November 9, 2019

When country meets city…

Journal Entry #63

Six months ago, I never would have dreamed of heading to Toronto on my own.  Now,  here I am, comfortable enough to venture into the city for the day, with Faith in tow.

This was a big undertaking for me.

Let’s be honest, I have been known to get lost not only in cities but also in malls.  Yet, I could drive myself to South Carolina and back without a map or GPS.  Weird?!  Crowds, traffic, the lights and hustle simply overwhelm me…unnerve me leaving me completely disoriented.

Tim dropped us off at the 407 Subway Station just after 9am and Faith and I took the subway into Toronto General.  No problem.  At this point, this is an easy commute for me having practiced it so much over the last 6 months.  However, riding the subway was a first for Faith.

It was business as usual at the Tropical Disease Unit.  Wait 2.5 hours for a 10 minute check-up.  Dr. Bogglid was away, so I saw a different doctor.  After going over my medical history, she palpated the wounds, checked my vitals, looked in my throat and ears, did an abdominal exam and confirmed that I am healing up nicely.  She cleared me for travel, encouraging a visit to a travel doctor in advance of the trip.  She recommended that I continue working with my counsellor to work through the anxiety and fears that I sometimes experience in relation to both travel and bugs.  She also mentioned that my liver is no longer enlarged and that my latest bloodwork is within the normal ranges again.

All good news.

The doctor also divulged an interesting fact about Leishmaniasis.  She said that on average 5 million Ontarians travel south in a year.  Of those, less than 10 cases of Leishmania are reported and treated here.  Of those, less than 10 cases, half of them are new Canadians and/or refugees.  Logically and rationally, I can see that the chance of contracting this type of parasite again is virtually zero.  Tell anxiety that.  Tell fear that.  Tell stress that.  I am deep in the process of developing coping mechanisms, stress management tools and strategies to get through these powerful feelings when they are triggered.  This is a journey all unto itself.  It isn’t logical, it is physiological.  And I am really working to getting a handle on it.

As we were making our way down in the elevator a gentleman took notice of Faith and commented about how nice it is to see two sisters supporting each other.  Faith had a huge smile plastered on her face.  When I told him that she was my daughter, he stared in disbelief as realization stuck that she was only 11 years old.  It made Faith’s day and although I rolled my eyes, it kinda made mine too.  In a weird way, it made me feel younger.

We met up with Cherie and Joel, afterwards and I was happy to hear that Cherie has been discharged from the Transplant Rehab Program at UHN and can now continue her recovery closer to home.  What a journey this has been for her and her family.  I can’t even imagine.  It has been nice to run into a friendly face through this process at UHN but now we are both ready to enjoy our friendship outside the walls of the hospital and beyond the topic of health.

From UHN, I navigated Faith and I to the Eaton’s Centre.  Yes, she played hooky for the day.  It was a little nostalgic for me.  The last time I was at the Eaton’s Centre was when I was in grade 6 on a class trip.  Now, here I was with Faith, who is currently in grade 6…and what a gift to see her eyes light up!  She walked confidently through the streets of Toronto, held her head high as she declared that she could see herself living in the city one day.  She loves the hustle and bustle, the shopping, unique restaurants and cafes.

We enjoyed Starbucks (this was my second visit in my life), wandering Indigo, and bopping in and out of all the different stores on three levels.  We weren’t looking to buy anything in particular, but it was fun for Faith to browse, try things on, and people watch.  We had a light dinner before we headed to Union Station…at rush hour.

I navigated us successfully to Union Station, bought our tickets to the EX, went with the crowd up to the platform to the Lakeshore West train…boarded…high-fived each other because we didn’t get lost and we even got a seat!  As we pulled away from the station, I had a sinking feeling that something wasn’t right.  The train kept moving over to the outside edge of the track, and as we drove by The EX without stopping Faith asked “Mommy, why is the city getting smaller?”

We were on the Lakeshore West Train alright, but…express to Hamilton.

Not much one can do but ride it out.  Faith was quite concerned about where we would end up, how we would get home, and if we would miss the “concert” that we were supposed to be headed to.  Amazingly, I stayed calm.  I kept breathing, and reaffirmed to her that we would just figure it out when we got off at the next stop, wherever that may be.  There are always options and there are always choices.  We are never really “stuck”…there is always a way out.

We hopped off in Clarkson, flipped back to take the next train BACK into Toronto, on a train that made every stop and arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre with 10 minutes to spare.  We were meeting up with 12 wonderful ladies from our Courage Cirlcle Meditation Group to participate in Snatam Kaur’s Mantra Experience. A “field trip” that we had been planning since February!  There were big hugs when we made it and a big sigh of relief for all that we were “together again”.

Snatam Kaur is incredible.  Her voice is so pure, and she took the entire audience through a meditative mantra experience, singing and playing for over 3 hours.  She cleared, surrendered, balanced, grounded and filled us with this beautiful loving energy and music that really was transformational.  It is an injustice to call it a concert, because it is so much more than that.  It is a healing experience.  We laughed together, cried together, released together and when we left I felt like my heart would burst from the fullness of love I held inside.  Faith too had tears, and felt the overwhelming love.  She was so full of love and gratitude and I could feel her step into a new awareness and maturity by the end of the experience.  It was simply amazing.

I have many mantras that I love, but the purity of Snatam’s voice is transcendent.  This one get brings me home to this present moment every time…and fills me with love.

When the show was over, and we were all flying high on energy, we made a run for it, but missed the train by a minute.  It was only a half hour wait before the next train came through, so we all enjoyed sharing our experiences and discussing how the night unfolded.  Of course, the next train we got, wasn’t announcing stops on the way home.  And even though we were all chatty, we kept a watch for our stop…kind of.  Someone stood up and said the next stop is Whitby, so we all gathered our stuff and made our way to the door, piled off when the doors opened…in Ajax.

No busses.  No cabs.  Next train was a half hour wait.

Giggles quickly ensued.  Belly busting laughter.  Deep hearty laughter.  Pee-your-pants-kind-of-laughs. We were laughing at our own silliness, but also because the two women who remained on the train who needed the Oshawa station, then proceeded to get off in Whitby!

Talk about a chain reaction of events!

The half hour wait went quickly as we giggled our way through it.  Faith determined that she had been on more trains in one day than she has in her entire life.  And then we laughed about how only really special people go to the EX via Hamilton!

We landed at home shortly after 1:30am…on a Tuesday night!

Life is an adventure.  We don’t get to choose what we go through, but we do get to choose HOW we go through it.  In the midst of our train travel misadventures, I was keenly aware that I could chose to get mad at the situation.  I could choose to get stressed and frantic in the situation.  I could choose calm and go with the flow.  I got to choose how to react.

I chose to go with the flow, to make light of it, to laugh about it even as it was unfolding.

Why, when stressful situations are unfolding to we not see that we always have a choice in how we handle it?  Sometimes the situation feels like it has more power than us.  Sometimes the feelings feel like they have more power than us.  But do they?  Do they really?!

Pema Chodron says “we are the sky, everything else is just the weather.”  And it is so true.  The weather doesn’t get to have a voice in how I chose to live, how I choose to see the world, how I choose to act and react.  The weather gets to do its thing, and I get to choose how I want to hold the space as it snows and blows.

The power isn’t outside of us.

It is always within.

If you were to ask Faith, she would probably tell you that that trip to Toronto was the best day of her life and then she would tell you why.  At eleven years old, her perspective will be different than mine.  I watched as she laughed, she loved, she explored, she survived, she experienced…and she grew.  If you ask me, what we experienced together was a living example of how to handle life.  As the day unfolded we overcame the obstacles that we found ourselves in.  We navigated using both technology and our friendliness.  We laughed when we could have cried.  We moved forward when we could have stayed fixed in fear.  Even though at one point, we both felt very lost, we never had a sense that we were actually lost.  We always had options.

The whole day was a microcosm of what is ahead in life for us.  We all have goals, dreams and desires.  And we all have experienced bumps in the road as we move towards them.  We all have situations that arise that are out of our control.  Sometimes this affects our hopes and dreams, and sometimes it amplifies them.  Regardless, the best thing we can do is breathe.  And ask ourselves, “what am I learning by having this experience?”  These roadblocks are often an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and the world around us…and when we are really aware as those opportunities present themselves, we recognize that we have a choice.  Then the question changes to, “how to I want to show up in this experience?”

I know Faith had an amazing day in Toronto but more than that, I am happy that we had the experience together, that she could experience how to show up in stressful situations, how to press on even when fear is present, to hold an intention for a positive outcome and to just roll with it when on a train headed to the wrong destination.

We survived the big city, together.  And I dare say, I am kind of excited to do it again with her.  It only took me 40 years to find the courage to brave the concrete jungle on my own.

You know what I have decided?  There is more life on the other side of fear. 

And perhaps, more importantly, there is FREEDOM.


Xo Juli

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