I'm overwhelmed in Germany

Paralyzed with fear, I can't fill out my visa application


Cary Tennis
October 14, 2010 4:01AM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

I am confused and could use your help. Every time I feel this way, I draft a letter to you, but this is the first time I will actually send one.

I was unsatisfied with the direction of my life. A year ago, I finished my undergraduate studies. I had accomplished a fair amount and been rewarded with various rewards and honors. But I had studied close to the city that I had lived in my whole life, and I started to realize that I had made so many decisions in my life out of fear of change. I felt that it was time to stir the waters, and that change would only work for me if it was strong enough to jolt me out of the fear that I so often resort to in my decision making.

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So, I sold my personal belongings and moved west -- from the U.S. to Japan, through Russia, and finally settling in Germany. When I reached Germany my haze had cleared, just as I hoped. I know that this was the initial rush of moving to another country, but it was just what I needed. Within two weeks, I had developed a career plan, one that made perfect sense and that I was and still am very satisfied with.

Except I have a problem now. The haze is coming back. Every day I am crippled by the smallest problems. Applying for a visa is so overwhelming. I feel very qualified for jobs but don't apply for fear that people wouldn't want to hire me. I am lethargic every day and find it hard to see all there is to see in my new city. I am a dreamer with huge ideas, but I never know how to live them and always end up crawling into a ball. I worked so hard to make a change, but wonder if I will have to live my life being hazy, lethargic and in my head. What I want to know is, how does one keep momentum and maintain the clarity one has found? How do I live well every day rather than daydream about it?

Maybe I risk sounding spoiled, but I have to mention that I worked so hard to get here. My family does not have resources, and though they are emotionally supportive I do not ask for or receive financial help from them. As a matter of fact, I had spent much of my life emotionally supporting and trying to care for my schizophrenic father. I finally feel free and able to live how I want to, so then what is crippling me?

Confused Cowgirl

Dear Confused Cowgirl,

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You are confused, fearful, overwhelmed and lethargic. And you've got a rough week ahead of you.

So take Monday off. Do something good for yourself that leaves you feeling stronger than you were before you did it. Maybe that means taking a nap or having a good meal. Maybe it means phoning a friend and talking. Maybe it means taking a long walk or doing some exercise, or meditating or doing yoga. Just do something that makes you feel stronger. Make that your whole day. Once you've done that one good thing for yourself, consider your workday completed. Don't worry about doing other things for this one day. Just do one good thing for yourself and leave it at that. Go to bed early and sleep well.

On Day 2, ask yourself if you are ready to work on your visa application. If you are really ready to do it, then go ahead and don't do it. Not yet. If you are really ready to do it, that means you're still pushing yourself too hard. So stop. Take another day off. During this second day off, allow yourself to think about how it will be once the visa application is completed. Think of a reward you can give yourself for completing the visa application. Think of how much you will enjoy this reward. Then think of a reward you can give yourself for thinking up a good reward, and give yourself this reward right away. Then call it a day. Go to bed early and sleep well.

On the third day, Wednesday, ask yourself if you are ready to work on your visa application, and if you really think you are ready, then take Wednesday off. You're still not ready. Don't work on it. Just let it sit there. Enjoy not working on it. Enjoy looking at it sitting there not being worked on. Go to bed early and sleep well.

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On the fourth day, think of some things you've been putting off that are really easy to do, things that are much easier to do than the visa application, things that you could do if you had the energy and ask yourself if you have the energy to do them. If you have the energy to do them, then don't do them. Just rest. But think about them. Then do something nice for yourself that makes you feel stronger and more clear-headed. Maybe take in one of the sights in Germany that you have wanted to see. Eat well. Get some exercise. Go to bed early and sleep well.

The fifth day is a Friday, so you can take off work early.

Then it's Saturday. Saturday is the weekend. Everybody goes out and does things. It's a nice day to stay home and watch everyone else working really hard to enjoy themselves. It can be a good day to vacuum and dust. There's not much point in going out. You'll just get elbowed. But you might get lonely. So after vacuuming and dusting you could call a friend. Friends are good to call on Saturday because they are not at work. And if you get bored, you could make a list of all the things you believe you have to do. Don't do them. Just make a list. Just list all the things you think you have to do. Look at the list. Put serious things on the list but also put items on the list that are ridiculous, like "Go to the moon to pick flowers." Put whatever you want on the list. Notice how the list cannot do anything to you. It has no soul. It's just a list. Eat well. Get some exercise. Go to bed early and sleep well.

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The seventh day is Sunday. For Christians, Sunday is the sabbath. If you are Christian, then you've got it made. You can just goof off. If you are Muslim or Hindu or Jewish or any number of other religions, or no religion at all, you can still take Sunday off. On Sundays, workers  get some rest so they can prepare for Monday. They make sandwiches for their lunchbox, and any papers they need for work they put in the briefcase. Also if there are any things to be filed, they file them. So do any filing you have to do, and make your sandwiches, so you are prepared for Monday.

Monday is a workday. Pretend you are going into the office and your co-workers are asking you how your holiday went. Tell them your holiday was restful but also productive. This is a lie. It was not productive. But you tell them it was because you know that your co-workers, like an alarming number of other people in the world, have somehow come to believe that we have to be productive all the time. So get used to lying about this. That way you can protect your leisure time. Besides, you are just pretending anyway. You don't really have co-workers. But pretend you are going into the office and then sit down and look at your to-do list and pick the item that seems most annoying. That is probably the visa. Then call your imaginary assistant named Janet and say, "Janet, I need this thing taken care of right away." Repeat the phrase "Right away." Tell Janet that this thing is "fucking urgent." Imagine her face as you are telling her it is "fucking urgent."

Then relax. Janet has it taken care of. Think of that reward you promised yourself for taking care of the visa application, and give yourself that reward.

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And that's pretty much it. After you do all this, then I suggest you take Tuesday off, as Monday was very stressful.

That's my idea for you. The idea is to take care of yourself so you are strong enough to do whatever it is that you feel you have to do. As to all those things you have to do, you'll get to them. There's no sense killing yourself over it.

Get healthy and stop worrying about all that other crap.

Once you stop worrying about it, Janet will come and take care of if for you.

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If she doesn't, then you will have to fire Janet and do it yourself. But don't fire her prematurely. Sometimes Janet is slow, but she usually gets it done.

That was tiring. Don't bother me. I'm going to take a nap now.



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Cary Tennis

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