I remember when we met. I was a broker for a local insurance office making calls to follow up on missed payments. After a few years in the industry, I was used to clients missing payments and had established a prejudice towards those who don’t pay. How hard is it to be an adult, really?
I remember calling him a few times to try to collect the missed amount before his policy cancelled, getting more frustrated that yet another client was going to affect my stats and ultimately my bonus in a few months. At one point I called his mom and left a message on her cell asking her to have him call me.
I remember when he finally called the office. He sounded lost and haunted on the phone. Years of frustrations echoed in his voice. Yet, there was something else there too. The cry of a lonely heart perhaps. Although, at the time I wasn’t sure what it was. I just remember feeling pulled in by his voice. I wanted to meet this man. My client.
I remember how frustrated he was when he explained why he was struggling to pay his bills. How he needed his car to get his daughter to school and visit with his son. He had been in the Canadian Military and was injured in Afghanistan when an IED went off and took his left leg. The government who promised to support its veterans for their service had failed to keep its promise and he was no longer receiving his cheques for his injuries. I told him I would make sure he kept his insurance in place so he could visit his kids. Promising to call him with the solution, we hung up.
I remember when he came in to the office with his ex-wife. The disappointment I felt when I thought she was still his wife rang deep. It would be a lie to say I wasn’t relieved to learn they were now just great friends. She was there to help him get things sorted and understand what we put in place to save his account. After explaining that the vice president of the company agreed to have the brokerage pay off his policy until he could repay the balance, he was speechless. No one had ever fought for him before. He was so grateful he asked to take me to dinner as a thank you. Initially I declined. Several times in fact. I had already been burned in the past for mixing work with pleasure and was not interested in a repeat performance. He was persistent though. It was important to him that he thank me.
I remember when he told me his story over appetizers in a pub on the North side of the city. He had been on deployment for only twenty-six days when he stepped on the bomb that threw him forty-something feet through the air, severing his left leg from his body and scarring his other. A wild dog ran off with his foot while he applied his own tourniquet to a leg he described as a lump of wet spaghetti. Shipped off to Germany for surgery he was placed into a drug induced coma filled with nightmarish dreams that still haunted him long after he woke. His body returned to his pregnant wife and family, but his soul was lost in a sort of limbo, unable to return to his life among the living. He was still angry that his days of service were cut so short after four long years of training and preparation.
I remember his eyes the most. They were beautiful, deep pools of dark amber that not only bared his soul, but pierced through all your layers and masks and forced you to bare yours as well. You couldn’t hide yourself from him no matter how hard you tried. Easily drowning in his warmth you became a pool of emotions yourself. His eyes were kind, soft, and loving. They also betrayed him; allowing you to see a glimpse of what haunted him. He was a truly beautiful soul.
I remember when we started dating and he invited me over to meet his family. He had caught pink eye from his kids and it wasn’t clearing up, so I stopped to pick up some eye drops for him. Because he always cracked jokes about his missing leg making him a pirate, I also picked up an eye patch. He wore the eye patch most of that day and made everyone laugh to the point of tears. His family was so welcoming and accepting of me, it felt like I was coming home after a long time away.
I remember when things started getting more serious and he spent most of his time at my place. We were, for all intents and purposes, living together. It wasn’t done intentionally, it just went that way and it was wonderful. He was still struggling with his injuries so he was home with my dog through the day and I often came home to a beautiful dinner complete with candles and wine. He tidied the house, did the dishes, and held me close at night. He would watch Dirty Dancing with me and let me paint his toenails. We would play cards and do shots of vodka while sharing stories about our past lives before finding each other. Cuddling on the couch, he watched his sports and I read stories on my phone. Our sex life was absolutely incredible, always reaching heights of pleasure that rivaled Mount Everest, I’m sure. Things were going perfectly. I was happy.
I remember the day everything fell apart and the demons of war caught up to him. From what I have been told, and what I had seen since, they were recurring visitors who would come and wreak havoc on his life and those in it. It was my twenty-eighth birthday. It started out wonderfully. He kissed me good morning and wished me happy birthday before he went to take his daughter to school and spend the morning with his son. A plan was made to go for lunch and celebrate my day. When he picked me up at noon, we went to a pub in St. Albert for a meal and a few drinks before we headed back to my place for what was meant to be a quiet afternoon together. It was grey and raining all day; a warning of sorts perhaps. After we got home he decided he wanted to pick up something to drink and headed back out. When he returned he didn’t just have his vodka. While I had dabbled with some drugs in the past, I wasn’t interested in doing so now and left him to partake on his own. It wasn’t long before he started to spiral down the dark rabbit hole. A place I had never been and didn’t know how to navigate. I was scared and quite lost on how to handle the demons that were beginning to consume him.
I remember going to bed alone every night afterwards while he drank himself to sleep on the couch watching his war movies and documentaries. I was hurt, angry, and confused. I had no idea what to do because I didn’t know the man who was sleeping downstairs and I didn’t know how to reach the man I knew him to be. I was ill prepared for this battle, not understanding what was happening or why and completely incapable of saving him. When I came home from work a few days later to find my house open and littered with vodka bottles, a bag of pot spilled on my couch and my dog sitting in the middle of it all, I ended things in a knee jerk reaction. I wish now that I had a better understanding of what was happening and had known that this was not another asshole man showing his true colors. I wish I’d been able to see that this was a man suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and what he needed was someone to help him stand strong.
I remember when I learned the truth about what had occurred and how badly he struggled. He told me he was sorry that it happened the way it did and that I’d had to see him that way. I agreed to remain friends and be there for support. It was hard. There were a lot of ups and downs and it was painful to watch, even from the distance I set for myself. My heart broke for him every day.
I remember the day I realized I loved him and always had. I was visiting my family for the summer in Ontario, watching a movie with my mom. Curled up on the couch, we watched Country Strong with Garret Hedlund. I watched as he sang “Give in to me” to Leighton Meester and it hit me like a bullet to the chest. Garrets eyes were so similar to his. Listening to this song I saw an image of him and I, singing this song to each other. I couldn’t hold back the tears. I was so afraid to allow anyone in for so long and somehow he not only made his way through the walls I built, he did so without my realizing it. I would eventually tell him how I felt . . . I would . . . but thought it best I wait until he overcame these demons so I didn’t add more conflict to his life.
I remember the day we lost him. I had just flown home for the Christmas holidays after a week of running around like crazy trying to catch up with work and finalize a car purchase. He had invited me to join him and the family for dinner but I told him we would have to reschedule because I was too busy with work. He was disappointed but as always, he understood and wished me safe travels. I had been home only a few days into the trip when I woke up to a text message he’d sent me around 3am to tell me I was “a good person and will succeed past my own expectations” and that he loved me. The photos that preceded that text still haunt me to this day as they showed some of the pain he had been suffering prior. Pain I wasn’t aware he was in and had I known of, would have postponed my trip to help him heal. I had tried to call and text him that morning with no response. I knew the answer without being told. Something really bad happened.
I remember standing in my mom’s kitchen making a coffee when his mom called to tell me he died that morning. Although I somehow already knew, hearing it out loud knocked the wind from my chest and took my legs out from under me. Crumpled on the floor I struggled to find words. Words of condolences for the woman who gave birth to the man we would be burying. Words of apology and love. I couldn’t get the words out. I couldn’t tell this amazing woman what I knew she needed to hear. My brain and mouth were no longer connected. We said goodbye and folded in on myself on the kitchen floor sobbing until I couldn’t breath, couldn’t move, and couldn’t produce anymore tears.
I remember the memorial service held shortly afterwards in the new year. Walking in alone to a room full of strangers, friends and family I had never met, all there to say their goodbyes. Some crying, some laughing over a shared story about something wild and crazy he did in the past. I headed to the back of the room where he waited, surrounded by his mom, brother, ex-wife, aunts and his brothers in arms. My heart hit the floor for a moment when I saw his brother. I forgot how much they looked alike. It hurt and my whole body vibrated as I approached him and the family. When his mom’s boyfriend hugged me and told me they always hoped we’d get back together, I broke. I broke from the realization that I never told him I loved him. He was gone and he was never going to know that he was the one I wanted. The one I loved. He had no idea.
I remember standing beside him as he laid peacefully under the quilt made by local women to honor him. Tears poured down my face as I told him how much I loved him and apologized for not being there when he needed me. Apologized for not knowing he needed me. Apologized for not telling him I loved him sooner and for keeping that from him when he needed to hear it most. I tucked a letter I’d written under his quilt so that it would be cremated with him. A letter that said all the things I should have said when he was alive. I only hoped that somehow, if the letters on that piece of paper burned with his mortal body, they would reach his soul and he would know just how much I loved him and was going to miss him. I kissed him goodbye one last time and left him to join the living.
I remember the service at the legion afterwards. I met his mom at the door and hugged her tight. She was happy to have me there. She introduced me to one of his friends, a Sargent still in the military. I would later find out that he served with him and had been in Afghanistan with him just days before the explosion that took his leg and ultimately, took his life. Back then he had made a joke to “watch where you step” when they parted as he was sent off for his next deployment. The Sargent is tortured by this moment still to this day. The service was full of beautiful memories and videos about his life. His friends and family celebrated his life with a passion and love that honored his memory perfectly. I was so overwhelmed by the emotions flooding the room that I had to leave early. I was drowning and couldn’t breathe. He was really gone.
I remember the days, months, and years that followed. I had bought a house a few months after the memorial service and struggled to leave the apartment that was full of memories of us. The front step where he used to smoke his cigarettes. The dining room where we ate our meals together. The kitchen where I could picture him cooking and doing dishes. The bedroom where we made love and held each other as we slept. I was about to begin a new chapter but I didn’t want to turn the page without him. I spent a lot of time crumpled and tear soaked; wishing I would die myself so that I could find him on the other side. Every night for a year, I slept with his sweater in my arms or under my pillow when I tried to date someone new. The second year it hung on my bedpost beside me as I slept. It still hangs on the hooks on my wall to watch over me each night. And it will likely be there for many more years to come.
I remember when his mom started to clear out his things and say her own goodbyes, trying to find her peace. When she went to sell his treadmill, I bought it. Not because I knew I would use it, but because it was his and because he had been fighting so hard to learn how to run on his prosthetic that I needed it. I thought maybe it would allow me to feel closer to him. Many times after his mom dropped it off and I’d set it up, I would lay on its track and let the guilt and agony wash over me. I would lay there and cry until I was exhausted. He wasn’t supposed to be gone. He was supposed to be here, fighting to live so I could love him for the rest of my life.
I remember the day I was told the results of his autopsy were inconclusive. Ultimately, his heart gave out from the weight of the burdens he carried, from the medications he had been prescribed for pain and depression and to cure the endless amount of infections he would get from the wounds in his leg that would repeatedly tear open with his prosthetic or from a fall or stumble when the prosthetic failed to support him properly. The relief in knowing he was taken from us rather than believing he left us helped. A little. But I was angry. Angry that the heart that gave so openly, freely and unselfishly betrayed him and cut his life short. It robbed him of the chance to overcome the demons that tortured him and take back his life. It just wasn’t fair.
I remember him every day, every month, every year. I remember him in March, the anniversary of when we met. In April when we made it official and became a couple. I remember him all summer when the sun warms my skin and I remember the heat of his skin on mine. I remember him in October when it is his birthday and I celebrate his existence on this earth. I remember him today, on the day of Remembrance and honor the sacrifices he made and all he lost for the country that didn’t know him or deserve him. I will remember him in December on the anniversary of his death and wish I could turn back the clock and make it for that last dinner. And I will remember him in the new year when I carry his memory with me into the future to ensure he is never forgotten.
I will remember you and carry you with me always, Cpl. Kurtis Gaucher.
I love you, Lefty . . . my pirate; Captain of my ship.
I was a straight A student until I realized I didn’t want to learn the things that did not interest me. I was a judgemental kid towards other kids so I could be liked by the other kids. And then the other kids told me I had a big nose, and that one of my ears was bigger than the other – true story, you’ll have to guess which one. People also think I have mastered the art of the raised eyebrow, but actually, one just sits higher on my face than the other, the side with the bigger ear. Okay so my face is actually crooked – I’m cool with it now. I wasn’t then.
I allowed the need to feel popular guide elementary friendship decisions. I used to believe I was right all the time. I used to be incredibly close minded. I was bullied in high school and I wanted to leave the country. I once spelled a word wrong in an essay and my teacher publicly shamed me in front of the class. It broke my confidence in writing and expression. I started partying at age 15 and continued to party like it was 1999 for the next 8 years. I fell in love with people for who they were, not based on their skin colour, religion, or their body parts.
I went to 3 post-secondary institutions and only graduated from one. I have spiralled into the abyss of depression and climbed my way back out. I know how to safely operate power drills, firearms, mitre saws and many other “manly” tools. I also know how to knit, paint and put Martha to shame with my home decor. I cook without recipes, and allow flavour profiles to guide me. But, I despise baking – too much science. I wasn’t interested in learning science.
My weight fluctuates by about 20lbs every year. I don’t like cleaning the house, and shamelessly pay someone else to do it. I also shamelessly pay someone to pick up the dog’s turds – I’m not even sorry. I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I knew how to operate ATVs, boats and snowmobiles before I knew how to drive a car. I’ve had my heart broken. I have broken the hearts of others. I love wine. Sometimes my wine glass is 750ml.
I know what it’s like to only have $2 in your bank account, and carefully pump $1.99 of gas into your car to make it home. I believe in starting with why, instead of focusing on what. I know what it’s like to earn a savage 6-figure income. I also know what it’s like to achieve a goal, and wonder why I thought it was something I desired to achieve in the first place. I’ve experienced the highs of being promoted 8 times in 10 years.
I value time more than money.
I love my husband, and how he balances my mind when I am my most unbalanced. Other times, I don’t think he understands me when I am in my highest Unicorn state. Dogs truly are a human’s best friend. I often have my greatest epiphanies and conversations (with myself) when I’m with my dogs. When I think about space, and the entirety of the universe my head starts to physically hurt. I just can’t.
Humour is everything. Family or bust.
I know what it’s like to earn frequent flyer status and feel like a baller. I also know what it’s like to lose it, and be wildly excited about what that means – I get to be home. I appreciate a few solid friends over many acquaintances. I once had 7 piercings and removed all of them but my earrings in the name of “being professional”. At 32 I said fuck it and got my nose pierced. I thoroughly enjoy my own company. I cherish rest and sleep. Sometimes I go to bed at 7pm.
Being comfortable is uncomfortable to me.
I once confronted an all-male executive team about International Women’s Day, and their lack of concern for it. I love Christmas – it makes me feel like I am breathing magical air for about 45 days straight. I don’t like Halloween – it scares me. I believe feedback is a gift, especially when it stings. I have been sarcastically referred to as “unmanageable” by my past leaders – one of my greatest compliments. I eat healthy about 85% of the time. The other 15% goes to pizza, chips & anything else high in sodium.
I have taken a stand for myself in the name of my societal expectations, because I matter more. I believe everyone should take responsibility. Early morning is my favourite time of day. I love yoga, even when the yoga teacher lies about only holding it for two more breathes. Nature is my favourite place to be. The majority of my money is spent re-investing in me, not my wardrobe. I believe firmly in the need for tribe. I believe firmly in self-discovery. I believe there is magic in all humans, but most are afraid to let it be seen, for fear of disapproval from others. I used to be afraid of that, too.
I am Sarah. I am me. Transparent.
Authentic. Unapologetic. The cool part is, you get to be you, too.
The modern day house wife. I am a wife. I live in a house. I work from a house. I don’t do chores during my working hours. Because, I’m working. My husband doesn’t expect me to get chores done. Because, I’m working. When we are both done all the work things, then we work together to do the chores. The end.
We’re all a little tired, aren’t we? Tired of the bullsh*t and the lies. Tired of pretending, and filtering our lives. Tired of not saying what is on our minds. Tired of wondering, “my gosh, what will they think?” Tired of being deceived by our own doubts and fears. Tired of the excuses to not live a chosen life.
We’re all a little bruised, aren’t we? Bruised from lovers. Bruised from peers. Bruised from bosses. Bruised from parents. Bruised from our own self-righteous egoic desires.
We’re all a little lonely, aren’t we? Lonely for another fix. Lonely for a distraction to carry us through. Lonely for a body. Lonely for a child. Lonely for a god to make us feel something cause there are parts that are dead inside.
We’re all a little the same, aren’t we? We act like we are unique, different, separate, apart. And maybe we are…maybe we carry whims of eccentricities around us. Maybe some of us are a bit bolder, or a bit colder. Maybe some of us pretend better than others do. Maybe some of us don’t fucking cry.
At the very grips of our life, we are the same. At the core of our indifference, we are united. Death equalizes our loves and our losses.
We’re all scared, happy, sad, breathing, messing, coercing, agonizing, jealous, raging, loving, giving, empathizing, detoxifying, and toxifying…we’re all of it and none of it and that’s what makes us come to life.
To feel is our birthright. To open our hearts to the world and to not care all at the same time.
We are here now. We are here now. We are here now… and in the next second, we’re not. The gift comes when we realize the grace of being alive.
It was 1130pm on December 31, 2018 and my husband just arrived home from work. My parents had been with us over the holidays and they decided to head off to bed. We got the champagne ready and started flipping through the TV channels to find a live New Year’s countdown event. That’s when it dawned on us that our options would be limited being in the Atlantic time zone, one that doesn’t even exist in the States! So strange. We were an hour ahead of the famous New York Times Square ball drop, so that wouldn’t work! Luckily, Charlottetown, PEI came to the rescue with a live outdoor concert with Canadian musicians and we tuned in just as the East Pointers were about to sing Auld Lang Syne, as they invited a plethora of other musicians up onto the stage, swaying their glasses of champagne about. 10,9,8…2,1 – HAPPY NEW YEAR! My husband and I stood up for a NYE smooch and hugged each other tight. We held onto each other for longer than usual, though. Rob, my husband whispered in my ear, “We made it...” To which I replied, “I have no idea how.“, and we continued our embrace.
It was a cold winter, and that was okay with me, at first. I figured there was no better time of year to build a business from scratch. As such, January to March was a blur. I don’t recall doing much of anything other than hammering away on my laptop in my Lady Cave.
I was excited and terrified all at once because I had just walked away from a healthy 6-figure salary and each and every day I questioned whether or not I had lost my sanity and made a knee-jerk decision to just walk away and build my own business. Who does that?! As I held myself hostage in my home office, Rob on the other hand was wondering how long funds would last as I built this mystical vision of mine; a vision I wasn’t even able to articulate at the time, leaving him entirely uneasy. From his perspective, his wife whom he had known for 7+ years as the corporate dragon slayer, was now trying to explain to him that this idea in her head was bigger than her, that it wasn’t about her, and that women needed her help. That’s all the assurance I gave him, so it’s no wonder he signed up for overtime, and then proceeded to work 59 days straight. In retrospect, I did sound pretty looney. We barely saw one another for 2 months, yet we lived in the same home.
3am was when Anxiety liked to show up. I would snap awake out of a dead sleep and my eyes would be wide open, staring into the darkness of our bedroom. Anxiety would say things like, “Why can’t you just live like everyone else? Work, then live in your free time. Stop being so greedy…” Or, my favourite,”Hey Sarah, remember that time you were mean to that girl in 6th grade? Remember that woman you fired? Remember that time you didn’t stand up for your friend? Who the f*** are you to inspire and lead women?” 3am had a funny way of making me recount absolutely every single mistake I had EVER made in my entire life, and remind me of every single reason possible that I would likely fail. Thanks Anxiety, I guess I’ll get up now…off to the Lady Cave I’d go to start my day anyway.
By March I had replaced my former monthly income and I was seeing the shifts beginning to happen in the women I was working with. Rob decided it was safe to take a day off. I remember watching one of the Facebook Lives a client of mine was conducting in our private group and Rob had overhead this woman speaking. He felt her palpable emotion and deep gratitude for me and my work. Although he still didn’t have a hot clue what it was exactly that I was doing, he made it clear to me that he was proud. “Babe, you’re really helping these women.” he said, with a look of pride and a twinkle in his eye. I could feel my heart travelling up my throat. The stress my venture was putting on him had made me feel all the more wretched on top of my own fears and borderline insomnia. To see him nod and begin to understand the magnitude of what I was building (albeit still mostly in my head) made me want to burst with joyful tears. I had worn a mask of “I’ve got this, we are fine” with him since I left my 9-5 gig, even though I wasn’t yet sure of that myself, and diarrhea was part of my morning (and afternoon) routine. Stress poops. All I knew was that if he saw me sweat, he would sweat more and then we would both be pooping all the time. What I didn’t want to say out loud was, I don’t fully believe I can do this. After all, I really hadn’t thought this through very much, but I knew I was out of excuses not to start. I had burned them all up over the last 4 years as I felt these deep, Soulful pulls to create. I don’t have time. I haven’t read enough books. I haven’t worked with enough coaches. I haven’t joined enough programs or attended enough retreats. I don’t have a big enough social media following. I need to know more. They were all expired now. Every single one of them, because the one thing I hadn’t tried that was left to do, was to just take some bloody action.
Come April, I was emerging from what felt like a 4 month battle with myself as I stayed trapped in my own home for the better part of the long, cold winter. The same cold winter that I thought would help me grow my business, was actually deteriorating me on a personal level, day by day. Edmonton had broken a record – 167 days straight of temperatures below 0. Go team! I had managed to escape to Southern California for a weekend early in March to attend a Women’s Empowerment event with 500 other women. To my surprise, nearly half of them were Canadian. Wait. What? My decision to follow my deep need for sun, warmth, connection and growth bode well for me. I can remember bumping into Canadian women left, right and center and feeling totally mystified as to why we all had to travel to California to come to know one another. I didn’t know it at the time, but a seed for The Great Canadian Woman Platform had been planted that weekend.
Back in the Arctic, I mean Alberta, I had really underestimated the effects that a lack of human connection would have on me. Even though I was unaligned with my former career, the traditional work environment had indeed provided me with the ability to connect with people on a daily basis. By this point, even the most irritating face to face interactions with humans felt missed, as hibernation transitioned to straight up cabin fever. I had returned my company car on my final day of work in January, and had been without one ever since – which robbed me of that feeling of independence a vehicle naturally gives a person. Our pets were also growing increasingly concerned about Mom’s sudden onset British accent that would come out when it was time for treats. Luckily we were heading to Mexico in May for our friends’ wedding, which gave us both something to look forward to after a long, cold and emotionally difficult winter. Get me the f*** outta here, was how I was beginning to feel on a regular basis.
Ask and ye shall receive.
Rob emailed me from work one day saying, “Babe, I got a transfer opportunity to the East Coast.” I’ll admit, my first response was “Ugh, where..?“, assuming it would be some remote, desolate place where my Soul was screaming at me not to go. Isolation is not my jam, and I made that clear when there was the looming possibility of the Arctic circle if Rob were to apply to the RCMP. “Dorchester.” he replied. Hmmm…I pulled up the Maps app on my phone and typed in it. Oh! I exclaimed in my own head. New Brunswick. We could live in Moncton, right smack dab in between the Bay of Fundy and the open water of the Atlantic Ocean. Water! My Soul screamed, something we had both desperately missed since moving to the Prairies. I replied to Rob and said, “Okay, let’s talk when you get home.”
We’re moving to New Brunswick.
The conclusion was drawn within 15 minutes of him walking in the door after work. We both felt it. We both acknowledged the uncertainty. And we both knew it was time to start a new chapter. The events of the year so far were amplifying our desire for newness, refreshment and more adventure. And so it was. One week later our house was listed and we committed with a deep sense of trust that everything was going to work out – although we had no idea how.
Off to Mexico we went in May, desperate for warm sun and ice cold Cervezas. Although we were thrilled to be in the land of shut your brain off and chill, we were both internally pre-occupied by the growing concern that our house wasn’t selling, and Rob’s transfer date was getting closer and closer. It weighed on us both as we made every attempt to be present and enjoy ourselves as we watched sunburnt Canadians crush the pool-side beer drinking Olympics. It was cringe worthy to watch, yet deep down we were damn proud. Dos cervezas más por favor!
June rolled around, and we not only still didn’t know where were going to live in New Brunswick come August, our house still hadn’t officially sold. We accepted an offer, but it was from a couple in a neighbouring community who’s conditions included the sale of their own home – in the same buyers market we were trying to sell in. In other words, we weren’t hopeful. We were less than 60 days out from Rob’s start date, which is the standard length of a closing date. So, we did what any other people who no longer had the capacity to think clearly would do, we bought plane tickets to New Brunswick to find a place to live, and hope like Hell our sale would go through.
We flew into Halifax instead of Moncton because it was a direct flight from Edmonton. We figured it would take less time to drive from Halifax to Moncton, than it would waiting around at another airport somewhere in between. To boot, we took a red-eye, a decision I quickly regretted somewhere over Manitoba. We had decided that since we had nothing to lose other than our entire East Coast dream, that we would rent a convertible and at least make a vacation out of the stratospheric level of stress this trip was bringing about. We landed around 6am, on zero sleep and jumped in our Mustang convertible. It was raining – top up it is. Two hours into our drive and getting closer to Moncton, I was near tears from exhaustion as I chugged my Tim Horton’s orange juice in attempt to keep me upright. Rob was doing the same, only he was driving. He called our hotel to see if we could swing an outrageous request of an early check-in time of 10am. Sure, come on in, we will have your room ready! Oh East Coast hospitality, you won my heart that day. We arrived at our hotel and felt the questionable looks from the hotel staff, as we looked like we had both been to war. Soggy from the rain, black eyes from no sleep and an inability to communicate clearly. When we got into our room, we passed out until 3pm. When we woke up, we splashed cold water on our faces, got ourselves ready and met our realtor in the lobby to commence day 1 of our house hunting expedition. We were armed with a commitment to seller’s that we could buy their home, so long as ours sold (*cough* back in the Alberta buyer’s market *cough*). It was worth a try, since my newfound income wasn’t yet recognized by the bank.
On the final day of our tour, we had narrowed it down to 2 homes which we were completely divided on. Over a bottle of wine and a view of the ocean from our realtor’s cottage (did I mention East Coast hospitality yet?), we turned to Instagram to help us decide. My house won by a landslide. He still wasn’t convinced. More sigh.
The following morning as we were getting ready to go view the two homes one last time before we made our decision, Rob asked, “Should we take one more look on MLS?” I cringed into my coffee. I was sick of all things real estate. I was past caring. A tent would have been fine by this point. “Sure”, I grunted as I took a larger than usual gulp of caffeine. About 10 minutes later, Rob mumbled, “Woah…Babe, you should come look at this house.” Reluctantly, I strolled over to him as he stared at the screen on his phone, wide-eyed and hopeful. To my surprise, the house was actually checking all of our boxes, and priced significantly less than the other two. I wonder what’s wrong with it? We both said at nearly the same time, demonstrating our diminishing amount of belief that this was all actually going to work out in our favour. It had just come onto the market that very morning, so we called our realtor to see if she could pull any strings and get us in on incredibly short notice for the sellers. Good news, they were out boating for the day and we were good to go. We checked out the other two houses one last time, feeling side tracked and eager to see this new place. When we pulled in the driveway, we both gave each other a quick look to non-verbally communicate our approval. When the front door opened and we walked in, we both knew we were home. We suddenly remembered that home is a feeling, not a list of physical requirements. Although this house was checking all those boxes too, there could have been a 6 foot hole in the bedroom wall and we wouldn’t have cared. It felt right.
It felt like home.
Our agent explained that the house had already been viewed twice that same morning, because it was priced to sell. Before she could utter another word, we declared almost simultaneously that we would offer full asking price, to help offset the lack of appeal we would have on paper, given the condition of our sale on our Alberta home. Our agent said, “We could probably get it down another couple thousand…” Nope! Full asking. Let’s go.Where do we sign? Only a few hours later, as we were on the patio of the Pumphouse Brewery downtown Moncton, we got the call – our offer had been accepted. We would be moving to New Brunswick in just 5 weeks. We couldn’t allow ourselves to think about the rapidly growing chance our sale wouldn’t go through with our current buyers. We kept our focus on the slight chance this would all work.
Back in Alberta now, it was no surprise at all when our buyer’s asked for an extension on conditions. Not having anyone else lined up, we had no choice but to oblige. We had also dropped the price on the house with their current offer, with hopes it would light a fire under them to offload their place quicker, or attract a new offer for us.Gawd real estate is the worst game, ever. As we were planning a trip to Mount Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia to celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary, and potentially surrender in the wilderness to the fact that this East Coast dream wouldn’t happen, we got a text from our agent in Alberta, asking permission for a house viewing. It was about viewing number 25 by this point, so we weren’t hopeful. But we said yes, of course. I remember taking the fur babes next door while our neighbours were at work to sit on their deck during the viewing, something I had done often by this point. The potential buyer had brought his girlfriend with him to check the place out and I heard her squeal when she stepped onto our back deck, “Babe! Omg look at this deck! and the yard! Wow!” I couldn’t help but smirk, we did have a pretty sweet set up back there. Back inside they went, where the rest of the tour was a mystery as I sat feeling completely numb, with 3 very confused and fed up animals that had been uprooted from their fairly mundane lives over 2-dozen times for these viewings.
Later that afternoon, we got another text from our agent. An offer was coming in the following day. We shrieked, and jumped, and clapped, and screamed and probably cried. It was the most hope we had felt in the last 2 months. Then it dawned on us, we were going to the mountains…out of cell range! Oh, and we also needed a 30 day closing date, with any conditions removed within 7 days, so we didn’t lose the house in New Brunswick. Too much to ask? Too much to swallow. I sunk again at the realization of the likelihood of any of that actually happening, but we agreed to trust whatever this journey was going to throw at us, and completely surrender to the outcome. Off we went to the mountains. When we arrived, I went to the travel centre at the base of Mount Robson to use the payphone to call our agent. It dawned on me that I had never actually used a payphone before, so I awkwardly fumbled around until it started ringing on the other end. Forgetting I was attached by a physical cord, I had attempted to turn around to look at the mountains surrounding me, only to be startled by the metal cord pulling me back into the wall. My nerves were shot. No offer had been received by our agent, so I said I would call her again the following morning. Rob and I took turns each morning for the next 2 days, driving to the nearest town about 25 minutes away where we had cell signal, as the offer had officially come in after my payphone fiasco on the first night. The other would stay at the campsite and get the campfire going and keep the dogs occupied. We agreed on our terms, non-negotiables and hard lines with each other before one of us would ride off in the truck to go call our agent.
Happy anniversary, Dear.
We countered the offer the 1st day, the second day, and on the third day the buyer had us pinned. He was armed with another home similar to ours, at a lower price. Damn it! Faced with a decision to take a financial hit on our equity, or forego the East Coast dream, we agreed the Alberta economy likely wasn’t going to improve anytime soon, and the original buyer’s still likely wouldn’t sell within the next few days for condition removal…therefore, our decision was made. Our current buyers, unable to remove their conditions withdrew their offer and the new offer became official. We got the 30 day closing, but the conditions were to be removed the same day ours were required to be removed before we lost the house in New Brunswick.
On condition removal deadline day, I sat in my favourite living room chair with a gin and tonic and Rob paced the room with a rum and coke. Save the judgement, please. We had until 9pm to remove our conditions on our East Coast home. The home that was twice as big, yet half the mortgage as our Alberta home. Asking for an extension was out of the question, as the New Brunswick sellers had a second buyer lined up already if we didn’t work out. At 730pm, our phones pinged. Conditions had been removed by our buyer!!! With no time to spare, we immediately contacted our agent in New Brunswick (1030pm AST) and frantically squealed for her to send over our condition removal document so we could sign the shit out of it. We signed, sent it off and I collapsed to my knees and cried. Somehow, against all odds, it was actually going to work out. That night, we celebrated like it was 1999 as we wrapped our heads around the fact that within the next 30 days, we would be moving across the country – for the second time together.
I was elated not to be confined to a traditional job while we orchestrated our big move. I was careful not to take too much on, and carve out the right amount of time needed to make a smooth transition from Alberta to New Brunswick. Down to the wire, within the final 48 hours of our time in Alberta, we sold 90% of everything we owned in a firesale style garage sale, had a tearful goodbye party with our friends who had become family, cleaned the house, packed a tiny Uhaul trailer, jumped in the truck with our 3 fur babes and headed East. By this time, I had just launched The Great Canadian Woman Podcast, and was excited about documenting the trip across Canada.
However, by Winnipeg, we were both speaking “cat”, as our 23lbs cat Charlie yammered away in the back seat, expressing his distaste in our decision to drive instead of fly. We put in close to 17 hours of driving before collapsing in a hotel at 1am in Kenora, Ontario. After I cried from exhaustion for about 2.5 minutes, I recorded an episode for the podcast in the truck while Rob went to sleep – because I made a commitment to have a new episode out every Monday morning. With zero motivation left in my cells for anything other than breathing, I was relying fully on my own discipline. We were back out the door by 6am the following day. 15 hours later we arrived at my parents house in Massey, Ontario. We had been kept occupied and awake for the day in large part by the scenic coast of Lake Superior and copious amounts of beef jerky. I was dehydrated and swollen from the sodium intake and a conscious lack of water, so we didn’t have to make so many stops for pee breaks along the way. We stayed with my folks for 2 nights to catch up on some sleep, let the dogs run wild and eat some home cooked food. Before we knew it, we were back in the truck making a straight run for the New Brunswick border. We stopped in Quebec for fuel and for more Jerky au Boeuf and landed in Grand Falls, NB at 1111pm. I remember the time vividly as we pulled into the hotel parking lot, feeling a slight sense of reassurance that was later magnified when we were handed a room key for room 111. We were almost there.
We were going to be okay.
We pulled up to our new home the following morning around 930am. It felt surreal to see it again, like we both never fully believed we actually would. We were also slightly delusional by this point, after driving 4500km with two dogs, a cat and every single item we owned in tow – which was next to nothing. It was raining, hot and humid. My dry prairie skin was retaining every ounce of moisture it could soak up and the hair on my head had doubled in size with frizz. Our real estate agent, who looked bright, well rested and hella in shape met us at the door. I distinctly remember feeling the physical contrast between she and myself, who was tired, bloated and in desperate need of a salon and a salad.
Our lawyer arrived and began sorting out the details, and that is when it became known that our insurance had not been filed by our new insurance company. The woman who was in charge of our file, had called in sick the day prior and left our file incomplete and unattended. Rob was furious, I was laughing – albeit maniacally. Our agent, recognizing our concern thought the timing was right to retrieve a huge Welcome Home gift basket from her car, distracting us with potato chips and locally made Cider. Well played! The insurance issue only delayed our official East Coast home ownership by about an hour. “Congratulations guys, welcome home,” she said as she handed the key to my collapsed body on the staircase. Our agent must have super powers, as she saw the real me underneath the hot mess I was showcasing, because she still asks me to hang out today. Go me! We unpacked all 3.5 things we brought in our trailer, and our new 3400 sq foot home suddenly seemed even more enormous without any furniture. Rob went out and bought two camping chairs and we set them up by the patio door and ordered a pizza. We sat there quietly, sweaty and smelly as we ate our greasy food and sipped on Dom Perignon. We made it until 6pm that night, before we retired to our blow up mattress and sleeping bag in the master bedroom.
One week and $25k later, our house was furnished. Our air conditioner units weren’t yet installed during a record breaking heat wave in New Brunswick. We put the furniture together in our swim suits, and jumped into the pool every now and then to bring our body temperature back down. 2 weeks later my family arrived to visit and 4 weeks later I was on a flight to Ottawa for an intensive business retreat with my Publisher (did I mention I had become an official author?) because in the midst of all this, I was still just in my first year of business start-up and my once crystal clear vision was experiencing a rapid decline in clarity. I also had my very first live event approaching in Toronto mid-September where 30 women were eagerly awaiting the experience, and there was an unspoken expectation that I was ‘okay’.
The truth is, I wasn’t okay.
Through the chaos of January to August of 2018, I had completely lost myself and it was taking every ounce of energy I had left to draw from, in order to be enough for my clients and beautiful community that I had created. On the first day of the retreat, I woke up early in my hotel room. I found a coffee shop in the quaint town of Merrickville, Ontario and decided to head to the riverside. I came across historical ruins that had been preserved by the community. I wandered around sipping my coffee, with my journal in hand, feeling intensely called to meditate in an attempt to calm my mind and set an intention for my time at the retreat. I stumbled upon the signature Canadian red Adirondack chairs that are placed thoughtfully all over Canada and decided to take a seat. I was right beside the river and all I could hear was the sound of the light rapids as the water flowed past me. I was surrounded by big trees and the ruins of the Old Mill along the locks of the Rideau Canal. All I did for minutes was focus on my breathing, something I hadn’t done in what felt like months. My short, shallow breathes slowed into deep, intentional inhales and exhales. I closed my eyes and asked whoever or whatever was listening to me, to please give me some clarity. I was begging for it, fighting back tears. I opened my eyes and wrote two words in my journal.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I looked down at the paper. When I looked up, there were two giant Blue Herons standing with their tall lanky stick legs in the river. They were so close they looked to be the size of pterodactyls. Me, grasping at straws at this point, quickly whipped out my phone and googled the spiritual meaning of blue herons, grimacing at the thought of my own desperation for answers.
Permission to progress and evolve was granted to me in that moment. With tears welling up, I knew with certainty, that amongst all of the year’s uncertainty, that I, and everything about me was going to be okay.
In the days leading up to my live event in September, fear was still making every attempt in the book to take me out. It was the most crippling kind of fear I had felt since I started my business. Who am I to run an event? What if no one shows up? What if they think it sucks? What if they don’t have a great experience? What if I choke on my words during my combined 12 hours of stage time? My husband, noticing my visible anxiety would tell me to stand up and say, “I’m gonna do great!” I would reluctantly mumble something to that effect as I stared at the floor. Rob would say, “Hunny, you’re going to do great but you have to believe it, too. Say it louder – I’m going to do great!” I would respond, saying it a little louder. It became quickly obvious to me that he wasn’t going anywhere until I was jumping like Rocky Balboa at the top of the stairs, pumping my fists in the air, screaming, “I’m going to do GREAT!” And you know what? It worked. The Summit went off with minimal issues, if any at all, and in turn gifted me with both experience for an even more powerful and amplified Summit in 2019 (which I had sworn I wasn’t going to do while I was pouting on my husband’s lap just days prior), and reaffirmation that I am absolutely, undeniably on the right track with my vision.
Upon my return to New Brunswick, we promptly whisked ourselves and the fur babies away to an oceanfront Airbnb on Prince Edward Island for 3 days to decompress by way of sunsets, wine and beach-combing.
It was early November when we both came to the realization that we felt ‘normal’ for the first time in a very long time. It was the first time our emotions had felt true contrast. It was like we had been under water for so long, we had just gotten used to feeling that way and now we were finally feeling what it was like to be on top where the air is, and breathe easy. It was beginning to dawn on us both that our wild and crazy year had been full of intentional choice, trust, adventure – with just a touch of madness. We both fought like Hell to align ourselves with what our guts were telling us we needed. In hindsight, very little of we did in 2018 made any logical sense. Actually, none of it did. None of it took place within our comfort zones. None of it was easy. We had puzzled and mystified just about everyone in our lives with the decisions we were making. Looking back on it, all of it was extreme and we acknowledged that we had chosen and done, was what most people wouldn’t. The short story is, the way in which we were living our lives was no longer working for us, so we changed it.
Simple, but not easy.
My family coming to New Brunswick for Christmas felt like the icing on the cake. We even attended an East Coast Christmas show, performed by the Barra McNeils as we celebrated my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary. I carved time out of my schedule to block myself off from the digital world to be present and enjoy the season. Rob had reluctantly caved to my Christmas decorating needs and hung lights outside, shoved an 11-foot Christmas tree in our living room and didn’t roll his eyes too hard when he came home from work one day to Whoville style gold vinyl polka-dots on our porch pillar, door…and cabinetry.
The interesting thing in all of this is, despite the chaos, was that 2018 was the first year in a long time that I didn’t feel desperate to get away from. Excited for a new year, yes, but not done with 2018, as so many people were exclaiming all over social media. 2018, albeit challenging and emotionally devastating at times, was the year that we both proved what we are made of. It was the year that elevated us in a way that only the deep rooted trust in uncertainty can provide a person with. Our belief in one another grew, with each new hurdle we jumped and mountain we climbed, and we proved to ourselves that the idea of creating a life we love, actually is possible with a little blood, sweat and tears. We recognized that we each possess a Superpower, and it’s called Choice. Even when the decision is between hard and harder, we can still choose, commit and proceed because the only thing that ever truly stays consistent in our lives, is change.
My personal values in 2019 are energy, alignment & service and it is from these three pillars that my choices will be made. Rob has also agreed to set goals for 2019 for himself and for us as a couple. This is a first in the 8 New Years we have celebrated together because after all of this, he too now recognizes, that your entire life can change in a year…if you let it.