Holidays... bringing out the best in family dysfunction??

Most of my colleagues were buzzing with excitement this week to head back to the States to visit with family and friends for the Christmas holiday.  Some were less excited; others downright nervous.

Living overseas can be exciting, overwhelming, challenging, wonderful and horrible all at once.  It can be hard to articulate all of these feelings in the three sentences that most people allow you, when they ask "so how's ____?" (before glazing over in boredom).  

It can feel disappointing and confusing; to not share similar viewpoints with people you've known all your life, to feel like you've missed out on important life events, or to see people moving on with their lives without you.  

However, I think the most frustrating emotion is to see the people who are stuck in their same rut; just "hoping" for change.  For an expat who's life revolves around change, this is an extremely difficult dynamic to deal with.

In a moment of true bewilderment, we may begin to wonder why we wanted to come home in the first place, since home is now a foreign land, and our foreign land is now home.

With this in mind, I offer the following ideas to stay sane while visiting with relatives this holiday season.

Jet lag will inevitably make you more irritable.  Try to spend time in the sun to reset your body's clock.

Be patient with yourself.  It's normal to feel overwhelmed.

Ask a lot of questions about what's going on in their lives.  Try to limit stories about life overseas unless they ask.  Many people will mistake it for bragging or be so uninterested that you'll end up feeling hurt.

Keep visits frequent and short, and OUTSIDE of their homes.  You may end up feeling unfamiliar in a place that's "supposed" to be familiar; this can be painful.

Along the same lines, invite them to do errands (before or after coffee, breakfast, lunch, etc) to maximize your time back home. It goes FAST!

Alcohol could help ease the tension, but you know your family best!!  
At the very minimum, maybe you'll feel a little more relaxed after a glass of wine with dinner.  
Or some Baileys in the morning coffee, but I digress.

Stay in touch once you're back overseas via Whatsapp or FaceTime, instead of Facebook.  Whatsapp allows for a more intimate connection, whereas Facebook has the added social pressure of what random people from high school are doing with their lives. Assuming this looks extremely different from the life that you are currently living, this will stress you out.

So to my fellow Paula Pans, have no fear!  
You too will survive the holidays, and go back to the comfort of your globe-trotting ways very shortly.  
In the meantime, enjoy your family, embrace the experience, and eat well!

<3 paz.  amor.  felicidad  siempre

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