Emigrating is not for the faint-hearted. My eyes constantly pricked with tears as just about everything I did or saw had the capacity to invoke a treasured memory. The ache of loss starts in your soul and fills every cell of your body with a sadness so deep it is physical. I wanted to lie in the foetal position and just wait. But for what? I reminded myself that I was the person who had told everyone it was all about attitude. If I had the right attitude everything would be fine. But I didn’t know, then.
I thought the hardest thing I would have to do would be to get on the plane. But that part was easy. Getting through each day was much harder.
One morning, I was pretty much spiralling into the emotional pit when the phone rang. A lady from the church we had attended the previous Sunday asked if it would be convenient for her to pop around. I couldn’t think of an excuse to put her off, so I quickly splashed my face with cold water and painted on a smile, which actually became genuine as we chatted.
Weekends were difficult, because in our previous life, weekends were spent with the family. The first Sunday that Vaughn played golf, I lay in bed long after he had left, not wanting to face the day. When I did drag myself out of bed to the bathroom I realised it was myself I could not face. Through tears of self-pity I saw the person whose pleasures and joy in life stemmed only from the support and love of family and friends, and the luxuries I had come to take for granted. Suddenly there was no baby to cradle in my arms, no son or daughter to meet for coffee, and I had to find a source of joy within myself. I felt great envy for the women who still had those things.
I felt so desperately alone. And angry. Angry with God, angry with Vaughn, and mostly angry with myself. Why had I not managed to convey my feelings to Vaughn before allowing him to bulldoze this whole move?
I was obviously given the strength to go to church, which was difficult, and many tissues were used. Then I went to lunch with Vaughn’s mother and Cheryll. It was easier to go than to phone and explain why I didn’t feel like it. Cheryll had been through her own process of heartbreak when she emigrated from South Africa, and I knew she would do everything she could to prevent me from becoming despondent. She was a great source of comfort during my first years.
But although I felt ashamed of giving in to my low state, I knew I wasn’t clinically depressed or suffering from a shortage of serotonins. I was just sad. Really really sad.
Over the next few weeks, my strength grew and I slew a few more dragons. I forced myself out of bed and into the gym each morning, as I thought the discipline of a routine would help.
But just as I was beginning to feel pleased with myself, I discovered I would have to completely re-do my driving test, from learners, through some computer thing, to the actual driving and parking. I was ready to head straight back to the airport.
Things went from bad to worse. The multiple choice theory test was fine. But then came the computer simulation. It consisted of clicking a mouse at an appropriate moment while watching a grainy video. I failed. They allowed me to repeat the test (at an increased fee) and I failed again by an even bigger margin. The young girl from Vic Roads was sympathetic and told me I just needed a bit more practice on the road. I narrowed my eyes and gave her The Look. I had been driving for thirty-five years and never had an accident, so a bit more practice on the road was not what I needed. The test bore more resemblance to a computer game than an actual driving situation, and it loomed as an insurmountable wall blocking my progress.
However, it all became unnecessary when it was discovered I still held a British licence, which was acceptable to the Australian authorities.
I felt I had become pretty good at putting on a cheerful face although the emptiness inside me was so big I seemed to be just a hollow shell. Everybody is more comfortable with perceived contentment. People can sympathise with a broken arm or a sore throat, but nobody really enjoys hanging around with someone who is miserable. Vaughn just wanted me to get on with our new life there. It frightened me that he didn’t understand how devastated I felt. And I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t feeling that same pain. But I discovered later he did feel the pain. He hid it in order to give me strength.
Our container arrived after about eight weeks, a gigantic box of memories. This was the milestone on which I had pinned my optimism. I thought once our things were here, the house would feel more like a home. It did, but then I had to find something else to look forward to, because Christmas, highlighted in my mind’s calendar because some of the children were coming to visit, was just too far away.