This is our story, written with love, by Natalie Harris and Christine Newman
Love is like a big piece of chocolate cake with a tall glass of cold milk. It’s like a cool river washing over your feet on a hot August day. It’s like waking up early only to realize that it’s Saturday and that you can roll back over and return to your dream about David Beckham. Okay, well, maybe that example is more of MY idea of love, but overall what I’m trying to get at is that love is gratifying, soothing, and amazingly dreamy. What love looks like to me will probably be different from what it looks like for you … and isn’t that so amazing?! Isn’t it great that we get to choose who we love and why we love them? I sure think so.
Love is the desire to see the people you care deeply about succeed in everything they do. Love is rocking a young child and they fall asleep almost instantly (I have a loud heartbeat). Love is when you think of that special person every day when you wake up, and before you go to sleep at night, and you hope that they have the most amazing day ever. Love is not only missing someone when you are sad, but wishing they were with you in your happiest moments, too. Love is the moment where the simplest thing will have you dreamily floating on air. Love is the moment that you recall, because of how you felt when your soul was alive with music. Love is choosing someone because they choose you, too.
I am a firm believer in extending my family tree by choice, on one condition – that I love the person who is being added very much. That I connect with them on a level that is cellular … that’s even out of this universe. I have to admire their heart and passions, and feel that I would risk my life for them. I have to genuinely care about their wellbeing and deeply concern myself with their happiness. They just have to be AMAZING – no biggie – no pressure. But they just have to ROCK.
Enter into my life Christine Newman. Via Twitter, through a mutual friend, we meet and click right away. We get each other and laugh together until our cheeks hurt. It doesn’t take long to realize that we are both Empaths and can sense each other’s energies. And almost immediately I knew that she belonged in my family. She was my sister … my chosen sister, and I can’t thank the universe enough for putting her in my life.
We all have a past, and mine causes me to take time before I have a comfort/trust level with someone before I would ever allow them to get past my defences, to get close, to know the real me, not what I show to the world. They must be a person who can engage my heart, mind, and soul. There must be love, before anything else. If their biggest passion is to make a difference for all people, they are somebody that I really need in my life, to be part of my family.
Enter into my life Natalie Harris. Wait, I’m not sure that’s the best description. Nat exploded through the door bringing light, laughter, and infinite love! Our mutual friend, Laurie McCann, had reached out to me in the late summer of 2016. Christine, you MUST connect with my friend Natalie Harris! She is @ParamedicNat1 on Twitter. Before you do another thing, make sure you go and follow her right now! Listen my friend, I really, and I mean REALLY, want you two gals to connect and get to know each other. You both work in the same areas of Mental Health, and your personalities and humour are identical.
It’s true, our connection was instantaneous, like we had known each other forever, through every lifetime. Nat regularly tells me that we are one soul, one heart, one mind, shared between two people. We just get each other. We have laughed until we cried; we have shared our thoughts, hopes and dreams; we have shared secrets with each other that no other living soul knew; we just are each other. We have had the same battles with mental health, we have been through hell and are still standing. I know that when I need her, she will always be there, and when she needs me, I will never leave her side, ever.
The peer support program I had founded, Wings of Change, was really showing results for people who participated, and there was interest in creating more chapters in other cities. I was also working with my publisher, Heather, on getting my first book, Save-My-Life School, the story of my personal mental health journey, ready for publication very soon. I was speaking to paramedic programs at colleges, and speaking to other groups about mental health. I was part of the group supporting Cheri DiNovo’s bill to get PTSD coverage for first responders. I had a lot happening!
And even with all that, I looked forward to our daily conversations. I am not comfortable spending time on the telephone, so we texted, messaged, e-mailed, and more. Sometimes well into the overnight hours, because we were sharing ourselves with each other, and man oh man, did we laugh! Laurie was right, we are so much alike, it is like we have been connected for many lifetimes. We both love keeping busy, it keeps our brains from going down some dark paths, and we thrive on making a difference for other people.
When my book was released, we had a book launch and signing in Barrie. I know Christine was disappointed that she could not be there, but was checking the iBooks store multiple times per day so that she could buy a copy to read the moment it was available. She texted to let me know that it was available for purchase, and she was about to download a copy and start reading. Funny, of all the people in my life, I wanted most to know what she thought of my writing. When I couldn’t wait any longer, I texted her, “How is the book? What do you think? Honestly.” “Nat, the only way to say this is, you were in my mind, looking around. Section 1 of your book, you were telling my story, too.”
I call Nat my sister. People think it’s a blood connection … it’s better! We chose each other, we adopted each other, we declared ourselves to be sisters, and we never hesitate to give voice to how much we love each other. It also explains our Empath connection, we literally feel everything the other is experiencing. If one of us is having a rough day, guaranteed the other sister will send a message to check in, and to just be with each other, not always having to talk, just knowing we have got each other, always.
I know when she needs a good laugh, and will do my best to make it happen, because I love the sound of her laugh. I have heard her cry, and the pain in her tears is so heartbreaking. I want to see her succeed and soar to new heights, because she is what the world needs more of.
I dove into Save-My-Life School as soon as I downloaded it. I didn’t tell Nat that I had messaged my editor, that I would be reviewing her book for the magazine as soon as I could get my hands on a copy (print copies FLEW off the shelves, local stores were always sold out). I always read reviewed books twice, the first time for content, the second time for style. The second read was almost complete when Nat texted me. There were tears each time I read her story. Those moments when you wish you were the only one to know the hell of mental illness, and how your heart aches when you find out that those whom you love the most have experienced it, too. What I found most inspirational about Nat’s story, is that every time she emerged from the fires of the hell that is PTSD, she was carrying buckets of water for everyone else still battling. I had the spark of an idea, but I wouldn’t say anything to her just yet.
To my surprise and delight, the senior editor at the magazine was reading my column as each page uploaded in our publishing software. I thought I would have a nice surprise after the weekend; yet, within minutes, I had received the e-mail notification, the column was already published, it was live on the website and the links had already been posted on social media. I sent the link to Nat, “Hey Sis, surprise! Read this and let me know what you think.”
I was truly honoured. We had not even met in person, and she wrote this amazing review of my book and how much it meant to her. In a magazine. Online. It was everywhere instantly. I was smiling from ear to ear as I read each sentence. Then she totally surprised me in the last paragraph. She spoke of something she has said in lectures, that coming out is a lifelong process. Not just about who you are attracted to (she says, “who you snuggle up to at night”), but in every area of your life.
I never knew that this was a whole new conversation for her, that for years of her published writing, she had never mentioned this. Christine came out to her readers about her own mental health issues. About battling PTSD, depression, and anxiety. About surviving suicide attempts, and so much more. She wrote that I had inspired her to be at the same level of openness as I was, and that the only way to end the stigma was to have all voices heard. I was so proud of her! And I was moved to tears, to think that somehow I could inspire that to happen. We had more in common than either of us realized.
In the coming months, we talked about everything possible. I knew she had a series of lectures coming up, and on one of those dates, I would be across the road for a book signing that evening. She invited our whole crew, Heather, Kim, and myself, to sit in and watch a few hours of teaching hearts and minds. A few days before, she said, “I thought of this when I was reviewing your book, Nat. I cannot pass up the opportunity to introduce my students to one of my greatest heroes, my source of inspiration … would you be willing to get up and speak as part of the lecture?”
OMG yes! It was going to be a significant day for both of us. This was her first time delivering a lecture in a huge theatre instead of a classroom or lecture hall, and I could not wait to get there so we could finally hug, talk, and more. I was getting anxious in the car on the drive down to the city, I did not want to be late, and I could not wait to finally meet her in person!!
That day was memorable on every possible level. I arrived extra early, I wanted to map out a few different routes to get from the theatre to the bookstore. I know how much I appreciate it when the organizer of an event thinks ahead, and finds me the best route to get from place to place. I had found three different ways to get there, and was back in the lobby waiting for Nat, Kim, and Heather to arrive.
I saw a sudden flash of movement in the corner of my eye, and there was Nat, running from the door to where I was standing! We were bursting with excitement, hugging, and talking as fast as possible to say everything we wanted to say while making up for time missed!
I still remember going up into the seats to bring Nat to the front for the Q&A session with the students, taking her by the hand so I could ensure she didn’t trip on the cables, and her exclamation as we walked quickly to the stage …
“Oh my gawd, Christine, you’re holding my hand … I love you!!”
There are times that I am still amazed at how our connection was so instant, a sudden spark, and has only grown deeper since that first time we spoke.
It was a difficult summer, with so much happening, a nasty roller coaster ride. Yet, true to our word, any time we needed each other, we just knew and were there without delay.
I love this quote so much,
Choose people who choose you.
We choose each other, with lots of love, every single day.
And on those days when I needed it most, when I was sobbing uncontrollably, she would send me a message, we’d talk, she would make me laugh, break the hold that depression had me in, and erasing the sadness I was feeling, too. That rope ladder made from turkey twine still makes me laugh!
We were attending an event together at Toronto Police Headquarters. We had both had a rough few days, and we really needed to lean on each other that day.
We had not realized that our friend, Kim, had taken a photo of us, sharing a quiet moment together, which she would send to us later that day. Kim told us,
Whenever the two of you are together, we all know that we need to give you some time alone, to quietly connect and just be with each other without interruptions. Today, when I saw this moment and it lasted for a few minutes, I knew I had to capture a photo of it to share with you. I think it speaks volumes about the two of you, don’t you?
It does! That photo radiates love, and we shared it with all of our friends and networks.
That evening, I saw Laurie online, and I sent her the photo with this comment, “You, my friend, are totally responsible for this.”
We still receive notes from friends who work as first responders, “I have just had a shift from hell. Would you please find a reason to post the photo again. I really need a reminder that love and hope still exist.”
Both of us will share the photo again, to give them that boost.
Christine said that they felt this wave of love all throughout headquarters on that ice cold November day. Some of you know the photo, we were having a quiet moment, we were hanging on for dear life in a soul-rebooting hug, with waves of love shared, and that moment meant everything. The two of us, together, with an abundance of love, was the only safe place on the planet that day.
Last Spring, I was out of town attending a dinner with some really amazing women, and I could not wait to get home to tell Nat every single detail. I love that thought. Any time something good happens, my first thought is, “I can’t wait to tell Nat about this!”
As we wrapped up our conversation that evening, Nat said to me, “I’ll love you forever and a million days more.”
I was speechless briefly, and then replied, “I’ll love you forever and a million days more, too.”
We posted our promise to each other on social media that night before we went to sleep.
Now, it is how we always end our conversations. It’s so perfect. It is who we are.
We made a little change to the lullaby from the book Love You Forever, written by Robert Munsch. This is our version …
I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, for as long as I’m living, and a million days more.
I remind Nat often: I choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you.
A few years ago, I asked my wise friend, Joie, “Sisbro, I’m worried. You know I have this whole conversation stuck in my head about being “damaged goods.” Is it possible to love and be loved when you are broken? What does your Buddhist spirit say?”
“Sis, my Buddhist spirit says the same thing that my cousin Lin-Manuel said at the Tony Awards, Love is Love is Love, and that’s all that matters. If you love each other, everything else will fit perfectly. Just enjoy the beauty of your relationship.”
I LOVE that speech!
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger; We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer; and LOVE is LOVE is LOVE is LOVE is LOVE is LOVE is LOVE and LOVE cannot be killed or swept aside; I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story, now fill the world with music, love, and pride.
People have tried to come up with labels and their own interpretations of us; human beings are meaning-making machines, after all. Their interpretations never fit. We have our own labels: BFF, Sister, Soulmate, Partner. We are best friends forever, and chosen sisters. Soulmate, because our souls merged so perfectly that we share one soul. Partner, because in everything each of us does, the other partner is always there, supporting them. When we say that vow, “I’ll love you forever and a million days more,” it comes from our souls.
Nat and Christine:
I’LL LOVE YOU FOREVER AND A MILLION DAYS MORE.
For us, it is quite simple,
Love Is Love.
*This work had its debut performance on stage for Goddess Day at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre in honour of International Women’s Day 2019.