Happiness Through the Nose

It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we’re alive – to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are. –Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

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Never would I have thought a puncture wound in my nostril could make me feel so good or inspire further life reflection. It all started during summer. My daughter decided to pierce her nose after a long process of considering the pros and cons of a facial piercing, including how it might affect her job; what meaning it had for her; and whether she might lose interest in it or not. She also factored in an upcoming surgery to remove an ovarian cyst—an office nurse advised the piercing itself isn’t a problem, but the jewelry would need to be removed prior should the “worst case scenario” of resuscitation become necessary. What with this new concern and its accompanying horrifying images of my daughter in distress in an operating room filling my mind, the worries I’d had about a nose infection making me hesitant to agree with the piercing were no longer so terribly looming. If you’re going to be responsible and care for it, I told her, you have my blessing.

The decision to pierce finalized, we journeyed one summer night to a reputable (always research the safety of the establishment that will be responsible for inserting sharp objects into any area of your body) tattoo and piercing shop, my daughter’s stepsister from her father’s relationship along for moral support. The woman who walked us to the room and arranged the necessary tools for the piercing ritual to commence was professional and precise, and I admired the way my daughter not only didn’t blink, but continued to sit with her elegant posture and a smile while a three inch needle popped through and then dangled briefly from her nose. The jewelry inserted, a quick dab with a napkin to remove a small droplet of blood, and we were on our way back out the door. The tiny diamond looked lovely.

My daughter had asked me to pierce my nose with her as a symbol of our bond; it would be a shared physical trait, like our body types and smiles. I’ll think about it, I had said. Nose piercings are a form of fashion/cultural/artistic expression I have long appreciated. Dainty, ornamental, and not too dissimilar to a freckle or a mole, they appear feminine and inoffensive twinkling from the face. In many belief systems throughout Indian culture, both Hindu and non-Hindu, the nose piercing is a common symbol related to marriage, in reference to the goddess of marriage, Parvati. It is worn to show a young woman is ready for marriage or worn to show a woman is married. The piercing is also considered health-related in various regions of India: piercing the nostril on a specific area is thought to alleviate pain during menstruation and childbirth according to traditions of Ayurvedic medicine. The pierced nose continues to be seen as a mark of beauty in Indian, Nepali, and African regions. Nose piercing was also widely practiced throughout Aborigine Australian, Mayan, Aztec, and New Guinea tribes, a symbol of beauty, social status and, in the males with pierced nostrils or septums, virility.

As humans, we’re into symbols. We are interested in explaining and understanding ourselves and our world in as many ways as possible, and symbols become a way to do this while offering the added advantage of unifying ourselves with others.

Although I like the nose piercing fundamentally for its artistic flair, I also began to think of it as a personal symbol. As someone who has a fair amount of anxiety related to health, due to anxiety related to the fairly common human fear of mortality, and an increasing avoidance of anything that might cause pain or illness, I decided facing the needle was a way to open myself up to a selected experience of pain to work through—a small situation of allowing a painful moment and then attending to the healing process afterwards. It also turned into a symbol of growth through taking on new situations in life. Almost forty-years-old and aware of how many people greet this middle age phase with hesitancy and even depression, I made a decision on my recent thirty-ninth birthday that each birthday should be acknowledged with a plan for trying something new, no matter how small or complex that something is. When forty is here, so long as I am fortunate enough to see it, I want to see it as arriving at a transformative place in life where I’m a little older and have opportunity to turn this newest phase into whatever important adventure I want it to be.

Instead of dwelling on the aging process that inevitably takes us down at some point the further we go in it, I want to gather up my years of collected experiences and wisdom, mistakes and pains, and shape a new creation out of it all.

A nose piercing has turned out to be a simple and perfect way to start. With my husband and my daughter, and her stepsister along again four months later for moral support, I sat in the same chair at the same tattoo and piercing shop as my daughter (and her stepsister, who had pierced her nose within a week of our first visit), and greeted the same woman with her familiar latex gloves and three inch needles. Ready I was to let her push one of those needles through the soft tissues of my left nostril. My daughter held out her hand for me to hold and encouragingly reminded me, “You’ve given birth before!” True, but the medical staff had to sedate me during the birthing process when I started panicking due to the labor slowing down and a nurse informing me that I might need C-section. “I just want to go home, okay?” I had replied, while trying to sit up and leave the hospital bed. It wasn’t the pain I was reacting against, but the fear of the unknown. Pain I can deal with; uncertainty, I’m sometimes sensitive to that.

“You can close your eyes,” my piercing mistress said. “Close your eyes, Mom,” my daughter ordered, her usual big, free, life-loving (and somewhat roguish) smile on her face. I closed my eyes. The needle went through. It felt the way one would imagine a needle going in one side and out the other of a bodily region might: it hurt. My eyes watered and the delicate metal settling into my flesh felt as unnatural as it is. It also felt good. With my eyes open, I smiled. I felt an encouraging sense of accomplishment and was pleased that I hadn’t walked away from this experience. The strange excitement for seeing me pierced that my daughter and her stepsister had, along with the funny look of curiosity mixed with a mild alarm from my husband as the needle was poised made the experience all the more worthwhile.

Each day I clean the diamond three times with antibacterial soap, as instructed. I check for signs of infection. So far, it’s healing well. My anxiety attacks from observing the minor and expected redness have diminished along with the redness of newly punctured skin. Not only do I like how the jewelry sparkles and satisfies my tastes for artistry, I also smile to think of having tried something new that has some meaning in my life, in my personal collection of symbols and knowledge. By the time I’m forty, such a short time from now, I plan to welcome in the new phase of aging by putting to use my years of meditation and yoga practice with a teaching certificate for meditation instruction. I will also be midway through a clinical counseling degree for licensure; moving closer to a new way to connect with and support the healing of others, and learn about healing and living from others in the process. I hope to have gone back to the Capoeira classes I started four years ago but left for other obligations in my days. Maybe I’ll be close to giving birth again, for only the second time in my life—both a fear and a dream of mine. I plan, also, to blow out forty candles and make an oath to not let age and aging be the determining factors of how I feel physically or emotionally.

I feel no different saying I’m thirty-nine than I did ten years ago saying I was twenty-nine. Back then I didn’t believe that aging means depression and losing the ability to conquer new things; why start now?

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A Friday In October: Plans, Purpose, and Reminders of How Things Can Change

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On a Friday afternoon in October, I picked my daughter up from school early for our own special “homeschooling.” Which means I had a half day at work and wanted to spend extra time with Maya but her dad is a little less casual about a school absence in the absence of necessity, and so after writing up a note to the school secretary asking that she be excused in the afternoon, then ferreting her away, I told her it would be possible to explain she was still benefiting from an educational format, considering:

Our first stop was to return a clothing item and replace it with something different, while maintaining a budget (economics); on the way out, Maya sent a text to her good friend, April, to see what her plans were later that night (interpersonal communication); we then picked up lunch from El Basha, a restaurant of Arabic food with photographs from Lebanon, the owners’ home country, placed on the walls (social sciences/culture); we ate lunch at the condo my husband was renovating for work, and afterward pitched in with the work day by brightening up a weathered mailbox and its stand with glossy white paint (business/home ec); and in the background as we worked, my husband and his coworker spoke to each other in their native Arabic, and I pointed out words here and there to Maya (language/culture).

Then we had our psychology/spiritual/life-coaching period of the day. I opened up discussion on life plans and her direction in school now, as a high school sophomore, and in the upcoming two years as she prepares for college. We talked about grades and success, and how grades are not the only indicator of success, yet it certainly doesn’t hurt to maintain a good GPA for admission opportunities to colleges, or for basic personal reasons–if it’s important to you. She had been worried because (like her mom, sorry dear) she’s a good student unless math is involved. And in an educational system where As and Bs and an occasional C create an aesthetic landscape on a report card, those other remaining letters tend to make a look like a war-torn city or a really bad work of art. We are very conditioned to feel awful at the sight of a D or an F on the landscape of our grade world.

Look at the world world, I asked of her. When you get into it, this whole, big world with more diversity than that within the walls of the high school world you are used to, you will find that what stays with you is the knowledge you gained and keep gaining, the intellectual skills you have developed, and most importantly, an understanding of how to synthesize information, skill, and responsibility. Or, even more importantly, you’ll find you have more confidence to set out into this world and let your already compassionate soul grow with more beauty and understanding. Grades do not make you good or bad, smart or stupid, superior or inferior. Some of the most responsible people I have met have perfect grades, and some of the smartest I have met have had average to well below average grades. And vice versa. Likewise, some of the most creative, successful people I have met have a history of high GPAs, and some of the other most creative, successful people I have met have had horrible school histories of inconsistent grades and even dropping out of high school or college. You will find all kinds of people with all kinds of grades, making all kinds of exceptions to the expected rules. A low grade doesn’t mean you didn’t learn, just as a high grade won’t ensure you did. School prepares you for life in many ways, studying is about building skills and increasing knowledge doesn’t mean only showing competency in subjects.

We talked in the cool October afternoon sunlight, painting a mailbox, observing through an open garage door and front door the hard work taking place inside the condo: carpets removed, wallpaper stripped and walls freshly painted, lighting and wiring reconfigured, doorknobs and other fixtures replaced. A worn-down former home transformed into a new, lively, and welcoming warm place destined to be a home again. All through dedicated, time-consuming, hard work.

Life is about experiences, work, progress, transformation. School takes dedicated, time-consuming, hard work; learn to work in school, and you learn to work outside. Also learn to work outside, and you will learn to work in school. Be successful in school, is my belief, for the sake of finding personal accomplishment and joy in it, but not for the sake of pleasing others. Be proud of what you accomplish and don’t judge yourself or anyone for how much or how little the accomplishments seem. Learning is like life–a journey, one you should love and find joy within, not a race! You never know what might change, for better or worse, so find an understanding of success that is meaningful to your life.

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It was a lovely afternoon. I was thankful for a good talk, the time together, the slow but purposeful pace of the day. Later that night, while making a cup of tea before bed and talking to Maya about her evening out with friends, there was a lapse in conversation from her. I looked out from the kitchen to see if she had gotten lost in text messages or tweets, and she looked up at me with an expression of sadness and disbelief, saying Mom in that way that alerts you, as a mom, to some type of hurt in your child.

What she had discovered from friends, now that the news was out and passing among teenagers from the uniquely interconnected Catholic school community in our city: three students from two of the area Catholic schools, if not known by everyone personally then at least known by name, had been in a car accident earlier in the evening while driving across a highway to the entrance of a pumpkin patch, a place that many families and teenagers in the area visit each autumn. Two were in critical condition; one had died.

Nate, a fifteen-year-old, less than a month away from his November birthday, and a passenger in a vehicle his girlfriend had been driving, did not survive the accident. The two girls in the car, very thankfully, have been recovering over this last month, one of them having overcome a precarious period of being left in a medically induced coma due to internal injuries. Many in the community offered support and the girls stayed strong, and they have inspired others with their strength. In the wake of the accident, there were a number of stories in the news sharing the life of Nate, and a number of responses about how inspirational the stories had been.

He had been a fifteen-year-old sophomore in a Catholic boarding school for boys, where he was active in school activities, a successful student, and a role model. He was energetic and focused and positive. He had wanted to be a Navy SEAL and was given the chance recently to meet Navy SEAL members. He had impressed them with his motivation and his love of life: On November 5, 2013, his 16th birthday and nearly a month after the accident, a presentation was given in which Nate was named an honorary Navy SEAL and a SEAL pin and an American flag that had been flown overseas were given to his family.

Earlier on the day he died, early that October afternoon, he had been at home studying. His parents explained how he had been released from the hospital a day earlier following surgery to remove kidney stones and was devoting his time to staying caught up with school work. He was a good student because he wanted to be, he seemed naturally motivated to not just succeed, but to truly learn and go forward. Even if at fifteen he maybe didn’t know exactly where he would end up going in life, it seemed he knew exactly the best way to get anywhere meaningful: with focus, devotion, love, and immersion in what you are doing.

Many people left comments on articles or other places online to say that though they hadn’t met Nate, reading about him had inspired them and they just wanted to let his family know he had truly had an ability to inspire others in his short lifetime.

That was something I had forgotten to mention to my daughter on that October afternoon when we talked about life plans, which can be altered in a minute, a few seconds: life is also about inspiration. Let yourself be inspired by others, by their energy, their positive outlook, their kindness, their adventurousness. Don’t try to be the inspiration, because we don’t always know how we will inspire others. It will happen naturally, in its natural give and take manner. It’s all a part of our interconnected existence, the unavoidable ways we will affect each other, sometimes in bad ways, but so much more often in good.

Let existence inspire you also. Look around. It’s sort of crazy to stop and see everything for what it really is–a world of interconnected, organized, holistic systems. A world of amazing acts of creation that we can’t fully explain. A world of natural beauty that we for some reason have the intellect and the emotions to recognize as such.

Life is a learning process and a living process and a process of immeasurable beauty. Life never asks for us to be perfect, it only asks us to look around and find a place in it where we feel we most belong.

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Let It Drift Onward, Like Smoke

“Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.” – Cherokee Saying

During my time in the early 2000s working in a recovery center for substance abuse and addiction, I learned about Native American smudging rituals from, Goodteacher, a colleague of mine who was of Lakota descent and very attuned to practices of his Native spirituality. Smudging is also known as the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing, and is when certain herbs and grasses considered to have sacred properties are burned to cleanse an area or person of negative energy. In the belief system behind this cleansing ritual, smoke is said to attach itself to negative energy and as the smoke floats away, the negativity is carried with it.

At the suggestion of Goodteacher, I took the opportunity to sit in with a group during a summer evening and experience a smudging ceremony. We were outside in a public park, but smudging of the self need not be outdoors. There are different ways to perform the ceremony of smudging, as based on variations in beliefs between groups or on personal preference.

The method I learned began with an invokation to the ancestors; we called upon the wisdom of those who have taken care of this earth and learned the ways of this life before ourselves, and we thanked them for their wisdom. We then called upon the four basic elements of our existence, earth, air, fire, water. We thanked the elements for all that they give to us. We also turned to face North, East, South, and West to be sure gratitude was sent out through our world in all directions. And then we sat, and our ceremony leader, Sheila Quiet Dove, a woman of European and Cherokee bloodline, walked to each of us and wafted smoke from a small bundle of herbs lightly over our bodies.

“Picture the negative thoughts, ideas and actions you want to rid yourself of now,” Quiet Dove told us. “Focus on these negative energies that are interfering with your ability to live each moment fully.” Similar to Kundalini yoga, relaxation, and meditation techniques, we closed our eyes and focused on our breathing while the smoke danced over us, wrapped us in itself briefly before spiraling its way to the evening sky.

While the smoke raced away on breezes, we opened our eyes and cupped our hands, given this last instruction in the ceremony: “Any negativity left in you now, picture it falling like dust into your hands. Now blow into it, let it blow away. Let it follow the smoke onward and away from yourself. You have made the choice to let it go, and the Great Spirit takes it away because this is your choice.”

And that was that, and it was refreshing. The sage and other dried herbs were fragrant and peaceful; everyone was smiling; the birds settling into their trees as the sun dropped further to let night move in were singing their evening, nesting songs; there was the general sense that there was a positive aura of energy that each of us, and all else in the perimeter of nature we were occupying, was basking in. There was a zero amount of negativity for the time being; we had decided that this is what we wanted, and knowing that it can’t exist at all times made us appreciate it more.

My understanding of prayer and other spiritual/religious rituals: when we perform these rituals, it is not necessarily about whether or not there is the God many of us believe in to listen to our needs. It is about how performing these rituals produces positive thought and energy within us. Our rituals bring us comfort and optimism, they allow us to expand our minds into greater possibilities about existence and into greater capacity to feel connected to everyone and everything we share our world with. I don’t mind when others lack belief in religion or God; not everyone needs or wants the belief. We are who we are and we understand our reality in the way that is best suited to us. I do not believe there is a right way or a wrong way to believe in regard to religion and God.

To believe does not mean to injure others–mentally or physically–for not, just as not believing brings no right to injure those who do. Atheism and deism can live in the same space and not interfere with each other; we don’t need to fear those who pray or burn herbs or leave offerings in temples, and we don’t need to fear those who give thanks for having a life without believing in a creator to thank. We are who we are, and we all need our own thoughts, rituals, and belief systems to find our connections to and optimism in this world.

For me, it was the study of science, of how this world is composed in materials and systems and structure, that brought me back to a connection to the single concept given a name by many groups of people throughout history: God; Wakan Tanka, or Great Spirit, or Great Mystery; Yaweh; Allah; Brahman.

This is me, it may not be you. What seems important in spiritual practices, is simply that we find optimism–a reason to be thankful, a reason to live, a reason to love others, a reason to enjoy our time here.

This is why, no matter who you are and what you believe or do not believe, you might find some type of spiritual or religious practice that works in your life on your terms.

Among spiritual practices of my chosen faith and from the many other faiths I’ve had the honor to learn from, smudging is one I like to keep in regular practice. To be honest, I rarely use the herbs, I simply sit, focus on what I need to release in order to make myself a little heathier in mental and physical capacity, and when I’m ready to make the choice to give these negative energies away so that I’m not slowed down by the weight and doubt they clutter my mind with, I cup my hands and blow into them, imagining I can see particles of negative energy drifting onward, like smoke.

Dos and Don’ts for Visiting the Immigration Field Office

In the weeks before my husband and I attended our marriage interview, I, in a nervous state of mind, sat in front of the computer searching out blogs, articles, and USCIS websites to learn more about others’ marriage interview experiences as studiously as any medical school hopeful gearing her brain up for the MCAT.

Except this was way more important than winning a seat in a med school class. I needed some methodology and advice on how to organize my thoughts most effectively while fielding questions–more likely an interrogation–from an immigration officer who could either confirm or refuse the marriage my husband and I had already settled into. Well before we were married, like any couple, we’d begun shaping our together-life and by this time were comfortably entwined with each other in emotion, intellect, and daily routines.

To suddenly feel the reality of needing actual legal permission to continue your comfortable together-future when one of you is not a citizen or resident of the country you marry in is a sort of humbling and panicky feeling.

In this case Mahmoud, my dear alien husband (and alien most definitely applies to him in a variety of ways), was the cause behind this formal proceeding. He is a non-citizen, so there was no way around seeking a blessing from those demi-god men and women who sift through your paperwork, wedding photographs, and affidavits of support from behind their desks. While I was quite aware they are not God, I felt demigod was qualified, as their role from an immigration field office desk does grant them quite a lot of power, making them truly people of extraordinary ability. I figured it was simply a matter of figuring out which gifts brought to their altars would best appease them and soften their hearts to us, giving them the extraordinary ability to intuitively feel the reality of the commitment between us.

I had heard stories of others who had been along the same path already, and what I learned most was: Those interviewers will cast doubt on your relationship as much as possible, twisting your answers around and doing their best to provoke confusion and doubt within you, until you tremble, until you stutter, until you break down and cry. And as you sit there trembling, stuttering, and wiping your tears and runny nose as you wail, they will coolly look at you and ask, “Why are you crying?” And offer you a Kleenex. Or so I had been told.

I passed these tales on to my dear and sturdy husband, expecting him to assume his usual role as voice-and-laugh-of-reason; laughing in his gentle way and reminding me to calm down and not become emotionally paralyzed from thinking pessimistically. He did, but he also gave me a sort of wide-eyed look and asked, “So, have you found any articles with good advice?”

I found a number of good articles for preparing for your immigration interview, including dos and don’ts. I read them to myself and with Mahmoud; we were both thankful for their information and felt a little more prepared before heading into an incidence of the unknown.

In the end, our experience was simple and quick, so simple and quick that we wondered if our officer was going to send us a request for a second interview. We were told second interviews are only called if something comes up in processing your information, meaning something looks suspicious and we want to more thoroughly dissect your situation and put all the details under a high-powered microscope. The interviewer had asked us a few general questions about how we met and why we decided to get married, read through the list of questions we had answered on one of the forms, looked at the pictures of our weddings (the courthouse ceremony and the Islamic), looked at the pictures of us in Kansas City and Chicago and my parents’ home, and had us sign a paper agreeing to file for his permanent green card in two years “if I approve you.” It took less than an hour. We were never yelled at. We didn’t cry. We weren’t separated for the “wedding game,” when each of you is interrogated individually and your answers are compared after. We weren’t interrogated at all! And then we were never summoned for a second interview.

The only true negative we encountered was that we didn’t escape the much dreaded period of suspense you are left in when dealing with a formal, government process that at minimum thousands of others are dealing with at the same time–you must wait your turn. After two very long months, we were finally confirmed, and the feeling of knowing we fully possess our together-life felt like a blessing, a relief, a freedom, and a reason to jump on the couch , all wrapped up together. Our assigned immigration officer/demi-god did a good job, and he deserves our thanks and blessings.

We also picked up a few dos and don’ts of our own during our experience:

Don’t enter the field office with fruit, or with remnants of fruit. We learned this when we stopped at a QuikTrip before one of our appointments for advice on how to complete something or another in our paperwork, and bought bananas. Mahmoud was still eating his when we parked at the field office, and so finished it as we walked to the building. Inside, he asked the guards who check IDs and let you through the security sensor contraption if he could throw away his peel. “After you go through security,” was the reply. We were then asked to put our keys and any loose objects in our pockets into a medium-sized bowl. The first thing my innocently charming husband set inside was his banana peel.

“Don’t put that in there!” The guard looked and sounded panicked as he moved his arm in a qick motion to point at the banana peel. As I laughed, I felt an unamused gaze and turned my head to see the guard behind the counter watching me–definitely not amused. I stifled my need to giggle and watched Mahmoud take the banana peel back as he apologized. They had him carry it through. I guess just in case it was loaded.

Do research your understanding of political concepts. As our field officer read through a list of questions for my husband, regarding whether or not he has ever been involved in extremist groups, other groups dedicated to the overthrow of a government, mafias, gangs, boy bands with funny hairdos, my innocently confused husband got tripped up on the word communism. “Have you ever had involvement in the communist party?” Sometimes it’s a language/accent barrier type of thing. “I don’t know what that is!” A calm explanatory comment from our officer, “Communism, it’s about communism.” A wide smile and lost look returned along with an enthusiastic, “I’m not sure what that is!” An annoyed look with a raised eyebrow with another, “You know, communism.” Funny what nerves will do to you, because he still couldn’t say for sure if he was a communist, his mind just wasn’t grasping the word at the time. He does know what it is; still, he’s much more adept at chemistry and accounting than politics.

Don’t sit there and laugh when your spouse has difficulty answering a question. Don’t just sit there when asked something crucial. As Mahmoud struggled briefly to answer his question about communism, I had one of those episodes of laughter that started with mild shaking while attempting to contain it, and then accidentally turned into an open guffaw as I said, “You’re not a communist, dear!” I couldn’t tell if the officer was amused or not; I think he may have looked a little mentally exhausted. I’m fairly sure I saw him shake his head to himself.

We were then asked why we decided to get married. Thankfully Mahmoud’s mind was back in its usual engaged, agile place of thought, because I suddenly took on the form of a small, potted cactus growing on a silent corner of a desk. I think it was so simple it was too complex. Why did we get married? We love each other. We love being together We love waking to each other every day, we want to see the rest of our lives by each others’ side, as a couple and a team. As, to quote an Akon song, homies, lovers, and friends. Isn’t that reason enough?

I’m sure it was, but it was one of those moments such as for some reason not comprehending communism: I was certain there had to be a much more complicated, hidden answer. So, still I sat, and mute, waiting for the answer to whisper itself into my ear from some ethereal plain of wisdom. Mahmoud leaned in and gave the officer the needed answer then put his hand over mine, grounding me with a light touch of support. I made a brief statement. All was fine.

Maybe these aren’t true don’ts, as they did not result in a penalty for us. Still, it’s best to stay focused. Have a little fun, but don’t appear to be losing your compusure, just bring yourself back to yourself, stay confident, and support each other.

Do enjoy the experience. Overall, our experience with immigration was not as precarious as others had at times led us to believe it would be. It was also interesting. I learned more about the immigration process from both technical and emotional aspects. I had the chance to experience formal proceedings similar to what my husband had already been through upon coming to this country five years earlier as a student. It connected me more closely to the experience of immigrating and how much of a life-changing decision it really is for anyone to move into another area of the world and adapt.

I learned a little more and found reason to appreciate certain things more. My husband and I also worked as a team, scheduling our appointments and filing paperwork together, visiting the field office together to clarify instructions so that we both knew what we were doing, holding hands and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in a silent offer of comfort while sitting in a waiting area on the day of facing the unknown of our marriage interview. Anything you can do with the person you have your together-life with that strenghtens you to each other is a worthwhile experience.

If you are in the same or a similar immigration experience and possibly fearing the interviews and appointments awaiting you along the process, don’t focus too much on the fear. Just do let your mind be free to take in the experience, enjoy it, and know that things are very often not as fearful or difficult as we create them to be within our minds.

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Alien illustration courtesy of spacecrazed.com: http://www.spacecrazed.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Alien-Welcome3.png