Tag Archives: Immigration

5 Unexpected Things that Can Make You More Mindful

I’ve been thinking about mindfulness a lot lately. It’s a habit that needs to be built up and reinforced over a long period of time. Mindfulness is not the sort of thing that you can achieve in an hour, a day, or a week.

With that being said, there are certain experiences in life that can give you valuable opportunities to become more mindful.

Waiting in Line

One of the easiest but also most surprising changes that came into my life when I started trying to be more mindful happened the next time I stood in a line.

Rather than impatiently wondering how much longer I’d be waiting or why some shoppers wait to begin to search for their wallet until every single item has been bagged and scanned, I started framing this as an opportunity to observe how people behave when they have nothing to do.

Some folks become so engrossed in their smart phones that they don’t notice anything going on around them. Others try to strike up a conversation with the first person to catch their eye. (The jokester in me wonders if the first group is always desperately trying to avoid the second one!)

You will overhear interesting snatches of conversation as well. People will talk about all sorts of things if they get bored and restless enough. The conversation I found most thought-provoking, believe it or not, had to do with whether or not a child truly needed more socks. One of the adults who was buying clothing for her thought she did. I can’t remember what the other one said, but it was fascinating to listen to them quietly discuss how many socks a child truly requires.

These days I enjoy watching the crowd move so much that I’m actually a little sorry when I reach the front of the queue and can no longer quietly pay attention to people who are standing so close to me.

Not Getting What You Want

Many years ago I interviewed for a job that I desperately wanted. It was with an organization that shared some of my biggest ideals, and so I began dreaming about what it would be like to be paid to pursue them. The hours, location, responsibilities, and salary were also exactly what I was looking for.

I thought I had a good shot at being offered it, so I was crushed when that didn’t happen.

It took me a long time to get over that dream I’d imagined. One of the things that helped the most was focusing on what I could do in that exact moment to feel better.

I couldn’t have the experiences I’d fantasized about, but there were a lot of other things I could do to cheer myself up as well as to prepare for future opportunities that were sure to come my way.

Government Bureaucracy 

Is there anything more annoying than waiting for a government agency to process your paperwork or make a decision?

I’ve had a lot of experience with this one. Becoming a Canadian citizen is a opportunity to live in the moment that literally lasts for years. There are so many steps along the way that you have no control over whatsoever.

Once you file all of the appropriate paperwork, it’s up to government employees that you’ll never meet to decide whether to approve, delay, or reject your application. They are impervious to how long it might take to process your application or how anxious you are to know the results.

If I could go through the process again, I’d be much more relaxed this time around. Waiting for the government make a decision would give anyone the patience of a saint.

There are so many other examples I could give of how dealing with bureaucracy can actually be a good mindfulness tool, but I think I’ll save them for a future blog post.

Injuries, Pain, and Illnesses

Whether you’re waiting for possibly scary test results from your family doctor or figuring out how to go grocery shopping when you’re having trouble walking, injuries and illnesses provide a wonderful opportunity to live in the moment.

There is nothing anyone can do to speed up the amount of time it takes to find out if you have a life-threatening disease or for a broken limb to fully heal. In the meantime, you are left with a body that isn’t behaving the way you’d like it to.

My experiences with this have been mild and transitory so far, but there still have been a few times when I lived in limbo for a while. I’d be lying to you if I said that I was always peaceful during those long waits. It’s frightening not to know what the future holds, and I am definitely not a mindfulness guru.

With that being said, keeping my attention on what was happening in the present moment did help me to worry less about what might or might not happen to me in the future.

Grief

Someone I knew died years ago before they had a chance to tie up all of the loose ends in their life. Our relationship had been  complex and sometimes difficult for many different reasons, so I was surprised by the grief I felt after they were buried.

There had always been a small part of me that held onto a faint hope that our relationship would eventually improve. Having that sliver of hope snatched away for good was sad.

You can’t change the past, though. It is what it is, and remaining mindful as I adjusted to this change in life helped me to accept the finality of this person’s death. Not everyone gets the chance to fix the things they could or should have tried to fix much earlier on in their story.

 

Things Nobody Tells You About Moving to Canada

Twelve years ago I immigrated to Canada from the United States. Today I thought it would be fun to share a list of things I learned about moving up north that I found surprising, funny, or interesting.

International Postage is Slow and Expensive

It costs me about $1.35 to mail a greeting card to the United States. Once I actually ended up spending more to mail a small box of gifts to a family member than I spent on the presents themselves. Needless to say, I don’t regularly send boxes of goodies to my loved ones down south these days. They are only mailed off for the most special of occasions.

There’s also the time factor for international packages. It is often much slower than it would be to to mail something to someone within Canada. You need to send stuff early if you want it to arrive on time, especially during the busier seasons of the year. Normally I try to mail stuff out at least two weeks before I hope it will arrive. This is usually overkill, but there have been times when packages haven’t arrived until the tail end of that window of time.

Immigrants Are Everywhere, and They Are Welcomed Here

20% of the people who currently live in Canada were born somewhere else in the world. That percentage is more like 50% here in Toronto.

It’s so interesting to hear stories about where other Canadians came from and how they ended up living here. Some of my fellow immigrants originally moved here to go to university or to accept a specific job. Others came here because they fell in love with someone who already lived here just like I did. Regardless of why they’re here or when they arrived, I love hearing people talk about their adventures along the way to temporary work visas, permanent residency, and/or citizenship.

While my adopted country definitely  isn’t perfect, stories like this are common here. I’ve personally witnessed similar random acts of kindness playing out more than once in Toronto. It’s one of the things I really like about living here. There is an openness to strangers in Canadian culture that seeps into your bones once you’ve lived here long enough.

Canadians Have a Dark, Unique Sense of Humour

On the flip side, one of the first things I noticed when I moved up here was how dark the Canadian sense of humour can be. It’s not quite as dry or self-deprecating as British humour, but I can see how it was influenced by them . Both Canada and England laugh at things that aren’t quite as common to joke about in the States.

Sometimes my Canadian-born spouse likes to gently tease me when I react to Canadian jokes like an American would. They make me pull back even though I know there’s nothing malicious about them. I simply don’t quite understand why they find stuff like Nina Conti’s monkey puppet act so hilarious.

Obviously this is one of those things that not every Canadian immigrant will notice or think about. So much depends on which country you grew up in and what assumptions you make about how society works when you move to a new culture.

I hope that other Canadian immigrants who read this blog will consider writing their own posts about what they’ve observed here. It would be so interesting to get other perspectives on this. If anyone does this and lets me know about it on Twitter, I’ll edit this post to include links to their posts!

You Are (Probably) Going to be Doing Most of the Traveling to See Everyone Back Home
My parents spent a lot of time visiting us in Ontario during the first year or two I lived up here when I wasn’t legally allowed to leave the country. I was still waiting to become a Permanent Resident at that point, so the government wanted me to stay in the country full-time until all of that paperwork was sorted out.

Once I became a Permanent Resident, though, it quickly became clear that it’s a lot cheaper and easier for two young adults to go visit a few dozen relatives between the ages of 0 and 90+ than for those relatives to come up to Toronto.

We really appreciate getting the visitors we do up here, but my spouse and I are used to doing most of the traveling these days.

On a positive note, family reunions quickly become the highlight of your year. It is so much fun to be surrounded by relatives who are all thrilled to have you around for a week or two. Sometimes it feels like being a mini-celebrity because of how excited your family is to see you when you go back home.

These are a few of the many things that I didn’t know about life in Canada before I moved up here. Perhaps I’ll share more of them in a future post!