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I write when I’m in a dark place. Sorry, but that’s kinda just the way it seems to be working out. (I think of blogs as happy places where people share all the awesome experiences they’re having or show other people how to make all the amazing stuff they’re making, or document recipes; and perhaps (as I’ve discovered more recently) dolls and the making of their lovely clothing. I think of blogs where people document pleasure. I don’t think of blogs as places where people share their ‘profound life lessons’… or darkness. Let’s just call it what it is – their darkness.)

But here I am… feeling dark. I feel a lot of pressure to ‘go out there and experience life because oh my god you’re in New Zealand and it’s an awesome place and there’s so much for you to experience and you simply must tell us all about how amazing it is… and… stuff.’ The reality is I have four hours every week day morning to have a miniature adventure – but I don’t, and I’m frustrated by it. I don’t go out into the big, amazing New Zealand not so much because I don’t want to (the idea is delightful of course!), or because I can’t (I have a car, I have money to put petrol in car, I have ability to drive car… my sense of direction sucks and I mostly have no clue where I’m going and the idea of getting lost is (quite literally, I’m not using hyperbole here) terrifying… but we have GPS now… so… there’s that.

The thing that holds me back most is fear, which manifests as anxiety.

Now, it’s not the sort of anxiety that requires medical intervention (because I can mostly function from day to day). It’s the ‘what if’ sort of anxiety, the ‘I’m not doing this thing called living right’ anxiety. The truth, I suppose, is that I’m feeling very lost and very disconnected – like a little boat out to sea… bobbing about with no sail… no anchor. At its most melodramatic, I don’t know who I am or how I want to live my life.

(I’ve always measured my life based on how I think other people will react. I’ve lived outside of my self. I’m painfully aware of this.)

 

My sense of self shrinks every day as I convince myself that the ideas I’m entertaining aren’t ‘safe’. Pretty much everything I consider doing feels dangerous because it’s so far from anything I’ve ever done. And I do mean everything.

There are days when I’m brave and I do engage in a new (exciting? interesting? beautiful?) experience. But. There’s always an emotional backlash. The doing of the new thing takes so much out of me energetically, I’m left dumb and numb for a day or two whilst I integrate said new experience into my being.

Because everything has significance. Everything. My mind is constantly busy, processing the significance of things and experiences. Walking in the forest is not just walking in the forest. It’s wondering if there really are divas (many call them fairies) amongst the plants… or how the light looks so clean now that the sun is setting… and isn’t it all so bloody marvellous?

And hey – immigrating to a new country is all about new experiences – so imagine how tapped out I feel most of the time.

And oh god, the learning curve! I imagine myself doing stuff, and then I realise I don’t know how to do that thing… and then it dawns on me that I’d have to learn how to do that thing… and oh god, that takes time and effort and a level of commitment and dedication. Can you see how things fall flat? Feeling tapped out most of the time and being overwhelmed by the idea of learning a new thing gets me nowhere fast. Result: frustration.

There’s also the thing I have about living inside my body. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m more of an imagination (brain) person than a physical (body) person. I have no relationship with my body. We don’t talk much. Sad really, considering how hard my body works to keep me alive…

 

The point is, I’m at a crossroads. I appreciate how moving to New Zealand offers me the opportunity to engage with some of the things I’ve always wanted to explore. The ridiculous things is – I don’t know where to start.

That learning curve feels too steep.

 

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I want to write about something happy, because I think that’s what people want to hear about. I’m in a beautiful country that still feels like it could be just a little bit wonder-filled. My mind tells me I should be out there exploring it all, and telling you all about it. Because there is magic out there. I know there is.

But here’s the thing. Walking around with an aching heart has become my normal. I can’t put a time and date to when my heart broke, but I think it’s been broken for a very long time. Coming to New Zealand did not break my heart. It has made the hole in my heart more discernible, but it did not break my heart.

I want to be able to phone my family in Johannesburg and tell them about this interesting thing I did. But I don’t. Because I know they miss us. And I know that the conversation will slowly turn to how we miss each other. I don’t want to talk about that anymore. Because it hurts. It hurts more than the joy of doing the interesting things.

I am skilled at closing the heart. I find myself contorting again. Bending, holding. Waiting. Waiting to exhale.

More than anything else, I know Sophia is missed (very much so). Her stories, her laughter, her curiosity. Her playfulness. All of it. I know they wonder if she will forget them.

I know I made holes in their hearts. I know I made a hole in her heart. She misses her family. She misses her Caity and Madrinha, her tio Luis, avô and avó, nana and grandad. Her Peyton. She wishes they’d come for dinner. (And I wish I could make it so.)

It’s difficult finding the joy in this adventure. Because creating this adventure also created holes in hearts.

People will tell me, no doubt, that I do need to find the joy in things. And they’re absolutely right. But…

…when your normal is an aching heart, joy feels strange. Foreign. Invasive. Guilty. I don’t know how to hold all of that in a fractured heart. Not yet.

I am an immigrant. With immigration comes a period of adjustment, of reorientating one’s self in the world. It’s bittersweet – because there’s so much to explore and experience, but I’m doing it on my own. (One wants to share the excitement, I suppose.)

Thoughts and emotions present themselves, and it’s in my nature to have a conversation with these thoughts and emotions. Me talking to myself. My Roman Catholic upbringing, and the gift of a vivid imagination, taught me that things (gadgets, contraptions, stuff) can ‘hold’ a feeling, a thought, or a concept. An invisible thing can become manifest. So it’s with this in mind that I made a list of things that would, perhaps, make settling easier; things that would make navigating my new world a little less terrifying, less complex.

 

To remedy the thought I feel vacant and a little stupid a lot of the time, a pin badge that I’d wear wherever I go. It would read: “Hello. I’m new here. I don’t know what I’m doing. Please be patient.” Such a pin badge would facilitate interesting conversation (perhaps?), and it would help people to understand that the vacant expression on my face doesn’t mean “I’m ignoring you”, it means “Please be patient with me. I’m creating a new synapses in my brain that remembers how to do this new thing; whilst simultaneously retiring a synapses that is no longer relevant to my life. This may take a while. Sorry. (and wince)”

To remedy my sense of awkwardness, a read-o-matic. I never really know if I’ve inadvertently offended someone by saying or doing a thing. This contraption would read those around me, and glow purple whenever I made a faux pas. We could then laugh about it. “Oh look, it’s glowing purple. Did I offend someone? Terribly sorry. Please read my pin badge,” I’d say.

To remedy my feeling of invisibility, a teeny-tiny, real-live bable fish. Often, although we’re both speaking English, I have no idea if people understand my meaning, if they see me. I appreciate that I have an odd way of putting things sometimes, but the dim light I see in peoples’ eyes is perplexing. My read-o-matic would probably be glowing a stunning purple at that point. I’d laugh, point at my pin badge, hold my finger up as if to gesture “please wait a moment”, insert the little bable fish into my ear and repeat what I’d just said. Instant clarity. I’d suddenly be visible.

To remedy the mental fatigue that comes from doing mental gymnastics all the (bloody) time, a ‘how-to-adult-in-a-big-messy-complex-world’ guide. Meh. If I’m honest with myself, this is a thing all adults could use. Not because adults are stupid, but because navigating the world is hard (regardless of whether or not you’re an immigrant. Being an immigrant just adds another layer of complexity to daily life because there’s so much more mental gymnastics involved. And there’s more mental gymnastics involved because there’s so much that’s unfamiliar, too new. Until it’s not.)

People tell me to give it time. And they’re right. Time.

But what do you do with all the thoughts and emotions that crop up in the meanwhile?

Bleh.