The blog has a new look! I’m not sure how I feel about it... it’s mostly because I spent hours futzing with the design while trying to write a new post. I’m still having a hard time putting my thoughts into writing, but I don’t want to let this blog die an undeserving, neglectful death, so here goes:
I’m content, and it’s weird. I’ve been dancing on coals for a few years now, and suddenly all is quiet. I don’t know how to take it. I mean, I like it.
I look at my husband, and I am happy.
I look out the window, and I am grateful.
I go to school, and I am excited.
I come home, and I am peaceful.
And when I climb into bed, wrapped up tight in a down comforter and Leo’s embrace, I sleep.
It’s amazing. Sleep. I haven’t done it right for so long. Living in the States, I’d go to sleep with my jaws latched tight and wake up with aching temples after a fitful eight hours. In Brazil, the churning in my gut never let me doze off easily, drilling stinging burrows into the lining of my stomach as I hovered between anxious nightmares and anxious daydreams. The first months in Vancouver, I abandoned sleep entirely and stared through puffy eyes at my reading, computer screen, and the streetlight outside of my window; sleep never came, but the next morning always did – offensively insistent.
Now, I sleep deeply – oblivious even to my husband’s seismic snoring.
It already feels like Leo’s been here for months even though it’s only been two weeks. I have no idea why this all feels so… uninterrupted. Life here is unlike anything we’ve experienced together. I don’t jump when the phone rings, terrified that he’s calling me from a detention center. I don’t run to the door as he’s leaving to give him the sort of bone-crunching hug that he could carry with him on a plane back to Brazil. I can finally make dinner expecting that he’ll arrive home to eat it. And we’re not waiting on anything, either – permissions, permits, documents that will let us start our lives. I can go out for the afternoon without fretting over missing a call or email; I don’t make a bee-line for my laptop the moment we walk in the door.
For the next year at least, we’re allowed to live in the present and revel in the routine.
All of this is so unusual, but it feels so familiar, as if we’ve simply joined our real lives already in progress.
The Deportee’s Wife coined the best term for something so remarkably unremarkable: “the miracle of normalcy.”
It is a miracle, and I run the risk of forgetting that from within this space of warm and drowsy contentment. All of the fear and fretfulness of the last several years – 2010 especially – seems so far away… foggy and unreal. A lot of people have told me “I told you so!” and their retrospective confidence is catching. “Of course,” I think, nodding along… nodding off, “of course.” The inky depth of my despair looks like a wading pool from here; I find myself asking “how did it ever seem possible to drown in that?!”
We got lucky. We are the exception and not the rule. And that is why – even when Leo emailed me from the Toronto airport to say that he’d made it through customs and would see me in Vancouver – I half expected that his plane would burst into flames or go careening into the Pacific Ocean. Spend enough time dealing with US immigration issues, and you come to believe that there’s just no such thing as happy endings.
So how did we get a happy ending? We’re not at the end yet, to be sure, but the worst might actually be behind us.
Some days it makes me feel invincible! In the depth of our troubles, my friend Deb wrote to me: “acho que fiquei triste mesmo porque você sempre foi a amiga que sabia ‘kick the system's ass.’ E eu tenho muito orgulho de quão bem você faz isso. Saber que talvez o sistema esteja prestes a ‘kick your ass’ me deixa um pouco desanimada.” (I think I was actually sad because you were always my friend who knew how to kick the system’s ass. And I am very proud of how well you do it. Knowing that the system might be ready to kick your ass leaves me a bit despirited.)
Deb was absolutely right about my habit of not cooperating well with systems, frameworks, or hierarchies that I find restrictive, unfair, or unjust. I’m still obnoxiously uptight about not breaking rules, but I can usually Houdini my way around them (little wonder that I fell in love with Brazil). I’ve never agreed with the adage “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” preferring to change the game to one that I can win and make it that much more fun to play. Looking at a hardship waiver, for instance, got me thinking “I’d rather not let some bureaucrat rate my misfortunes on a scale from Great Expectations to A Tale of Two Cities. How about grad school in Canada instead?”
When I start thinking like that, I get an intense high. I am cunning. Clever. Indomitable.
But then I think about the strange coincidences that crystallized before us, inexplicably paving a path to our present. Every time I thought I’d reached a gaping crevasse – fearing my next step into the void, awaiting an endless tumble into the abyss – I’d find myself somehow on solid ground, unexpectedly provided for: a place to stay, money in my pocket, a chance encounter, a kindly stranger, an old friend, a new friend... I cannot possibly claim to have influenced any of these uncanny occurrences or benevolent actions.
I think about all of the folks who deserve to be where I am – who deserve it more and who need it more – and my hubris feels repulsive.
I ask myself not “how” but “why did we get a happy ending?” I feel guilty – sort of immigration survivor guilt. Here we are: miraculously normal, together, and frankly no worse for the wear; it’s obscene. I know that we got lucky. I know how easily we might have been derailed. And I feel ashamed, almost like I’ve betrayed or at least deserted my comrades.
The truth probably lies somewhere in between. As ludicrous-and-improbable-but-ultimately-successful schemes go, this one was worthy of a 2010 “best of” award. It was the fruit of considerable effort and forethought, and both Leo and I had our share of ninja moments. On the other hand, it required the suspension of Murphy’s Law; anything that could go wrong ultimately aligned in our favor, a testament to a rather eerie-but-welcome grace…
I am relieved. I am grateful. I am content… and I am sorry…