what the biggest city in the world taught me

boys at airport

[Missed my last post? Read it here!]


I just got back from a quick trip to Tokyo.

I went there to put my boys on a plane that would fly to the states. They’re spending the summer with grandparents, aunts, uncles & cousins.

After I put my boys on the plane, I was alone.

I had a day until my flight back to Okinawa, so I wandered the streets of Tokyo, stopping at the Tokyo National Art Center where I toured the Renoir collection.


As I looked at the Renoirs, particularly the nudes, I was struck by the beauty of the females he depicted.

These women look nothing like what you’d find in most modern magazines or ads. They are soft, feminine, yet far from being weak, these women evoke strength & beauty.

Going through the exhibit, it was odd standing there among these petite–in an almost bird-like way–Japanese women who were also looking on, studying, perhaps admiring, Renoir’s fleshy females.

Their figures stood in stark contrast to the voluptuous, curvy women Renoir painted. I couldn’t help but wonder how they viewed Renoir’s women, who are so unlike themselves.


Tokyo is a massive, massive city. 

(This photo was taken at a viewing tower on one of those rare, cloudless & sunny days in Tokyo.)


As a city of 13.5 million (with 37 million in the urban area–so arguably the biggest metro area/city in the world), it’s one of the world’s largest, & most densely populated cities.

The size & scope of such a place is difficult for one to comprehend, especially for someone like me, who grew up in a rural farming town of 15,000.


As I sat on the subway train & looked around at all the foreign faces (mostly, if not all Japanese, or Asian, with a rare peppering of foreigners, who were nearly all Caucasian) I had a moment of feeling out of body.

Like, am I really surrounded by all these people?

Am I really hundreds of feet below ground?

Speeding through a massive web of tunnels?

It was a bit surreal. There is nothing quite like being a foreigner in Japan, a place where solidarity, unity, & conformity are cherished values.

As I sat there, I thought about the Renoirs. The women, in particular, painted in broad & unapologetic strokes, their curves strong & bold.

I thought of my own transformation–my struggle with accepting my body, which comes with a set of it’s own curves.

I thought of being alone, while being surround by literally millions of people not like me.

As my mind drifted, I naturally thought of not getting the pregnancy that I had hoped for.

It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that it’s been over 6 months since I had the miscarriage.

We had plans to grow our family–we began trying last summer.

So, it seems like I have been pregnant for nearly a year, but nothing has come of it. As any mother knows, you start thinking about that child even before you conceive. As soon as you make up your mind to start trying for a child, that’s when the pregnancy begins, not physically, but just as powerful–emotionally & mentally. You’re invested.

To say that I have struggled with my loss, doesn’t seem quite accurate.

I live a full & active life.

I cherish the 5 children I already have, & I am in a very happy & fulfilling marriage.


We have secure employment, live in a semi-tropical paradise, & are steadily moving forward with our life goals (including becoming debt-free, which seems to be always just out of reach, but that is for another post).

I truly am filled with gratitude for all that is mine.

And yet, as we round the bend to July, I’m reminded of my due date, which would have been in just a week or two.

And a pang of sadness, which surfaces now & then, of what might have been, reminds me of that child that could have been.

No amount of good things in my life will take away that loss, yet gratitude for my abundance does lessen the dull pain that is felt even months after miscarriage.

It’s difficult to imagine that I would have brought another little person into this world, in a short time from now. Perhaps, I would have already done so by this time if he or she was early.

And yet, for all this introspection & thinking what ifs, I am left with the reality.

The reality that the past six months I’ve had opportunities to grow. Opportunities to step back, to pause, & find the joy in those unexpected pauses.

Joseph has been gone much of the last few months, & in that time I’ve learned my strength, while being confronted with my weaknesses.

I’ve gotten more organized, I’ve honed in on what I can do, what I should do, & I’m learning to let go (a constant process) of the the trivial.


I think part of growing up, as in, becoming a mature, well-adjusted adult is realizing that life isn’t all about YOU.

It’s not just about YOUR plans, & about how to execute said plans to a perfectly edged T.

It’s about giving.

Being present & mindful, & unselfish, as well as recognizing the wonder & the majesty of what IS.


I had this moment when I was on the subway in Tokyo.


I was on my way back to Narita airport (about 1-2 hours from Tokyo, depending on your mode of transportation).

I wasn’t sure if I was on the right train (I thought I was, but I had my doubts). I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to my flight in time.

When I got off one subway line in order to get onto another line, I ran through the maze of tunnels & escalators, trying to read signs & find my way to someone, anyone, or anything that could help me get to where I needed to go.

Drenched in sweat, I thought, okay, this is good. I’m going to be okay. I’m going to find my way out, I’m going to get on the right train, I’m going to get to my flight on time. I said all this, while at the same time noticing my racing heart, the knots twisting & turning in my stomach.

I wandered & searched, each passing minute seemed to dissolve quickly & effortlessly–heightening my sense of urgency.


I managed to find the right train, in that unknowable place that is the Tokyo subway system. Divine Providence smiled down on my efforts & I found the train that led me to my final destination.

Despite getting a bit lost, a bit frazzled, in the end, I made it to the airport, I made it to my flight, I made it home.



I wonder if so much of life is about learning to be flexible.

Of saying, okay, I’m lost, things aren’t going my way, but it’s okay.

It’s going to be okay. 

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