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Beach-side, the tropics. My safe place.

*Warning, explicit language*

Just a few short days before I enter into the last year of my 30’s I sit and think (as I usually do on each birthday) about the last year. I review my entire life as I remember it and ponder on what things are in store for my future. As a kid born in Regina, Saskatchewan to two teenagers with no big world experience things could have been far worse. I feel lucky to be able to be sitting where I am right now, and not at a cold and windy farm table in Saskatchewan somewhere. 

Me & Ronald McDonald on the Farm

To say the last year was stressful would be a gross understatement, an attempt to share all of it would take longer than I have the time to spare, not to mention the desire. This year, I think it would be more cathartic (the intended purpose of my bday blogs) to dish on the general areas of my reflection and hopefully inspire the reader to make changes that lead to a healthy, happy and fulfilling life.

With 40 fast approaching I’m ready to say Fuck It to so much that has had me so encumbered for so very many years. I’m freeing myself, finally.

Here we go!

Immigration and Entrepreneurship

September 30, 2016 we left Canada for Pittsburgh for a shot at a new life and new business opportunities. Impacted greatly by the Oil and Gas downturn, we decided to leave behind the flailing Canadian market (in part) and start up another Engineering office in Pittsburgh as well as focus on our other passions of photography, travel and fitness.

You can read all about our trip down south last year HERE. 

Our first weeks in Pittsburgh were distressing but I was so full of hope…as usual I blogged about my birthday experience. 

While this was equal parts hope and giant balls on our part, it was also strategic and by July 1, 2017 we had finally opened a storefront which holds our engineering firm as well as a small studio for personal training and photography. Luckily, Jeff has managed to finally find a worthy partner back in Calgary and we have been able to juggle both businesses as was required by our L1 Visa status.

Our humble little US beginnings the day we signed the lease!

6 or 7 months into our journey, I was quickly realizing that we were not going to meet the necessary criteria to retain another 3 year L1 Visa. One benchmark being the generation of revenues between 500k to 1MM in the first 365 days. Hundreds of hours of business development, several attorneys, two expired visas and one aimless road trip to Toronto with our dogs in tow and we are sitting waiting for the return of our passports so we can go home. 

This experience has cost us around $200K USD including about 15k USD for legal fees. At the end of the day, that’s what the start up and legal costs are to cross the border and essentially buy your way in to the US with your own business. We were given the sage and insulting advice to just “buy a pizza shop for $50k” to be a “shoo in”. Yes, because lawyer #2, we really just wanted to move to Pittsburgh, open a pizza by the slice shop and die.

We put together our own talents and managed to craft a package for the US Consulate that won us the maximum allowable entry time in our first shot at an E2 Visa. In 2 years we will be at the border again on some other “24 hours out of the country” bureaucratic red tape mission, but we plan on being settled in Central America before the 5 years is up cause, we have bigger fish to fry than engineering out of Calgary and Pittsburgh. 

Being your own boss and creating your own unique business is a beautiful experience. The highs and lows are quite simply,  soul punching experiences. It’s not like selling a house, car or product that exists on its own, or even contract work for anyone. In providing personal services as opposed to products or being a middle man, you’re literally selling yourself because what you’re providing is (to most) intangible. This means that the good days and bad days are “all your fault”. It’s how you choose to market your services, how good you are at your job and how creative you can be in tight times. It’s ALL YOU.

As a couple and business partners in so may ways, Jeff and I know that we will never choose to work for anyone again in our lives. We will never go back to living the 9-5 regular life. While the stress might kill us, we feel like our experiences on the day-to-day are genuine, real, felt and lived fully. We have freedom. The freedom to work from wherever we want in the world, the freedom to choose what country we live in, the freedom to say yes or no to any work that comes our way. The freedom to come and go as we please, never have to ask for a sick day and never, ever be dictated our days by anyone. Ever.

I will always do my best to stand up for my ideas and say Fuck it to convention. It’s not the easy road by any means, but it’s the path of freedom and at what could be the half way mark in my life, I’m not willing to give up any more precious time.

Kids and Cancer

I’m not entirely private about my private life. I know that there are others out there that can benefit from hearing about my struggles and what aren’t entirely unique experiences.

I chose to be with a man who had a child from a previous marriage, I didn’t know he had married a serial embezzler of the child custody payment variety. If there is one thing that has created the black spot on my life it has been this. Over the years I have learned to create healthy places out of the dark ones with an understanding that there will always be a cloud of lies and doom living over me as long as I let it. Now bring in the added fact that my step-child has been diagnosed with Cancer twice and the road stretches out even longer in front of me.

I never had my own children and never wanted them. Dogs are too damn much for me some days. But I made the choice to say “I do” to someone with so much baggage it’s hard to bear sometimes. On my 35th birthday I made the final decision to not have children. We sat in our private plunge pool at The Resort At Pedregal and I told Jeff that by the time the clock struck 12 midnight I would decide, and I did.

On that same trip, we decided that because Jeff was being prevented from seeing his child, before he signed any court documents finalizing any custody arrangements he would fight as hard as he could to attain as close to 50% custody as possible.

Read more about our battle from an old post HERE.

The last 6 years have been about laying out our financial status, education, lifestyle etc…for people to pick apart. They come after financial gain while we fight in the hopes that we would be able to be a part of my step-daughters life and give her the things she wasn’t able to have; the outdoors, pets, family nights with cousins around the campfire, life in the mountains, reading, good music and times that were valued not by their price tag, but by the priceless feeling it left inside you.

This, will always be worth it. We fought with time, money and energy we didn’t really have to give her balance and a chance at spending more time with us which cannot be hidden. We will never regret going through this turmoil but, in the end, we (and to a larger part me) had to say Fuck it.

Imagine having to defend the greedy claims of someone who made their money in a career of sleeping with married men (as well as getting impregnated several times and soaking the fathers of the resulting offspring) criticize your worth, abilities and income after receiving a University education and degree (or two)? Evil people like to project the worst parts of themselves onto others and that happened on a nearly daily basis through email for six years.

I have basically been barred from speaking about anything outright for years while watching this person spend hours per day stalking me and my husband on the internet, providing screen shots of our instagram accounts, Facebook accounts etc…and putting lies in sworn affidavits to the court system. Actual proven lies people, and THIS is the truly terrifying part of watching a child have to grow up in a house with no morals….it’s nauseating and gut wrenching. How I wish sterilization of “rotten apple humans”was a thing but, we all know sociopaths get around psych tests often.

Such an ugly person without morals bogged down my life and I let it happen. Such ugly people became a part of my life and I watched my step-daughter turn into one of them through no choice of her own. I spoke with a counsellor about it for a few sessions and they were blown away. I confirmed I did my best as a wife and stepmother, and I designed a structured way to say “fuck it” to that life without crushing anyone. You can only watch a car crash for so long before you have to turn away.

I made peace, I moved on as best I could.

The one great friend I made in all of this happens to be the mother of my step-daughters step-sister. In this relationship we were able to expose to each other both sides of the household and really, came to understand the utter lunacy in it all. The abuse in that house is at an incredible level including emotional and physical and the two of us, one day, hope to take all of our notes, emails, videos, pictures and court documents to create a documentary to help others in the same position fight for sanity and the true health and rights of their children. Thank you Marissa, you’re a strong woman and I know our friendship helped us both move on.

In leaving Canada and moving 3000 miles away from the centre of evil you can bet that the pressure in my body was relieved 100 fold. In finally finishing the court battle over money, it’s dead to me now. I have chosen to walk away from that entire horror show. Jeff and I are honest about it all and after a lot of gut wrenching discussion he understands why I just can’t be a part of it anymore. We did our best for 6 years to bring a happy, healthy and real life to Anastacia…it’s all being left behind now and we fear for her happiness and health, from a distance.

I felt obligations to be a parent of a certain variety, which were put upon me by over sensitive, soapbox loving 21st Century society and my own lack of balls.

We are not all the same. Our situations are not all the same; our desire to live and love does not come in one way, shape or form. If you’re given no choice but to fight the good fight, then one day find yourself ready to throw in the towel to retain your happiness and sanity, do it. You are the mother, father, stepparent, cousin, boss, friend that you are. If you aren’t intentionally hurting anyone, being greedy or selfish or crooked, go live out loud.

My freedom and intrinsic goodness will always be there for my step-daughter to see and learn and grow from. This should be the legacy I leave for her to understand, not one where I fought, for the sake of fighting or being right, was sad, lived with less for no reason, lived with lies and/or abuse.

Children should never learn to accept that as a way of living.

Fuck the people who judge, fuck the people who lie, fuck the people who cheat. I will stop living to those standards by engaging, I will live my one life. The truth always comes out in the end and if people would like to make my life decisions, they can pay my bills and take on all my worries too.

Holy matrimony

Ah marriage. For me, 3 times and I’m finally charmed. I still can’t stop looking back at the other two and shaking my head. I know now that I wasn’t surrounded by anyone who actually cared enough to slap me into reality with either of those decisions. But as of today, I’m leaving those thoughts in the dust.

I am in a relationship now where we can respect what the other person is going through, even if that takes a minute or twenty to digest and try to understand. That’s the best thing that I could ask for. I truly have a partner in life, and while it’s not always perfect, it’s not supposed to be. The point is to be able to live life your way and not resent your traveling companion for living the same way. When a piece of resentment comes up, we talk about it. We promised to never lie and, should another path cross one of ours that takes us away from each other, then maybe that might be the right thing. In our hearts and minds we are together forever. We are honest, happy and adventurous. We are sexually aware, affectionate and sensual people. We make our life about living hard and loving hard and 6 years in, I think it’s working out pretty well. Through thick and thin we’ve been together and better people would have broken up 10 times by now. We know we have something to cherish every single moment of.

The first day of forever after.

The first marriage I had was to a physically and emotionally abusive man I met and dated for almost 3 years before we were married. The first being a long distance relationship but this was where I was given the opportunity in 2002 to meet the love of my life.

He was a total piece of shit, destroyed my self-worth and made me fear going to sleep because someone may smother me with a pillow, made me scared of falling asleep on the couch while watching a movie because I’d get slapped in the face, yelled at and shaken to wake up – true stories. I had no idea how damaging that was and what that would do to me for years. I fought back, I yelled, one time when he was driving me to work in the morning and punched me (charley horsed) in the leg I spat a mouthful of chewed food in his face. I wasn’t an angel. I didn’t back down BUT in most cases, I really didn’t start or finish a fight.

I posted about this on Instagram, however brief HERE.

Which, then, leads me to my second marriage. 7 years together – that has to be a record for two people so fuelled up on drugs and alcohol that they didn’t know if they were coming or going. Not to mention the fact that he worked steady night shifts, I worked daytime work and we rarely were seen together unless it was at a club at 2am. Sometimes I’d have to set my alarm for midnight to get up and go meet him somewhere.

In the middle of all that and before we were married I became pregnant. My kid would be 10 by now. I decided not to keep it and that alone should’ve been a message enough to myself that I was in the wrong relationship. I never wanted kids BUT if I was to become accidentally pregnant now at nearly 40 with Jeff’s kid, you would bet that I would not make the same decision.

Eventually, going out and getting smashed became old news and I’d just be waking up to him stumbling into our back gate pissed drunk (sometimes pissing himself) leaving the doors to our 100K Mercedes wide open while it was filled to the brim with DJ equipment. He wasn’t a bad person he was just spoiled, selfish and directionless because he never had to have these skills.

Most recently during the long drive to the US in 2016, he went WILD after I was instructed by the bank to close an account I held (which in hindsight was a joint account for a mortgage we held together that he never changed) which impacted his mortgage payments. He actually sent threats and old video footage of me being wasted to my parents! More than 5 years after we split. He threatened to burn my things he still held….he threatened to “call my husband on me”….just a poor, angry, inept child. Still, I really hoped he would’ve progressed because by now he was a father to a child himself. I fear that kind of shit…. and can only laugh uncomfortably at his knee-jerk reaction of napalm death. So typical, and I’m so relieved I’m past that.

I chalk it up to the fact that through his own parents divorce he became a heavily damaged person and so was I by the time we met. The two of us together were like fuel and fire and though we didn’t fight a lot, we fuelled resentment and when his rich father died, he changed and became vacant.

When shit gets old its OVER. 

I documented my liberation with photographs.

There is just no time in life to stay in relationships that hurt you. No time to give people 100 chances. No time for therapy to try and “make it work”. If it doesn’t now, it won’t later people seldom change and if you meet one that truly has or can, you’re witnessing a miracle.

If you want to walk, walk. If you want to stay, stay. But mark my words; the choice is yours and caring about what your parents, friends or co-workers think of your life is an absolute copout. You create your own misery and happiness, which no one can judge you for if you don’t give a shit.

So what I was married twice before Jeff? I wish I could take that back but at the same time, I learned a lot and don’t regret the life lessons one bit…ok, maybe the asshole that beat me I could’ve skipped on before the real poundings started…..my point – Fuck it. It hurts to end a “thing” but when it’s damaging your being you have to go. NO questions asked.

Building my self-image and taking care of number one.

Winning feels really good, until you’re not winning anymore (inside).

I have to admit that while I believed that training hard for hours per day counted as taking care of myself, it really didn’t. I have largely been taking care of goals, but not myself in the way that I deserve.

I love to dance, did it my whole life and when I had to quit, it left a hole in me the size of a shotgun blast. This giant unexplored emotional issue is probably part of the reason that I turned to drinking and other things in my early twenties.

Once I woke up to the lie that fake friends and drugs/alcohol made out of my life I vowed to take care of myself, truly take care of me, before all else.

Well, guess what? I fell flat on my face on that one for the past nearly 6 years and I’m willing to admit it entirely. I have a problem with giving my entire self to someone else and forgetting all about me. I know that is true for so many. While there is nothing at all wrong with loving hard and helping out endlessly and enjoying watching other succeed, there is something wrong when you wake up every morning wondering what your own life’s purpose is.

I gave up my business when I left Vancouver for Calgary because of a few things; it would be too hard to kick off in a city I knew I would never permanently move to, it was more profitable to take a job in real estate management and acquisitions again at the time, then it was that we could afford for me not to work and to take care of our home in the mountains and all our animals, then it became that I was needed to monitor the volatility that was the admin/accounting/HSE divisions of our Oil and Gas Engineering business and then that never went away for three years.

I lost myself. I lost myself in being a wife, a worker, a 9-5 ‘er of sorts and while that sucked I thought that it afforded me a lot of awesome things like travel, freedom etc…what I think it really did was erase who I was, my dreams and made me settle for less. Our vacations have always been working vacations. Jeff never takes a day off, his attention is 50% at the best of times but that’s what entrepreneurs sign up for.

I blogged my first birthday away from Vancouver.

I found that bodybuilding put me back in a place that made me feel in charge of my life again and I slowly started to build the business of my dreams back up inch-by-inch, brick by brick. I’ve had to back away and say fuck it to the company that isn’t my baby and keep that at arms length too because, in all this, it was one more thing that could suck the life out of me and my marriage, no bueno.

It’s time to grow up and show up for myself, finally, at nearly 40.

Surfing Sombrio Beach.

There are beautiful things to speak of, thousands of them, but those feel like they need to be kept close to my heart and private right now. Cherished and loved for brining all the light into my life. I have friends, family, support and talents that I don’t give myself enough credit for. Most of all, I have grit.

I’ve been carrying all this negative shit with me for years. I’ve finally reached a place after 39 years on the planet where I don’t care about what anyone thinks of my life. I’m too old for that shit and I’ve seen way too much to keep my mouth shut. Cancer didn’t kill me and some humps in the road are not taking my happy days away from me. Fuck that.

I’m not a whiner, a sympathy seeker, I don’t internet stalk people or obsess, I don’t mope on and on about these things or obsess in unhealthy ways, but there is a piece of my life being stolen from me every day and these issues of my past are taking space up in my brain. I need to make space for new, happy memories now.

Today, I am going to celebrate the fact that I am able to recognize what change needs to be made to make my life a happy one, and that I have the ability to make those changes without regret. If I were at home (and not writing this from week 2.5 on the road from an AirBnB) I would start a fire and burn away all the negativity in some symbolic ceremony. Right now I’ll have to settle for hitting the treadmill harder than I have in the last while.

I’m choosing to acknowledge the hardships, maybe shed a tear or two about it and then press on. Unpacking the damaged pieces will take more than just hitting “publish” on this post, but it will be my daily intention to put my energy into things that are right, feel good and work for me.

So, I make my 39th year, the year of no fucks being given and no opportunities being left at the table…and hopefully that carries on for the rest of my life for, I only have one.

I hope for the same freedoms for us all.

 

XX – S

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