That was officially back in February.
As you can imagine, one of the most obvious and pressing steps was to sort through our material belongings. With four months to go before the actual move, I felt I had loooots of time. But, every time a friend asked how preparations were coming along, a new layer of awareness was revealed and I soon had to admit to myself that I was simply stalling. Correction: I was in pure denial. More accurately, my heart was in denial. It felt like Emotional Headquarters was in command and managed to keep Brain busy with business so it wouldn’t have to deal with Fear, Worry and their ilk.
By the time March rolled around, I had lost a patch of hair overnight (here’s that story: What Did Losing Hair Tell Me?) and I knew I had some emotional detachment to work through if I truly wanted to make this half-way-around-the globe relocation work for my family and for me.
That would soon prove to be an understatement.
One of the key decisions we had to make concerned the furniture, books, photo albums, kid’s souvenirs, and other domestic items we wanted to keep. After weighing a few options, it seemed that driving the inventory to our vacation home in Florida, before flying to Abu Dhabi, was the way to proceed. I checked with U.S. Customs & Border Protection to make sure we could gain entry into the States without having a crew search our underwear for anthrax. I even took what I believed were extra precautions by calling the USCBP a number of times to get the exact procedure to bring domestic goods to our new part-time home.
From mid-April to mid-June, I rummaged through every room in the apartment – I was so thankful we had downsized a few years prior! – trashing, giving, and selling what we didn’t care to bring with us. Then, after another 12 consecutive days of non-stop packing, our youngest son, hubby and I were ready to hit the road with a 20-foot U-Haul filled to the brim. We grabbed a late fast food supper, one of what I thought would be too many, and headed towards the closest port of entry along the 401.
Two and half hours later, we arrived at customs. The border guard who greeted us was just abrasive enough to leave no doubt he was doing his job but not so much that he was rude. Quickly, he realized we were a trio of oblivious Canadians and softened the tone a tad when he asked us to step inside. We knew it wasn’t tea time. Questions cascaded interrogation-style as we met with more agents. We all kept our cool. Well, my husband and son kept their cool. I was superficially cool but, inside, Worry and Fear were trying really hard to run the show.
It took 75 minutes before the verdict was communicated to us by the courteous guard: “I believe you are honest people and have no intention to illegally immigrate to the U.S. but since all the physical evidence indicates otherwise, I have to send you back home.” I thought to myself, “The only problem is…we have no home.” The apartment lease had expired, as planned, while we were en route to the border.
I looked over at my husband and saw in his eyes that Brain was already frantically searching for Plan B. Although I’m generally there with him, that time was different and I geared down to resistant mode. Big time. I just couldn’t believe they didn’t believe us. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t prepared for that scenario. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t ask certain questions. I was so disappointed and angry with myself. In these circumstances, the relief of not having to drive 3,000 km and eat junk for three days became completely irrelevant.
Following a short night at a nearby hotel, my attitude gradually shifted thanks to the contagious and positive attitude of my moving mates. We finalized Plan B over breakfast: head to my father-in-law’s place, return the truck, get rid of EVERYTHING and re-enter the U.S. by plane. Simple enough.
So, over the next six days, I released over 10,000 pounds.
The 10,000 lbs Release
It all had to go. My computer and 27” monitor, our vintage Harmon Kardon stereo with cassette deck, my favourite decorative items, cheap but cute jewelry, sports equipment, clothing, dishware, shelving, dressers, tables and chairs, books, tools, etc. Thankfully, there was little time to think. To make our plan work optimally, we had to leave Canada in less than 10 days and every second spent doubting my capacity to let go of this and that item could end up delaying our departure and threaten our backup plan. I had no choice. I let go and gave and let go and sold and let go and trashed and let go so more…
By the time we were done, I was down to 100 pounds (40 kg) stuffed in two big brown suitcases. That’s it!
Although I have never had a weight problem – to get the full meaning of this metaphor you might want to read Thanks Mom For The Best Gift A Daughter Could Ask For – the whole week was peppered with memories of former obese and overweight patients who had come to me for help years ago. I was a registered dietitian back then. During my years at the outpatient clinic, I eventually noticed these patients all had something in common: they could not let go. It was slightly different for each one but some could not let go of past traumatizing food-related experiences. Others could not let go of relationships that fed their issue while others could not let go of the perceived protection afforded by the adipose fortress around their abdomen. The incoherence was interesting: it seemed like many of them honestly wanted to release the pounds but holding onto the weight somehow kept them safe. Releasing pounds implied change and change came with a dose of uncertainty that was scarier than the threat of Type 2 diabetes or hypertension.
For the first time, I could truly relate to these patients because I too , for a brief blip, had felt like the status quo might be easier, if not better.
Change Can Be Freeing
The shedding of so many possessions, so hastily, was certainly a shock but as the gift of multiple insights has been revealing itself since, I see, amongst other things, the seed of an opportunity. I think that if I could, again, work with people – not patients – who choose to lose weight, I would do it differently. I would empathize with each one of them instead of shoving Canada’s Food Guide down their throat. I would acknowledge their struggle rather than minimize it. I would listen more deeply and compassionately. I would not judge their choices but empower them to make better ones. Most of all, I would help them understand, identify, and connect with their emotions because there is no doubt in my mind: emotions, not knowledge or thinking, fuel change.
As I write these words from our cozy one bedroom apartment in Abu Dhabi City, I’m feeling much much lighter. Unencumbered by excess material, I’m now free to move around and about in every way. I no longer have 10 rooms full of stuff that needs to be cleaned, organized, or maintained. I can simply focus on my health, the people in my life and the growing pile of projects. It’s such an exhilarating feeling!