Missing Someone

I wrote the following post last week and never posted it. I knew the intensity of the feelings would lift, and I wanted to be able to look back upon it from a stronger place. I’m posting because it shares another facet of my long distant romance. I know I’m not in this alone; there are a growing number of LDR (long distance relationship) couples out there. Speaking as one, it sometimes it feels like this:

* * *

I have a heart. I feel. Today, I hurt. I miss my love more than I can say. This pain is unlike any I’ve ever know. It’s its own unique blend of powerlessness and grief, frustration and ache. I’m kind of taken aback by the power of these feelings today. And I’m even more pissed that no one seems to get it. I just want to be with the person I love. That’s all. Is that too much to f&#*ing ask?

Some days, it’s not so bad. He’s living his life. I’m living what’s left of mine. There’s shit to do. Today, however, all I can feel is the total lack of satisfaction. I want to throw a tantrum. I want to scream and destroy things. Anything not to feel this dull ache and void. Anything not to be in this awful waiting.

Do you, you people in relationship who see your honey on a regular basis, do you appreciate that you do? Do you appreciate the fact that you can not only get a hug, a real hug, but that you can feeeeel it…the body heat, the muscles, the softness, the energy of love? Do you appreciate the fact that you can get on with your life because you’re not in some kind of god-forsaken limbo waiting for all the pieces of your puzzle to come together?

Stop what you’re doing. Just stop. And make a beeline for your love in the next room. Touch each other and look into each other’s eyes and appreciate what you’ve been given. Appreciate it for all of us who are separated from those we love. Drop to your knees in ecstatic gratitude for the simple pleasure of a caress and know you have been given a privilege and a treasure more valuable than gold.

* * *

The fact is, I may call this time a “limbo” but there’s a lot going on here under the surface…stuff beyond my understanding. I just have to trust the process. Now, I can say that going into that dull ache and void wasn’t so bad after all. It passed. I’m still here, but I’m a little less attached to time and a little more surrendered. What else can I do? Feelings come and go.


If We Have Courage

One thing I did not understand when I started this blog about my international marriage was that it would become such a deeply intimate journey for me made so public. Yes, I expected it to be personal enough to be interesting, and I hoped people would read it and be inspired. I hoped it would offer practical information to those in the same boat as well as a bit of entertainment to those wondering what this escapade into love across borders might look like. I figured I’d be writing about the outer experiences and the practicalities a lot more and my inner experiences only as necessary to paint a picture…and yet, I also started this blog to help me process everything I was going through. But I didn’t know just how much I would actually go through!

My recent post, Happy New Year & New Beginnings, was the first to really touch upon what it is for me to be in an international relationship and, in fact, a relationship at all. It began to shine some light on the truth of my experience…one that isn’t always as romantic or picture-perfect as it looks. It began to subtly alter the course of the blog to one about the challenges of romantic relationship and the inner doubts, fears, and demons they bring to the surface.

This past week, I returned to hell. I could color it prettier…call it a “dark night” or some other euphemism…but hell is what it was. And this visit, like the last one, like every one before it (and every one to come), has been a gift of healing. If I can just embrace these hells, however difficult, eventually, the light inside will shine even brighter than before.

“So don’t be frightened, dear friend, if a sadness confronts you larger than any you have ever known, casting its shadow over all you do. You must think that something is happening within you, and remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall.”  Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Stuart returned to France a little over a week ago. It was a catalyst for this hell. Surprisingly, it wasn’t so much the grief of separation as it was the anxiety of what would happen next, though I’m sure the separation was the catalyst. We became so close while he was here. My love for him deepened, and I continued to soften and open. But I also got to see sides of him and aspects of myself that made me uncomfortable. For the first time, we were getting to really know each other. Because of the 4000 miles between us, we really did things backwards. We rushed things that ordinarily would have happened over a much longer period of time. We were so desperate to be together, we ate dessert before dinner so to speak. I’m not surprised; we’re rebels.

This contraction, this hell, centered around my anxiety and doubt, the anxiety causing a flood of incessant thoughts that the one I love may not be the “right” one. It stirred all kinds of projections. And it made me want to run. I began to doubt my love for this man. I began to doubt whether we even really know each other at all. I began to doubt our compatibility…everything really. I felt confused and torn apart. I felt crazy too, because just a week ago, I was so in love. What was wrong with me? I cannot even begin to describe the anxiety I felt, the absolute terror over what might happen to me, my life, and Stuart if I didn’t do something to stop the wheels we set in motion. I was beyond stressed and my dreams revealed a deeply conflicted state. The synchronicity that had so beautifully worked for us up to this point seemed to disappear. (Gee, I wonder why?) Nothing felt right.

At first, I attempted to process this all with my mind…my insane, conflicted, tormented mind. That wasn’t going to work. It was an endless cacophony of noise. I tried all my usual tools. They didn’t seem to be helping either. After reaching out to my mentor, I was reminded I needed to allow my body to feel without the mind trying to interpret everything. I just felt, and what I felt was a vice on my heart, a palpable fear, and a pull downward that was incredibly heavy and horrifying. That night, I had a dream that said simply, “Mend.” And I prayed, begged, and then gave up on the miracle that never fails to show up for me when I’m at my lowest.

That was, of course, when it did. Everything in my world began to speak to me. It slowly began to show me exactly what I needed to see. Friends, allies on this healing journey, let me know I wasn’t alone. Information online illuminated my confused mind and teased apart the knots. I remembered that I needed to be gentle with myself and give myself nurturing and care. I wasn’t out of it yet, but I was on the road back to sanity. And someone reminded me to face my fears and ask myself whether or not I was willing to let them happen, because if I wasn’t, I was sure to create a control-freaking, chaotic mess. If I kept pushing and trying to control everything instead of allowing and trusting, I’d dig deeper holes.

“The most exquisite paradox… as soon as you give it all up, you can have it all. As long as you want power, you can’t have it. The minute you don’t want power, you’ll have more than you ever dreamed possible.” Ram Dam

The next step was to let Stuart in on the truth: I am afraid.

I’m afraid of the unknown. I’m afraid of his love. I’m afraid of leaving my comfort zone. I’m afraid of losing control. I’m afraid it won’t work out. I’m even afraid that it will. I’m afraid of the death of my life here (even though it was winding up long before I met Stuart) and the start of a life that remains a complete and utter mystery to me. I’m afraid I’ll lose myself. I’m afraid to find I have no self to lose. I’m afraid I’m not strong enough to follow through. I’m afraid I’ll fail. I’m afraid nothing will ever change and of everything changing. There is so much fear in me, there hasn’t been any room for anything else.

So just like last time, now, the work begins. It’s time to mend, to resolve these inner conflicts and bring these disparate parts of myself back to wholeness. I must be curious about the walls I’ve built around my heart and allow the man I love to help me tear them down. I know the value of this work. I know what lies on the other side of so much fear. And now, I’m ready to accept whatever happens.

“Life is about meeting ourselves, meeting our own pain, our own fears, our own bliss, our own joy — meeting all those waves in ourselves and meeting the one in front of us in the same way actually. In the end it is the same meeting — we are really just meeting ourselves.” Jeff Brown

I know this hasn’t been easy on Stuart. He didn’t exactly know what he was getting into with a woman like me, a Toltec warrior shaman woman, though I tried to warn him I wasn’t like most people, content to ignore more difficult parts of the internal landscape. He’s been so compassionate and understanding. And I’m proud of him; he’s even been willing, despite how new it is for him, to look at his own fears and doubts, something so many men out there resist, let alone even know how to do.

We have a lot to sort out, both independently and together as we explore a much more mature and sustaining love than the beautiful, romantic love that thrust us together (though, thankfully, that’s still alive too). One thing is clear, we are committed to fully experience and learn from this road we’re on, no matter where it leads. And neither of us can say…

I wrote the following poem that could so easily apply to either of us, both in our relationship with each other and with ourselves:

Now I must demonstrate the strength which I expected
and show you that my love for you is stronger than the fear
I must place all of my faith in what remains to be seen
and patiently wait for you to walk through your shadows

I pray for you to the force of Life that animates you
to hear me calling your name, a music to re-member you
that you are still and always will be everything to me
if only you can grab my hand and help pull yourself up here

Yes, we know each other
These timeless souls
But the humans are still getting acquainted
They aren’t to be trusted; they are injured

These tears can be mended
sewn with colors beyond the rainbow
These souls can crack this hardened crust
and let the Light shine through

if we have courage

The UK Visitor for Marriage Visa Decision & Process

When Stuart and I first decided to get m…owed, I mean married, we looked at all the options. At first, things looked very discouraging and overwhelming, but now that we’re on the other side of things, in hindsight, it wasn’t all that bad.

Of course, we thought about marriage in the US. From what I could tell, he would have needed a K1 Fiance Visa, a process that would have taken about 6 months. That amount of time did not appeal to either of us. Besides, I would have had to sponsor him financially, and that wasn’t happening. We looked into marriage by proxy, but that seemed to be available only to the military unless I wanted to fly to another state where it is legal. However, not every country recognizes marriages by proxy, so this wouldn’t have helped us anyway.

Next, we looked at France. In fact, for a few weeks, we thought this was our best option because I could just go on an application-free Schengen Visa. The problem with marrying in France came down to the paperwork. Everything, passports, birth certificates, divorce decrees, etc., would have to be translated in order to get married. Then everything French would have to be translated to English for use in the US and UK. The language barrier made this a poor choice.

Frustrated, we began to look at the UK. They offer something called a Visitor for Marriage Visa. It seemed like our best bet. With this Visa, I could enter the UK for the purpose of marriage for a period of up to 6 months, and the applications were only taking about 4-6 weeks. To top it off, Stuart’s cousin is the registrar of the town where we wanted to marry. She could marry us!

So, we started the application process. It was a bit of a nightmare as these things tend to be, taking over my office floor. The online application was easy enough. It was the supporting documentation that was more complicated. Continuing to just put one foot in front of the other, though, we obtained everything we needed:

  • passports (expired and current) and my passport photo
  • my biometrics document
  • our birth certificates
  • our divorce decrees
  • our bank statements
  • my proof of ties to home (in my case, work and mortgage)
  • my credit line proof
  • our tax returns and proof of business
  • letters of accommodation from each of the people we stayed with
  • marriage registration and license receipts
  • letter of support from Stuart
  • planned itinerary including intention to purchase health insurance
  • things to prove our relationship (Skype records and photos)
My visa application about halfway complete.
My visa application about halfway complete.

Some of these things were tricky. Our Skype transcripts were nearly 500 pages long, so I needed to abbreviate them down to something manageable. Many documents needed to be originals. There were also time constraints and many agencies and people with their own priorities and timelines involved. Since I had scheduled my biometrics appointment two weeks after my application online, I then had to have everything ready to be submitted by the deadline two weeks after that. There were some moments of hair-pulling as we waited for things or discovered new things we needed to include as the deadline drew closer. The whole time, I kept feeling very sorry for people who aren’t as logistically minded as myself, let alone non-English speakers, starting this process only to find they’ve missed a piece or a deadline.

Then I went about making copies (there had to be two of everything), indexed it all with a cover letter, and shipped, being sure to include the required return postage and packaging. I also scanned the whole thing, so I would have digital copies. I got a little nervous when UPS said they wouldn’t insure my passport, but what could I do? I had to trust and send it.

UK Immigration was great about communicating through emails throughout the whole nail-biting process. Within 6 weeks, we had approval! Just in time to buy a plane ticket in advance of our selected wedding date.

If it’s true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, the visa process certainly built up our muscles. Good thing, because as an international couple, there will be lots more paperwork ahead!

Where to Land?

This is a complicated story, so hang in there with me. In 2013, I met, fell in love, and married my husband, a UK Citizen living in France. We met over the internet, on Facebook, to be exact. You see, I recently published a book, and he happened to be working for the publisher as the book’s designer. The internet is definitely closing the gap for love across nations, but unfortunately, we live in a world of structures that have yet to recognize this.

He said that when I friended him, his immediate response was, “I’ve got to marry her!”…this from a man who swore he’d never marry again. After a week of talking, I too had a knowing, “I’m going to spend the rest of my life with this man,” even though I had pretty much sworn off relationships. But neither of us were quite ready to reveal to each other the intensity of our illogical feelings. That came later.

Once we knew, it took a great deal of effort to arrange for me to get a Visitor for Marriage Visa from the UK. It was easier than trying to marry in France because of the language issues and quicker than trying to marry in the states. That alone was a huge decision-making and action-requiring process. (Being beyond that at the moment, I’m going to focus on where we are now and maybe return to the earlier stages another day.)

We got married so we could be together, but we’re finding it isn’t quite as easy as we’d thought…or at least hoped. So here we are, married. I’m in the US, and he’s in France.

Our current task is deciding who goes where. Here are our choices:

I move to France.
He moves to the US.
We both move to the UK.

Simple right? Wrong.

Honestly, I thought that would be such an easy thing to figure out. But it is proving to be extremely complicated. For one thing, each of us is able and willing to do any of the above.

So, I’m writing about this for two main reasons. First, I’m trying to sort this all out in my very confused head; writing helps me do that. And second, I have found so much support from and value in various expat forums and on blogs of others who have taken the international marriage plunge; maybe I can help some other couple by sharing my experience.

So I’ll get back to our decision soon…