9 – Sobbing to Thriving in 26 Days

I remember the moment I realized it’d been 26 days that I’d stopped crying.

I wrote my daughters, “It’s still summer and I’m already cold, hahaha I love to start the day on my computer on the deck, but brrrrrr…. my ankles are cold!”

I loved the deck especially since I’d added five flower baskets — it was my outdoor desk — and while I was shivering from the unusual snap of cold weather that had locals complaining, and even though I was now very apprehensive about enduring my first winter in Nova Scotia considering I needed furry boots to sit outside on that first day of September, I was loving my life.

More than that, I wasn’t missing China! How was that possible? China was now officially relegated to my past life. My future was so enterprisingly entrenched in Nova Scotia that I was eager to start each day and expectant that more good was to come. I loved my future!

How did I go from sobbing to thriving in 26 days?

1. Made the decision to stop crying for one year, realizing it takes time to make new friends and build a new life.
2. Decided that that wasn’t enough, that I had to make Canada be even more great big huge, more outrageous and more wonderful than China or else I would resent my husband FOREVER!
3. Decided if I could not legally work in Canada until I attained Permanent Residency that it would be a good time to finish writing my book: Joy for Dummies.
3. Hired a writing coach to keep me accountable, to be a reader who would give constructive feedback, so that I would finish this book.
4. Alisia (my editor) found my writing inspiring. To have an impartial reader was a new experience. To have my words quoted back to me was a brand new heady experience that inspired me to write more and write better.
5. I started sending Alisia vignettes of my life in China. She loved them and said, “This has to go in your book.”
6. I joined Curves for Women, and while gyms intimidated me, this did not! In fact, women exchanged recipes while working out, recommended movies to see and discussed the weather. I even began to sweat (which until then had been unilaterally opposed to doing).
7. Going to Curves almost daily got me meeting people, making friends, out of the house and MOVING. Have you ever noticed how just getting busy doing something usually makes you feel better?
8. Started listening to the Principles of Success by Jack Canfield – this book lifted my spirits and directed my thinking and got me energized!
9. Realized my life purpose: to spread joy!!!
***I use my joy, compassion and vitality to inspire and build confidence, and to elicit joy to create a world where everyone is calm or exuberant and creatively doing activities that nurture them and make people smile and feel good. – Kathryn MacIntyre, author and motivational speaker***
10. Listed 100 things want to do/see/feel in next 20 years per Jack Canfield’s book – and that was FUN! It got me excited about the future!
11. Listed 100 victories – wow!!! Again, per Canfield’s book and felt so surprised and validated that even in times of feeling down, I’d been succeeding!!!
12. So many more victories I could have listed.
13. Realized I focus on my failures and mistakes rather than my successes!!!
14. Got excited about my future!!! Was not sad to not be returning to China.
15. Had four sets of overnight company in one week.
16. Made blueberry pancakes four mornings.
17. Started 10-day Transformation with Jack Canfield.
18. Day 1: Five things want to change most in this next year.
19. Had so many epiphanies – listed so many ideas took 3 pages.
20. Day 2: Took 100% responsibility for my unhappiness.
21. Vowed to watch less TV and write more.
22. Excused myself from company watching a movie and spent a wonderful 2 hours writing!!!
23. Day 3: Gave up blaming others for my unhappiness.
24. Wrote new thoughts to replace negative thoughts.
25. Day 4: started Daily Victory Log.
26. That’s when it hit!!! Wow!!! I’d done so much since landing in Nova Scotia on July 27th.

In 26 days – I’d accomplished so much!!!
I’d gone from sobbing to thriving!!!

3 – Stripped Identity

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.

 

 

 

 

2 – Exodus from China

(ABOVE:  St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia) (picture courtesy of http://world-visits.blogspot.ca)

Mongolian countryside, from China to Russia.

My husband and I celebrated our exodus from working eight years in China by taking a five-day trek on the Trans-Siberian Train from Beijing to Moscow.  I turned 60 somewhere in Siberia.

The meal cars changed for each country.

Mongolian meal car
Close up of ornate wood carvings in Mongolian meal car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MISSING THE TRAIN on the third day was our only mishap; we had to hire a local from the very small town to drive us to the next stop in Irkutsk — almost two hours at break neck speed over mountains, curves, driving on shoulders and wrong side of road, but with a very competent driver who spoke no English.   Note to fellow travelers:  ask the conductor how soon will depart before venturing off to take pictures!

First church seen in Russia.
Slyudyanskiy rayon – up close.

But this was the first church to spot in Russia, and thinking we had 20 minutes, it seemed a grand idea to stretch our legs and snap a photo!  Imagine our surprise to see our train chugging out of the station!

Running pell-mell to locate someone to stop the train, I tripped on a curb and landed on my chin.  But no one spoke English.  My husband calmly said, “We need a taxi.”  I thought taxi?  This town is only the size of a church and a train depot!  They won’t have a taxi!

But taxi proved to be a universal word and a middle-aged backpacker spoke enough English to explain to the station master that we needed a ride to the next stop.  She called a local man who spoke no English, but was kind and drove fast to get us there in time.

Sprained wrist treated by Olga.
Olga, our cook and nursemaid.

Olga, who prepared all of our meals on the train in Russia, cleaned up my bloodied knees and treated my sprained wrist.

Boy were our friends surprised to see us on the platform waving to them at that next stop.  What had been a leisure two hours for them was a helter-skelter panic for us.  Thank God my husband remains composed under pressure.  One more demonstration of how CALM is the best approach to catastrophe!

1 – Preparing to leave China

Giving up teaching in China turned me inside out. I had hired two life coaches to make the transition easier because I was overwhelmed with the task of reinventing myself for the sixth, seventh time? I’ve changed careers a dozen times and moved 30+ times, but between my great-niece dying and then not being able to work in Canada until I had permanent residency, I was crying daily.

Barbara Wotherspoon is a longtime mentor and friend and coached me through the personal side of life, so I could as best as possible attend to my job and marriage from April to June.

But eager to plant seeds for a new career, I hired Emily Benson. While she usually only coaches boutique owners (such as LuLaRoe consultants) she agreed to take me on privately and would soon dub me as “her client from the future” for she was eager to work with people like me.

Emily got me to narrow my focus down to finishing my book “Joy for Dummies.” I had started compiling exercises for Rolfing clients in 2006, but now I had dozens of meditations and exercises to add. Teaching Oral English, I had to create my own curriculum and had decided to teach them something that might improve the quality of their life WHILE teaching verbs, vocabulary and grammar. After eight years and teaching 8,000 classes and 4,000+ teens and adults, I had extensively tested out my theories about joy.

It became obvious that while I could not teach anyone how to be happy, I could teach them how to find joy. Last year’s 10th graders — about 200 students — all claimed that they felt better after doing my joy meditation.

But where was my joy? Ducking into restrooms to silently sob had become my life. I hid my tears from my husband as best I could, but I was not fun to live with. Everything that had worked in the past did not lift my spirits, so I went in search for new ways to find joy. That’s when this book went to a whole new level and changed my life.