Everyone loves the story of how we met. I love it too, which is why I am ready to tell it again and again… But first, let me start at the beginning.
— Relationship 1: Mama —
It was 2014 and I had just arrived in Australia a few months earlier. After 2 years of traveling Europe and North and Central America I wanted to finally heal the tumultuous relationship I had with my mama. I was bright-eyed and optimistic that love could heal all. If only I can love her hard enough, fully enough, enough enough, all the pain will go away.
The first few days were lovely, as they always are. Then slowly, the demons started to creep back in. Her fears of rejection and abandonment were more powerful than any love I could give her. I started to understand that it wasn’t my love that she needed, but hers. Our communication started failing and my heart starting closing as she accused me of speaking badly about her when I was on the phone to friends. She projected all her fears on me, claiming that I did and said things that I didn’t.
One day I walked into the kitchen and was listening to something she was telling me. I was resting my hand on my hip and practicing tree-pose. She didn’t like the way I was standing and started shouting at me that it indicted that anything she did was not good enough for me. Shocked, hurt, stunned and fed up I responded rudely, What the fuck is wrong with you!
I felt bad about saying that, about not being able to stay open and love the way I had planned to, and sad about not understanding why my relationship with my mama was so filled with anger, hate and terror. All my life I felt like I disappointed her and I felt guilty that I didn’t enjoy spending time with her. She is my mama after all. Things between us were not “normal”.
Over time things escalated and I decided to throw all my spiritual and psychological practices at it. Instead of being involved with the daily emotional eruptions I became a gentle, calm, observer. What I noticed was that her actions, words and insults did not ever arise in response to anything that happened. She was creating drama when there was no reason for it.
It became clear to me that she carried enormous amounts of fear, hatred and anger in her body, and needed to release it in any way, creating traumatic episodes against anyone she could. I had seen her do it my entire life: to me, to my siblings, to her partners, her parents and her friends. It left her feeling sad, and lonely, and isolated, perpetuating her deep-set fears. She felt alone in the world and like she had to manipulate and torment those around her to get what she wanted and needed, which, as I had thought from the beginning, was love. But not the kind of love that is received externally, but a deeply penetrating self-love that creates absolute peace and self acceptance.
This realisation started my healing. It did not look anything like what I had hoped and imagined. Out of the pure love of a child to her mother I had enabled and protected her, despite her difficult outbursts, my entire life. I had carried the responsibility for her happiness on my spindly little shoulders and felt sad that I could never fill that void for her. Essentially, I had been trained into a co-dependent relationship with her. And to heal, it had to stop.
After another hateful tirade of words one day I called out for support to friends and was invited to work at an event in Sydney for a few days. This trip marked a shift in my life. I flew down from the Sunshine Coast, and with the space to see what had been happening in the past few months, made some new decisions. I created my first ever structured mentoring program which filled up quickly, and spent all my savings on a red van that I planned to deck out and travel the east coast of Australia with.
A week later I put out a classified ad to share diving and fuel from Sydney to Brisbane with me and did the eleven-hour drive with a sweet young backpacker from Germany, who kept me entertained with stories of his recent travels. I dropped him off, went and parked at a friend’s place, and together headed to a music festival for the weekend hidden deep in the bush somewhere.
I was dreading going back to my mama’s house, but it to be done. She was cold to me when I arrived, and shouted at me, You never help me! I understood that I was rejecting and abandoning her as she had feared, but never recognising her own role in the circumstance. It hurt and made me feel both sad and angry. I shook and felt my adrenaline spike as I packed my belongings and used an old futon frame to build a bed into my van. When it was time to go I said to her, I am going now. And I just want you to know that no matter what you say and do, I will always love you. She glared at me with a mixture of rage and sadness and without a reply. Despite that, underneath it all, I know she loves me, too.
We haven’t spoken since.
— Relationship 2: Lover —
A few days later, after soothing my heart in the company of friends, and preparing my new home on wheels complete with sweet little fairy lights, woven baskets and a mexican blanket over the luxurious bed that took up most of the space in the back of the van, I set out for my next adventure: I had to do the nineteen-hour drive north to Cairns before my new mentoring program started, and in time for a house-sitting gig a close friend had arranged for me. Again, I put out a classified ad to share diving and fuel, this time from Brisbane to Cairns.
The responses were many and hysterical: I received more “dick pics” from that one ad than I ever had in my life. And lots of enquiries from couples or friends, even though I clearly stated that there was only one seat available. There was one person who stood out, someone who wrote novel-length detailed messages with perfect grammar and signed off with JP. Based on the conversations we had, I assumed that she must be a girl. Men, after all, are infamous for their abrupt one-liners. We arranged to meet early Monday morning and make the drive together.
Pulling up outside the address I had been given, I was just a little surprised to see a burly looking man standing outside waiting for me. I guess I was wrong, I thought to myself as I jumped out of the van and ran around to introduce myself and give my new co-pilot a hug. He was funny, kind of awkward, as he responded with Ok, I can do hugs, and squeezed me back before throwing his backpack on my bed in the back.
In those first moments I remember thinking that his forehead was too big for his face, it was somehow unsymmetrical, and that his turquoise-ocean eyes were the most captivating I’d seen.
His name was Julien, from Canada, and a chronic over-sharer as his explained in detail that he was running away from a series bad choices and the inner calling to grow, expand, spread his wings and discover himself. At some point he said, in not so many words, that he had arrived in Australia firstly for a friend’s wedding and secondly, to travel, experience a new country and, in not so many words, get drunk and fuck all the girls. I was quick to put him in the “one-dimensional backpacker” and “definitely not my people” and “way to straight and normal” boxes.
Two hours later, driving up a big hill into the forlorn town of Gympie, my gas pedal stopped responding. I turned to Julien and told him and he encouraged me to quickly pull over. On the shoulder of the highway at the top of a hill on a public holiday, we were stranded, right at the start of our journey. He looked at the motor and defeated, told me that it looked like the engine overheated and is now totally kaput. I was in denial and responded that surely there was a way to fix it. My home and dreams for the next few months could not just end like that.
A kind local pulled over and told us that we wouldn’t be able to get in touch with a mechanic today or for the rest of the weekend, but that he had a friend that he could call for us. Ten minutes later a tow truck pulled up and dragged us onto his front yard. He told us we could stay there until we figured ourselves out and introduced us to his sweet family.
Devastated, vulnerable and heart still sore from my recent experiences, I crept around the back of my van, hunched down and started to cry. Julien came to find me, laid down in the grass next to me, and pulled me close for the sweetest, kindest, purest embrace I have ever received.
In the week that followed, our serendipitous friendship started to form into something else. We saw each other in new ways, I learned that the words he spoke often did not match the energy he put out and I was able to discern between fact and fiction. Julien is gentle soul who was still trying to live up to the strange expectations our western culture places on men. I saw him as an angel sent from heaven, taking care of all the practical elements that I had no idea about, parting out my broken van, and buying another vehicle to continue the journey together. He could have left that first day. He did not have to stay and help. To this day I’m not sure exactly why he did.
The first year together was an education for both of us. It wasn’t always easy, we both had a lot to learn about ourselves and how to be in a relationship together, but something compelled us to keep walking this path together. Almost three years later we have moved to his hometown between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean in Canada, and things are sweeter than ever.
Sometimes people ask us when we will get married and we look at each other, share a secret smile and shake our heads, Probably never! That’s not the kind of relationship we have. Our promises are based on freedom, to love each other until it doesn’t feel good anymore, and be devoted to our own growth, no matter what wherever that may take us, no contracts required.
— Relationship 3: Soul-Family —
While I have not had the support that I craved and hoped for from blood-family, I have been inundated my entire life by the love, kindness, support and upholding of the friends (and even some strangers) that I call my soul-family. I doubt that I would be, do or have what I do if it wasn’t for the incredible people who have caught me when I have fallen, shared tears and laughter with me, and told me to reach for the stars and follow my heart, even when it made no sense.
For each and every one of you, I am so incredibly, deeply, thankful. Thank you, thank you, thank you.