Recently I introduced Expats A to Z, a new series of posts about the little things that can make a difference in how we approach some of the challenges and experiences of expat life.
I’m talking about those qualities and traits that we can nurture within us to help not only survive, but thrive amid constant change.
You know, the characteristics and features that can help smooth the way.
I won’t be writing this series in alphabetical order, because I like mixing things up.
And quite frankly, it’s a whole lot more interesting when you don’t know what’s coming next. More fun for me as well.
I do hope you’ll follow along and share your own thoughts and experiences.
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K is for Kaleidoscope
When I was five years old, I distinctly remember receiving a kaleidoscope for my birthday.
You know, the toy shaped like a telescope. Except that when you turned the barrel, rather than bringing something into focus, it exploded into myriad fragments of colors and shapes.
Twist it a little bit clockwise and the mosaic might be primarily hues of blue and green. Rotate it counterclockwise and you might experience vivid reds and bright yellows, or perhaps fuschia with lime green and brilliant purples.
The shapes within each frame ranged from circles and ovals and rectangles to squares, triangles, hexagrams, octagons and of course my favorite: diamonds.
The number of different patterns and color mixtures seemed infinite; whether they were or not didn’t matter, it felt as though the combinations would go on and on forever.
You’d never get bored because you were always seeing the world through a brand new lens, light reflecting off prisms with wondrous results.
Traveling this world, living across cultures, experiencing the deep richness of immersion in an existence totally alien to your own…these are not all that dissimilar to the endless possibilities of my childhood kaleidoscope.
We need to regularly remind ourselves that there is more than one (or two or seven) ways to ‘see’ or feel or encounter that which is different.
Occasionally we’re frustrated or lonely, irritated or sad, stuck in a negative rut while missing another person or place or time.
Sometimes we’ve merely gotten into the habit of rushing here and there, doing the same things, talking and being with the same people, experiencing the same feelings over and over again.
Same is okay.
Sometimes it can be glorious, such as when you’re falling in love and feel that giddy weightlessness in your stomach when you catch sight of your beloved across a crowded room.
Hearing the comforting patter of raindrops on rooftop. Craddling your baby close to you as he drifts off to sleep, or feeling your four year old’s chubby fingers reach for for your hand.
But same also tends to crowd out wonder, and if there’s anything we all need, it’s a sense of wonder.
So I challenge you to try looking at – or doing – something slightly different. Enjoy a different view. Consider a new perspective.
Blaze a path. Go somewhere you’ve never been before. Chat up a stranger or that person you always see at work or the bus stop or in the school hallways. Listen to new music. Savor the flavors of a new drink, a new dish.
Wander through sidestreets, meander in a forest.
Breathe in the subtle fragrance of spring flowers, the dusty dryness of summer, the musky dampness of autumn leaves or the frostiness of an alpine winter.
Explore with all your senses. See and touch and smell and taste and hear.
Rotate the kaleidoscope, and delight in the new colors and shifting patterns which emerge.
[Image credit: Vlado, portfolio 1836, freedigitalphotos.net]