The Heart’s Choices; the Mind’s Battles

At various times in our lives, we all face really big decisions. How do we make them? Do we create elaborate lists of pros and cons? Do we flip a coin, draw a name out of a hat, or pick a number between 1 and 10? Maybe we consult with experts, or if we’re inclined, consult astrology or a psychic. There is always that moment of reckoning though when we must either choose A or B or accept the consequences of our indecision.

In my last post, which was actually quite a while ago, I wrote about the confusion that Stuart and I, a newlywed international couple, had entered regarding “where to land”: France or the US. We had, a couple of months ago, decided upon France, and then Stuart proposed that perhaps it would be easier for him to come here instead. We started to re-think.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though perhaps a bit taxing on energy reserves. It’s what the mind does. It’s function is to reason, to keep us “safe”, to foresee and solve the problem. So, in that, it was just doing its job and doing it with the usual fervor. The mind is not a terrible thing, though there are those who would make it out to be; it is a miraculous and necessary thing to take action in the world. That said, when not tempered by the heart, it can wreak havoc on all that remains “essential and invisible to the eye” as St. Exupery put it. A list of pros and cons in a fickle mind can go on and on. The debate inside can outlast infinity…if we let it.

I started to wonder whether Stuart really wanted to come here, to the US,  instead of me going there, to France. Of course, I still really wanted to go to France (God help me). But neither one of us would ever want to deprive the other of opportunity, so we had stymied, unable to make a decision, each of us waiting for the other to proclaim his or her heart. That made me start to doubt my own decision about France too. My mind began to reel: If Stuart has doubts, maybe the US is better. Maybe he is genuinely tired of the red tape over there. Maybe I am being selfish and need to detach from what I think I want.

The older I get, the more convinced I am that how I’m thinking not only colors my world, it becomes my reality. If I’m in a sour place, the entire world turns sour. If I’m feeling open and receptive to what is, beauty reveals itself in everything. If I allow my mind to take over this decision–any decision really–I will be handing the reigns over to an insane thing as moveable as the clouds in the sky, incapable of really “seeing”. And to quote Exupery once more, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.”

Stuart is visiting the states right now, and we have since reaffirmed our decision to settle in France, and yes, that’s the final answer. The heart is back in charge. We are proceeding with plans to get me over there as soon as possible…one step at a time.

What’s one of the most difficult decisions you’ve ever had to make? How did you make it? Did it turn out the way you expected?

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The Pendulum Doth Swing – Revisiting Our Relocation Decision

Today, Stuart popped the question.

Since we’re already married, you might be wondering “what question?”

“Might it be better, less stressful, if I were to come to America?”

Stuart and I are now both wondering if we aren’t totally nuts planning on living in France. Life has become so complicated! France may be beautiful. It may be cultural heaven. It may be close to everything we want to see and do. It may even hold untold gifts for us. But even running a business, let alone two, over there is getting a bit daunting. I won’t go into French business structures and taxes lest the eyes with which you are reading this roll back into your head and never return; suffice it to say, “Merde!” Stuart also brought up the unthinkable,”What if something were to happen to me? You’d be stuck in France alone with no income and no home to return to.” Apparently it has been weighing on his mind, and I can’t say it hasn’t crossed mine.

Ironically, for several months, we’ve tossed this decision of where to live around and around until we finally began making moves towards the realization of living in France just a few weeks ago. It felt good. It felt right. It felt “verified” by Spirit. It was a relief! And now? Now neither of us are so sure. France once again presents the extraordinary challenge of daily and business life in a nation that speaks…well, French!

Our choice to live in France all made perfect intellectual and heart-felt sense. Stuart was settled there making it easy for me to go as his spouse. It was a gateway to the UK if necessary. It was something I’ve always wanted to do. But what if it isn’t for us…not yet…and maybe never? I’m having to really look at my attachments to living there: “Oh, Europe! Far from Fukushima, nonlabeled GMO’s, and American stupidity”…and the assumptions I’ve made about it: “My true destiny awaits!” What if all moving there served to do was complicate our lives in irreversible ways?

What are the consequences of altering our decision? I’ve quit my day job and put my house on the market. I’ve organized all the forms I need to close my business in December, turning away opportunities and not bothering to cultivate new ones, started changing my domicile to Florida (opened a new bank account there, got forms I needed from the post office certified, purchased a mail forwarding service), gave away a bunch of my belongings, and have been doing research about France to the point of turning purple. So, if we brake and reverse course, what happens next?

  • I’ll have to undo everything I can undo including taking my house of the market and buying things…like a hammer…that I really don’t want to have to purchase again.
  • We’ll have to now initiate the CR1 Visa process with a 6-month-average wait time and burden family with sponsorship.
  • While we wait, we have two households to pay but I’ve quit my day job and Stuart’s income remains capped due to all that stuff I didn’t get into that would have made you blind a couple of paragraphs ago.

It isn’t too late to change direction. It isn’t like I’ve had offers on the house. I haven’t sold my furniture. But it is so disorienting…like some kind of creepy fun house that  isn’t really all that fun. Every corner provides some new “pop up” obstacle or consideration making me drool and make musical noises with my lips. Can the straight-jacket be far behind?

I’ll have to deal with the, “I thought you were moving to France,” comments and explain to people…wait…forget that part. Romantic notions about living in France are all well and good, but this is a decision with just about the biggest ramifications imaginable. Do I really need to explain anything? What’s really important here? We want to be together.  We want to be happy. We want to create and prosper. Where’s the best place for us to do that???

I feel utterly, completely, entirely torn apart because I want it all and want it NOW! (A Veruka Salt moment brought to you by Youtube.)

It has made me call into question this so-called gift of free will. For one thing, it’s an illusion. For another, I don’t want it anymore! Would someone up there please just tell me what precisely it is we’re supposed to do in a clear, irrefutable language that even a very stubborn human can understand?

My head hurts.

Helpful Quick Bits: International Mail Forwarding

“Welcome those big, sticky, complicated problems. In them are your most powerful opportunities.”
Ralph Marston

Moving overseas is a very powerful opportunity! It’s full of complicated logistics, one of these being mail. A change of address can be complicated enough when it is in one’s own nation. While the post office makes it simple to fill out a change of address form, one must follow up by notifying all the businesses, governments, professionals, family and friends of one’s new address. It can take time, and it is easy to forget some of the people who ought to be notified.

The challenge in moving overseas is that the post office only forwards in the US. Enter the independent enterprise of international mail forwarding, the expat’s friend.

There are several intermediary companies out there that will provide a person with a US address to which all her mail can be forwarded via US mail. They then ship that mail to the recipient overseas. Brilliant! The companies I’ve looked into have very cool features where you can see what’s in your mailbox online when it arrives; some will also open and scan your mail so you can read it right away. They even have discard services for junk mail. And, it seems, I can shop for my favorite US items, have them shipped by, say Amazon, to my mail forwarding service, who would then combine all my packages together and send them overseas, saving me extra postage costs (that is, assuming the company I was buying from even would have shipped internationally to begin with). So, I can still get all my favorite products I can’t live without in France! It will also be an awesome service to have until Stuart and I know where, exactly, we will be staying long-term because all I need do is change my forwarding address with one company!

Here’s another beautiful thing. Some of the companies I’ve looked at offer Florida addresses. Now, for those of you who remember my post about driving overseas and my need to establish residency in Florida, this is very good news.  All I need is a subscription to one of the services I’ve been investigating, and I can have any mail I want to receive through them sent to my new Florida address right away. So when it is time to get my Florida driver’s license, I’ll have the two pieces of “official” mail required to prove residency even before I arrive. (There are other requirements, should this pertain to you).

Smooth move!

Right now, though, I’m looking at MyUS.com in Sarasota, MyRVmail.com in Crestview, and St. Brendan’s Isle, all in Flordia, and learning a few things about what to look for. Do readers have experiences with either of these or other companies they would like to share?

Where to Land Continued: UK

Last post, I talked about some of the variables associated with living in France. This time, I will be ruminating on the pros and cons of relocation in the UK.

If, as an American, I applied for a spousal visa in the UK, it would cost upwards of $850. There would be postage fees and costs associated with obtaining my biometrics in Charlotte, a city two hours away and the closest immigration service center to me.

One of the good things here is that having applied for a Visitor to Marry visa not that long ago, I am quite familiar now with the UK visa process. The applications aren’t that different…just much longer in the case of a spousal visa. Since the visitor visa, once spread all over my floor, when compiled was about two inches thick, I’m thinking the spousal visa will end up being even thicker.

Do you have any idea what goes into these applications? I certainly didn’t. In some ways, it feels like everything under the sun…bank records, tax documents, birth certificates, divorce decrees, proof of marriage, what I’ve eaten for the last 3 years, and oh, something really fun called a financial requirement form. It looks like a real nightmare to fill in, but I won’t go there right now. (I’m just kidding about the what I’ve eaten part).

Now, one would think that since I had to have my biometrics taken for the visitor visa a few months ago that I would have already met that requirement. Not so! Apparently, I would have the joy of doing that all over again. No biggie; just a pain.

Stuart is currently in France. We are lucky though because he is contracted by a UK company and is paid in the UK, so establishing proof of income won’t be an issue. The challenge is that Stuart will have to find a place for us to live. While finding something is not an issue, timing certainly is. This application process can, according to a friend who went through it several years ago, take as little as three weeks. It can also, according to a recent article, take up to 12 months. Why should Stuart uproot his life in France now when it could take a year before we got visa approval?

Enter the cousins. We are blessed that Stuart has generous cousins, a married couple, who have offered to open their home to us so that we can take the time to find a place of our own. This makes everything so much easier. With an address, we can now apply for our visa without Stuart having to rush to relocate in the UK.

Apparently though, getting a UK driver’s license…I mean licence (that’s another thing…all those misspelled words over there!) is no less joyful an affair than trying to get one in France. The success rates are about even…44% passing. However, the fact that the test would be in English and not a language I barely understand is a definite plus. In fact, being in a country where I understood the road signs, the mail, the food labels and everything else would certainly make life easier. Documents wouldn’t need to be translated either.

The other benefit of living in the UK is that it would be so much easier for me to re-establish my client base, and I could be teaching workshops in no time. Plus, I could schedule book signings and increase my book sales there.

Sounding pretty good, ain’t it?

The main drawback of life in the UK is…well…life in the UK. It’s cold, it’s depressing, and it’s expensive. We’d relocate to the sunniest coast, but even in the height of summer, temps don’t generally break 70F. That’s practically still winter!

AVL
Asheville, NC

During my visit for marriage, one of the first things that struck me was how miserable everyone seemed in the cities. Living in Asheville for 10 years, one of the happiest cities in the US, has spoiled me so!

The area of Devon was nicer than the central areas, and I could see myself living in certain parts there even despite those narrow little roadways.

In fact, my whole life, I have wanted to live by the sea. So maybe, just maybe, the UK would be OK if we lived by the shore. And the grocery stores there, after having been in France, Eee!!! Delight!

But I also recall how upon disembarking from the ferry once back in France, the whole sky opened up and the sun shone down gloriously! I’m pretty sure I heard angels singing as I removed my “tea cozy” hat, scarf, and sweater (which I had to wear in September no less!). The whole world was smiling again.

But it would also be much simpler for us to eliminate the third country from a complex-enough two-country life. And it certainly would be nice to ultimately share a country with my Honey and not just be a permanently floating expat. Who knows? Maybe establishing residency and then citizenship in the UK is the best way to do that.

That’s all for now. Next time, considerations for the US…

Where to Land Continued: France

Since my husband lives in France and is self-employed there, it would seem entirely logical for me to relocate there. There are many reasons to go this route and just as many not to, so in order to sort it out, I commence…

First of all, France has a relatively easy process for the non-EU spouse of an EU citizen. I just show up and then apply for my Cart de Sejour, or residency card, within 3 months. No long, complicated forms to fill out beforehand. No 6 – 12 months waiting to reunite. Obviously, this is a HUGE plus.

On the more intuitive side of things, several months before meeting my husband, I was telling people how much I wanted to visit France. You see, a couple of years ago, I had a dream I was riding in a cab in Paris, my face pressed against the glass as I looked up at the buildings in awe exclaiming, “I’m home!”

Then, one day in my kitchen a few months before meeting Stuart, I was chopping carrots and thought, “Wow, I’m moving to France. I don’t know how. I don’t know when. But it is going to happen.” And now, here’s this opportunity to realize all of that.

“So, get thee to France!” you may be saying.

There are some negatives to consider. First of all, I don’t speak the language. While I have a good ear for French pronunciation, I remember very little from my two years in high school many years ago. “So what?” you may think. “Learn it.”

I could and am (Memrise), but it will take me several years to become really fluent. Oh, and I’ve forgotten to mention, though my husband has lived there several years, he doesn’t really speak it either! I’ve already come to learn he would be little help in that department (sorry, Honey).

Now, every document, every food label, every piece of mail we receive, every road sign will be in French. And if important papers are not in French, they will need to be translated…such as my birth certificate and marriage license. That is a daunting challenge, though one that excites me all the same. Living in a country where I just don’t understand anything is a spiritual-growth playground for undoing my mind! I guess that makes it a plus and a minus and therefore, the issue of language is cancelled out.

Another negative is obtaining my French driver’s license. Apparently, this is no easy task for an American. The test is in French, requires lots of class time, costs a small fortune, and has an absurdly low passing rate. This is definitely a negative. I’ll write more about this another time, as there is more to this issue.

Positives:

  • I’ll be with my Honey!!!
  • It’s sunny and beautiful.
  • The pace of life is poifect!
  • The most beautiful beaches anywhere are close by.
  • It’s easy to travel to wonderful places such as Italy, Switzerland, Spain…and even the UK (though I would need either a visitor visa or EU Family Permit to go there).
  • Rents…and eventually houses…are more affordable there than, say, the UK (but I have a house in the US with a very affordable mortgage that can’t be beat).

Negatives:

  • While I can work online from anywhere doing what I do, I will undoubtably lose some clients who prefer in-person work, and I won’t be able to get new clients there or teach workshops unless I find English-speaking participants.
  • Working with my current musical and vocal toning collaborators will be greatly impacted.
  • Stuart’s current living arrangement is a rather rustic space in the middle of nowhere (though he is very willing to move closer to a bigger city such as Cognac).
  • The bio shops are teeny and carry very little selection at a hefty price; in fact, the grocery stores we went to were rather sad. Here I am in Asheville, NC, a mecca of whole foods including two EarthFares, a co-op, Greenlife, and most recently, Trader Joe’s. That won’t be an easy adjustment.

I know there’s more, but my head is already turning to cotton, so I’ll continue another day…