After 8.5 months in Canada, I returned to Perth in mid-April, 2021. It was meant to be a new, fresh start, but it turned sour and rotten pretty quickly.
In July 2020, during a pandemic, I left my family and flew to Canada. That was not an easy decision at all. And I know that am I judged for leaving my 14-year-old son with his father. But before you judge me, ask yourself how much you know about my life. About my marriage. About what I was going through when I made a decision that will haunt me for the rest of my life. If you know every detail, I dare say you will not judge me at all.
Why I left Perth in the first place
We got married in March 2004 after an on-again-off-again relationship since April 2001. It was a spontaneous decision. I had returned to New Zealand after six months of working as a cruise ship photographer in Europe. He* proposed that very night and we married one week later. It was meant to be forever, but that's what traditional marriage is meant to be.
Our break-up, make-up pattern continued for 16 years and we were both tired. The decision to return to Canada was a desperate attempt to end the toxicity. And in my mind, in my heart, I didn't believe it would be the end. Why I wanted to reconcile a toxic relationship is beyond me. Maybe I'm a masochist.
*My ex-husband is referred to as HE/HIM throughout
Life in Canada
The first two months in Canada (including two weeks of quarantine) were really good. I was excited, and I was happy. I missed my family, of course, I did. I kept in touch often. I sent parcels and cards; emails, and text messages. And we were friends.
My life was not a bed of roses. I struggled to maintain a job. I struggled with the Canadian economy, taxes, tipping, poor management, virus restrictions and propaganda; and Canadian life in general.
By October, the remorse and regret crept in. A few people said, “just go back” but I felt ashamed of leaving. I felt going back wasn't an option. But then, I emailed him in mid-November and asked if he wanted to save the marriage. He said, “I've accepted it [that it's over] and I'm happier now”. I was crushed. Truly heartbroken for the millionth time since 2001. But I picked myself up and shuffled through the next two months.
What the mountains said
On January 13, exactly two months after I sent that email, I had I go to Banff for a COVID test (it was negative). As my roommate drove, I stared out the window feeling sad and lonely, but content enough with my current life. As I gawked at the majestic Canadian Rockies, a message came through: return to Australia. Do not think about it anymore, just go.
The mountains told me to go. I was incapable of making life-altering decisions at that point so when they spoke, I listened. And I do believe that if you cannot make an important decision, the Universe will make it for you. I am grateful for such a gentle and kind coaxing.
Because I knew he “was happier”, I felt I needed to ask him if it was okay for me to return. I still had my resident visa, but I needed a travel exemption and a few other things closer to when I would travel. But it was his permission I was seeking. When I told him I wanted to return he replied “Yay, I'm glad” and “You don't need anyone's permission to live your life”. A few days later, I called him to discuss living arrangements and he said I could return to the house. I had no intention of living there permanently, even though I thought there was a spark of hope that we could reconcile. I thought we could ease into it. But I had no idea that there was no spark at all – it was all in my heart.
The last to know
Deep down, I felt it. I knew it was over, yet I went into shock and despair when I saw the signs and evidence in a home that I once called my own. The home where my, now 15-year-old, son lived with his father.
And what is really disturbing and bothersome is that I had to ask about it. He never told me prior to my arrival. Nobody told me. I panicked. I cried. I begged for The Universe to help me handle this. I wanted to check out of life right then and there. The emotional pain was so intense: raw and terrifying.
Spent from my heaving emotions, I went to bed on the sofa but I didn't sleep well that night. The next day, I went through it all over again with him. And again, I just wanted it all to be over. He was apologetic, but he wasn't sincere. He openly told me details that I didn't want or need to know. Using words like connection, instant, want, hug, cuddle, time, relationship... And none of those words had anything to do with me. My heart was already broken, now it was in a million tiny pieces.
How I am now, at the end of 2021
In June, I obtained a Fly-In-Fly-Out job, which allowed me the time and space to begin to repair my heart. The winter was messy; things got a lot worse before they got better. But somehow I managed my emotional breakthrough while I worked 77 hours a week and wrote a vigorous update of Fodor's Travel's Australia guidebook (the Perth & WA chapter). Now, I am focussing on my writing full-time again.
My heart is healing and he and I are friends again. We're in a good place and I have moved on. I'm happier now and I've accepted things as they are. Focussing on the good in my life and being grateful has helped pull me out of a victim mentality. I'm glad things went down the way they did. I've gained that fresh new start that I hoped for, maybe a few times this year.
2021 was a challenging and painful year for me and it sounds cliche, but it's made me much stronger and wiser.
Onwards and upwards in 2022, I say!