We landed in Nova Scotia (Canada) on July 4th, and I left three days later for California to visit my daughters and to attend a Feldenkrais class. Yet for the first time I didn’t enjoy myself; I didn’t smile, didn’t participate in class, went turtle and avoided classmates.
That last day, I sobbed. It meant returning to Canada. I had hoped that because classmates had their eyes closed during the ATM (floor exercise) and that if I didn’t make any noise, and because I was at the back of the room that maybe even the teacher wouldn’t notice me.
I felt bereft, like my identity had been stripped away. Without China, I was no longer cool or interesting. I was a has-been. My future loomed as endless days of cooking, cleaning and watching TV. I had hoped love would be enough, but once again it wasn’t.
My teacher asked what was wrong, and I darted to the bathroom in a panic to get hidden before tears broke like a dam. As soon as I was composed enough to return to the classroom, an assistant asked if I was okay, and I gave him a double thumbs up with a huge smile, as in LEAVE ME ALONE.
The next week, back in Nova Scotia, crying was my sport and hobby. I was dashing to bathrooms like battling Montezuma’s Revenge for it’s always worked best for me to grieve alone. And it was grieving. I LOVED teaching in China. Now I was in a country that wouldn’t even allow me to work until I had permanent residency.
I applied for volunteer jobs, but even they wanted a police criminal check, letters of recommendation, a resume, pages of paperwork like for a real job, and three interviews … all to clean cat litter boxes in an animal resort!
Hot showers became my best friend to calm and cover up the noise of the sobbing. I felt a bit desperate, confused and surprised at my disintegration. I thought I’d prepared myself well for this new chapter of my life; I’d researched and listed three pages of activities and clubs to get involved with and yet the tears hit like a tsunami that wouldn’t end.
Was it only three days? It felt like three weeks since I’d been back from California, but in truth that was how long I’d been intermittently sobbing. But that third night getting into bed, feeling the tears swelling, I resolved: “No, I will give it one year.” Meaning I wouldn’t cry anymore for it takes time to make new friends and settle into a new place. The tears evaporated.
It was like that decision shifted my focus to stop bemoaning the past and start living in the present. However, the next day, I had an epiphany: I had to make Canada be more wonderful and outrageous than China or else I would resent my husband forever.
He was ready to retire; I wasn’t. It chaffed to call myself unemployed, but that beat using the word retired. Canada has strict laws that if caught doing any infractions, permanent residency (PR) will be permanently denied. I wanted PR because from the moment you apply, you have medical coverage. I’d been covered in China through my job, and the cost for coverage in the States was a lot, especially for a girl who wasn’t working.
I decided to hire an editor to help me finish my book, Joy for Dummies, for it would make use of the time I couldn’t be gainfully employed, but hopefully would eventually make money and give me a new career. I’d started the book eleven years earlier, long before going to China.
An editor would keep me accountable for I have a history of moving onto new projects when get bored or overwhelmed. Best of all, I would have a reader. It truly sucks to write thousands of pages which no one reads. I literally have boxes and computer files full of vignettes, poems and two novels, all of which I’ve never taken the time to submit for publication.
The book morphed into something grander than it began. Alisia Leavitt was a sensitive editor who culled out the best of me. She inspired me to reveal my shame, sharing feelings I’d never articulated. It was heady praise to have quoted back words I’d penned; she called some of the pieces like poetry.
Now I had a new identity: I was an author writing a book about joy.
Now I had a future that excited me, that loomed greater, bigger, even more huge and wonderful than China! Especially since I presumed that I could and would become a motivational speaker. Teaching joy brought me tremendous joy, so the prospect of going on the road teaching it thrilled me to the core. I began to thrive and embrace my new life. I’d always loved the forests and lakes of Nova Scotia, but now it felt like HOME.