Stand up if you feel socially malnourished. I bet this looks like one of those giant human waves you see at a sporting event but instead, it’s whoosh across the world.
These months of staying at a distance from each other, missing those endorphin-boosting hugs, and that precious face-to-face connection… I didn’t grasp how much it all added up until I found myself sobbing in my dolphin voice to a dear friend.
I had ignored it, minimized it, and maybe even denied it — this grief from being apart and the longing for close physical proximity to my loved ones. Then, just minutes after welcoming my college friend in from her drive, all that weight I’ve been carrying fell down.
I realize so many of you are like me at this very moment — you’re either in your womb home, hoping/planning to go there soon, or heading back. And as I prepare to leave the US again, following what was a magical time after a long separation from loved ones, I’m noticing some thorns in my roses.
So this week, I’ll share three reunion wreckers that I’m surprisingly experiencing right now. Then, I’ll offer up simple cures to better protect your heart, mind, and time for a smoother visit and departure.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- The face-to-face hangover
- Overcoming a scarcity mindset
- Setting time-share expectations
- Hissing at friendly neighbors
- Making peace with leaving
Listen to the Full Episode
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Full Episode Transcript:
Hello. It is 10:00 am in New York, 4:00 pm in Johannesburg, and 9:00 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com coming to you from my womb home of Williston, North Dakota in the USA. 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.
This morning, I am nursing a huge hangover. And I’m not talking about that kind. I didn’t have one drop of alcohol last night. I’m nursing a face-to-face. hangover. I just got back from a road trip where I visited a series of very dear friends that I’ve known for over 30 years. And this morning, I’m suffering.
If you’ve heard me talk about face-to-face hangover before, maybe you’ve checked out episode 54: Curing “Face-to-Face Hangover” After Seeing Loved Ones believe me, you’re gonna need it because after being separated for such a long time and then being reunited, it’s inevitable that you’re going to feel a crash afterwards. So check out episode 54, if you are in this same place as me.
But listen, I get it, it’s summer here in the Northern Hemisphere and I’m one of the lucky people that was able to go home and reunite with family and friends. Some people are right alongside with me, but others are currently in lockdown and only have that reunion on an unknown horizon. So, not everybody is in the same place right now. I totally get it.
But regardless, this episode is for you because a reunion is ahead. Whether it might be happening now or it might be in the unknown future or maybe even you just got back home from one, this episode is going to help you have language for that experience and strategies at your fingertips.
So here’s why I wanted to focus on this today, one, because I’m going through it and it’s all I can think about. And if I’m going through it, and I’m noticing what’s happening. I wanted to share that with you because having language for this will help you really make sense of your experience better and also have some strategies to feel like you can enhance it for yourself and others.
So here’s three things I’m noticing. I am several weeks into my time here with my family and visiting friends and I am watching the days go by till I leave. I’m gonna leave in less than a week and a half. So, since I’ve been here, the things I’m noticing, I’m going to tell you about. Number one, it’s called: Delayed Grief Release. Two is: Scatter Hoarding. And Three is: Ticking Time Bomb. If you’re anywhere near this kind of situation of reunion after a long time of separation, I’m pretty sure these three things are going to happen to you.
All right, let’s dive in with Delayed Grief Release.
Now I was at my kitchen counter, I think it was a Sunday morning and I was waiting for one of my BFF’s from college to come visit me. It was about time for her to roll up and I went into the living room to look outside of the bay window to see if she’d driven up. Her car was already in the driveway. Like an expectant puppy, waiting for a donor to get home, I rushed down the stairs and gave her a big hug as she gets out of her car. We chat and I grabbed her bags. When I walk into the house and I sit down again at the kitchen counter and literally within three minutes of our conversation, I’m sobbing.
I’m sobbing because it was like the weight of the time. I had carried on my shoulders of not having seen my loved ones was finally being released. She and I had specifically been separated for three years because the last visit I had we weren’t able to connect. So it had been a long time and I hadn’t realized until that moment how much I’ve been carrying it. I was telling her how it felt to be away and not see my mom. And I was literally like — people who know me well, I go into dolphin language when I’m crying and I’m talking at the same time but you can’t really understand it. It’s like *dolphin crying noises*. The listener has no idea what I’m talking about because my emotions are pouring out faster than my words can catch up with.
So, I don’t know if you’ve been with me, but if that has happened to you, that’s a delayed grief response. It happened to me. I saw it happen to my parents at the airport, right? Finally, when you see your grandchildren after being separated for two years. All of that weight you’ve been carrying falls. And when it happens to me, it ain’t pretty.
So I wanted to share that with you because I don’t think I’m alone. And the thing is if it’s happening to you you can make sense of it. And the other thing is your people that you’re seeing might have had a completely different experience. Maybe they got out of lockdown much sooner and they were able to see their friends or maybe they could see their siblings or even other grandchildren. But not you.
So if it’s going to you and gives you some ability to plan for it. I would say, allow it, allow that grief to flow, but you can also communicate about it to say, “Hey, I’m fine. Let me collect myself, but this is delayed grief release. And I’ve just been holding this in my shoulders. And now finally, when we see each other, maybe we’ll let it go.” So if you’ve got it, I want to hear from you. I’d love to hear if you have had a case of Delayed Grief Release. I know I’m not the only one, so check me out on social media or respond to my newsletter via email and tell me if you’ve been there. Okay, so that’s number one, Delayed Grief Release.
Number two, I call Scatter Hoarding. Scatter Hoarding.
Now, scatter hoarding is what squirrels do. Squirrels, what they do is in fall, they collect nuts and then protect them fiercely. So I noticed I was scatter hoarding on a family gathering over the fourth. We had a lot of people and people were dropping by and again we went camping. And I remember being there with my siblings and my mom and dad and these people that I don’t even know from a campsite down the road came by. And instantly I was like *hiss* a squirrel while defending her territory and it was just happening.
When I didn’t obviously hiss at them, I mean, I contained myself. But inside, I caught myself feeling threatened, like they came during my family time and don’t you dare try to steal one of my nuts. And my nuts are that precious time with my family.
Now, in a normal circumstance, if a neighbor dropped by for 15-20 minutes, it wouldn’t be a big deal at all. But because I have spent so much time waiting to have these moments with my family when other people that are not connected to my friends or family encroach on our space or time, it feels like someone’s going to steal the nuts I collected for winter, right? And I’m like, “Hey, that’s my nut. You can’t have it. Collect your own nuts.”
And the thing is, I noticed that reaction happening in my body. That this time is precious together and I want to protect it. So, I have to be really mindful about how we spend time together.
So, what can you do if you’re Scatter Hoarding? Number one, I want to hear if I’m the only one. Please don’t say I’m the only one if you have been in reunions with your family and then people have come in and encroached on your time or space and you felt threatened. I think that would be fun to hear what the situation was like, and how you responded.
So plan for it. Obviously, you just have to allow for it, like it wasn’t inappropriate for these neighbors to come by and visit for a moment, right? So I just allowed that feeling to go through my body, noticing that this is an acknowledgement of how precious this is. What I didn’t do is, I didn’t bring out the chips and salsa and say, “Hey, let’s all hang out.” I did keep boundaries where it made it clear, we were doing our family time and that was like a passing interaction.
And then you might want to think about if you’ve got people who are asking of your energy and time, and it’s feeling like they’re stealing a nut, you might want to think about communicating boundaries. And that is a conversation also to have with your loved ones, your friends and family, around, if we get together, how do we want to get together to make sure that we can focus on each other? And we really embrace this experience, right?
So I think I had a case of the Scatter Hoarding. I’m curious if other people also did, but I’m over here with my precious nuts I’ve collected over the season and really want to make sure that the time is used really well.
All right. So that’s number two Scatter Hoarding.
The third one is no surprise after what I’ve shared, we’ve got Delayed Grief Release and Scatter Hoarding. I’m coming up on the last, I don’t know, 10 days of my time here.
And number three, that I noticed is: Ticking Time Bomb. Ticking Time Bomb.
So you can probably guess what this is? I noticed it. My father has a paper calendar up in our kitchen and I was crossing out every day, crossing out every day. And my dad’s like, “By the way, that’s my calendar. This is not your calendar. You haven’t lived here for 22 years. What are you doing?” He didn’t really say that, but I could see in his eyes. And I think what I was doing was really watching what limited time we have and, and trying to be really aware of where we are in this visit.
And when I say that, I noticed my throat kind of tightens up and that’s like a sign that something emotional is happening for me. And I think that it’s processing how precious this time is. And after all of that time, skipping an entire year of our lives together. And as an expat, I’ve been abroad for 21 years. Not seeing each other for a year. It’s one thing, if you live in the same town or they’ll say country, but when you miss a year in an expat life, that’s a big deal, right?
So I think I’m sort of doing two things. I’m preparing for departure and I’m also really trying to cherish every moment. A reminder of how little time that’s left and to embrace every moment.
So, this morning, when I was downstairs, getting breakfast and my father came down, I could have run upstairs and got started on this podcast. But instead, I was just grateful to sit there and spend some time having coffee and talking because those moments are so so very precious. And I acknowledge that this is really like that scarcity mentality of just being like, “Crap. The bomb’s gonna go off.”
And a bomb is not a very healthy metaphor to have because it’s like you’re waiting for something bad to happen and for something to get destroyed, but that’s what’s happening, right? I’m just acknowledging that.
So, I think the reason why I share that is one plan for that you might be feeling that, allow yourself permission to feel that and then try to make a shift. So for me, my shift is instead of feeling a time bomb ticking, it’s more like, “Okay, this is realistically, how much time we have left, how can I make the most of it.” And then again, like we’ve talking about a plan to allow for it but then communicate with yourself. What needs to happen for you to make sure that you’re feeling present and you’re embracing the precious moments you do have? Also pragmatically planning, how can you embrace the time that you have?
And what’s really helped me is looking realistically about the next steps? When can we realistically expect another trip, short-term or long-term? And so, for me, that really helps, when I hear the ticking of the bomb, it’s more like, “Sundae, okay? You’re fully immunized for your family, you’re in lockdown, in South Africa. But the U.S. is opening up. Probably travel will really be likely next summer. So then we’re back to our normal. Back to normal.”
Not like that feeling of scarcity that we’ve been so burned by is going to stay forever. Like this too shall pass. We will come out on the other side. So that’s what’s helping me, quiet the sound of the tick on the time bomb and trying to reframe it so it feels a little bit more nurturing and more productive for me.
So there you have it. So straight talk about the three phenomena I’m noticing: Delayed Grief Release, Scatter Hoarding, and Ticking Time Bomb.
It’s a lot, right? Like you, I’m going through this, but I’m also trying to take care of my kids. I’m trying to keep my business going. Grow, maintain my health and see people. It’s a lot to handle at one time and you’re doing the same thing. Whatever that thing is. And this is our reality. And again, if you’re not going through it right now, a reunion is ahead for you and that will be happening and that’s why I wanted to make sure I got this podcast out now, for those of you who are experiencing it or about to experience it. And if you’ve been through this, at least now, you have language for what happened.
So I’m all about giving some extra support during these wonky times. This is one of those ways I can do that. If you’re looking for more, if wonky is your new norm, you’ve got this going on, plus all kinds of other real-life things, I really want to have your back.
And you heard me talk about it last week, about Expats on Fire. That’s why I created it. I want to support you in your everyday life and help you. You do what you can to work toward whatever is meaningful for you in the next six months. Whatever that is, it could be just like doing a better job, taking care of yourself or being more patient as a parent. Or shifting your job or growing your business. I don’t know what it is, but I want to be by your side to help you continue to approach your goals from an empowered space, live in alignment with your values and really make progress.
Helping you achieve those small wins and make big strides forward on whatever is important, but no matter what life throws at you, right? We just don’t know. And it’s important, I think, to have a structure and accountability in a support network in place so you can keep moving forward.
So that’s what Expats on Fire is all about. I want you to check it out. I’ll put in the show notes. Just briefly, it’s a built-in community and the tested program that will bring you the results you’re looking for. One of my clients, she said a very specific goal to do within the six months and by month five, she’s like, “I did it. I did it. So now I have to think about what I want to do for the last month.” It’s gorgeous to see that happen.
It’s access to a private community for these months. Live monthly training, from me, monthly progress guides, bonus resources, all of it to help you transform how you’re showing up all month long but for all six months, so you keep that momentum.
And I promise it’s fun. If you’ve ever done anything with me, like a challenge or worked with me individually, you know that playfulness is part of how I roll. So you can also have some fun while you’re getting some serious work done.
So check it out. It does bring life-changing results that will change the trajectory of the end of this year, into 2022. And the thing is, it’s all for under a hundred bucks. This is an unprecedented rate, a monthly rate for this kind of support for me is unheard of. So if you’ve ever wanted to work with me and couldn’t swing it at that time, this is the time. But don’t mistake low cost for small results. My clients are pulling out their successes and goals, every single month, sharing them in the community. And it’s such a wonderful thing to watch happen, live.
Something about that magic of a community that happens.
Carol El Hawary, she was in the group and she’s the founder of this amazing Literary Tours company in Egypt. And she did a group program with me. And she said that, “Working with Sundae in the group was one of the most productive periods of my life.” So if you want to be productive, if you want clarity, that’s exactly what we’re looking for.
I’d love to create community with you, help you create results so that you feel like you’re really taking charge of your life, no matter what it throws at you.
All right, you’ve got this. In the meantime, I’ll be thinking of you as you process the Delayed Grief Response, the Scattered Hoarding and Ticking Time Bomb.
You got this.
So this is Sundae Schneider-Bean and you’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour. Thank you for being here. I’m going to leave you with the words of Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician and philosopher: “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.”
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