I have a home. Structurally, I moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Austin, Texas. I live among the working class in an area notorious for being one of the known “hoods” in the city. There is no Starbucks for miles around me if that is a cue about the kind of neighborhood I live in. One where people do not pay $6 for a half-fat mocha latte.
But that’s okay. In my complex, I have met some beautiful humans. A little boy named Carlos, has a big dog that hates little dogs. The feeling is mutual with my chihuahua pack. But he likes telling me about catching turtles in Walnut Creek. And how his dog Malo (Spanish for BAD) is one chewed flip flop away from sleeping on the balcony. Per his Mom, who likes me too.
In my community are women who make $700 per week or more on Only Fans. There are a few pot dealers. I don’t mind them. They are chill and have a big smile (go figure). And a couple of dealers of other things that scare me a little, when I take my dogs out after dark.
It has become a little bit better in the past year that I have been here. Since the shooting last July. There seem to be fewer sounds of gunshots on Friday and Saturday evenings now. I used to hear them about 2-4 times per month. But now we have these nifty cameras, and a police car cruises into our parking lot at least twice a night. It makes me feel better.
My new 636-square-foot apartment isn’t fancy. It is spit-polished and rough in a couple of places. But it is cheap. And while I can afford a better place, my financial recovery goals (combined with paranoia about this crazy economy and inflation) have me living well below my means. Frugality never killed anyone. And I have a taser with built-in pepper spray.
The Fight to Stay Where I Was Unhappy
I haven’t been back to Canada since 2014. The first two years, I wasn’t allowed to go home. It is part of the immigration and green card process. You have to stay put to comply. And then, thanks to a form error online, and the appropriation of funds to ICE under President Trump (slowed down paper processing for landed immigrants) I faced another unexpected complication. I was almost deported over that simple error.
Because of that complication I had to stay put again. From 2016 to September 2019, and thousands in immigration attorney fees, I got it sorted. And received my green card. The problem then was just about everything else in my life.
I was fighting Sepsis and was repeatedly hospitalized. Surgeries. Medical debt (despite having health insurance). I was paralyzed by a toxic and failing marriage, infidelity, lies, his drug addiction and criminal charges, and sliding into drinking too much myself. And visiting the casino out of emotional desperation. To feel ANYTHING close to happiness.
Truthfully, most of the time I broke even. But he siphoned me heavily for cash. And he wasn’t quite so lucky. But I was the real loser in the equation. After all, I had given up so much for a life that turned to shit.
Depressed, miserable, isolated, and wondering why I had ever been so stupid as to leave Canada, I found myself fighting to get home. Paralyzed by homesickness. Missing my family, I lost my Godmother to Cancer in 2019. By December 2019 I asked for a divorce. But gave him “a year” to get his world and finances in order. Life would be hard without a cash cow. I tried to be considerate.
In March of 2020, I almost lost my life for the third consecutive year, in the ICU with Covid-19. The marriage became increasingly toxic as I denied access to my money. I paid my bills, the mortgage, groceries and fulfilled my financial duties. But the money I no longer gave him, I diligently paid off personal debt. Readying myself for the divorce.
I found out in January 2021 that my most beloved family member, had been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. She had six months. And she was my world. It broke me. After the Great Texas Ice Storm in February, I was staying at his mother’s house and found out he was hanging with his drug buddies in our home. Lying, and telling me he was at work.
I don’t think that something broke. I remember calmness and clarity. I was done. And that was all. There was no emotion. I was numb. I just wanted to get as far away from him, his friends, and some of his toxic family as quickly as possible. I deserved better. And was unwilling to prolong my unhappiness.
Why Don’t You Move Home?
It is an interesting question and one I ask myself often. Failed marriage. Financial disaster recovery will take years to fix thanks to the expenditures of survival, medical debt, and my dive in freelance income with three life-threatening health incidents. Fun. Didn’t die though, and for that I am grateful. Everything else is fixable with discipline, strategy, and stubborn resilience.
Which I have in spades.
I wanted to go home. I miss my best friend terribly. Like an amputation. She has been the one person on this planet (other than my Aunt) who has truly loved me. Through every age and stage. Two divorces now. Moving to another country. She is my angel. And I am so blessed to have her in my life. And miss her like a MFer every day, to the point of tears.
My Father is estranged from me. Long irrelevant story which is beyond moot at this point. My fault for standing up to his tyranny. His fault for not being a kind and better person. But that’s his life. I no longer crave his love or acceptance, truly. I am glad he has my sister to care for him. And I am glad he is no longer part of my life.
My Mom and I talk sometimes, and I think of the time as fleeting. Wanting to spend more time with her. Because tomorrow is never promised. Recently, she helped me financially when I really needed it. For the first time I think, in my life. It was important to her to do it. I was reluctant to accept it. But part of me was renewed knowing she was there for me.
I have a hard time accepting my Aunt is gone. And that I was situationally unable to go see her. By the time I was legally unencumbered by immigration travel restrictions, I was sick and trying not to die. While being the main income earner. You try writing all day with an IV in your arm. I get bragging rights.
When I was finally able to come home, she was declining with Stage 4 cancer. Because of Covid I would not have been able to travel, or even be in the same room with her. And all I wanted to do was park my laptop in her bedroom, work, care for her, talk to her, hold her. Give something back to the woman who saved my life so many times with her profound love and acceptance. And strength.
She was surrounded with family and love, but I wasn’t able to pay her back. Or honor her with the care I would have if I was in Toronto. I will live with that sadness the rest of my life.
Aside from Diane, most people moved on. We kept in touch on Facebook of course. But when you move to another country, a natural distancing occurs I think. And I felt it. Even if I went home, aside from my sister Katie, and visiting my Mother and of course, Diane, no one else really cared where I was. Life went on without me. And home, really wasn’t home anymore. Or at least, that’s how it felt.
My Flight to Austin and Freedom
Unlike the rest of Texas, for some reason, Austin felt immediately embracing. It was weird. I am weird. It was creative and kooky… like me. I rented a townhouse unseen after visiting Austin once. So, if you are wondering how I rented in the Sarajevo zone of Austin, that’s the ticket. My focus was to get away from him and that toxic periphery. And save me.
So, it was me, and four wannabe chihuahuas in a city where I knew no one. Like any other raging separated and lonely woman, I embraced my singledom. I really wish I had the wisdom to not date for the first year. Because in retrospect, I wasn’t ready. I ended up stalked by one of Austin’s finest. A bible-thumping evangelical control freak. He scared me. A lot. Then, a wealthy IBM programmer did a little damage. I had the strength to end that quickly.
Then I hurt someone. A kind heart. Because, again, like many divorcing women living alone, I was lonely. And had this misconception I could do that FWB kinda thing. I can’t. I am an insufferable romantic. Serial monogamist. Somewhere underneath the red lipstick and matching bright red toes and nails, dark eyes, and long sexy hair I now sport is a very good Catholic girl. Using someone for just sex, didn’t work. He caught feels. I didn’t. And I still hate myself for going in that direction, even momentarily.
That’s not who I am. That’s just not me.
I rented a townhouse with the delusion that I would be seeing my stepsons monthly. That never happened. I have seen them once since May of 2020. Talked to them a few times. But my 16-year-old stepsons are also moving on. As is normal for teen boys with jobs, girlfriends, and driver’s licenses.
And after all, as much as I know we created lifetime memories, I am now the woman that used to be married to their Dad. And, even though I hope they understand someday, in their eyes, they may feel I am responsible for how hard he crashed and completely tanked after I left.
His second DUI incident of 2021 left him disabled and fighting for his own life. He is now, I hope in recovery. Emotionally. From his addictions, his financial disarray, and chronic irresponsibility. That being said with good intentions, a leopard doesn’t change his spots. But I no longer own the consequences of his lack of moral character or reckless choices. I truly wish him well. But only for their sake and my own karma.
F*ck I did it again. Tell me you are still healing, without telling me you are still healing. Relationship trauma is like one of those slivers that takes forever to work itself to the surface for removal. For me, that means cycling it in my brain. Rationalizing my choices. Hating myself sometimes for them. One day, when I no longer feel compelled to share the minutia of how my life got messed up… I know I will be whole again. Just not (clearly) today.
#SadPanda! Yes I used strikeout font… as an emotional training tool.
Completing Citizenship and Financial Recovery
Since I fought so hard to avoid deportation and lost so many opportunities with this marital misadventure, I somehow felt that I should complete the journey. I am two years away from being able to write my citizenship exam. The divorce will be finalized on paper as soon as I can afford to file. I was unexpectedly unemployed from January to April of 2022. That too was super fun.
Then what? I wish I had an answer.
I do know that I don’t want to grow old without my sister. And my beloved BFF Diane. If I think about that outcome, I literally start crying. They are my life. The distance is intolerable. And now that I am feeling stabilized, I plan to visit Canada early in 2023. After my savings account is recovered and I feel financially safe again. Because wow… this economy. Sometimes I lose sleep over it.
I live a modest life. I cook and rarely eat out. I have been focused on losing weight. My new job wasn’t the opportunity I hoped it would be. Some big surprises. But grateful for the fintech experience and the opportunity to travel to Florida.
I have some thinking to do with regard to my career and industry. I have enjoyed being in the cannabis marketing sector, but my calling is to do something more meaningful. Healthcare marketing seems to be a better fit for me. We shall see where the road takes me. Story of my life.
The Taurus in me feels unrooted. I still have no female close friend in Austin to do stuff with. Pandemic aside, my personality is quirky. High energy. Most of the time I figure women just don’t like me. I talk too much. I am too open, blunt, and honest (but polite!). And I am still working on myself. Finding me again. Healing. Detoxifying my soul and trying to get back to the mythical Zen life that I am not sure I have ever mastered. But want to.
When will the feeling of roots come? I’m in a new relationship that I am humbled by. The chemistry at every level is profound. Organic. It doesn’t take effort to be happy when I am with him. It flows. And importantly, when things got rough for me (unemployment) he was there. A steady hand on my shoulder. Encouraging. Supportive. Loyal. Passionate. Creative.
I never intended to get serious with anyone. But life had other ideas. And I consider him to be such a gift from the Universe, that I am calm in this new fork in the road. A love of equals in all verticals. Yet still, always waiting for the trap door to open underneath that happiness. Like people recovering from trauma anticipate the worst, preferring instead to be surprised by the best when it happens in life.
I am a boat without an anchor. A daughter without a home to go to. I could crash with my sister in adverse situations, I know that. But she doesn’t eat nachos or drink Coke Zero from a 2L bottle when no one is looking.
Someday, I hope I will feel anchored to the sense of community and fellowship that I so crave. Whether that is in America, or back in Canada. But for now, I feel like a ghost when I am alone. I gave a key to my boyfriend to make sure if something happens to me, my dogs will not be left to gnaw on my dead corpse for a week before someone noticed. He would. Diane would. And so would Katie.
I exist. I function. I am happy to be alive. Just tired. Emotionally and physically. I am a ghost ship on an ocean at the whim of the gulf stream. Wondering where and when I will come to rest on a safe shore, that feels like home.
Until then, I won’t give up. I know I have the power to create happiness and peace in my life.