10 Ways to Cope When Change You Need Isn’t Happening

Maybe you’ve noticed a tweet here and there, or have read into a post of mine? If not, here’s my current predicament: I’m applying for my partner’s residency visa in Australia. It costs an arm and a leg to do, takes a century to complete, and damages the relationship you’re trying to preserve in the process. While you’re at it, they look into every single element of your life and you feel like a cadaver being cut open by med students, except your brain’s not dead. Basically, it’s shit. And I want it more than anything because I need to get off this island! I’m burnt out. I’m overwhelmed. I’m over it. I want to go home with my partner and start a better life.
This is a change I need. This is a change that I have set in motion. This is a change that is now out of my hands and going through the manual mincer with blunt blades called bureaucracy. And in the meantime while we wait (going on 8-9 months now), my head is slowing caving in. But as far as I can find, there’s very little advice on coping with change when it’s something you want and it’s not happening. There’s SO much advice on coping with change you don’t want. There’s a ton of advice on achieving change in your life despite adversity. But nada on dealing with your shit life while you wait, and wait, and wait for the change to maybe, perhaps, ‘this email will be replied to in the next 10 days’, ‘if you don’t reply within in the next 28 days…’, ‘I will be your new migration officer’, ‘I need further documentation on items…’, ‘this case is being transferred to office…’, ‘I will be your new migration officer’, ‘please quote your case number’, ‘I need further documentation on items…’, ‘please feel free to fill out an anonymous customer survey.’

So, they say “write what you want to read.” Here is what I wanted to read:

10 Ways to Cope When Change You Need Isn’t Happening

1. Get support for any addictions you may have. Whether it’s over eating, alcoholism or codependency, this shit is going to rear its ugly head when you face yet another set back (i.e. the document you have issued to the first migration officer isn’t complete enough for the third migration officer). Your support group will get you through this emotional mine before it starts becoming a destructive physical manifestation in your life. I don’t think I could stress how important this is to anyone. And if you are starting to notice things you used to control becoming uncontrollable under the stress, now is the time to seek support.
2. Block out the crap that upsets you about your current before-change-life. Those Facebook pages you ‘liked’ that roll a stream about how fucked up it is here, ‘unlike’ them. It’s just introducing more anger to your day. Those people who give you a look like you’ve started slumming it when they find out your partner is not the ethnic majority or white, cut them out of your life. Under racism simmers a waste-of-your-energy. I don’t listen to local radio, read local news, or look at local websites. For all purposes, Singapore politics and popular opinion does not exist to me. It may seem like ignorance and weakness, but right now I’m a mouse swimming in a bucket of milk – I need to focus on the swimming before I start panicking because I noticed that this milk has turned sour and will never become butter.
3. Stop dreaming about your after-change-life. Stop planning, stop meeting people in preparation for future networks, stop thinking about the logistics for moving, stop watching tv programs that trigger your dreams. You are in your current life, and it’s shit, but it can be made bearable if you work on where you are. The time for dreams and excitement will come when the change happens. In the meantime, you are intentionally taunting yourself with things out of your power to achieve. That’s a dumb way to live.
4. Take back the announcement about the change. Explain that there have been complications, and for the near future, at least 12 months, circumstances will not be changing in your life. Whether it’s true or not, that powerful sentence is the key to avoiding lonely times as friends prepare to move on from you and invitations dry up – haven’t you left yet? Put it on Facebook, tell it to people when they ask how it’s all going, and just make sure that the general vibe around your social life isn’t one of purgatory. 

5. Inconvenience yourself for your mental health. The most upset I’ve ever been was after shopping at the local supermarket. The rudeness, staring and being shouted at by the checkout-grandma (because she was annoyed I didn’t use a basket without realising she had collected all of them behind her), left me weeping uncontrollably when I got home. I don’t shop in the heartlands any more. I shop in the expat supermarkets that cost twice the money, have enough shopping baskets and the other customers have witnessed a blonde female before. I’m going to stop taking the MRT in peak hour too. It’ll take me triple the time to get home after work, but at least I won’t have tears in my eyes after yet another short balding woman places her whole body against mine and proceeds to drop her dandruff on my clothes. Singapore has a balding dandruff problem in its female population, I kid you not!

6. Step up your personal presentation. Start for the vanity, keep going for the sanity. Exercise, get your hair looking fabulous every day, exfoliate, whiten your teeth, plan sharp outfits, throw out old underwear, polish your shoes. Captive animals can still groom themselves.

7. Break the loop of mulling over the short cuts you could have taken to make the change happen already. I don’t want to convert, but under the Sharia Law enforced in Singapore, I would have to convert if I wanted to marry my partner. It’s an easy wound to pick at with thoughts of how much faster this migration process would have been (and probably far less intrusive) if we just had been married first. It’s a stupid wound to pick at. Acceptance of this shit situation is only going to come from acceptance over the path taken, and this includes trusting that you really did try to make the smartest decisions you could at the time.

8. Explore ways to practice peace. The discontentment burning in my belly is making me a very angry person, and anger makes me a bitch that nobody likes to be around. Practicing peace right now seems such a foreign concept to me, I am so angry about so much of my life. Religion isn’t my thing either. So I look to a man that inspired me so much as a kid; Nelson Mandela. He’s going to become my patron saint of acceptance and practicing peace. He sat in that jail 27 years, and while I doubt he was at peace with the situation, we was a peaceful person in the situation. 27 years! I have some serious grace I could be channeling in my 3 year stint in Singapore. If you’re religious, now might be the time to dig for divine peace.

9. Pain is weakness leaving the body, your resilience will make you stronger but not happier. My time in Singapore is not bringing me much happiness. I am burnt out and in desperate need of some square meter space to myself! You would think my point before would mean that peace will increase my happiness. But no, peace is just accepting that my negative factor is high. There are two sides to happiness, the negativity and the positivity – they are not related, increasing one will not decrease the other, and increasing one will not increase the other. So making peace with the amount of negativity in my life isn’t going to increase the positivity. And this step is about making peace with the fact that the amount of positivity in my life will probably be jack shit, but that it’s ok. The change may never happen, and I may never be properly happy again – perhaps even worse case scenario I will have to choose between my partner in Singapore and my mental health. It’s ok not to be a cheery person all the time. It’s ok to be grateful for good things in your life and still feel neutral. You’ve made enough peace to ward off being unhappy, but now you’re also making peace with not being happy.

10. Refuse to let the shit situation make you a shit person. Serve others. Practice gratefulness. Give incredible gifts. Try to be polite in an impolite society. Laugh lots. Force yourself to smile for no reason. Look at photos of loved ones. Keep in touch with important people. Make birthday phone calls. Write funny FB statuses. Ask for help, and allow people to help you. Cook great meals. Drink fabulous cocktails. Dance around the house. Donate your spare change at the supermarket. Just do things that a normal good person does, that means they still have a beating pulse, a conscience and a purpose to live.

I’m living it, I really hope you’re not, but if you are, comment or email me. I’d love to hear how you have/are coping with limbo! Sharing is a service (look at point 10).

Btw, if you’re wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR – here‘s my explanation.

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  • 26 March 2013