Change your expat life
How to Say Goodbye
Our Zimbabwean chapter comes to a close in five days, and the goodbye ballet has started:
- Last weekend with friends
- Last coffees
- Last dinners
One of the most amazing things with an expat life is the deep friendships that develop in such a short amount of time. Most of us global nomads create a family of friends everywhere we go. But when our time in a certain country ends, as with anything else, we experience sadness.
Sadness is not an emotion most of us like to feel. It’s uncomfortable. And yet, it’s part of being human. It’s part of the human experience. Of course, we like to skip to the happy part, but there would be no happy part if we did not experience sadness.
The 50/50 of Human Experience
A great tool I’d like to offer for when you encounter sadness and other negative emotions is the 50/50 life concept. It reflects the fact that humans feel 50% positive emotions and 50% negative emotions — always.
Most of us think that we should only experience positive emotions, or that it should be 80/20. But if you look at your life or the lives of others around you or around the world, it’s clearly not true. Even people you admire have lives that reflect the 50/50 split. Even when they are healthy and you are battling cancer. Even if they are slim and you want to lose weight. Even if they have the job you dream off. They may experience their 50/50 differently, but it is still a 50/50.
Don’t argue with reality
We tell ourselves we should be happy, but this thought is creating so much misery for us — and for people around us — that I’d like to propose that we stop thinking it. Because when we believe that we should just “be happy,” most of us add an extra, painful emotional layer of self-judgment and blame. When we think we should be happy, we blame ourselves for not being happy.
As a result, we often start fighting our more negative emotions. We resist them, we avoid them, we react to them. And by doing so, we invite extra pain and negative consequences. As Byron Katie says so eloquently: “When you argue with reality, you lose. But only 100% of the time.”
My reality now is that I am living in boxes for another few days. Then I will be living in a few suitcases for a few months. I am sad, yet. But I do not have to pretend that I am not. I can embrace being sad. When I allow the emotion, when I connect to that part of my humanness, sadness does not get bigger. It gets smaller, and eventually I can move on to other emotions that will be more pleasant.
The affirmation of sadness
Sadness has an important message for me. It tells me that I loved my life in Zimbabwe and the people who were around me there. It tells me that I’ll miss people and the life that I had. And that’s okay.
Sadness not a problem to solve. It’s simply an emotion to allow.
You do not have to fix sadness. You can’t just not feel it. But try allowing your sadness by describing how it feels in your body. Describe it in detail, the way you would describe it to a Martian who has never felt sadness and doesn’t know what it means. This is a simple practice that you can use to help you connect with your emotions in a healthy, affirming way.
If this article interests you, listen to Episode 5 of the Love Your Expat Life Podcast: Life is 50/50
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