Self-Expression (2)

So… the previous post, self-expression (1), actually started out as the following. However, once I started to dig into the subject a bit more, it grew into what I felt was a post of it’s own. But I still want to share the original inspiration, as it is an example of how I express myself. One of my mediums is poetry…

Who Am I?

@The Poetry Cafe, August 2016

Daughter of Trevor & Carmen,

Sister to Geoffrey,

Aunty to Donovan & Gabrielle,

Cousin to many, friend to some, acquaintance to a few,

A Londoner by birth, a Jamaican by heritage…

I don’t like to be boxed in, give me room, give me time,

A product of my environment, yet still trying to swim against the tide,

Got my fears but in the words of a friend trying to, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

I used to like white, now I appreciate red,

I never liked coffee, now according to some I’m addicted,

Running for the bus was a no no, now I’ve been known to run 26.2…

Usually quiet, but if you hit the right button, you will enjoy surround sound,

A lyricist with pages to fill,

Acquainted with pain, restoring my joy,

Living a life prescribed, but trying to draw outside the lines,

Jack of many trades, one day I’ll master a few,

A ‘contradiction in terms’, yet easily read if you have the key,

Full of emotion, seen only by a few,

A deep thinker, a deep feeler, yet content to ‘go with the flow’,

If it matters I’ll speak, if it doesn’t, I won’t…

Love the spontaneous, but need a rhythm,

A framework to scaffold this journey I’m on,

Seeking my identity, longing to be known,

Keeping at arms length, but open to being drawn close,

A narrative still unfolding,

Unsure of myself, but certain of Him,

A work-in-progress, He’s promised faithfully to complete,

A unique expression of His love,

A vessel for His service,

Trying to live His truth,

To use a turn of phrase of my people, “A me dat!”

Or at least, in part.

©Janice Whyne

Self-Expression (1)

Google dictionary



1 the expression of one’s feelings, thoughts, or ideas, especially in writing, art, music, or dance.

Another definition adds in the word ‘personality’. Yet another uses the word ‘behaviour’. And there are still more variations to be found. Whichever collection of words one prefers, the abiding theme is the expressing of oneself/one’s self, by various means.

In a Psychology Today article I read when doing a bit of internet surfing for this post, it said,

Neuroscience is teaching us that ‘self-expression’ might be one – if not the most important ways for people to connect, navigate and grow with each other.

In a podcast I came across featuring Najwa Zebian, she shared the perspective that self-expression (her key mediums poetry and journaling) was important to one’s own well-being.

In my own words, I’d say it is the intentional articulation of who you are, or the parts of you that you wish to present, to the world around you. Articulated via a myriad of mediums, and not limited to those included in the opening definition.

A friend, and a true gent, who is no longer with us, was known for his often bright and outlandish, socks. While the rest of him was clothed in fairly standard office attire. Another friend is committed to their body art. Each piece has a personal meaning, and makes a statement first and foremost to and for themself. Yet another friend is known for what I call ‘kick me, kill me’ shoes. I think I’m right in saying it is one of the ways she gets to display her flair. And one of my cousin’s is an artist, and via her MA, she is exploring and expressing different concepts, and taking the opportunity for some self-‘reflexing’. You can check out her journey here.

Interwoven or integral to all of this, I believe, is the need to be self-aware, or know yourself. Possibly an obvious statement, but yet, I think not. As though I posited that ‘self-expression’ is an intentional articulation of who you are, knowing who you truly are seems to be a struggle for some. As partially evidenced by the amount of books, posts etc. (based on a quick google search) which aim to shed light on the subject. If you are not truly aware of who you are, what you are expressing may not be the best version of yourself. Or your truest self. Which in turn may lead to challenges, internal and external, as you seek to navigate, and engage with those around you. And this thing we call life.

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” – Polonius, Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3

Home is…

Taking in the view of Gunung Pangrango

Over the weekend I was away at a team retreat. Something we aim to do around this time each year. A time to hit pause, have fun, review the past, look ahead to the future etc.

To our surprise, the journey there was fairly traffic free. I had built into the schedule a 4hr journey, however we got to where we were staying with loads of time to just take in the views, feel the freshness of the air, relax on the balcony, and breathe…

Later that evening I received a whatsapp from my Mum checking in to see how I was. Part of our chat inspired this post.

I both laughed at my Mum’s cheekiness, and reflected on how I did indeed have things that have travelled with me. Things that feel like ‘home’.

I’m sure we all have those kind of things that make any place where you are feel like home, or at the very least feel like they have a bit of ‘you’ in them. Something which in general may not be as important on a holiday away. Though, having said that, I know a friend who sometimes carries a special pillow on trips away, as otherwise they struggle to get a good night’s rest. And some true coffee connoisseur friends who carry their own coffee, coffee grinders, and even one who carries their own espresso cup. Why? As this is integral to their coffee moments, which whether home or away, they want to enjoy fully.

When you make a move to live abroad, even if just for a time limited period, it is unlikely that you can transplant everything from one home to the next. For one thing, some things that work in the UK, just won’t work in Asia. For another, that could be uber expensive (though if making a permanent move poss worth it). And for another, one could miss out on the opportunity of discovering what ‘home’ looks like in another country, culture, and context.

However, having that familiar piece of gold & bronze material (that used to be a flowy skirt), the talking alam clock from uni days (that has survived many a throw across the room), the light hoody (as something about a hoody makes you fill chilled out and comforted) can be really good to have. As they feel familiar, don’t take up too much suitcase space, and can cover up and add colour to a makeshift bedside table. You get the picture. 

Simple things, that can have effective results.


So what simple things would you take with you and why? If you’d like, pop the answer in the comments box. Feel free to also add to the sentence “Home is…”.

Feeling the Losses

– Author unknown

It seems as if much of what I’ve been watching recently touches on the theme of loss. The passing of someone close, the pain of lost love, the disappointment of an unreached goal and so on. It is a credit to a show, play, song or other creative expression when it can draw you into the drama and evoke an emotional response. Even though for people, and happenings that aren’t real.

Although, in some ways, they are. As they’re often based on, or inspired by, something that has actually happened. Using themes and realities of the everyday, storying the tapestry of life, with it’s often messy reverse side. Complexly interwoven with joy, sadness, success, failure, celebration, mourning…

I think it is that, which taps into, and touches on our emotions. Sometimes providing a cathartic outlet, for an as yet, unexpressed feeling. Sometimes touching a spot, one was previously unaware of.

Living overseas, sometimes thousands of miles from your home/passport country, you inevitably miss out on a lot. The good stuff, and the not so good stuff. You can sometimes have to compartmentalise, or not fully engage with the news from ‘home’. Not because you don’t care. But because you have to weigh up both how much you can actually do from so far away, and how much you can bear from so far away. This is quite a natural response, and can occur sub-consciously. I think it’s your mind’s way of navigating the everyday. Something we all do. There might just be some added dynamics, the further away you are/live.

The challenge can be, that you may actually be suppressing the loss, and delaying the grief. Stocking up your emotional basement. Which will, eventually, reach capacity.

So is it better to just engage straight away? The reality is you may not be able to. Practically, or emotionally.

For example, back in July when I heard that my cousin had passed, I was in another country, in the middle of a training session, taking place in a cramped room with no easy or discrete exit, and with more than an hour to go. I was staying in someone’s house, a new friend, so couldn’t quite be anti-social. Then went from there to a 5-day conference, where though I had my own room, the schedule was pretty packed, with solitary escape doable, but not quite acceptable. I also wasn’t certain, that if I gave myself a moment to truly cry, that the dam wouldn’t burst. This wasn’t the first loss of recent times, there’s been a few.

However, you must make the time, so that you can. And as soon as you can. Delaying, though possibly necessary in the moment, can be damaging in the long run.

“Personal Space Ends at Your Skin!”

A direct quote from a friend who has also lived overseas. She was in the Middle East. I am in South East Asia. We were catching-up and sharing experiences when she said this, and it made me howl with laughter.

As she was saying the words, “personal space“, in my head I was ending it with, “ends at your gate.”

View of my Gate

Her ending, was a more vivid, slightly alarming, and possibly the best description of the lack of privacy/your own space that you may encounter in ‘hot climate cultures’*. It also made me think, I don’t have it so bad after all!

The term and concept of ‘Personal Space’ is credited to Edward Hall, an American Anthropologist. It is a widely understood and accepted term. However if, like my friend and myself, you live or work cross-culturally, its real-time meaning can be vastly different. As well as hard to fathom, and difficult to get right.

I remember during my first trip to Indonesia (with no language bar a couple of polite greetings) being at a rehearsal for a massive uni event in Yogyakarta. During a break, I thought this is it, my chance for a moment to myself. I did my best to communicate this to the students who I’d been entrusted to. I thought I’d succeeded. I sat on the end fold-up chair of a row of appx. 15 chairs long. I put my head on the back of the chair in front, and exhaled. Alone at last. And then I sensed something. I looked up, and then around. And there, at the end of the row behind, was one of the students who was looking after me. I put my head back down, and laughed.

When I later shared this experience with a friend. Someone who had been living in Indonesia for years. She told me that unless you are old, Indonesians don’t get you wanting be alone. It’s strange.**

So how do you hold in tension your own understanding -and possibly need- of personal space, with the desire to embrace and enter in as fully as possible to the culture that you are currently in?

Here’s a few things (by no means a complete list) that I’ve picked up from others/books/experience:

  • Adopt the posture of a learner. Being open to seeing the value in your host cultures’ different points of view helps!
  • Find someone who can answer your questions. Someone who can help you make sense of the culture. Like my friend in the Yogyakarta story. These people can also be called ‘cultural interpreters’.
  • Consider the principle (as shared with me) of ‘Maintaining Relationships. Simply put, are my needs – be it for personal space, or other things- more important than the possible barrier, or even damage to my relationships with others.- Please note, the ‘more’ as I’m not saying your needs aren’t important.
  • Use the gift of humour! I and a friend find sharing our frustrating moments with the added #indonesiaproblems or something else random, often lightens the situation. That, and rambling voice notes! #yayforwhatsapp!
  • Be creative about how you can get the personal space you need i.e. plan in mini-breaks, spend the night/weekend at the place of a friend who gets it, take up getting a pedicure = 30-40 mins where I can lock off, and be pampered
  • Learn to ‘go with the flow’. I’m naturally disposed to this, but it can still be a challenge. Cos there’s ‘go with the flow’ and then there’s kacau!
  • Embrace, and Enjoy where you are.

*The term ‘hot climate cultures’ is from Sarah Lanier’s book ‘Foreign to Familiar‘. If interested in a short summary of her main concept, you can find a pdf here, and a podcast here.

**A study published early this year researched what ‘personal space’ looks like around the world.

Knowing Your Why

So, I watched a comedy clip by this guy Michael Jr. recently. It had me laughing, so when I saw someone post another clip of his (the above), I thought I’d check it out. This clip was a totally different vibe, and in my opinion, powerful.

Being as I have on this earth for the last 40+ years, I’d like to think I should by now know my ‘why?’, but in all honesty, I have in recent years questioned what my true passion, my key motivator, my core reason for being is, and have yet to come up with a satisfactory answer. Being a person who has a way with words, if you asked me, “What do you love to do?”, What are you passionate about?”, “What brings you joy?” etc. I could most likely present you with a very convincing, heartfelt, and pleasing to the ear answer. However, if the answer(s) I articulated were fully true, I have to wonder why it is that if I do a review my life (yup, getting a bit deep here), what I have achieved, been a part of, contributed to, never feels fully done. Never seems to have really hit the mark, or felt like I was in my groove. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not lying with those answers, there just seems to be a misconnect.

That’s why I found Michael Jr.’s point and live illustration powerful. It made me wonder if the not knowing my ‘why‘ is the articulation of what I have been wondering and questioning. Cos, as he implies, many of us know, or start with our ‘what’. And I could definitely tell you about the ‘what’ in my life, and there are some who seem to think it’s a lot/impressive. In contrast, I wrestle with the ever present dissatisfaction with it, and my belief in seeking to be thankful, and celebrating the small things.

So, is that the answer? The need to ‘know my why’. Or do I just need to put more grit, effort, and discipline into what I am doing? Or both?