Healing Time

So, it’s been several weeks since I’ve written. That’s for several reasons. First, I’ve been somewhat behind in my ability to process my own experiences. Normally, I process by writing, but everything has been happening too fast and furious for that. I think I’m finally starting to catch up. Second, I’ve been all over the place making it hard to settle myself down and write (let alone market my books or have a worklife). I spent a very nice couple of weeks in Asheville visiting friends, then headed back to Virginia before a “little jaunt” to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut. This tumbleweed is over living out of her suitcase!

In New York, I received the transmission of Bon Chod from Bon Shen Ling. I’ve been waiting 10 years, since I first heard about the practice, to take it. It was a very powerful experience, though I regret how very quickly the weekend went by and how little practice we actually had to really take in the ritual. I had been recording the chants and drum patterns but was then asked to erase them; I sat outside and cried while hitting the delete button on my phone. It was one of the most painful things I’ve had to do because it was so important to me to learn the practice correctly and well. I want to continue my studies of Chod online when I can, but for now, I just have to be sloppy and wing it. That’s so against my grain!

In Connecticut. I connected with relatives on my Dad’s side of the family. What a sweet, inspiring bunch! It was so special to be reunited with him through them. Even though I hardly know them, they were all very welcoming and loving toward me, and I have to say, it was a very healing experience full of buried memories, forgotten histories, and unknown treasures. It made me realize that my history is important…not something to annihilate as I had once thought. I had learned about the importance of letting go of personal history in my Toltec work and misunderstood the teaching. I tried to erase my past as if it never existed or happened. Now I realize that those stories and connections are an important part of this identity, even if the identity itself isn’t important…if that makes sense. Or as my friend Gene says, “Take the personal out of your history.” My past is to be respected…not as a limitation but as a compass. No one else has my past!

I have to say, New England was gorgeous!!! I probably went at the best time of year. It was cool and the leaves were already changing. Hard to believe I was born up there. I had no memory of its beauty. It makes me want to live there, which is good, because Stuart is drawn to the coast there too. (Now, if it had been the dead of winter, I might be rethinking wanting to live there. But for now, I’ll allow myself to dream of an adorable little house near the coast in our future.)

In addition to seeing the house where I spent my first 6 years, the house of my maternal grandparents now deceased, and my Dad’s old car lot, my cousin took me to a place that had been one of my Dad’s favorites, Kent Falls. There I was able to do little ceremony for myself letting go of 9 of the most hurtful beliefs I carry. On this trip, probably a result of the Chod, and just as a result of everything I’ve been through, I started to gain some clarity and space from the trauma of recent months. I understand better  what my work truly is right now…and it has mostly to do with my mind. I felt the energy of my ancestors present and a certain resonance with the place, later discovering it used to be Indian land…well, wasn’t the entire US once Indian land?…but the sacredness of it was still palpable. My cousin was also instrumental in helping me talk out some jumbled inner feelings helping me break out of a mental straight-jacket I’d put myself into. Now I’m back in Virginia planning a visit to New Mexico to visit another sister and her family in the town where I grew up and went to college.

Stuart and I have been trying to decide what comes next for us. We are still gathering the I-130 Petition documents we need. We’re almost there. But should I settle in the US or go back and visit him? If I settled now, he could visit but only for a short time as he couldn’t work on a visitor’s visa. And I couldn’t really go there if I had rent and a car payment here. That would mean a very long year apart while his CR1 was processed.

Our best shot seemed me going back to visit him before settling. With a short-stay visa, I could stay three months. But that would put me back in the states home-less and car-less again in the height of winter. Not a thought I relished. In the process of collecting everything, something…divine guidance…led me to investigate long stay visas in France. I don’t know why I hadn’t looked into it before. I discovered that I could stay up to a year in France as the spouse of an EU citizen without having to obtain residency. It’s looking promising. In fact, I’ve already completed the application (easy peasy!), and I have an appointment at the consulate next week. It only takes three weeks to process, so I could conceivably be heading back to France in November, and not just for three months. We might be able to be together during the entire wait time on his CR1! And I could return in Spring if necessary to get us established here. It seems things are popping into place after popping chaotically for so long. I have to confess though, I found myself overreacting today when we hit a small snag. It seems I’ve been conditioned to expect the worst over the last several months. But I see that, and I’m beginning to feel a lot more hopeful than I have in a long time.

It’s funny. Leaving France was so awful, so painful. I was so sure it was a mistake. But now, looking back on what I’ve experienced since my return, and seeing also how much both Stuart and I have learned and grown, maybe it wasn’t a mistake after all. Painful, yes. It was that. But it wasn’t the end of anything. It was a necessary side-trip to my own healing. Maybe it all had to happen this way. I find it beautiful that my time back has been all about relationships…to my past, to my family. It has truly been a healing time. And maybe now, finally, I have a better relationship with myself.

 

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A Hard Choice? Selling My Home

One of the big decisions that comes with relocating is whether or not to sell my house. In 2007, right before the plummet of the US housing market, I purchased my first home. Now, several years later, it has lost 16% of its value. It is a common story many people share these days and one complicated by my sudden international marriage. So much for the American Dream!

The fact that I even have a home is somewhat of a miracle to me, one I worked hard for. You see, my home was purchased through Habitat for Humanity. In addition to income qualifications, it took me 200+ volunteer hours of building houses and working in their retail store. I did all this despite 8 weeks of mononucleosis, my father’s death, and then shingles. It was quite a year. Though I’ve often wanted to pull my hair out, homeownership has been an incredible journey of personal growth and inner strength.

I am so grateful to have a mortgage without interest. That’s the Habitat deal. However, if I am ever to leave this house, I have to pay back both the 1st mortgage and the 2nd mortgage… the interest I haven’t been paying. If I were to sell now, the good news is that I might just about break even.

This is yet another big decision in a long list of decisions I now have to make as the new spouse of a nonresident alien.

“So don’t sell. He can move here,” you might say. There’s much more to that decision, such as tax implications and culture shock, which I addressed in another post.

“Then rent it out while you are in Europe,” you might be thinking. “Create an income.”

If only that were an option! You see, under the Habitat agreement, I am bound to live in the house two weeks out of every month or risk default. Renting it out is not allowed. While I understand the importance of having such provisions, it all rather sucks now that my life has taken a totally unexpected twist. I’ve fallen in love with my book designer!

The first hurdle we had to face was me being able to travel to Europe for six weeks in the first place. Fortunately, I suspected I’d be traveling earlier in the year due to the recent publication of my book, so I had already spoken to Habitat about the possibility of traveling. They graciously agreed to make allowances for me to be away longer than two weeks providing I met certain criteria, but I suspect it isn’t an exception they would repeat.

So now we must decide whether keeping the house and all it provides is a good enough reason for Stuart to uproot his entire life to apply for a CR1 Immigration Visa or whether to sell and lose not only my home of 6 years but the nest egg it was supposed to hatch for me.

Certainly the standard of living we’d enjoy here in the US in an interest-free mortgage home would be much better than what we’d have overseas. And in a couple of years, we might even have enough equity in it to actually make a profit if we wanted to sell.

But do I want to be so attached to a house here when my life might actually be waiting for me over there? Do I want to make a decision based solely or mostly on economics? Do I want to subject Stuart to US taxation? Or do I want to dream big and dare to fly? Cautious and smart or carefree and wild? Will I come to regret my decision? I guess that in itself is a choice. So whatever we decide to do, I’m deciding now to be at peace with my choice…today, tomorrow, and forever.

My life has taught me that there are no mistakes. Regret only occurs when we believe our own stories, when we are hooked by the thought that we should have done “it” differently. We fail to embrace the reality of what is and move further from truth as a result. I just need to keep remembering this.

And as for this “decision”, I can spend all the time in the world weighing the pros and cons and get worked up into a mental frenzy, but there is something far more intelligent and peaceful poised to deliver the right choice at the right time if I just get quiet and create space for it. So while I allow my mind to do its protective thinking thing here, grateful for it, now…I think it’s time to enjoy some fresh air and sunlight!

Where to Land Continued: USA

Last post, I discussed the various pluses and minuses of relocating to the UK as the non-EU spouse of a UK citizen who is currently living in France. Today, I’m clicking my heels and asking, “Is there really no place like home?”

I’ve lived in the US my whole life. Though I’ve been lucky enough to do some traveling, I’ve never been gone for long. In fact, the longest trip outside the US was actually to the UK with my sister in the 80’s. We stayed 3 months, and I’d never been so happy to see the backside of a country upon my return. But I’m a different person now…happier, more mature, more cultured…I hope.

I love America and the ideals for which it stands…or at least stood. Let’s face it. It isn’t what it once was. It has entered a rather ugly adolescence of violent crime, political bickering, biased media, and corporate greed. It is tainted by an absolutely dreadful educational, health, and corrupted financial system with imbalances and senses of entitlement bordering on the insane. Will it continue the plunge into the shadowy depths  of overweight, undereducated sheeple led by a government of bullies, manipulators, and liars before it re-emerges as an adult nation with a better sense of responsibility and the intentions of our forefathers…which I’m sure it will…one day?

That said, it’s home to me and therefore “the devil I know”. Here I have a house, a business, friends, and family. I live in a great city, one of the best, which has isolated me from a lot of the worst parts of US living. My life has been good.

The question is, if we were to go through the 6-9 month process (the longest of all three possibilities) of applying for a CR1 visa for Stuart, would it be worth it?

Yes: Stuart could eventually become a US citizen (and despite everything I’ve written so far, this is still a pretty awesome country). That would make things a lot easier legally and financially should something happen to either of us. Eventually, Stuart and I would both be able to come and go as we please, too.

No: I alone cannot meet the financial requirement to bring him here. It would involve getting a sponsor, which we do have, but I’m not crazy about the idea of burdening a loved one.

Yes: Because of current exchange rates and the fact that Stuart’s income is the Pound, our standard of living would be significantly higher here…and wow, wouldn’t I like to experience that for once!

No: Enter US taxes…on worldwide income. As it is, because we married this year, I will no longer be getting what would have been an over $500 tax return unless we choose to file jointly…and we can only elect to do that once in a lifetime. But frankly, I can’t see dragging Stuart into the US tax system prematurely.

Yes: I’d be near friends and family. Business relationships and musical collaborations would go on as before.

No: Obamacare. As a single, poor person, I was really excited about Obamacare. I would have had health insurance for the first time in 12 years for a whopping premium of FREE. But now that I’m married, that premium has jumped to over $4000…and that’s just for me. And if we don’t buy, we face increasing penalties. Compared to the healthcare systems of our other options, the US doesn’t stand out.

Yes: From coast to coast, America can’t be beat for landscape, cool cities, an abundant lifestyle, and all the things that make America the amazing melting pot it is. And…we both understand the language. And…I already have a driver’s license.

There’s always culture shock to consider too. But of course, that will happen for one of us no matter where we go.

So…now that I’ve summarized the pros and cons of life in our three countries of choice, what do you think? Where would you go? France, the UK, or the US?