon says, “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”
So Marie had the courage to name her needs and then get creative on how to get them met. And I saw the hard work that she did to make that happen. And she said this wasn’t overnight. This was a series of intentions that she implemented over months to get the results that she was looking for.
- After you’ve done that work. It’s time to find an approach to act from a place of empowerment as I say to exercise your agency, to find your power, get clear on what your needs are, and then do the work to get them met.
Along the way we had some fun and I would love to have some fun with you, and sit in that with you, help you ask the question “now what?” and help you discover the tools that you need. To dig into that courage to name your needs and get creative on how to get them met to find more purpose and meaning in your life. No matter what kind of transition you’re going through.
So if this sounds like something you’d like to be doing then check out Year of transformation. It is open now, I am accepting applications and those spots are reserved for 10 individuals that I work one-to-one with throughout the whole year on your transformation. So if you’re curious check it out and apply. I would love to hop on the phone, get to know you, and find out if it’s the right fit.
You’ve been listening to expat happy hour with Sunday Schneider-Bean. Thank you for listening. I will leave you with a quote from Jillian Michaels, fitness guru, “Transformation isn’t a future event. It’s a present-day activity.”