My Love Boat Adventure … or how I met my husband

Of course my Angels were involved in me meeting my husband … not that I asked them to.

You see, when I was growing up I always felt different and couldn’t easily relate to others. It started early. Already at 5 years old, I was quite isolated at school and had only one best friend. It became harder and harder with time. As a teenager I didn’t have a boyfriend, I didn’t like any of the guys I met. Then at University, I had a lot of crushes who didn’t crush back on me. On the other hand, there were guys who liked me, but I didn’t realise it until it was too late.

After my master’s degree in Marine Biology, I enrolled in a PhD program in Germany in 2002 and things started to get really complicated. Not only was I shy, but I didn’t like to go to clubs, couldn’t drink that much beer, and on top of that was the language barrier (I didn’t speak good German) and the cultural differences. The Germans even wrote a song about it:  Aurélie by Wir sind Helden.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KOUCOYVAos

At 25 and still single, I was ripe for celebrating Sainte Catherine, which is a day in France when unmarried women that reached the age of 25 are paraded with stupid hats in their town in the hope to find a last minute husband. Thanks God, this tradition is not so popular nowadays but back then in my small German flat, I felt very much like a “Catherinette”.

I started to feel more and more lonely and depressed about my love life, wondering if I would ever meet the “one” and if he would ever noticed me, and speak to me, etc. Each place I would go, each new man I would meet, I was going with an expectation: is he the one? is this happening now? What if I mess this up? It was exhausting!

Finally one day, riding the bus downtown, I decided I had enough and I would stop being desperate and that I would stop searching, and expecting for something to happen ever. I started an intimate conversation with God and told him:

“God, I don’t know what your plan for me is, if you want me to stay single for the rest of my life, but if it is, so be it. I am done searching for a husband. If you want me to marry someone and have kids, You are going to have to do the job. You will look for someone and You will arrange for him to come to me!”

Maybe God wanted me to dedicate my life to my research and nothing else. I would be wearing tweed pantsuits while teaching about Paleoceanography in an old dusty auditorium, being all important and severe.

It was not a bad perspective but I would rather include a husband as well. “God if you don’t want me to have a husband, I will not be happy now but I will do my best to be happy later. It doesn’t matter anymore.” And then I went window shopping.

About 3 months later, I received the opportunity to embark on a scientific expedition to the North Atlantic to retrieve marine sediments that I would be using for my PhD research. It was a unique opportunity and my Professor was so excited that I had been selected. So after a medical examination where the doctor asked me 3 times if I was pregnant? and if I was sure? (ô the irony) I departed for Saint John’s, Canada, where the JOIDES Resolution was waiting for us.

We were about 24 international scientists on board, plus some engineers, plus the marine crew, plus the cooking and cleaning crew, and a doctor. It was a nerve wrecking experience: I was about to be at sea for 2 months with little contact onshore, doing a job I hadn’t done before, on a 12-hours shift, all the while having to speak fluently English with British,  Canadian, American, German, Korean, Japanese,, etc., people. And I am very easily sea sick!

We set sail end of September 2004 to the North Atlantic. The first weeks I settled down nicely. I started to know my way around the boat. I became friends with my roommate. The other people in my team were very friendly and not so intimidating. Our team leader was very patient and would teach me everything I needed to know about marine sediments. I started to relax and have fun.

Then came the first boat drill. When you are at sea, the captain is required to prepare his crew for any emergencies and so every week there is a  safety drill. For us, the scientists on board, our only job was to get to our safety boat station (we had one designated safe boat) with our hard hat and life jacket. There we would get our name checked off the list and maybe be made to do some exercises related to an emergency.

I was not feeling it. What if I couldn’t find the right boat?And then everybody would laugh at me. What if the Captain asks me to do something and I can understand him because he is Scottish and I really don’t understand anything he says. And then everybody would laugh at me. What if it is slippery outside and I fall? And then everybody would laugh at me. What if I do something stupid? And then everybody would laugh at me.

The alarm set off. I put on my life jacket and took my hard hat and started to calm myself down.

During a boat drill aboard the JOIDES Resolution, I am the 3rd person on the right.

“Take a deep breath it is going to be alright. Now follow the people, we are going on the deck. Be careful with the heavy door, don’t pinch your fingers and hold the door for the person behind you!”

Soon I didn’t realise but now the voice of my Angels was replacing my inner voice:

“Yes it is very sunny today.” The sun was blinding. My eyes were burning and I could barely see where I was going. “Next time you should take your sunglasses, as well.”, they recommended.

“Your station is right there!”, showing me the second boat on the deck. And then:

“You see this guy?”

A man was waiting at the station with a blue coverall and a hard hat but no life jacket.

“Yes”, I said, not understanding.

“It’s your future husband!”

“What? Nope! No way! We had an agreement. I want a Brad Pitt look-alike.” I told my Angels. “This guy is not even my type!” I was looking at a short Mexican guy who had salt and pepper hair. He didn’t look bad but I looked nothing like Brad Pitt, my long time crush. I had seen him around the boat before. I did notice he had a warm friendly smile. His energy felt very nice. I never spoke to him. The Angels were insane. And I immediately forgot what they had said.

I approached my station. I found an Argentinian colleague of mine, Oscar. We started to talk, waiting for the boat drill to be over. I told him my hard hat was too big.

“Oh really?”, he said, “You need to fix it! Ask this guy. He is very friendly.” He told me pointing to my future husband.

I extended my helmet to him.

“Oh! you need me to fix it for you?” taking my helmet.

I said thank you, not realising I had just exchanged my first words with my future husband!

The next boat drill I didn’t see him again. In fact, I didn’t know it but he had made a mistake this one time and his safety boat was on the opposite side of the boat. And so we didn’t meet on the deck anymore.

In fact, I didn’t see him for several weeks, until one evening …

I was arriving in the galley for diner. Oscar invited me to sit with him and my future husband. Tonight they were speaking Spanish, he said, but since I was French I would easily understand everything. I sat down with them but realised soon that I couldn’t understand a thing. And my mind wandered, when:

“Do you want to see my tool?”

What? I came back to reality. He was looking straight at me, speaking to me. His tool? Was that a code for something?

“My logging tool!”, he explained.

I didn’t understand what was going on. I looked at Oscar. He nodded. “You should go! That’s very interesting! Javier will show you the tools he is using to log the borehole.”

It didn’t make any sense, but I was here to learn as much as I could while on the boat, and whatever logging was, I needed to get on it. So I said yes, not realising that this was a date.

My husband, hard at work, with his logging tool onboard the JOIDES Resolution. Watercolor by Christine Laverne, in Drill me a painting, Editions Atlantica.

We met the next evening past midnight after my shift. He took me to his unit at the back of the ship which was in fact a big container with computer screens and screwdrivers. He locked the door behind us. I started to feel uneasy. He showed me around, pointing at some screen. I was not listening. To this day, I am unable to listen to my husband speak about his work.

I turned around. The blood in my body froze over.

“Why do you have a bed in here?”, I asked, ready to leap for the door.

“Oh! Sometimes it takes a long time for the tool to go down and up again. So I take a nap in between. Because I have to stay in the unit at all times! Do you want to see pictures of my family?”

What? I approach and he showed me his parents on his laptop and photos of their house in Mexico. I saw him gushing about how cute his little nephews and niece were. And how he missed them so much, because with his job he couldn’t be there often. And I realised: this is a man who will never deliberately hurt me, physically or otherwise. And to this day, it is still true.

I started to see him more and more. We exchanged some cute emails. He brought me candies when I was working. And when we starting drilling in the Labrador Sea, we were officially but covertly dating.

Our wedding invitation showing how we meet in the North Atlantic aboard the JOIDES Resolution.

I didn’t think this relationship was very serious. It is like Vegas, what happens on the boat, stays on the boat. We were just having fun, watching movies and having diners together.

Then one day, he asked me how my parents were. I immediately bursted in tears. Words were coming out of my mouth that I couldn’t control. I told him everything! About my sister’s suicide attempt when I was a teenager, how since then we couldn’t really recover as a family, and how I always felt like my parents couldn’t really relate to what I was going through. Everything came out at once.

He was not bothered, put his arms around me, and calm me down slowly.  He told me his family went through hard times as well and nobody’s family is perfectly happy.

The Angels asked me:

“Do you realise that something special is happening here?”

Even with my best friends I hadn’t been able to speak about this. I had kept all this feelings inside for a very long time and suddenly they came out while I was sobbing in his lap.

“Pay attention to how you feel! There is something special about this guy.”

I was still not sure, Javier was my long-awaited soul mate. But the Angels were insisting he was. Even if it felt very nice being with him, he really didn’t look like Brad Pitt, I complained to the Angels. 

“What do you really feel when you are with him?”

“Safe, secure. I know he will never hurt me”, I told the Angels.

“Well, when was the last time you felt this way?”

Never! I had never felt safe with a guy.

“Maybe you should pay attention to this?”, the Angels gently proposed.

We continued dating until we disembarked in Ponta Delgada (Azores) at the end of November. We spent a week holiday there and at the end, I knew we would get married one day. In fact, would he have asked me, I would have said yes.

After that, we met every two months, when he could take holidays. As a couple, things were not so easy at the beginning. We had a lot of misunderstandings. I think the language barrier (none of us is a native English speaker), the cultural differences and the long distance thing didn’t help. I doubted many times that he was the right guy. But each times, the Angels were saying :

“You are supposed to be with him. Don’t worry this problem will solve itself.”

By the end of the year he had met my parents and I had met his family. His nephews and niece adopted me immediately. We got married four years later. Yes – I got over the Brad Pitt thing at some point.

Our wedding day!

Remember your Angels are always helping with any area of your life. Call on them to bring more Love into your life right now.

If you haven’t already, I wish you to find your significant other soon, and read my next post for advices on “how to find Love”.

Sending you Love & Light,

Gretta

PS: If this story resonated with you, let me know below. I would love to read your stories.

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