HSP: what are your plans for Christmas and New Year’s eve?

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As a coach for highly sensitive people lots of stories about Christmas and New Year’s eve come my way. Most of the highly sensitive people I speak rather spend their time quietly with a few friends or in some situations only with their spouse, love relationship and kids in stead of packing stuff, organizing big dinners and traveling from one family to another with two days. (Christmas) And as for New Year’s eve, in the Netherlands it is the tradition to set of fireworks up until late, go out until late and the next morning you possibly catch yourself with a hangover and a huge lack of energy. This feeling of being totally wasted could go on for days so the people I speak to ask themselves: 

‘What do I want to do, how shall I organize this and most importantly, how will I communicate this to my spouse or family?’ 

Yesterday I gave a lecture about high sensitivity with professional and personal relationships. This same topic arose and conclusion was that it is most important to listen and finally act upon your own needs. The difficulty lies in the fact that we are so accostumed to do what others want and expect from us. (or read: to do what the group/family wants) In many cultures it is a tradition to spend time with your loved ones during these festive days, but all I hear about is lots of family stress. I understand it is very hard to break with family and cultural traditions just for your own sake. 

How wonderful it would be if we could choose for what we most want to do during these days? Before having this as an option in mind, one needs to tackle lots of emotions. Emotions such as guilt, anger or even family member blaming you for not coming to the gathering. Year in, year out, you feel horrible, and perhaps this comment rings a bell ‘this year I will stay at home’, but to find yourself each year in homes of other family’s or family at your place, because the motivation to choose for what you want somehow disappears. Days after the social activities you feel exhausted of all the conversations, impulses and possibly excessive amounts of food. 

What if, after years of struggling, with the December month turning around the corner, you consider, just slightly consider to do what you want. What ideas would pop up? With whom would you spend these festive days? How will you go about communicating this to your family? Think about it, it could definitely free your mind and body and take you up to a higher level of excepting and acting up to your own needs. The positive effect about this is when you feel well and good about yourself you could mean much more to others. This doesn’t only go up for festive days, it’s a daily positive life attitude. Many highly sensitive people regard doing something for themselves as ‘egoistic’. No way, it is super healthy to put your own needs first and in my view of life this naturally goes with healthy relationships, either professionally or personally. 

As a Chinese born in the Netherlands I never had a relationship with Christmas. These days were focussed on work and serving others Chinese food from out of the restaurant of my parents. And as for New Year’s eve, this meant being with lots of Chinese family living in the Netherlands, most of them had restaurants so lots of good food was served. Whole evening went to spending time with cousins and grown-ups talking and playing games. Chinese tradition of setting of fireworks did go hand in hand with Dutch culture’s fireworks at 0.00am 1st of January with a huge difference, Chinese fireworks was all about banging our ears of whereas most Dutch fireworks were about beautiful colors and figures whirling up into the sky. 

Somehow I feel lucky to not have any traditions in relationship to Christmas, it seemingly makes it easier to choose for what we want to do. But even so there are some family expectations to tackle. Even without a religious link to it family wonders what we will be doing around that time of year. Or perhaps it’s even more so the case that it’s more about me, somehow I feel compelled to share what we will do, in other words, we would like to spend time here at home in stead of visiting you, you and you. And as for New Year’s eve, to be honest, I have never been into fireworks. This year we decided upon spending time somewhere where it is fireworks free. Hmmm..this is quite a challenge, but we will find a place. I am sure of that. Where there is a will, there is a way. 

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Moving abroad for a couple of years

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A dear friend of mine came over to see me in The Hague. I wasn’t expecting her to tell us that she would move to London next year. Her husband got offered a job and they are in the midst of settling an arrangement to move their family including two little kids to London for three years. This has been their dream for many years and they didn’t think a chance like this would come by any time soon. Truth need to be told that she had kept this a secret for me for some months, because they wanted to be sure before sharing this huge news with friends. I was left in shock.

Why? And why so soon? The first emotion that popped up was that I would miss her. That all would be different, even though we have already struggled with meeting up while both living in the Netherlands. Straight after she had told me I opened up to what I was feeling, tears came rolling down my face. She embraced me and I just let it go. To be honest, I am proud to share that I was able to open to all my emotions and thoughts. When I look back at the times I have done this I am sure this started happening from this year onwards. It feels like I have been through a miraculous shift when it comes down to showing my tears to family and friends. I feel comfortable and safe in doing so.

From the moment she lives in London I imagine we would become more efficient in scheduling our get-to-gathers. Perhaps we will start using facetime or videoskype. Many people I know use these means of communication to stay in touch. Like having breakfast on a Sunday morning in ones kitchen while seeing and talking to family in Switserland. Actually I don’t want to think about this future scenery anymore, because I prefer having my friends living around the corner. Even though I would like to have more contact with my friends abroad I tend to keep in touch for a couple of times a year and be so, so very happy when I actually see them.

Of course I haven’t cried all the while she was visiting. Tears and laughter in my life are like two hands holding each other in good and bad times. I took her to the Hague city centre to discover a healthy juice and lunch café named Fine Fresh Food. Their vegan brownie and the savoury juice I tried was splendid. Furthermore we discussed our work and initiatives we are exploring in the field of psychology and lifecoaching.

Oh, I forget to mention one little detail, a few days before she came I literally thought to myself ‘Would I like to live abroad for a couple of years?’. I was surprised by this thought, because it came out of nowhere. On top of this at the beginning of this week our daughter told us she wants to go to England to speak English. Most likely we had a hunch of this message coming our way. I told my quite down-to-earth friend about our presentiments. She laughed and took it lightly. Life is about sharing right? There is no distance in time and space.

Colombian lady talking loud

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Today I found myself in a bus from The Hague central station to where I live. My attention was immediately drawn to a lady speaking in Spanish. I believe I stared at her, because my eyes met the eyes of a lady who noticed I was staring. Her eyes moved quickly from me to the loud Spanish speaking lady. Reason why I stared was that she spoke Speedy-Gonzales-Spanish. Up until now I hadn’t heard anyone speaking Spanish that quickly. My brains were working overtime to understand each and every word. I know, this comes across like eavesdropping and I don’t want to be rude, but I was so much impressed by her speed of talking. It came down to understanding some words and phrases.

In my head thoughts started to circle around and around. Shall I speak to her? Wouldn’t that seem weird to her and to all the passengers in the bus? What shall I say? Could it be that she is talking that fast, because of any disease? Oh, no, if that was the case, it would be very awkward to have a small talk. What I really wanted to share with her was how impressed I was. I stopped all the circling thoughts and decided just to do it, because otherwise I would regret it. Right after my decision her phone made a loud noise. She looked at the back, our eyes caught and I smiled at her. She smiled back. I saw my chance and moved from my seat to a seat behind her and said ‘Disculpe’ (excuse me) and off I went.

We had a really nice talk. I discovered that she is Colombian and that all Colombians talk fast like that. Well that was her opinion, because I have met Colombians before and their speed of talking never struck me in a way as with this lady. She has almost lived her whole life in the Netherlands with her Dutch husband. They have one child, a son, 33 years old and moved back to Colombia and is raising his three kids there together with his wife. She works in healthcare and only speaks Spanish with her husband and when she is back in Colombia. Her life is in Dutch.

She also shared with me that Dutch people don’t talk as loud in public transport as Colombians do. I know, I said, but I’m used to it, because Chinese people talk loud as well. I very much enjoyed our ‘small’ talk which in fact ended in sharing more with each other than what we think of the weather or things happening in and around public transport. Yes, it was the right decision to go and talk to her.

Christian wedding in Germany

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Last weekend my cousin got married. To my big surprise it was a Christian wedding. They arranged a beautiful place called Schloss Weiterdingen in the South of Germany. My cousin has not been brought up with a religion. Neither have I. So imagine the Chinese delegation from the Netherlands singing in church. It was awkward to say the least. But we tried. We did the best we could. We sang. In English. I cried upon hearing the tunes of the first song whilst seeing my cousin and his future wife awaiting their marriage.

After having sung several songs and listened to the pastor of their church it was time for exchanging the rings. A very cute little boy handed them the rings. She had a bit of a trouble with putting the ring on his finger. My cousin took over and put the ring on his finger himself. This resulted in a salvo of laughs. Hilarious! It was official. My cousin got married to a woman from Latvia and they will spend their life in Zurich for the time being.

What I found interesting to hear were the stories the pastor told us before he wedded the bridal couple. ‘Marriage is a gift from God, it’s the reunion of a man and woman; two separate souls who in marriage will be completed as one. Encountering ones soulmate in life is a gift one should cherish every day. The wife should take care of her husband and nourish him well. Make his breakfast every day and a smart woman prepares breakfast in the evening so the husband can warm it up in the morning.’

Yes, those were the words I remembered him telling us. When people from his church share their wish to marry, he offers them counselling to see if they are fit to marry each other. In relation to the bridal couple, he emphasized the bridal couple’s loving way of communicating; an important element of marriage. The pastor radiated with love and godly expressions.

Their wedding day included an international buffet; this was arranged with help of family and friends, a huge romantic wedding cake, a photo-shoot blessed with sunny weather and a formal dinner filled with impressive speeches. I am glad I was there to witness their love for each other.

Provocative Capoeira -Brazil Part 6

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This is the sixth blog in a serie of blogs about our experiences in Brazil, where we spent 5 weeks this year. The reason for our trip was capoeira. My partner teaches capoeira in the Hague. His capoeira name is Vitamina. He represents Grupo Engenho, a Brazilian capoeira group, in the Netherlands.

Play capoeira
Everyone invited me to play capoeira. I must admit that it was quite intimidating to see 9 year olds playing capoeira with already 6 years of experience. How would I fit in? How could I move and defend myself in the roda (the circle of people in which you play capoeira)? No way, I thought, I will keep myself on the down low, but they didn’t let me. Since I came all the way from the Netherlands to learn how to play capoeira I was CHALLENGED to play. Challengend by especially one person. One guy who gave me a very nasty LOOK. A look which told me that he knew that I was nervous and scared to play. My argument of being tired didn’t count. He continued giving me this look. Ieksssss! I felt provoked by his words and attitude and decided to overcome my fear of playing.

Samba de Roda
After the capoeira roda the teacher often gave a sign to create a samba de roda. The circle became smaller and one couple could do their samba dance while the others were singing, clapping and watching. You could replace someone in the circle just by pushing or teasing the person away from the circle. That was fun to watch, but, yes, also in the samba de roda I was challenged to dance. Before I could think or say ‘no’ I was already standing in the circle trying to dance the samba. It seems that people in capoeira are fearless. Or at least they learned to be fearless!

Speak up at Birthday de Roda
With my provocative coaching background I was triggered by the way people interact within capoeira. The invitations to play in the roda, dancing in the samba de roda and speak up after a birthday celebration. All very provocative to me! There was a speech from Mestre Grandao and everyone got a chance to say something to the birthday guy. At some point Mestre Grandao looked at me and asked in a playfull way: so would you like to say something? What? Me giving speeches in Portuguese? Not after 3 weeks. Give me some more time please! 🙂

By Chungmei Cheng
Orchid of Life -LifeCoaching