By Alexa Johns
Okay. I’m back and still resistant to writing this, but I’m going to do it anyway. At first, it was just going to be Natalee that moved to Nashville, and then the ultimatum set in. It wasn’t just the threat of breaking up our duo “Falk” – I was also told they would take my car even though it was mine. It was in the “company name.” In addition to that, all of the royalties I was supposed to get the following year were jeopardized, and I was told that if I walked away, I would have to pay back my parents over $200,000.00 for what they put into my music career. To top it all off, my mom threatened to remove me as a flight benefit recipient, since she was a Delta flight attendant, so I would not have the options of travel that I had been using at the time. Also, I was threatened with being cut off from my monthly NaShea stipend -which was minimal anyway, but I needed it to survive. I was, however, offered by them to help make my relationship work with Ty if I would agree to move to Nashville. They offered to invite Ty on family trips and said they would allow me to make arrangements for him to come out and visit me. They said that I would be able to keep my financial income and my car as long as I moved. It was basically the YouTube cover video experience all over again – but on steroids. (Reference to Vacancy of Freedom Part 1.)
I felt backed into a corner. I felt imprisoned by the lack of choice. Not only would they not support me staying, but they would also make it nearly impossible to succeed if I did. I begged to do it all in reverse. To let me live in Logan, with Ty, and to fly out when I was needed for things like meetings or shows. I argued that I could song-write and practice music from anywhere. Plus, I had flight benefits (as long as my mom kept me on her benefits standby list), so I didn’t see why I couldn’t just fly out and participate long-distance for a year or so until Ty and I could move there. The threats got louder, and my resolve weakened. My seething anger turned into bitterness, and it poisoned my love for what my sister and I had created together. I felt she was at the helm of this violent change because she, for her own reasons, wanted to get out of Logan, and I don’t blame her. I just wished she didn’t need me to go with her so her life could work the way she had planned it.
Nat and I were always the best of friends unless a boyfriend of mine was involved. I won’t go into the details, but it seemed like as a new relationship in my life came together, the one I had with my sister would fall apart. This was a pattern for us, and that pattern was flaring up again in the ugliest way.
Then filming for the reality TV show began…
Looking back at that time in my life, it all feels like a tear-stained letter, like a giant blur. We were in the beginning stages of filming the pilot for our TV show, “Meet the Real Falkers.” I remember going over the episode outlines and having to categorize our life into titles and subtitles for the episode layout. It was odd, but it was also somewhat therapeutic in a way, having to write down on paper our individual drama points and the things we felt were drama points for the family. I left out a significant personal issue I was dealing with at the time, which I will also leave out here until I have the courage to one day write about it. So, instead, I focused on the drama points of family pressure, the money dynamics, the strain my long-distance relationship was putting on me, and the contentious creative relationship I had with my sister in our duo FALK. I can’t say I’d really recommend anyone film a reality TV show because it seemed to exacerbate our problems to a magnified level. In fact, after the whole thing was said and done, my parents’ thirty-year marriage was over; so was mine and my sister’s duo “FALK.”
I got engaged to Ty during that time, and soon he became a person of filming interest for the production team. This was a big problem for my sister, and our divide seemed to worsen. Since Ty is from Canada, we decided to marry on Vancouver Island. It’s quite a trek to get there, and it was absolute hell trying to plan a wedding while my “groom to be” was still living in another state, and our wedding venue was in another country. It was summertime, and we had finally settled on a date – June 20th of 2015. We had less than a year to plan the wedding, and my parents’ marriage was at a breaking point. Ty and I had flown out to Canada to visit his family. The plan was for my mom to fly in and meet us there to take a few days, drive up the island to do our engagement photos, and pick our wedding venue. I didn’t know how bad things had gotten at home. Then, at dinner one night, my mom found out that my dad had moved out of the house while she was gone. She had a little too much wine and spent the night telling me why marriage wouldn’t work, among other things I don’t even feel comfortable writing about here. Ty was so angry. Understandably so. It was supposed to be such a happy time in our lives, and instead, I left the dinner table sobbing. I realized how much pain my mom was in, so I didn’t fight back; I just cried. That seems to be the bitch about compassion sometimes. I’m probably guilty of tending to have so much compassion for what another person is going through that I have often lost sight of my perspective and my hurt feelings when they lash out due to their pain. I’ve forgiven my mom since then. In fact, I’m still forgiving. Every week I practice “forgiveness Fridays,” a ritual I created to cleanse my past perpetually. I then engage in “FUN Friday” as a reward afterward!
Back to the wedding planning. I had to fire my sister as my maid of honor because she couldn’t even be in the same room as me when the wedding was brought up. She would either break out in tears or get angry and start some sort of rift between us. It was pretty shitty to have something that was supposed to be the happiest day of my life cause so much pain for the people I loved. I felt so alone. I didn’t have too many friends in Nashville yet, since I was still semi-new to the town, but I did have a friend named Sara Bernstein, who I had only known for a short while, but with whom I instantly connected. She was the only person I felt was actually there for me, and she made my life happier when I was with her during the chaos. I knew instantly that she was a “lifer” -a friendly pet term I’ve coined for people I meet and know will be in my life for the “long haul.” My sister was pissed, and I understood it. It was the title that was supposed to be reserved for her and had been intended to be hers our whole life. Yet she was the least supportive person when I got married and was the most against it happening. When the actual wedding happened, she bawled the entire time. I guess she knew what was coming and was grieving the end of us before I knew there would be an end to us. We can laugh about it a bit now because Nat is sobbing like she was at my funeral, not my wedding, in every single picture! Hahaha
It was a heavy time. Ty couldn’t work because he was a Canadian without a green card. I had multiple jobs – one of which was scrubbing toilets and taking VINs at Fast Lane Automotive while trying to get ready to perform during the CMA fest. A couple of days before our show, I had difficulty breathing and found it nearly impossible to sleep. The day before our scheduled show, I was hospitalized for bronchitis; one day later, I had a horrific experience due to a misunderstanding which turned into an all-out freak accident. I made a joke with the intake nurse about hearing music when he checked my vitals. He questioned my sanity, and then I had to backtrack to state that I was joking because I’m a songwriter, so I always hear music in my head, hence how I write music. Duh. It escalated, and I got pissed off at the blatant misunderstanding. I was sent to a psych ward, then to a high-stress unit, and was then released with “accelerated ADHD” as my diagnosis – I didn’t know that was a thing! Haha
After the experience, I felt traumatized and was dealing with some serious bouts of anxiety and depression. I was put on Prozac to help me through the stress of planning my wedding while my parents were getting divorced, and while my duo with my sister Nat was falling apart. She and I were back n’ forth with splitting up and trying to mend things again. We decided to stick out our performance agreements in hopes that we could somehow make working together.. work. Then, in a hotel room, hours before we were supposed to do a show we had scheduled at one of my brother’s football games, my sister officially quit “Falk.” She told me she didn’t trust who I was while on medication and couldn’t work with me if I wasn’t “sober.” No… fucking… joke. It was devastating because I already felt shame around taking medication for something I thought I should be able to affirm and positively think my way out of, but… I couldn’t. I was so tapped and exhausted and really did need help. I look back now, and I am so grateful for my medication during that time. It helped me find a stable point so I could feel safe enough to do the deeper emotional work that helped me heal – and no longer need it after that year.
We were professionals regardless of our fight. “The show must go on.” Crazy to think that was the last time my sister and I ever shared a stage as the duo “Falk.” All the joy, all the pain, all the sacrifice… all for nothing. I’m still grieving it. Life moved on. I got married, I ventured into my own realms of music and all creative expression, yet that void isn’t filled- and maybe it never will be? Currently, I own a production company and develop tv shows. Ironic, due to my first experience with TV! My sister now has an organizing company and has a love-hate relationship with music. In a way, I guess we both do. It’s been the source of a lot of pain and the remedy to heal the pain. Talk about a catch 22.
Natalee and I are now navigating how to be sisters first. It’s a much different and, in many ways, a healthier way of having a relationship. Since the split, we’ve had quite a bit of healing and quite a bit of rehashing. One year, she moved into Ty and I’s house with our three fur babies while she was figuring things out. We had a huge fight the day she moved in and never had an issue again for the entire year that she lived with us. We reconnected as sisters on a level that we had forgotten existed since our music had taken up the space that our bond used to fill. It’s crazy how much I love her, and yet how much pain I feel is still there. I feel, in some way, that my decision to move on with my life and live for myself caused her to feel left behind, and that’s a really hard thing to acknowledge. She and I did everything together. We were inseparable – literally. Growing up in the music industry, we were all each other had, and we were beyond close. We didn’t know where one of us started, and the other ended because we grew up as a “package deal.” Now, having a husband, a baby, and a new “package of my own,” the dynamics of our sisterly bond has been thrown off. I have felt an enormous amount of guilt – like I have betrayed and abandoned her somehow because I couldn’t live under the soul-sucking, freedom-crushing, pseudo dream that was thrust upon us to share as kids. I had to live for myself, and I pray for her every day that she discovers her inner self, her power, and lives fully and fearlessly from that place. It was fucking hard, but freedom is fucking worth it.