This is a very personal story but so intense and fascinating for me that I wanted to share it with you. Sometimes when emotionally traumatic things happen in my life, I seem to be able to step outside of myself and just watch things unfold. Usually I can say to myself “well isn’t this interesting, I wonder where this is going”.
This time however, I felt the force of the whole world caving in on me and it didn’t let up for a very long time.
Of course I’m talking about a significant and long-term relationship break up. It had been, in my eyes, a very successful relationship which might sound odd given that it ended. While it lasted though, for the most part, it was very loving and sweet and easy and respectful.
So I’ll cut to the chase, and get right to the part where it all went belly-up. We’d been living in the U.K. for a couple of years when my partner scored a gig (he was a bass player) in a gorgeous Ski Resort in Northern Italy (a 3 month residency). This was very exciting for both of us and I thought I’d easily get work as well. I was wrong. I was too late. I should have gone over a couple of weeks earlier to secure something.
So after a few fun weeks of staying up late, listening to the band and enjoying the majesty of this beautiful place, I became restless and a little bored not having a job to keep me busy. Also, there’d been an incident which frightened me a little and left me feeling uneasy, so I decided I’d go and visit my sister in Uganda as she had created a very successful Guesthouse in Jinja on Lake Victoria (head of the Nile). I’d wanted to go for so long and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.
As I left, I saw a light go out in my partner’s eyes. He wasn’t happy about me going without him, but my efforts to get him to go to Uganda with me over the past couple of years had failed. It takes years for a relationship to fall apart and I have to admit that I’d felt that I was losing my grip on this one for some time now. It had always been so good and so easy, we’d never had to work at it, and I think when the boat started to rock, I/we didn’t have the skills or the understanding of how to put it right again.
While I was in Uganda, I went on a white water rafting trip and while I chose to go on the “mild” raft as opposed to the “wild” one, the river conditions had changed and there was one rapid that the guide told us was now unpredictable. “Hands up if you’d like to go on the safety boat for this one. Oh, but we can’t guarantee the safety boat won’t tip on this rapid either……so……….…” Holy Hell! I hadn’t planned on getting wet lol!
Long story short, after a brief from the guide informing us that if we could hold our breath for 10 counts we’d be ok. Shit! Wait! I’d been coughing for 6 weeks with a cold and my lungs weren’t quite so strong. My sister had actually asked me before I went “do you think you should go since you’ve not been well”? I would have pulled out but one of her friends was going and I didn’t want to let him down.
Ok, so I could count to ten, but was I counting too quickly? Oh never mind, the boat wouldn’t tip. We’ll be fine. And down the rapid we went, and over went the boat. I’m at the back of the boat by the way, back left corner which was pushed down into the pounding water as the rest of the boat flipped over me.
No problem, count to ten, don’t put your feet down or try to stand up, if you come up under the boat there’ll be an air pocket. I’ve got this! So I’m counting, and I’m counting and I’m counting and.......... oh……...... I’m not coming up. When can I expect to come up? 8…. 9… 10….. and then I said goodbye to my partner, and I said………I’m sorry. (phew, this is difficult to write).
As I reached for my last breath, my lungs took in a truck load of water and my life jacket propelled me to the surface, coughing and spluttering and in shock and panicked. I was so ashamed to be panicked because I could swim well. This had nothing to do with being able to swim though. I was waving and screaming to the safety guides in their kayaks, because I still thought I was going to drown. I couldn’t breath and the waves from the rapids were washing over my head. I guess they figured that I wasn’t face down, so there was no need to come to me. They were looking for upside down bodies.
My sister’s friend, washed past me, and when he saw my panicked state, he grabbed me, spun me round, held me really tight and told me I was going to be alright. He was amazing. Everyone from our boat had clearly had a time of it as they all looked stunned when they climbed back in the boat, even the guide. We still had 7 rapids to go.
The significance of this experience was not lost on me, as it made me re-evaluate my life. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. Not the stuff that we tend to spend our time and energy worrying about anyway.
When I arrived back in Northern Italy, my partner was involved in a terrifying car accident. Everyone in the car survived, but only because it rolled over towards the inside of the icy, snowy, mountain road, rather than the edge.
I thought to myself, what the hell is going on here. Something big is happening in our lives. We’ve both come close to dying in the last few weeks and you know that death can also mean a new beginning.
How right I was. It was the end of our relationship and though he instigated it, they say that when a relationship ends, both people want it and both have made it happen. I wouldn’t have said that at the time, but in hindsight, I’m sure that’s right. I wasn’t following my passion in life. Not really. I was content and probably complacent.
The last 7 or 8 years since we split, have been the most creatively fulfilling years of my life (See my Love Affair With NYC post). It’s almost like he was setting me free to force my hand. I didn’t fight it either. I think that I set him free too to have the life that he is now having. I would never have chosen to leave that relationship but am I grateful that it ended? Definitely, but not because I didn't love him. In fact, we're still good friends and he will always have a special place in my heart.
I hope you've enjoyed my story this week and thank you for taking the time to read it.
Below is a live video of my song 'Like Water'. This song came from the depths of my emotion after our break up.
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Until next time.