I had so many happy times upon which to look back after my mother, then Bill, died.For links to earlier posts in this series see #7 where earlier links are included
We'd had regular vacations during the second half of the 1970s until the end of the 1990s. We'd taken in Spain's Costa del Sol; Tangier, Morocco; Honolulu, Hawaii; and many, many visits to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, off West Africa. We'd taken my mother on a couple of coach trips to Wales and to Scotland.
Communicating online had already become a daily pleasure, contributing to a few astrology forums, a fun AOL message board and, later, to a website that introduced me to what would now be termed social-networking. From the latter I made some friends to chat with - mostly male, as it happened, and mostly, though not all, from the USA, which seemed exciting and adventurous. I'll not go into detail - I'd embarrass myself too much, but I will admit that those online friends helped get me through what was the worst time of my life. Looking back on myself at that time, it wasn't me, not the me I know - but a version of me I'd not met before.
That period of my life just before, and after, Bill's death felt like struggling through a long-running violent storm and finding, from time to time, a sheltering arm, warm hugs, or sometimes just the loan of an umbrella to make the storm seem more bearable. I shall always feel grateful for those online friends, some of whom were as unhappy as I was, and I hope that our brief, passing friendship helped them through their storms as much as it helped me.
As the worst of the storm was passing, my now husband and I crossed paths on the internet. I knew then that this was me - back to the old me, the me I knew. From his first words - yes I knew!
I'm going to fall back now on part of an old post of mine to tell about the overture to the biggest change of my life.
Astrologically the outer planets had been either whipping me on throughout this storm and this journey, or holding the carrot - not sure which. Uranus conjoined my natal Jupiter at 6 Pisces for much of the early stages, and Pluto conjoined natal Venus in Sagittarius. These two planets seem to have orchestrated or choreographed the whole show!
It all began at the end of 2003, when my now husband visited me in the UK. We decided that our future was together, and would need to be in the USA, because I had no remaining close family ties and he had many, back in the United States.
In Bridlington, East Yorkshire.
After much research and reading of immigration message boards, I came to the conclusion that, of the 3 methods available to us, one had the potential to be less painful than the other two. This method would involve Himself coming to live in the UK, with me, for a while, so that we could qualify to apply for a marriage visa, for me, via the US Embassy in London. Both other methods would have involved long spells apart, and having to rely on notoriously slow-moving USCIS Service Centers on the other side of the pond. The route we chose was more expensive, but we considered it worth the extra outlay.
First the husband-to-be had to return home to the USA, from whence he had to apply for a UK Fiancé Visa for himself. With this in hand, in the spring of 2004 he returned. We were wed at the end of April. The husband then had to apply, at the nearest immigration office (Liverpool), for an extension to his visa, for "Further Leave To Remain". This stage proceeded rapidly and painlessly, with a pleasant visit to Liverpool.
Next step: the husband needed to petition for permission for me, as his wife, to emigrate to the USA. Then I, potential immigrant, was required to apply for a visa on the ground of marriage to a US citizen.
An incredible amount of information and documentation was called for at this stage. The photocopies we had to provide must have caused the downing of large areas of rain forest somewhere in Brazil.
Once submitted there was a long wait for the US Embassy to process our petition and application. During this interval I put my house on the market. I was called for interview and medical examination in London at the end of August 2004. By then we were on tenterhooks, waiting to give a buyer for my house in Yorkshire the go ahead. We dare not risk doing so until I had visa in hand. On 1st September I had this! (Below, left, in front of the US embassy in London).
Next stop Oklahoma, after disposing of most of my worldly goods, packing the rest in several large boxes, shipping 'em to the USA, and finally selling the house.
Once in Oklahoma my visa remained conditional on the marriage remaining intact for 2years, at which point, in the summer of 2006, I had to apply to have conditions removed, and prove that the marriage was, indeed, intact by providing financial and other proof. This was done relatively quickly, my Permanent Resident's Card ("green card") was then made good for a further 10 years.
Another year had to pass before I became eligible to apply for US citizenship, thus ridding myself of the USCIS for ever, becoming eligible to vote and to hold a US passport. As it happened, I became eligible to make my citizenship application on 26 July just a few days before a fee increase was to be implemented. A huge frontlog of applications was the result of this, and caused the process to take around twice as long as normal.
After a variety of delays, obstacles and long postponements, I attended my citizenship interview on 19 June 2008, passed muster, passed the civics test and waited a mercifully brief time for the next available Oath Ceremony to finish the job: 25 July, at 9.30am, just a year after applying for citizenship, and almost 4 years since I obtained my first visa.
I dare not add up the cost in either $$$$$ or nervous tension. I'd like to say the process was fun....but it wasn't!
And so, I became a citizen of the United States.
After five years in the USA, from another old post, these were some of my thoughts:
It's exactly 5 years since I arrived in the USA to live here permanently. Looking back, I realise that it was one of those situations where I'd had to switch to mental auto-pilot. I do a similar thing sometimes at the dentist's or doctor's office, a useful habit of blocking out peripheral stuff, and thoughts in the subjunctive, about things that could possibly go wrong; retaining focus on a time in the near future with awkwardness gone. I stayed that way for a while, then, one day the enormity of the move hit me. I was worried. My husband was worried. Adding even more chaos to an already daunting situation, we decided to move house from my husband's home of many years. That occupied my mind and blocked out the nerves for a while. I took two brief visits back to the UK in the spring and fall of the next year, which helped a lot. I haven't been back to England since.
I've now got the hang of light switches being "up" for "on"; it's the opposite in the UK. I no longer go to the driver's door to get to the passenger seat, because for my hardwiring, in the US the driver sits on the "wrong" side. I'm still, even now, finding it difficult to use American terms for things like taps (faucets), car boot (trunk), footpath (sidewalk) and so on. American spelling comes and goes in my writing, depending on where, when and to whom it's directed. I'm not going to worry about stuff like that - I kid myself that it'll all add to my (ahem) old world..... charm.
Much cursing and complaining accompanied a four-year, very frustrating, trek through the US immigration process to citizenship. I'm thankful the trek is behind me now. If I'd known in 2004 what I know now, would I have tried to persuade my husband to stay in England with me? I sometimes think I should have done that. Had I succeeded (unlikely) I'd have missed such a lot by so doing. The USA is a vast and beautiful land - can't help but love it. I've left my shadow among the petroglyphs in Arizona's Painted Desert, stood inside The Alamo, explored the Anasazi dwellings at Mesa Verde, explored the wonderful Rocky Mountains National Park, beautiful Santa Fe, travelled in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming. Who'd have thunk it? And there's still more adventuring to be done.
Some attitudes here continue to rankle though, and I still have to perfect a way to ignore what irritates me most. "Take the rough with the smooth"....is the best advice for me I guess.
Emigration from my homeland was probably my destiny - my fate. A fortune teller told my mother, when I was still in early teenage, that I'd marry a foreigner and end my life abroad. I remembered it, but didn't ever really believe the last part. Marrying a foreigner wasn't difficult - I did it twice! I'd toyed with the idea of spending my retirement in Spain, but deep down knew that was not much more than a pipe dream.
If I could, would I go back to England? I ask myself this sometimes, then realise it's all hypothetical and hypothetical questions can be dangerous and misleading. There's nothing there for me, my family and loved ones are all gone. My family is here now. I can't go back, and that's good.
Atop Mount Scott, Oklahoma
The other day I came across a card bought just before I left England. It bears this piece of prose by Vicki Silvers; I used to read it often. Perhaps a passing reader, who is also on the brink of a big life change, might find it helpful:
"There comes a time in your life when you realise that if you stand still, you will remain at this point forever. You realize that if you fall and stay down, life will pass you by. Life's circumstances are not always what you might wish them to be. The pattern of life does not necessarily go as you plan...
Beyond any understanding, you may at times be led in different directions that you never imagined, dreamed, or designed. Yet if you had never put any effort into choosing a path or trying to carry out your dream, then perhaps you would have no direction at all.
Rather than wondering about or questioning the direction your life has taken, accept the fact that there is a path before you now. Shake off the "why's" and "what if's", and rid yourself of confusion. Whatever was - is in the past. Whatever is - is what's important. The past is a brief reflection. The future is yet to be realized. Today is here.
Walk your path one step at a time - with courage, faith and determination. Keep your head up and cast your dreams to the stars. Soon your steps will become firm and your footing will be solid again. A path that you never imagined will become the most comfortable direction you could ever have hoped to follow.
Keep your belief in yourself and walk into your new journey. You will find it magnificent, spectacular, and beyond your wildest imaginings."
So, do I hear a faint voice asking (if any valiant reader has, indeed, made it this far) "how do you feel about living in the USA after what are now 11 years?" I feel fine - it was my destiny I guess, you don't argue with destiny - and I'm happy. Outside of my personal, home life though, rather than "taking the 5th" I'll echo Alice, courtesy of Lewis Carroll, whose birthday (27 January) I share:
...How are you getting on?' said the Cat......................
'I don't think they play at all fairly,' Alice began, in rather a complaining tone, 'and they all quarrel so dreadfully one can't hear oneself speak — and they don't seem to have any rules in particular; at least, if there are, nobody attends to them.'
Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
'I don't much care where —' said Alice.
'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat
'But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'