The following post has been submitted by Chelsey Cowlin and Finn Roche, in collaboration with Jodi Lee Fleming Photography.
Note to readers:
You'll notice that I've intertwined Chelsey and Finn's submissions. I think it's worth mentioning that they worked on their post as individuals and submitted them to me without having read the other's work. I found it fascinating to see how their written work converged, and I hope I've done their stories justice.
My wish for you as you read this post is that you don't just see a love story between a man and a woman, but a realistic tale of two journeys that have been forged out of love for oneself.
To be honest, there was always a part of me that found comfort in being ignorant. I didn’t have to take responsibility for the relationships in my life, I could freely blame others without taking accountability for my words and/or actions, and I could justify my unhealthy attachment to things and people. I grew to expect that bad things would happen to me and feeling negative and victimized in many experiences brought me comfort. Resisting life and feeling sorry for myself was familiar, believing I was unworthy of being loved. I didn’t know this at the time but these tendencies were my way of projecting my shit onto the world. Instead of facing myself I attracted experiences that validated the way I perceived myself: angry, insecure, abandoned, abused, and lonely.
Needless to say, this pattern of thinking eventually lead me to manifest Epilepsy within my body. Lousie L., Hay would say the probable cause being, “Sense of prosecution. Rejection of life. A feeling of great struggle. Self-violence” (You Can Heal Your Life, 1999, p, 191).
Long story short...I spent the first 21 years of my life dwelling on all the “tragic” things that happened in my past instead of showing compassion and practicing forgiveness. The low moments were dark; at times had me questioning faith altogether. Until I subconsciously manifested my last seizure while driving. Nothing like hitting rock bottom to leave you desperate enough to ask for help! The psychiatrist I ended up meeting with taught me that I actually did have a choice: to live in fear or to live in love.
A month later, my future husband, randomly, walked into my life.
At the beginning, being Finn’s partner was absolutely exhilarating but at times frustrating. He wasn’t willing to “fix” me and compensate for my shortcomings but rather challenge me by telling me, “only I could make myself happy”. I had never heard of something so absurd. How the hell was I supposed to learn how to do that when all that consumed me were feelings of anger and pain? What did it even mean to be content?
Soon after, I began chipping away... slowly...at the series of layers I wore to protect myself from the world. At this time, I was attending a meditation class at a local holistic store. This was when I learned that there was something sacred about stillness. I wondered why our society didn’t see value in it. I was then introduced to Reiki and it was here where I learned how heavy I really was - by seeing and feeling how much I was able to let go. Implementing the practice of meditation and learning how to access energy to help me heal brought the first of many glimpses of light into my life.
A man of humble beginnings; growing up I suppose I would have considered myself to be a pretty simple guy, needing very little to be happy. I was fortunate to have had parents whom raised me with unconditional love, and offered nothing but positive reinforcement throughout my childhood. I’ll be the first to recognize that this upbringing gave me a sense of security which, in this often complex and fast paced world, some might say they lacked. On the one hand this security gave me a sense of optimism and contentment which still to this day is the silent tone behind the pervading music of my life. Conversely, this same sense of optimism has at times left me ignorant to many things in my life, including my own self-awareness.
It was probably this lack of awareness that led me astray from the healthy young man I was when starting a career in the trades (straight out of high school), to the all time low I hit just a few years later. Had I been more aware of my psyche at this time, I may have found the strategies to cope with the compulsive people pleasing tendencies, anxieties and so forth to build the confidence and means to keep my life on track. Instead, I found myself spending the extra wealth I had accumulated working full time on the night life. The fact that I was still living at home during this time enabled me to live my life the way many kids would in the post secondary system. It began innocently enough; going out the odd night with friends, paying visits to others whom had gone away for school. But somewhere along the line I just flat out stopped taking care of myself. And how could I have? There was no way I could have maintained being in the shape of my life; as I had been a few years prior. Not while up all night, many nights of the week, for weeks on end. Somewhere along the line I not only lost sight of myself but took for granted the opportunities I had worked so hard to achieve. It eventually got to the extreme of forgetting entire moments from the night before because of how heavily I was drinking. And the worst part was, I didn’t even know how my life had come to this point.
Many months into living this lonely sense of feeling stuck, as the helpless victim of a downward spiral, I unexpectedly crossed paths with a young lady by the name of Chelsey. There was a certain energy about her I had never sensed from anyone else before. Although I’d spent most of the day at this particular function completely in my own world, using my go-to tools to blend in. There was just something about her magnetic presence that, for the first time in a very long time, had me absolutely captivated. Even still, I couldn’t summon the courage to have more than a few insignificantly brief words with her that evening. When the night ended we went our separate ways, and that brief shimmer of exhilaration was as if a distant dream, I sunk back into the illusion my life had become. At times I wondered if I had ever really met this mysterious women at all. It wasn’t until a few months later at a company Christmas party that we met again at her place of employment. I had to seize the opportunity; knowing full well that life doesn’t give you a second chance at meeting someone of this magnitude by chance.
One thing led to another...one casual drink one night turned into many subsequent rendezvous in which we got to know one another. At this stage of my life not only had it been quite a while since I had dated anyone, but my self-confidence had deteriorated significantly. I didn’t really have a clear self-image and therefore didn’t know what it was I had to offer. What I did know was the more I got to know her, the more I came to realize that I needed a change in my life. Getting to know Chelsey gave me a new lease on life, literally. Learning of the struggles she had to overcome in order to get into the school board reminded me of how hard I had worked to get my foot in the door of an industry just as difficult to get into. Witnessing the passion she had in doing whatever it took to become established not only reminded me of how fortunate I really was, but it gave me the permission to re-evaluate my self-worth for no one’s benefit but my own.
In this stage of my life I had nothing to lose. As we grew together we developed a deep appreciation for the importance of communication - although this was certainly not a strong suit for either of us in the beginning. It was this same communication that lead the way to building a trusting friendship, which in turn lay the foundation for fostering the type of relationship I had never before known. As our relationship grew I found new ways to regain some of my once lost confidence. However, at this phase of my life, feeling successful looked much differently than it had in the past. And I found it increasingly difficult to manage the mounting responsibilities of life while trying to build myself back up. As such, with glimpses of the new found confidence that came with the work it took to become established, trying find time to intricately break myself down just didn’t seem a priority at the time.
In the summer of 2011 we bought our first house together. Ironically in a small town we had both become accustom to driving through at times in our single days when we felt overwhelmed and in need of a break from reality. Before even getting the keys we had decided to undertake a pretty extensive renovation which winded up being a little over a year in the making. By this point we were ready for a break from living in the chaos, so we organized a four week trip on the East Coast. As fate would have it we cut our vacation one province short of it’s original itinerary. The reason being; through a series of unexpected events, while passing through one of the most beautiful towns we had come across during our road trip, a unique opportunity presented itself. We stumbled upon a house with a sad past, which although in need of some serious TLC, had a lot of potential in our eyes. Were we crazy? Having driven 2500 kms away from our home in search of a break, here we were debating putting an offer in on a house that needed twice as much work. This meant we would not only be cutting our vacation short but coming home with an even bigger project than what we had just taken on. After much discussion as to the whys and the why nots, we decided to take the leap. Having just completed a similar endeavour, we knew what we were getting ourselves into. And besides, in our eyes if a few summers of hard work was going to give us a home away from home to share with our family, it was a small price to pay for the priceless memories this place would give us later on in life. So three weeks into our holiday we put in our offer, and turned the car around to get the logistics sorted out back home.
We dedicated the next few summers to working on it full time, and will be forever grateful for the tremendous helping hands of our family, who saved us hours of labour. A project that would have extended the process out another year or two easily without their assistance. By the summer of 2014, the once run down bleak house we had found under the Cape Breton Highlands had become our little oasis. Although there was plenty of work still to be done (as with any home) we had made it a fully functional living area. A sacred space away from all of the hustle and bustle of back home. It was this summer that it seemed most fitting to get down on one knee and propose to the love of my life on the East Coast; symbolically the day after the major storm Hurricane Arthur.
We spent the next year planning vicariously for a large but simple wedding in our backyard for the following summer. Much of our time was spent organizing, making decorations and laying out our backyard for the big day. By the time it came around, all of that love we had poured into the day came pouring back down on top of us. Quite literally! The sky let loose to the rain storm of the decade - from the moment I said “I do”, until the last of our guests said their goodbye. But despite the torrential down pour and heavy winds, we were rained with nothing but happiness and love by everyone in attendance that day.
It was a very emotional day for the both of us as we reflected on the events leading up to this point of our lives. I had never worked as intensely as I had the last five years along side this dynamo of a woman. And to see our blood, sweat and tears pay off the way it did, left me feeling accomplished, with a certain sense of stability. As little as we knew of what the future might hold, we had created a solid foundation from which to begin our life together as husband and wife. Although confronting these milestones gave me a sense of confidence in myself and our relationship, it had taken the tangible time away from dealing with the underlying issues that I had struggled with prior to meeting my wife.
Finn and I married but continued to grow as we challenged each other to learn how to love ourselves. We found that when we took care of ourselves as individuals first, we were able to extend our love tenderly to one another. That being said, we put our relationship through some pretty dicey waters through renovating three houses, relying on substances to numb ourselves, and shutting out family and friends as we thought asking for help was a reflection of weakness. Finn and I both had a hard time trusting people - making us continually think we had to compete for each other’s approval, preventing us from being our authentic selves. As time progressed, and the more time we each took to understand ourselves as individuals...things started to shift.
During the summer months, I took a love to reading and studying self help books at our summer home in Cape Breton (one of the cheap homes we purchased that just needed a little love). I would spend days on end in complete silence, searching for clarity. I visited the ocean and lake every day and reflected and observed my thinking, actions and/or words. Each summer I was able to dive deeper and deeper into my quest of self healing:
learning how to let go of the past, being willing to change, understanding forgiveness, loving unconditionally, loving and approving of myself, seeing myself as a divine goddess, learning that God is love, that you are your reality, the power of intent and prayer, the benefits of yoga and tantra, how to dance and sing confidently, laugh from a free and honest place, be creative, express my feelings, being vulnerable and feeling safe while doing so, speaking my truth with love, surrendering to the moment, trusting and allowing in the Universe, opening my heart so that I would naturally become a mother, living to my ultimate edge, facing my fears, honouring my worth, and practicing gratitude.
Sounds lovely doesn’t it? However, I know what you may be thinking as many of these things are not tangible to touch. How do you create such lovely sensations in your life? For one, you need to be ready to see the dark in order to see the light. I have spent years digging deep into my seven chakras and learning how each one contributes to the functionality of my mind, body and soul. This invites a lot of change. Change is scary. However, I have learned to embrace the opportunities that come with change. Being able to listen is also key; you can learn a lot if you are comfortable with being quiet. But my absolute saving grace through my journey was that I never turned down an opportunity to experience something new.
I have been mentored by Reiki Masters (Ellen Sutherland, Donna Curran), guided by spiritual teachers (Sandra Gemin, Julie Barasevic, Mariah Freya), and am formally trained as a Reconnective Healing Foundational Practitioner by Eric Pearl. I have been on retreat and studied with teachers such as Susan Child and Molly Swan. I have been committed to my yoga practice for the past 5 years as another pastime that also brings me peace and awareness. While finding experiences and opportunities that guide me through my passion, I have also been an elementary school teacher with the HWDSB for the past eight years. Throughout this duration of time I have had the privilege of bringing different modalities into the classroom and seeing children heal first hand.
Since finding Reconnective Healing in 2016 I feel as though my purpose is becoming more clear. A few teachers have told me that I will continue to be reincarnated as long as there is someone that is in need of help. I now take that responsibility pretty seriously and want to bring comfort and ease into people’s lives. I run my business, Balance out of my home where I support my clients in whatever it is they need in that moment of time. I don’t go “looking” for people to treat as I have faith that they will find me when the time is right. Through my space I offer Reconnective Healing, The Reconnection, and/or Reiki sessions that bring physical, mental, emotional and/or spiritual healings from the Universe. I also run mediation classes for children and adults and am hoping to host one-day retreats in the near future to educate people on the power and benefits of stilling the mind and sitting in gratitude. I also sell essential oil blends that foster healings based on our thinking patterns. I have recently signed up with the company Young Living to sell 100% pure essential oils as mixing oils is another one of my favourite past times.
As successful as I may have felt in that moment, with my new wife, I unexpectedly came to realize these unaddressed patterns which caused me such turmoil in the past were still lingering. To make matters worse, having never challenged this dynamic in my life I lacked the skills to understand them, let alone deal with them. It wasn’t until this moment when I found myself surrounded by so many different personalities representing so many different stages of my life that I noticed these quarks resurfacing. Being the centre of attention for the day we were surrounded by a sense of ungrudging love and support by everyone in attendance, yet even still; the impulsivity, people pleasing, and anxious tendencies which had once high jacked my rational view of the world came back to haunt me. My clarity of the day in many ways became a blur, not knowing where to put my attention or when...I very much lost the ability to remain present and strong.
The simple fact that these unaddressed issues caught up with me the way they did during such an important moment of my life shook me to my core. This realization acted as a breaking point for me. If there was ever a time to put the attention towards myself and how I worked, this was it. I was forced to really look at myself, accept where I was, and understand that no matter how successful I may feel at times, like everyone else, I am human and have things that I need to work on too.
As I’m sure anyone who has found themselves in a similar position can appreciate; the first and most drawn out part of getting your life on track is accepting that your life needs a significant overhaul in some respect. Often times the more difficult step is taking accountability for this and figuring out what action you are willing to take to make the necessary changes in your life. This then leads to the uncomfortable realization that you can’t always deal with these issues on your own. Which is a terrifying thought on in itself, as it means having to be raw and vulnerable about this with someone else, put your trust in them.
Since meeting Chelsey she had discovered meditation, later transitioning to energy work and other forms of self-awareness (which over the course of our time together has lead her to the transformations within her very own journey). In pursuit of better understanding these unknown aspects of my life I followed in her footsteps seeking various specialists, psych testing, self help books, mindfulness, meditation and even energy work (such as Reiki, aroma therapy and Reconnective healing to name a few).
With every layer of myself I confronted came the realization of there being more I wasn’t aware even existed. As intimidating as it’s been at times, once I began the journey of understanding myself on a more intricate level, gaining this awareness became a journey not easy to shy away from.
Fuelling this pursuit more recently has been undoubtably the largest transition of my life: parenthood.
When we were blessed with our beautiful baby girl, it only reinforced the responsibility I had for my own healthy understanding of my mental wellbeing on a level I had never before felt. I didn’t plan on taking this lightly, knowing anything I hadn’t confronted in my own life may inadvertently be passed onto our daughter. In my mind there was no other choice than to continue the ongoing process of dissecting myself, one element at a time.
During the last few years of plugging away at myself I have come to the conclusion that I’ve always been a person of high anxiety which I was later able to identify as predominantly being triggered by ADHD. The cumulation of these mental illnesses often prevented me from being present enough to feel grounded, resulting in a lack of confidence in myself and my abilities. I have not only been able to recognize and accept these tenancies, but I have become more aware of my subconscious as a whole (including certain corks that at times seemed to rule my life).
As a result, this awareness has given me the confidence to dive a little deeper and challenge other aspects of my persona including my rudimental understanding of myself. Some things have surfaced more naturally than others; similarly some have been easier to tackle than others. More specifically, I have found opportunities to challenge myself to face my fears, including working towards strengthening relationships in my life which at times seem easier to avoid.
Further, acknowledging my more sensitive side I’ve learned how to feel more comfortable accepting this aspect of my personality (no easy task for any man, let alone one struggling at times to find confidence within himself).
Lastly, I’ve become aware of a slowly growing ability to still my mind and be more present. In the last year I’ve noticed, even in the most subtle of ways, the different external effects this new capacity has had in my life. One such example in recent months: I’ve had the opportunity to offer people around me resources to tackle similar problems they were facing in their lives. It feels good to have the presence to recognize similar patterns in people through listening to their stories, and for them to feel comfortable enough to open up to me. What has probably been just as rewarding for me is having the courage to show my vulnerability, and more so, to have the wisdom to suggest possible solutions. Had this been a few years ago, I never would have found these moments to reach beyond myself and reach out to others in need. Not necessarily out of being too caught up in myself, but rather as a result of not being present enough to see the opportunity, or courageous enough to act on it.
I now believe my purpose is to provide a space where people feel ready to tackle their demons and feel safe while doing so. To learn in love rather than fear. It is important not to have expectations of yourself by judging and/or criticizing your experience. It is essential to be kind and gentle with yourself and celebrate the smallest steps as there is great power in our willingness to try. If we can learn how to trust and allow one will see that no problem is too big for the Source to solve. It’s about appreciating and honouring the present moment instead of feeling guilty about the past or anxious about the future. Negative thinking will create illnesses within the body to help communicate that a change needs to be made. Be still and listen. Learn how you work. Understand how you are wired. Show empathy for yourself while doing so. Discover what makes you joyful. We are all born perfect, whole and complete. Over time, our experiences cloud this reality and we tend to forget the magnificence of our Being. We were all put on this Earth for a purpose. A purpose that will benefit humanity in some original, unique way to you. Show gratitude for your blessings along the way and your abundance will be multiplied.
I am and will forever be grateful for the Universe sending me the love of my life, Finn. I truly believe the Universe pulled us together as we have both flourished since being in each other’s company. He challenges me every day in a loving and supportive way to be the ultimate version of myself. We both come to the table as balanced as we can be. We live life to the fullest and communicate A LOT. Not to say that life isn’t always perfect and that we don’t have our fair share of hard days and long weeks, but we have learned how to lean into the discomfort and have compassion for ourselves when we struggle. We understand that everything happens for a reason and try to look at situations calmly as emotion tends to limit your ability to think clearly. We each take accountability for our actions in our relationship and take time to love ourselves when we find we are projecting our “shit” onto one another.
I am also and will forever be grateful for the Universe sending me the other love of my life, Rosemary Ann, our daughter. For a long time I didn’t think I would ever be worthy enough to have a child. However, as time progressed and the layers began to unfold I learned that I was more scared of having a child to love if I couldn’t even love myself. When I found out the pleasant surprise of being pregnant, I knew that was the Universe’s way of telling me I was ready. And low in behold, the kid came out with heart-shaped markings all over her body… my heart chakra baby. Rosemary started taking care of me the moment I found out she was there. We had some sacred moments together while she was in the womb that I hold close to my heart. I had never felt that deeply connected to a Being that I had never met before. And since she has arrived, she has done nothing but encourage me to be my most authentic, most vulnerable, most beautiful Self. I have never felt so free, strong, accomplished and purposeful. I am truly honoured she chose me to be her mother as she has already taught me so much more and she is only ten months old.
Most importantly, I am forever grateful for myself and the path I have chosen to live. In the end, it is the relationship you have with yourself that trumps all others. I love myself because I continue to try to be the best person I can be. Being mindful of my mental health is a constant effort of checking in and scanning my body. I love myself because I am now consciously aware of what love and peace feel like; it is always accessible as it comes from deep within. I love myself because I can forgive myself on the days where I feel saturated and overwhelmed. I love myself because I have given myself permission to trust my intuition and allow the Universe to guide me in ways that it sees fit.
I choose to see life as eternal and joyous. I am eternal and joyous and at peace.
I (Chelsey) am WHOLE.
I’m not claiming that I have mastered my weaknesses, far from it; I still have my good days and bad days. These tendencies will forever be a part of whom I am. However, rather than live with it in denial or self persecution, I’ve discovered a new found courage in which I choose to face it head on. The main thing I have found since putting the work in is that I can no longer live in ignorance (as much as I’d like to at times). There isn’t a thing I would change about my life. Every experience I’ve had along the way has amounted to whom I am today. I create my own reality and therefore make it my mission to do what I can to be the best version of myself that I can be. It’s a constant learning curve in discovering whom I am, how I work and how I can better myself. Although it never looks perfect, and every situation is different- I have found as long as the intent is there, all in all I have only been more pleased with whom I have become.
Living in ignorance is by far a much easier path than facing yourself. It takes work, the challenges never end. But the end result for those brave enough to challenge themselves in this way is that you will never be the same, and although intimidating at times- it couldn’t be anymore rewarding.
If there were one word to describe myself, and all of the good fortune I’ve had throughout the good times and struggles in my life,