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Deporting Love: A Married Couple’s Journey to Stay in the United States

On November 28, 2005, Enrique Gonzalez walked across the border to pursue a safe and prosperous life in the U.S. Afraid of gang recruitment in El Salvador and seeking to escape to a safe place with opportunities to work to help himself and his family, after two days of processing and detention, he was taken (by immigration officials) to a Texas bus station where he was left to find his way in what would become his new home, the United States of America. Thirteen years later, with a U.S. Immigration approved marriage to a citizen, Enrique is being deported.

In the January 2017 Executive Order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, the Trump administration laid out a much wider dragnet authorizing and empowering ICE in the deportation of undocumented.  Unlike the discretion of the Obama Administration, as evidenced in the 2011 Memo, which exercised a great deal of flexibility the Trump Administration's laser-sharp focus is on the numbers! Every undocumented …

COMMENTARY: Getting Pissed & Getting Busy

Getting Pissed & Getting Busy

I am pissed! In fact, I am beyond pissed. I'm on an emotional roller coaster bouncing between anger, loss, grief, and - racing all the way to the opposite end of the spectrum - I feel excited about the prospects of our new future somewhere in an unknown town of Central America. The simplification of our lives that is underway and the freedom that is inherent in surrendering to the unknown at times can seem enticing. All the while, the anger I have beneath my skin for the cause of it all is immense. A textbook case of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' Stages of Grief, I'm undeniably grieving the loss of our lives as we know them today as I bounce between denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This should not be happening to us! I'm pissed!

A few weeks ago when our attorney informed us of the sad news that U.S. immigration had denied our request for the Stay and demanded a travel itinerary back to El Salvador, we were in denial. Since then my emotions have bounced from denial and anger, to bargaining and depression as my thoughts spiraled through various scenarios ranging from finding ways to stay, to leaving town with hate. I'm pissed!

Enrique seems to be dealing with the imminent deportation of our family far better than me. He has the added advantage of knowing the landscape of a Latin American country. He's bilingual! I'm not! He's Latino! I am a pale-skinned whitey! He gets to return to be close family that he has seen for more than a decade.  I know no one. Probably the saner of the two, he is one of the most well grounded and carefree individuals I've ever met who has a knack of making lemonade out of the lemons of every single challenging situation. I can do that too but, I'm wired for thinking! It takes me a little more emotional churning before I find my way to acceptance. At this point, he is at acceptance and looking forward to moving on calmly reminding me, "What can we do about it anyway." I'm the one with anger and rage and thoughts of bringing a lawsuit against U.S. immigration while yet, who really want's to pick that fight? I'm simply pissed!

One day I'm excited about the prospects of early retirement in Costa Rica. The next, I'm angry because my country has shut its doors on me and my husband under the tyrannical leadership of a conservative presidency. I'm pissed because I've let it all get to me. It's unhealthy as the stress has created tension that runs from the base of my spine up through my neck wrapping straight across my face from ear-to-ear.  

I'm pissed because with the increased stress and increased sleepless nights comes a spike of fat-producing hormone of cortisol that, when combined with my lack of self-control in eating and working out (or lack thereof), has created a belly that sticks out in front of me that I simply do not recognize. My joints ache. I am weak. I'm tired, my face is puffy, and I have bags under my eyes. I refuse to believe this body that I am living in is me - and yet - it's inescapably who I've become. I drink adult beverages more and sleep a lot less. Some have said I simply look angry all of the time. This is the me I never wanted to be! Rightfully so, I'm pissed!

The past week was spent day-after-day and hour-after-hour, in my office on the computer searching for every tiny morsel of information I can find about visas and residency, finances, culture, and housing in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama, and Spain.  

We are leaving! There! I've said it. In fact, we're not just leaving - we're being run out of the nation by the unapologetic and inhumane policies of a U.S. Immigration system under the control of a conscious-less president and his "basket of deplorable" followers. It's true! Just look at what they've done to our lives and tell me their belief systems, actions, and support of this totalitarian white-washing regime are not deplorable! There could be no other way of describing those who willingly choose harm upon another as ego driven, gun toting, hate filled desperate people emboldened by the persecution of others! I'm pissed!

According to Dr. Christina Gregory, Dr. Kubler-Ross and other mental health professionals, anger is a normal and healthy part of grieving. "Once you start to live in 'actual' reality again and not in 'preferable' reality, anger might start to set in. This is a common stage to think "why me?" and "life's not fair!" You might look to blame others for the cause of your grief and also may redirect your anger to close friends and family [I'm sorry if I bark at you!]  You find it incomprehensible of how something like this could happen to you." While it may be healthy to let it all out, I can attest first-hand, it really doesn't feel that great. In fact, it feels like shit! I'm pissed!

Suggesting the path to getting over the anger is to go through the anger, Dr. Gregory continues, "Researchers and mental health professionals agree that this anger is a necessary stage of grief. And, encourage the anger. It's important to truly feel the anger. It's thought that even though you might seem like you are in an endless cycle of anger, it will dissipate - and the more you truly feel the anger, the more quickly it will dissipate, and the more quickly you will heal. Its not healthy to suppress your feelings of anger -- its a natural response -- and perhaps, arguably, a necessary one."  So, there! I'm experiencing the anger that is a normal part of grief. You would be angry too if you were deconstructing your business and home and uprooting your family to move to another country - not of your own doing but at the hands of an ego-maniacal oppressor. I'm pissed!

A Few of The Many Reasons to Be Pissed!

#1 - It's Unjust

While its true that I fell in love with and married a beautiful undocumented Latino living in America and working to make a better life for himself and others! To that I say "So what!" Yes, its also true that together we have built a family, home, and a successful business - so burn us on the stake! Yes it's also true, we have what every other "citizen" dreams of including love, commitment, trust, enjoyable work with a self-made schedule, family, friends, beautiful pets, community involvement, and even Friday night vino with friends.  

May 2017 - Friday Night Vino with Our New Neighbors
While Enrique may have started his journey in the states as an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, we've been married for almost half the time he's been here. He has followed every step of becoming a roll-model citizen with the good moral character immigration demands. We even earned immigration's approval of our marriage including passing the required immigration interview with flying colors. Yet still, we're being deported! Oh - HOW VERY PISSED I TRULY AM!

#2 - Turning Away Clients, Loosing Money, Disrupting our Dreams

Rather than spend my time representing clients in real estate transactions or connecting with city leaders to guide neighborhood revitalization efforts, now my daily focus has shifted to a full-time search for where we will move to. It's not like we're looking for an apartment or home just down the street. In fact, it's not like we are looking for a home in a neighboring state. Unbelievably, we're planning a move outside of the country - to a culture and a place I've never before seen! With each and every day that passes with me working to develop our plan, we're losing income and turning away referrals that just keep rolling in daily! It would have been our biggest year in business yet! Jobs! Income! Lots of happy clients! Unending opportunities we could have had! BELIEVE ME WHEN I SAY I COULD BE NO MORE PISSED THAN I AM RIGHT NOW!

#3 - Figuring Out the Logistics, Location, Safety, and Opportunity is Frustrating and Time Consuming

How do we take our two dogs (our children)? What are the travel requirements? And, what would the cost be?  Where can we go where one (or both)  of us can apply for residence and eventually seek work? Where will it be safe for us - not just safe like it's okay to walk on the parkway after dark but - I'm talking where we will be safe from ridicule and harm for our same-sex relationship and, if at all possible, accepting of our marriage? Where will it be safe for me as a whitey from the United States; a very real concern as I could become the subject of extortion at the hands of unscrupulous individuals (or gangs) who believe all Americans must have money. Unconscionable, dangerous, and fear-filled... this could mean our deaths! I'M SO FREAKING PISSED!

The logistics seem unbearable. The costs involved in the move does too. And the mile-long list of our specific needs, hopes, and desires for our next home are beyond practicality as we search to replicate what we have built for ourselves here in the U.S.  It seems impossible.

Could it be better somewhere else? Maybe so! The notion of retiring in Costa Rica or Panama certainly has its benefits. That said, I'm constantly asking myself the question, "If it's so bad 'over there' that millions would risk it all to come to the United States, then how could I believe it will be any better for us in the very place they are fleeing?"  What is going on? Is this really happening to us? I'M PISSED!

Don't get me wrong, in the moments I finally surrender and drop the incessant bargaining that goes on in my head (also among the five stages of grief) - the few moments I stop thinking of the many "what-ifs" as my mind conjures up innovative ways for us to stay - only then does reality set in... we actually want to get the hell out of here!  Who could blame us?

The horrible conditions of a divided nation where targeting, fear, and oppression are barbarically unleashed in the 21st century of a supposed free nation is astonishing. Sadly, it's not just for politicians as I observe attitudes of hate in family, past friends, people at the corner store, and others who support their many destructive beliefs and actions.  

The conservative regime of oppressors is clamping down on the very freedoms that once made this such a highly desirable nation of the free. As anger and rage waxes and wanes - my thoughts turn to the negative karma that must surely await those who have played a hand in the destruction of the nation and in the destruction of millions of innocent lives.  

Coincidentally, just as I am writing this, Taylor Swift's - Look What You Made Me Do begins to stream in the background; a synchronistic reminder of the many thoughts of getting even. Karma will be a bitch for all of them one day! Or so I hope! I'm pissed!

#4 We're Starting to Dismantle Our Lives

Yesterday, I could sit no more. In a fit of frustration, I had to put aside the administrative planning to start something - anything - to make progress towards our preparation. There's not nearly enough time to complete everything we have to accomplish within the remaining 154 days.

Have you ever had to make an unexpected move to a place far away where its all but impossible to take anything but the clothes on your back? As I look around our home where we've barely lived for almost a year, I'm eerily cognizant of how everything I touch and every single thing I see, must now have a plan for disposal. At nearly 50 years of age, a life's work and accrual of belongings must now be sorted as if a death is near.  An "end" is near when it comes to our living in the states. Almost as if we're facing a certain death, I hear voices of recent passed relatives echoing, "You can't take it with you anyway."

From the drone that I bought this winter in hopes of taking up aerial photography of my real estate listings and neighborhood development projects, and the cool industrial style office furniture we bought only months ago, to the extra stationary and card stock stored upon the closet shelves for future marketing - everything must go!


I snapped photos of my new industrial desk, the flip chart easel, and aerial drone and posted them all to social media sites for sell. I through out the stack of kitchen cabinetry catalogs, samples of carpeting, tile flooring, counter top samples, and even exterior siding we had held to assist our clients to make design decisions. I must admit, letting go does feel a bit liberating but don't be mistaken, I'm still pissed!

High above in storage were two boxes of 80's mix tapes I had been holding to "someday" transfer to a digital library for storage and playback in the cloud; who listens to cassette tapes in the 21st century anyway? Among the tapes was a small library of me pecking at the piano during various solo sessions as I had secretly hoped to one day turn the improvisations into real music.  "Who cares about my inadequate improvisations anyway?," I prodded myself in a fit of rage as I pulled the tapes from each of their reels to ensure no one will ever have the chance to hear me play.

Also in the back of the closet were the last remaining VHS tapes holding video memories of family and friends, personal presentations and other projects from long past memories of my career, and even the decades-old marketing videos I made way back in the 90's when I attempted to promote my sculptures and paintings. Destroyed so they'll never be watched again as the mantra continued, "Who cares about video memories anyway?"

As people start to respond to the online ads, it becomes all too real. I pause for moment before I respond. I type my reply to the first respondent, "Would you like to see the furniture today?," and I wait for his reply. Within only 24 hours of the posting of our first items for sell, the new industrial desk from my office is carried out of our home. I'm depressed! I'm sad! I'm truly pissed as this becomes very real!

The 1st Piece of Furniture to Leave Our Home

Is This the Darkness Before the Dawn?

If history has proven anything to me, it's that there are times when the Universe puts us precisely where we are supposed to be. While I may be going down kicking and screaming as we prepare for the forced departure from the U.S., it is not without wonder for what is yet to come.

As I look back over my prior experience with times of great challenge, I know it's also true that in every such occasion I eventually moved past the anger, sadness, and disappointment and to find a place of peace and acceptance with the change. In retrospect it does seem that just beyond the worst pains and disappointments, inevitably  brighter days have followed. 

While I'm pissed as I work my way through Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief, I'll do my very best to let go of what once was the life we lived. While it doesn't make a bit of sense to me today, and while I'm truly pissed beyond measure, I can't help but wonder what the future has in store for my family in a different place.

As I work each day to tease apart the logistics of where we'll live while cleaning out the closets and selling every  single thing we own, somehow I'll have to remember the anger i feel is a normal part of grieving. While the life that we've known in an east side Indianapolis neighborhood will soon come to an end, somewhere in a tropical country of Central America, my husband, our girls, and the strength we gain on this adventure together will be likely be our greatest reward.  Perhaps through acceptance, I might finally find peace. Until then, I can't help but surrender to the emotions of the very spot I am in each day! Today, I'M SIMPLY PISSED!