My earliest memories are of life on an island off the coast of Africa. Visceral, vibrant experiences lived out in a lush, colorful waterfall of languages, cultures and people. There was no anchor in this life. Time had its rhythms for family life, school life and community life, but these had no basis in comparative normalcy. Mornings bled into the full sun of the school day. Late afternoons of play seeped into cocktails, sunset, dinner and then socializing.
Home was a place of oddly contrasting exuberance and isolation. The high energy of endless parties at the weekend and the creative grind of my parents’ professional roles juxtaposed to my own smaller world of relative isolation made for a felt intensity of experience that was sharp, singular and wherein I was expressively stymied. I simply lacked the ability to clothe my world in language that was adequate to the novelty and intensity of daily experience.
Mom seldom thought to explain the simplest things, unless they were academic. She worked at the American School teaching higher math. Dad appeared episodically with his own brand of essential wisdom, mostly on an ad hoc basis. Fried egg yolks are for dipping toast. Frog legs are wonderful with lemony butter. Their shadow fell across my days in their appearance on the scene directly and through surrogates.
I was always being carried along on an excursion, outing, party or trip. While these exceptional memories are precious to me, I would have liked a “head’s up!” about LOTS of things. For example, the seasons are reversed with summer commencing on December 21st. It struck my small self as remarkable to have Christmas in summer…
There was a lot of distance to bridge in forming a mutual bond. At this early stage, the bond seemingly had no volitional mutuality; it simply was. The sun, stars or sea- these elemental forces that shaped the surrounding world seemed utterly equivalent to the maelstrom of impacts from my parents. I couldn’t tell you objectively whether this is due more to how my nature is shaped or to how my early experiences shaped my intuitive and sensory mind.
I remember going to see the huge reel-to-reel generation one computers in the lab. They seemed gigantic, like something out of an Isaac Asimov plotline! A tracking station for satellites had been established in Antananarivo (in 1964?) and my family relocated to work for Bendix. They were tracking satellites for NASA under a Memorandum of Understanding that was to have endured for about eighteen years. Our dog’s name was Imp (Interplanetarymonitoringplatform).
The adult world was tech, diplomacy, business and the unfortunate and toxic spillover of French imperialism and dysfunctional American expat culture. I and many others were third culture children, neither native nor wholly like our peers back home. We rode a third wave of existential reality whose currents formed in the waters of Malagasi culture under French rule. But with American parents, we lived the experience of being planted in two very different cultural economies.
French cultural values were embodied in the arms of education, government and a Francocentric worldview wherein your culture of origin, wealth and skin color determined your prospects for social, professional and political self-determination. In the main, Malagasi natives preferred being employed by young Americans in comparison to French persons. The money was better and so were the working conditions.
Backlash was brewing against the status quo in the form of a revolution, which broke out in earnest during our last year on the island. Events developed to the point where most expat families evacuated by 1971 or so. Adjusting to life in the US included the shock of displacement, the loss of key relationships and experiences and the loss of pieces of my own identity as my world of three cultures and three languages narrowed to one.
If you talk to people who spent some or all of their childhood in another country, you’ll find that their experience as a third culture person is bounded not only by the place and overall context in which they experienced the push and pull of multiple cultures; it is also bounded by the time in which they had the experience. The very aged long for homes they lived in as children or young adults. Veterans long for the ties to their fellows that were forged in the most difficult of circumstances. Children who felt at home under the unique influence of a blended context are homesick for that irretrievable bubble of lived experience.
It’s end is a death and a psychic displacement whose impact echoes. Seasons, years, even decades later- the echoes of this lived experience remain. However, nobody else quite understands the attachment unless they have lived the experience in question. It’s a fixed frame of reference that only comes alive when others are present who shared some of that particular history.
Certain types of special needs produce the same set of challenges with respect to the ability of others to understand what the lived experience is of someone on the Autism spectrum. IDD clients, Down Syndrome, ADD/ ADHD, visually impaired and otherwise challenged persons all live under the influence both of their felt condition and the responses, reactions and interventions of others to it.
Often, client progress and growth is impeded due to the impact of interventions. These are generally well intended, but often fail to account for the personal agency or overall felt experience of their target. Without volitional engagement, clients are left voiceless. Many lack the language to clothe the realities of their cumulative embodied experience. The result is often severe psychic impact. A reset is needed.
As coaches, we help those in high demand roles as parents, caring professionals and other stakeholders to begin their own recovery so that they can live beautiful, fulfilled lives while they work in their desired roles with a mindful refocus. Engaged energy on their part creates a channel for the client to buy in to interventions. Engagement that is intentional, mutual and respectful opens new potential for growth.
Co-creating a better future for all? Yes, please. Call us. We listen. We help.