When Will and Grace align, anything is possible

I woke up at around 10 am this morning, the after effects of last night’s evening of magic still on my mind. My friend Gosia threw a fabulous party, where we danced and sang and enjoyed each other’s company. The sounds of the guitar and the rhythms of Ella’s dancing filled the room. I sang “I’m not the only one” by Sam Smith and “Hello” by Adele, and was elated to hear that my voice was strong, that I could reach deep within myself and sing the tunes of my heart.

I went to Raj’s class and he talked about Will and Grace. (individual will, and the grace of God). It was quite uncanny that this morning I had watched an episode of Will & Grace, which I hadn’t watched in so long. Coincidence?! I was kind of led to watch it, because my internet stopped working and I couldn’t watch Netflix, so I turned on the TV and watched the episode where Will and Jack pair up on a business venture that doesn’t end up working. Today was the last of Raj’s class series on finding inner balance. The theme was the story of Jesus, and Raj told the story of the crucifixion. It is a beautiful story.

I went to Casa Loma after class, since it was close by. I love it there! I made a wish and tossed some coins in the fountain – Here’s to hoping my wish comes true.

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Then I made my way to the Khalsa parade,  in celebration of Vaisakhi, and got there just in time to hear mayor John Tory speak. I love going to the parade every year. Usually I go with Jasmine, but she was busy so this year I was on my own, dodging through the crowds, having my hot chai and channa masala. It is such a peaceful gathering, and I feel right at home, and so grateful for the free food!

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Following the parade, I walked down Queen West, where I saw a beautiful tribute to Prince that was painted by my friend Victor the street artist. I can’t believe that he died so suddenly. The songs “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry” are two of my favourites, so haunting and beautiful. May he rest in peace.

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My brother told me about an event happening at 567 Queen West – Drake was promoting his new album “Views from the 6” and giving away free t-shirts. I got there and tried to bypass the line by telling the bouncer that I write a lifestyle blog and that I was covering the event. Unfortunately it didn’t work – he said I could cover the event from the line. Haha! It was such a cool vibe though – here is a video of the scene outside the shop:

On my walk home, I saw this beautiful wedding shoot by the lake. So pretty!

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Magical wedding photo shoot, Harbourfront

 

 

 

The Owner Of Everything

Week 16. I started off the day reading an article by Alexandra Shimo, who is one of the teachers at the School of Continuing Studies at U of T. She wrote about how she suffered from PTSD after spending four months in Kashechewan, a First Nation on James Bay. The reason I’d looked her up is because I’m choosing my next creative writing course! I’m debating between “Introduction to Writing a Novel” and “Life Stories 1”. The latter is an exercise in memoir writing – as if I don’t already write enough about myself! But I think I’m leaning towards that one, because I like digging deep into my past and making stories out of my experiences. Anyhow, Alexandra wrote about how the high school there had been on permanent suicide watch because 21 kids (including a nine-year-old) reportedly tried to kill themselves in 2007. I had to do a double-take, because it was exactly like the situation in Attawapiskat right now. Alexandra eventually recovered from the PTSD by practicing mindfulness meditation. At first she resisted because she didn’t think something so gentle could work, but then learned to stay grounded in her body when the feelings arose, and actually feel them rather than avoid them. This is something that I continuously work on. I’ve been practicing for more than two years, and I can’t really say what the benefits are, but I do know that it grounds me and I actually look forward to it most of the time (like right now – can’t wait to relax and sink into my meditation once I’m done writing).

I left the house around 2pm, and headed up University. It was absolutely glorious weather. Hot and sunny (I wore a tank top!), and I was loving every moment of it. I stopped around King to read a chapter from my book, then continued along, looping past 525, down Elm street to Yonge, and then to CCVT. Today was my first day doing Homework Club with the high school students. Usually I go on Tuesdays, but there was an urgent need for math tutors so I was asked to switch days. I helped Aisha with her math homework, and we also talked about other things. She asked me if I was married and I said no, but I do hope to be one day, and she said “I’ve heard of 40-year-olds getting married”.  Haha! Like they really do exist. It was pretty hilarious. It was fun hanging out with the kids and hearing what they think of Chris Brown and Rihanna and what their dreams and hopes for the future are (one guy said he was ready to have a baby).

After CCVT, I made my way to Allan Gardens. I chatted with Daisy for a bit – she called me as part of her homework for a Landmark course. I told her how I’m ready to get back to project management, and I’m really interested in mental health, specifically CAMH. She said that her friend who was a psychiatrist in Ottawa was saying that there aren’t enough resources available, and that there are always services being cut, while meanwhile the govt is funding things like egg freezing.

Got to Balzac’s and read from The Underground Girls of Kabul. Jenny asks a group of women how they would go about turning her into a man, and they say that she basically already acts like one. She walks around as though she is “the owner of everything” (I love that!) and arrives everywhere without a husband or a father. And when she speaks, she looks people right in the eyes, without seeming shy or emotional.

On the way home I walked through Queen’s Park and saw some girls playing badminton as the sun set, and I thought back to the days when my dad and I used to play badminton for hours on the street outside my house. I can’t wait to find a badminton partner here!

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Girls playing badminton, Queen’s Park

Before I got home I stopped to watch the Raptors game outside at the ACC. Go Raptors!!

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Raptors Game, ACC

 

 

 

 

 

Something Fierce

This evening I went to see Carmen Aguirre speak at the reference library. Earlier in the day, I’d read a Globe and Mail article about her journey, and I was transfixed by what she had experienced in her life. I was curious to see what kind of woman she was, what her experiences had meant for her. She had that twinkle in her eye, of a person who had been through a lot, and seen the light through the darkness.

She talked about PTSD, and how the childhood rape had never left her. I couldn’t believe how she was able to talk about such trauma with a sort of detachment. In fact, she was able to address most of the tough questions very evenly, even while the people asking the questions were breaking down in tears. One woman spoke at length in Spanish about how her mother had joined the resistance in Chile, and to this day, she has been unable to find her, but lately she has been having dreams about her mother and she feels as though her dreams are a sign that she should seek her out. Carmen advised her on human rights organizations to follow up with – although she said that most people who join the resistance change their names (she had), and it would be almost impossible to track someone down.

The rape occurred when she was only 13 years old, by a man who had been wanted by the police for years, known as the Paper Bag rapist, because of the way he would cover the victims eyes with a paper bag. He later went on to be convicted of more than 14 sexual assaults, even though it is suspected that he was responsible for hundreds. She describes how during the rape, she escapes her body and becomes an eagle that soars overhead. It is a stunningly beautiful depiction of her spirit, and how she experiences something that is at the depths of evil, the absence of love, light, and anything good. It is so beautiful the way she describes it, and you can picture that eagle, flying high above her little 13-year-old body, that is being forever altered by this one man.

Thirty-three years after she was raped, she faces her rapist in prison, with another woman, Laura who was also a victim. It’s hard to understand the compassion that she has for this man, and I could see people in the audience shuddering as she talks about their encounter (“It’s nice to meet you again” he says). She said something to the effect of “I am him”, recognizing that she was part of him and he was part of her. I wish I remembered her exact words because they were perfect. She has genuine compassion for this man, who most of us would hate with every cell of our being. It reminded me of a quote that I read in Aphrodite’s Daughters, in an essay about sexuality and evil. “Even if we never have done and never will do an evil deed, we would be fools to ignore the potential for evil that lies within us all”, the author says. She references the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, a well-known Buddhist monk, as he reflects upon an incident that he witnessed during the Vietnam war.

I am the 12-year-old girl, refugee
on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after
being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving

Carmen talks about her childhood as part of the Chilean resistance in her first book, Something Fierce: Memoirs of A Revolutionary Daughter. This new memoir, which flashes back to the rape that altered her life is called Mexican Hooker #1. She is a fierce woman who has led a revolutionary life in both senses of the word.

 

A Fringeworks Production

It’s 8:35 PM – not bad at all!! Week 15. I slept in until around 11am this morning, after having crashed on my couch last night. I had some crazy dreams, about a guy I had dated a couple years ago. I had been feeling overwhelmed from all the excitement about launching my blog, and I felt like now that all the excitement was over, what was next? So I thought about how I want to launch a Youtube channel, and put up my stand-up comedy clip from a couple years ago, as well as a video that Terrence made of me. It is the video that stunned everyone at my party on Saturday. I am so lucky that him and Gosia put this together, with so much love and hard work. It really is a work of genius!

I finally set off at around 2pm, and walked up University Avenue. I asked a couple people to take pictures of me but no one was particularly friendly. I stopped at 525 and talked to Anthony for a bit; he mentioned that he’d had a wonderful weekend celebrating his wife’s new job. I told him about the blog and how I was thinking that most people would probably find it boring since my days are so ordinary, and he said that he thought that most people move too fast in life and don’t slow down to appreciate what’s good.

I walked up Yonge street to Balzac’s, where I ran into Sarah Hussein!! She is the founder of Breath of Henna, who I’d met a few weeks back, and we had a very lively discussion about blogging and all of her ideas for future photo shoots. She wants me to do a bridal shoot, all decked out with hair extensions and lots of jewellery, and of course a dazzling lengha or something to that effect. This is honestly like a dream come true. I have always wanted to do something like this and I can’t believe that it’s finally happening!

Then I read from The Underground Girls of Kabul. I’m at the part where Jenny is meeting with prominent human rights activists, who are aware of the situation of bacha posh (girls who are posing as boys) but are refusing to take a stance on it.

As I leave, after what can only be described as a demonstrable lack of interest by one of the country’s most prominent activists, I wonder if the complexities of the bacha posh may simply be too controversial for a politically savvy Afghan to touch. That may explain why it has remained under the surface for so long, and is still denied even by the expatriates I have approached. As with sexuality here, gender determines everything. But one is never supposed to talk about it, or pretend it exists.

I walked home along University, and stopped to just breathe in the stillness of nature, watch the squirrels play and just absorb the calmness of it all. My head has been so noisy with all the excitement lately, that it was nice to just have a moment of stillness. I need more of that. A lot more of that. I’m glad that I’m going to continue to do my body scan meditation on Monday evenings, instead of spending more time on writing, because it is the only thing that keeps me sane and grounded in my body. As soon as I hear Jon Kabat-Zinn’s voice, I feel at home.

Walking along University, I came across the Ontario Human Rights Code (picture above), which was enacted in 1962. It was designed to uphold minority rights and to provide a legal mechanism for people subjected to discrimination. Since 1982, the grounds for discrimination have been updated twice – once in 1986 to include sexual orientation, and once in 2012 to include gender identity and gender expression.

On the way home, I stopped at Nathan Phillips Square and it was so lovely with the rain and the way the Toronto sign reflected on the water. Gorgeous!!

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Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto

 

 

 

In My Heart Is A Song

It’s 11:14 PM and I’m finally sitting down to write. What a day! It started off much different than usual. My friend Terrence is a videographer and he wants to make short videos profiling people, that show what it’s like to be you – what is it like to walk a day in your shoes? So he asked if he could follow me around all day, and see what it’s like to live a day in the life of Mita. All day long it felt like there were paparazzi following me! I guess this is what celebrities feel like. Here is a pic of Gosia and Terrence at the reference library:

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He also wanted me to do a voice-over for the video, so I picked a book off my shelf called “when you first called me radha”. It’s a book of poetry written by Swami Sivananda Radha, a woman from Germany who suffered great loss and then became enlightened. She devoted the rest of her life to God, yoga, and the divine. I found a poem that resonated with me called “In My Heart There Is A Song” – here is a portion of it:

My song answers Your flute,
Your call to come home
yet I have been a truant
wandering over the world
in search of You

Now Your maya has lost its
power over me
the pain of your teasing
is ended.
I am at the horizon waiting
for Your chariot to take me home

I walked my usual route, up University Avenue and stopped at the Starbucks where Gosia and Terrence took some footage. Then I continued on to my creative writing class. It was the last one! Kelli was away sick so there was a lovely woman, Sandra Campbell, filling in for her. We learned about the publishing process – what it takes to get your work published, and not to be disheartened by rejection. She said that learning how to live with rejection is an art that every writer must deal with. She had an encouraging message at the end of the class – that every person’s creative self is unique; it’s like a thumbprint. There is no one else like you, no one else that can offer to the world what you have to offer.

Following class, I stopped at the ROM gift store and saw a beautiful display of Indian film art and photography (picture above). Then I went to Balzac’s where I tried to do some work on my project management assignment. I’m taking Leading Projects in Organizations at U of T, and we have a presentation coming up on how to establish a PMO in your organization. Our group’s company is called Transform-A-Care, and it is a healthcare consulting company that works with healthcare providers to implement electronic solutions that improve efficiency and quality of care. Very similar to what I was doing in my old life. (soon to become new life I think?!).

While I was there I read an article in The Star about a woman from Bangladesh who was a victim of an acid attack. However this attack was even more gruesome than usual – her husband tricked her into drinking a cup full of acid, which she thought was water. It completely destroyed her esophagus and almost destroyed her voice. Because of a visit by a Canadian plastic surgeon, she has been given some hope in getting the help that she needs – the surgeons would remove part of her stomach and reconstruct her esophagus and voice box. “There are only a handful of experts who can do this kind of operation in the world and they happen to be in Toronto,” said Dr. Toni Zhong, who was on a medical mission in Dhaka to help women with severe burn injuries.

In the evening I went to see historian Margaret Macmillan speak at the Bluma Appel Salon. She was the keynote speaker for the annual Bluma Lecture. I somehow managed to sneak in even though I came late and didn’t have a ticket. I felt really honoured to be there. She is a phenomenal speaker, humorous, and insightful. She has written many books, including Women of the Raj, which I happen to have – I found it in the summer at a book sale at Victoria College. This is me after the lecture:

 
I went to Chapters after and then began what seemed like a long walk home. I love walking through Nathan Philips Square at night. Tonight it was deserted – no skaters, no music – I felt like I was the only one there and it was beautiful.