The Three-headed Serpent

I am back on Juniper now, and paradise is empty. I like the stillness of it.

I noticed today how similar the word pandemic is to panic. Take the “dem” out of pandemic and you have panic.

I have not panicked about this pandemic and I keep wondering if the world has gone mad or have I?  Like, have I turned into some psychopath who is oddly calmer in chaos? Or is all that meditation and the time spent alone at sea finally paying off?

It is easy to fear this unknown. Uncertainty is uprooting, solitude is a desert, and death is a dragon I abhor, but the sea taught me how to embrace these notions.

Through my observations of nature, I also have a strong belief that balance can’t help but restore itself. This world was built upon and craves equilibrium. I think that sometimes certain ways of existing have to shift in order for our planet to maintain homeostasis. I wonder if now is a part of some shift. I wonder if we are being forced to slow down and go inward because we risked destroying ourselves and everything that surrounds us at the pace we were going?

So here we are, lost in this unknown forest, followed by an invisible hunter. And until we can see clearly through the thickness of these woods, all we can do is stay cautious, follow our instincts, cherish life, and count our blessings.  

Blessings. Blessed. Bless.

People always ask me how I fell in love with sailing. Reflecting on that made me realize that a lot of good can come from a bad situation. Sailing is one big blessing that bloomed out of my suffering and it took me years of reflecting to realize it.

It is no secret to you by now, that I have made a lot of decisions based on my insecurities and that those decisions have landed me in the wrong places with the wrong people. Especially when it comes to romance.

That is where my love of sailing all begins.

There was this guy and I thought it was love and we decided to live together. He was the first guy that I ever lived with and we had a house, at the end of a train line, in Rockaway Beach, New York. Rockaway is far away, from everything.

He was seven years older than me, half-Sicilian, half-Vietnamese. A self-proclaimed artist, with a bunch of broken dreams. Rarely had a job and rarely had any money. We both liked the ocean, but he wasn’t a sailor and neither was I.

The first night we slept next to each other, I dreamt that he had turned into a giant three-headed serpent and was chasing me in a pool of dark water. I woke the whole neighborhood up screaming over that dream. It was terrifying.

I should have known then, what was to come. I should have known then, to run.

He turned into that three-headed monster and more. Would spit on me and tell me to go commit suicide in the ocean. Would punch me while I was sleeping. Would give me the silent treatment for weeks at a time. When he was really pissed, he would make me sleep on the floor because the bed and the couch were “his.”  Once he even stole my photographs and submitted them as his own to get a job in Ghana.

I could have left. I should have left. But the cycle of abuse is a mind-bending loop.

Abuse can happen to anybody. It doesn’t matter what your IQ is or how you were raised. If you don’t see yourself, respect yourself, love yourself, know yourself, then you are susceptible of getting engulfed in its ugly trap. And in this society, confidence isn’t easily taught or captured. I see it as a wavering and delicate thing that I am perpetually losing a grasp of.

At the time, I had just graduated with a degree in journalism and a minor in history. I had my dream job as a multimedia journalist for Magnum Photos – one of the oldest photo agencies in the world.  One week I would be interviewing Taliban experts in Afghanistan and the next Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground. I even got to go to Nepal and do a three-part series after the Maoists won a 10-year war and toppled the monarchy.

I had a lot of things going for me, but I suppose some part of me thought I deserved the abuse. And the serpent was very good at making me believe that. 

Anyway, I had been in Nepal working during my birthday. When I got home the serpent told me to lift the lid off our BBQ grill. The grill was bright red and so small that we had to grill one burger at a time.  Inside the grill was an origami sailboat made out of yellow legal pad paper. On the side of the boat the serpent wrote “Happy Birthday, Olivia!” I looked at him confused. “Babe, I am giving you sailing lessons for your birthday,” the serpent said. And get this, the serpent was so good at being a serpent that he just made that little origami boat and somehow convinced me to pay for the actual lessons. What a gem!

I don’t know why he got me sailing lessons. I never mentioned the desire to sail. I never even had the desire to sail!  But as soon as I started to study sailing, I fell in love with it.

I love it because it’s challenging; I could never master sailing, I will always be a student of it. I love it because it is so dynamic- it involves; math and science and art and carpentry and engineering and yoga and physics and design; and it forces unknown parts of my brain to spring into existence. I love it because it allows me to slow down and appreciate the beauty around me. I love it because when I sail it is as if I am dancing with nature, and she twirls me every which way to Sunday, but never steps on my toes. I love it because, when you really get down to it, I am harnessing the power of something that at the same time I am at the mercy of and that is humbling. Wow, just wow!

I eventually ditched the guy and kept sailing. I regret to say that it wasn’t the last abusive relationship that I was in, but I am proud to say that my desire to overcome abusive relationships, is what led me to cross the Pacific on my own.  

It was only a few years ago that I realized how much light came out of that relationship. I spent a lot of time hating him and hating myself for being with him. Now when I think of the serpent, I smile. Cause he gave me the best gift I’ve ever been given it. Without that gift, I don’t know where or who I’d be today.

Something beautiful always comes from something tragic. Wishing you all a lot of light in these dark times. 



*If you have struggled with abuse or know anybody who is, I recommend reading Healing Well and Living Free from an Abusive Relationship, From Victim to Survivor to Overcomer by Dr. Ramona Probasco.


* If you like these salt covered tales and are not already receiving them directly to your inbox, just go to, scroll to the bottom of any page, enter your email address, and click the “sail along” button beneath it. Then go to your email and click on the confirmation email that WordPress sends to you. Voila, now each post will sail straight to your inbox. Subscribing helps me to continue this journey. X 

22 Replies to “The Three-headed Serpent”

  1. Olivia, So many femaies (and males I suppose) deal with living with abuse of all kinds. Proud you got out of these destructive relationships. You are strong and sooooo talented – go sail, Girl!!! Dee

    Dee Hickman


  2. An odd positive, but Covid-19 is helping clean our atmosphere far better than any government could do. Your ex did the same for you. You see relationships few others do.
    I heard a good sailor can read the waves. I think you are reading the winds too.

    1. rawgod, I read about all the air pollution dissipating and everything breathing with more ease again! Thanks so much for sharing that here! Something beautiful always comes out of something tragic, right? It’s all a part of the balance.

  3. Olivia, We have. never met, but I live down the street from your Mom and Dad. You are a fabulous writer and your story today truly touched me. I am so proud of you and all your accomplishments. Hope we can visit when you come to LR…..

    1. Hi Barbara, thanks so much for reading and reaching out! I would love to meet you next time I am in LR 🙂 xo

  4. What’s wrong with us? Us who attract abusers? Liars, cheats, and manipulators?

    What about the men who do so? They must be like women? Allowing, no, desiring the abuse?

    What with the system rigged so much in their favor? Or is it?

    Or do we all just get tangled up in webs of people whose ideas of what’s the next best move, coming in direct conflict with our next best move?

    Either way each failed recipe is a step towards the recipe we’re craving next.

    I pray genuinely in my heart of hearts that you and I may both find that next recipe to be totally delicious with no nasty side effects!

    I am a man. “Abuser” and abused.

    I’ve never sailed. Am here via Sams YT trip with you to HI. Have an Uncle with a condo on the, “small island”. Whichever that is. Am healing from a long line of abusive relationships and the losses of many friends. So I felt like reaching out.

    All the best. Thanks for sharing.
    I always loved your name.

    1. Hi Cory! I am so sorry to hear about all of your abusive relationships. I don’t think that there is nothing wrong with us. They say we attract wherever we are at. For me, I think I had a lot of insecurities and no self-love and I was attracting others who were the same, but handled it by being abusive. And me, I allowed it. I was also ignoring my intuition or gut instincts. In the book I linked to, Dr. Ramona helps you realize all of the warning signs that we ignore. Beyond outward ones characterized by the other persons behavior, there are a lot of internal warning signs we get when we are in something unhealthy. When I started to think about all the relationships I had been in that were abusive, each time there was a dream that gave me a warning and physical ailments that accompanied that relationship.

      I hope that we find the next recipe too! I just keep doing the things that I love and connecting more deeply with myself. I think that is all we can do. I give it all to a higher power 🙂

      For me sailing became my sanctuary for this deeper connection, but it can be anything you love, that is enlightening and empowering and makes you elated to be alive.

      Sending good healing vibes your way. You are not alone and there is absolutely nothing in this world wrong with you!


      1. Thank you for your kind response Olivia. It goes to show that learning and listening are key elements to healing and growing beyond our tendencies.

        One if the things I learned through all of this is that the most egregious abuser is the unthinking, unfeeling, heartless and profit driven abuser that is, institutional abuse. From the police who cannot do their jobs properly in a police state. To the heinous stitched zombie called, “anger management” and so called, “substance abuse programs.” I have been witness to countless destroyed lives as a result of these traps. Seen how they use gender and personal preferences as weapons on both sides. Using any tool in their box to serve their needs, ie; money.

        I really don’t mean to open a can of worms here, nor to throw myself upon the cross but I feel this is a safe public space where this can be discussed without too much self harm.

        Religious abuse. The fundamental tendency to say that something is “ok” because he/she is, “one of us”. My last abuser was given a pass mostly due to the fact that she was a, “Christian”. Thus it’s impossible that she could be an abuser. Tell that to my neighbor whose baptist husband put her femur through her leg. Whose pastor told them to, “pray about it”.

        Retaliatory abuse, that it’s, “ok” because he/she did such and such. Really, are you sure about that? What was the context? Have you researched all the aspects that led to his or her tendencies?

        Vigilante abuse. Those who were or are friends or family of the so called abused. Those who would seek to torture, use dream work or magic to subject those they believe to be abusers to relentless and long term campaigns of both physical and spiritual abuse.

        Occult and written media abuse. Hidden agendas, often times veiled inside institutional abuse systems that seek only profit. Using generalizations, such as, “all men are abusers, pedofiles etc.” to further their agendas. Whispers, statements, gang stalking, and harrassment. All old tools used by Nazis with the first documented uses being made public in the newspapers of 1500 Italy! Now has gone mainstream online.

        Educational abuse. Mixing in with the occult abuse, lacking discernment and using ostracization as a weapon of control. Thus instituting long term devastational financial abuse. Locking people out of education because they lack the discernment to understand that what happens in the private lives of their stidents is none of their damn business. That their students are most likely there to move away from those who abused them.

        So no wonder you’re on a boat floating around at sea alone. In many ways why I am alone here in Alaska. Perhaps not alone enough, it’s tough to find healthy people. We’re all being tortured and abused all the time. If you’re not, then YOU ARE THE ABUSER!

        We will find our way to others like us on the quest of good and true, pure lives. Secreted away from all of these societies designed around their motives of profit at our demise.

        The open sea seems like the best choice. As I hear one of my abusers now outside my home there on the street yelling, “why don’t you just kill him?!”

        Happy COVID-19 season. It’ll be over soon and we’ll all be better for it!

  5. Olivia finds herself on a journey that she’d never signed up for . . . and one that she has. She is at once the lioness and the lamb, and these days she seems to be embracing the lioness more. Thoroughly enjoy your posts!

    1. rcameronbryce, I am blessed to know you and always grateful for your poetry and reflections on life. I don’t think it is a coincidence that our boats found a similar place on the water. 🙂

  6. Very touching story. It’s probably tough reliving the stories. You do tell stories well however I was wondering, because you were at Magnum Photos, if you’ve considered adding more photos to your blog?

    1. Hi Wyatt, I like your name 🙂 Thanks so much for the feedback! Where else would you like to see photos? I will add more. I put an image with each post and multiple on every page, but I also have an instagram page that is all photos and is linked to at the bottom of every page beneath Dive Deep, it has the little camera symbol, but maybe I should have it feed directly onto the blog, so there is one section of just images. Is that what you are thinking? Or are you wanting more threaded throughout blog posts? Let me know and I will step it up!

      1. I guess maybe there are more photos than I am aware of. If your images could feed directly into your blog it might help dummies like me.
        I’d love viewing images of the places you visit – and you enjoying them. ?

  7. This breaks my heart. I’m so happy you’ve found your strength and freedom. Sail on??

  8. Dear Olivia, thanx for sharing ? I met you by that time @Magnum Photos…but didnt notice..
    Big Berlin hug to this strong magical woman you are ?
    Never stop writing!!!

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