I’ve moved homes five times in the past year. To say it’s been physically and mentally destabilizing is an understatement. Some moves were planned; others were not. Ask my loved ones where I live right now, and they’ll likely pause and say: “I’m not sure.” Even my most checked-in loved ones ask: “Where are you these days?” Social media is of no help since I post my whereabouts weeks or months afterward, so the confusion is warranted. I don’t blame anyone for not knowing, and I’m genuinely touched by the curiosity.
Why all the moving? Long story short: in February 2022, I entered Spain on a 90-day tourist visa, hoping that the US-Spanish consulate would certify our marriage, enabling me to apply for permanent residency. The US-Spanish consulate has had the documents since October 2021 and has been radio silent, save for an email auto-reply that says: “We’re busy; be patient”. I left Spain a week before my 90-day tourist visa expired in May 2022. As of this writing, we have received no information about our “Plan A” application. We are in the process of moving forward with “Plan B”: certifying our marriage in Spain.
Here’s where I’ve moved from and to:
- Move 1: October 2021: Memphis, TN to Hood River, OR (planned; my homeland)
- Move 2: February 2022: Hood River to Madrid, Spain (planned; my husband’s homeland)
- Move 3: May 2022: Madrid to Hood River (unplanned; bureaucracy-induced immigration hiccups)
- Move 4: July 2022: Hood River to Minamiuonuma, Japan (planned; work trip)
- Move 5: September 2022: Minamiuonuma, Japan to Hood River (planned; end of work trip)
Five moves in one year is a lot for someone like me who’s only ever lived in six places: Portland, Hood River, Eugene, Memphis, Minamiuonuma, and Madrid. I crave stability. I thrive in community. All this moving makes me feel ungrounded and disconnected from those two values and needs. Not to mention chaotic, expensive, and inconvenient.
Small mercies have helped simplify this internationally nomadic life:
- A partner who’s a solid life teammate, across the months and miles of long-distance marriage.
- Family and friends who share their living space with me, receive and open mail at my request, translate official documents on tight timelines, and hold me and my big feelings through the apps, across the miles.
- Friends who forgive me (not once, but twice) for unknowingly abandoning the group chat because I changed mobile sim cards. And understand that my delayed replies were due to timezones and workloads. I’m sorry, I love you, I’ll write soon.
- Dental insurance policies that cover two annual cleaning visits rather than requiring six months in between. This means I can get my teeth cleaned and speak English with my dentist and hygienist without pushing my return trip back to Spain back even more.
Moving this much in so little time feels like being on a reality TV kitchen show: Whack-a-Mole: Traveling Chef’s Edition. I have to keep doing the same basic thing, like perfecting my scrambled eggs, in a new kitchen every week. This week with non-stick Teflon, next week with stainless steel, and following with a cast-iron skillet. Every week I don’t know where the butter and salt are. I don’t know if the grocery store sells eggs refrigerated or at room temperature or if it takes credit cards or cash only. Just when I get used to an electric ceramic burner’s quirks, I have to make fluffy eggs on a gas range. It feels like a sadistic game I’m conscripted to play and didn’t sign up for.
Despite these challenges, there’s balance in the highlights and lowlights:
- Low: My husband and I were long-distance for much of our first year of marriage / High: I had a safe place to live with my folks when I unexpectedly returned to the United States (not to mention the world’s finest outdoor playground: hello PNW spring, summer, and fall!)
- Low: I had to leave just two and a half months after setting up house, finding community, and getting better at Spanish / High: We found our perfect place to live in Madrid (which is vacant, holding our things, and waiting for us).
- Low: All this moving is fleeting and makes it hard for me to feel connected to my social and yoga communities/ High: I’ve spent a lot more time in these communities with the people I love and like dearly.
- Low: A year later, immigration Plan A has not come to fruition / High: Plan B (and C, D, etc.) is easily accessible from the USA and solvable with money.
A quick note to government offices, UPS, and FedEx: please spend the hundreds of hard-earned dollars and euros we’ve paid you efficiently and grant us smooth passage through your paper-pushing and transportation channels. Thank you in advance.
I’ve spent less time on my mat this year. But if we define yoga as linking breath and movement, I’ve been up-leveling my practice by seeking steadiness, stability, and ease while moving four times between three continents in less than a year.
Good news, bad news: this off-the-mat-advanced yoga practice requires no physical strength or flexibility, only self-awareness and authenticity. There are 196 short verses in the yogic text, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali; interestingly, only three refer to physical yoga practice. In Yoga Sutra 2.46, “sthira sukham asanam” translates as “steady, stable, and comfortable posture”. The ancient yoga texts give us the modern reminder that it doesn’t matter if our postures are perfectly aligned or curated in a cute video with music. We need only seek steadiness and comfort, right where we are.
Here are my tips and tricks for finding stability:
- Feeling tethered to and held by the Earth, sensing whatever part of my body is touching the ground
- Moving my body through space
- Saying no to what drains me and yes to what fills me
- Spending time with my people
Do I wish I could muscle my way through one thousand chaturangas or fire off yet another email into the bureaucratic void instead of sitting and being with what is? Of course. But the rage and grief required for trying to muscle my way through what I can’t control has worn me out. My tired is tired.
Instead, I do my best to lean into what feel like impossibly hard tasks, but simple tasks:
- Breathing longer exhales
- Meditating with Metta (loving kindness) and Koruna (compassion) phrases
- Getting physical: walks, hikes, weights, yoga (running feels like too much these days)
- Saying: “I don’t like this” or “I don’t want this” to try to get to acceptance of it
I haven’t shared much about all this because it feels confusing and hard. I’ve been blessed with lots of writing work, yoga and English teaching opportunities, which required more international travel. My whole family got Covid-19 (mild symptoms). My loved ones don’t want me to suffer – they want to hear more about tapas, art, and vinos and schedule their visits! But there is no tidy and happy ending to this (yet).
I know my story is valid and worth sharing even when so many others suffer far worse challenges. My troubles feel solidly in the “first-world problems” camp. I have immense privilege by virtue of being a white woman passport-holder from an internationally favorable country and having access to legal resources. But it’s also true that this experience feels very isolating and depressing. If I can share my experience and make someone feel less alone, then it’s a win-win for everyone.
I expected moving to Spain would be challenging, but I never imagined it would be so hard. I’m running on blind trust that we’ll be able to return in November. Blind trust and deep breaths. I don’t want to live a life story underscored by trial and tragedy. But for better or worse, I don’t think that’s a realistic expectation of the human experience. So here we are.
I’m looking forward to one more month of stability here in Oregon, spending time with family and friends before I fly across the giant Atlantic pond again before the holidays. I’m getting outside as often as possible to enjoy the Cascadian mountain air of small-town life before I head back to the big city surrounded by the Sierra Nevadas. Teaching yoga online on Zoom (sign up here!) and at Machi Yoga in Hood River (come practice with me!) All of it helps me find stability within.
What helps ground you during challenging times? Leave a comment below and share your wisdom.
Breathe & believe,