Oh, loves, it’s been a WEEK.
The funny thing about being an immigrant (yay Canada! thank you for letting me in your marvelous country with human rights and decency for all!) is that you trot along merrily, living your life like anyone else, buying your groceries and taking your kids to the dentist, and then every now and then, out of the blue, you get a polite reminder that you must stop this daily sort of normal human activity and go climb an obstacle course— right this way ma’am— that will take several days out of your life and make you cry at least twice and require every important document you’ve ever misplaced in your entire life. And then maybe, if you climb the obstacle course just right, they’ll let you go back to your normal life. Unless you do something wrong, in which case tiny things like Oh Your Whole Life become precarious.
I’ve lived most of my life overseas, so I’m very familiar with this process. (Did you know that I grew up in Japan? I did, lone frizzy blonde girl in a sea of beautiful coveted shiny black hair— then I went back for more as an adult and did another ten-year stint and had my oldest daughter there. I left after the earthquake, ‘nother story for ‘nother day.)
I’ve spent countless hours of my life standing in lines at government offices, presenting my papers, inevitably having the wrong papers, crying, going back home to get more papers (90 minute train ride each day), and finding out the week later that one line was wrong so we had to do the whole thing over again.
If you’ve always lived in the country of your own citizenship, you might think I am exaggerating.
My fellow global nomads, you know that of which I speak. It is its own particular kind of hell, marbled with lots of gratitude because we are always so grateful to be in the place where we are, and yet it causes us and our children and our loved ones so much intense hassle and confusion and panicky procuring of documents from every farther-flung local municipal government offices that it is hard to imagine the miles I have trod on gray linoleum unless you have done it yourself. Which many of you, dear illustrious readers, have done. You have my sympathy.
Anyhoo, this was one of those weeks when I got almost NOTHING done because I spent it handling the complicated juncture where immigration meets taxes needing to be filed in two countries, for two companies and seven people, requiring cartwheels and vials of blood and two days of x-rays, oh joy!, that have left me just a WEE BIT wiped out.
But this is not the point of my story.
You would think that after spending so many decades of my life dealing with immigration-related paperwork, I would be good at it.
You’d think I’d be FINE about the whole thing.
One might even hope for an elegant attitude of optimistic tenaciousness, simply taking each task as it comes, all with the indefatigable good humor of someone who has done this a million times and knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s all going to be JUST FINE.
That’s basically me.
Pretty much. Except for all the weeping and gnashing of teeth, rending of hair and garments, and loud wailing.
In fact, instead of being more and more unruffled by the whole thing, it seems that the opposite is true. The more years I spend wrangling the mobius strip of immigration (well you need this form, but you can’t get this form until you have this key number, well you can’t have that number until you have the first form, see) THE WORSE I GET AT IT.
Instead of being smooth and polished about the whole thing, I am— to put it kindly— a total fucking hot mess. I gasp. I flap my hands. I forget to breathe. I try not to cry, and then I cry NOISILY. (Just to be clear, all this happens at home for the benefit of my sweet husband. I usually— MOSTLY— keep my shit together when I’m actually at the offices.)
It’s a little bit like the way that my family is about passports and airports. We have, collectively, spent about 4,000 years in airports— dropping each other off, picking each other up, saying hello, saying goodbye— and instead of being blasé about the whole thing, it’s as though the emotions just grow bigger each time. It’s as if every painful goodbye wells up in me every time I say goodbye to my familials, and it gets harder, not easier. (And also once one has lost a passport, one knows that this is a distinct and real possibility, making the compulsive checking of the passport pocket MORE intense, not less.) We dread these airport partings so much that we have moved to a strict curbside drop-off policy, quick and clean, love-you-bye-kiss-wave-drive-and-cry.
We talk about this amongst ourselves, how instead of getting easier it seems to get harder, and how that doesn’t make any sense.
But it does make sense. Because we are humans, and we remember things. Our minds, sometimes, imperfectly— but our bodies remember.
So here is the whole reason I am telling you all this.
If there is something in your life that is hard for you, and every time it comes up you think, THIS SHOULD BE EASIER BY NOW WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME, this is your permission slip to knock that shit right off.
Give yourself some grace, instead.
Give yourself some kindness.
Give yourself a fucking break, okay?
Some things are harder, even for powerhouses.
Maybe calling the insurance company is really hard for you, but you’re amazing at being with people in unbearable grief. Maybe dealing with your ex leaves you shaken and hollow-eyed, but you can wrangle a gnarly tax return like a superhero. Maybe you’re basically a total boss about EVERYTHING…unless your stepmom calls.
We’re all strong in some areas, and we have some things that still reduce us even so to puddles of melting jello.
Just be kind to the melting jello that is you.
It is not the only part of you. It is just a part of you that is reminding you to be human. And human is messy. But human is also sweet.
So here’s the deal. When I’m a mess this week, I’m going to be kind to myself.
And when you’re a mess this week, you’re going to be kind to YOURself.
And in between, we’ll handle our shit like epic fucking badasses.