My family and I had been planning this vacation for weeks. I was going to be traveling to the UK and The Netherlands for work and learning and they were going to join me in Amsterdam for fun and time together. We were overjoyed! As the traveling guide extraordinaire that she is, my partner had planned everything in detail, tickets had been bought, they were going to have the funnest of funs while I was learning and then we were were going to have even more fun together. Complete heaven!
Wednesday, mid day in the UK, I boarded the Eurostar to Brussels, giddy. I was meeting my loves in a few hours and we were going to have so much fun together. We are immensely lucky that our teenage son still feels like we are worth spending time with and are fun. I found my seat, undertstood that wifi on the train was a joke and was getting ready to take a nap when my partner texted: “We can’t leave. Border check did not go well. I need a criminal record.”
Context: In a country where being gay and in a same sex relationship stopped being prosecuted as a crime in the early 2000s, my partner and I are nobody to each other in the eyes of the state. Moreso, she is not regarded as a parent to our son she has been raising alongside me for the past eleven years. We knew that any minor leaving with only one of the parents was going to need a few documents and we had them all: notarized permission that my partner can travel with him outside of the country at any time, original documents of his father’s death certificate and our divorce decree. What we had forgotten was that in the eyes of the law she is not his parent. And therefore, she needed a criminal record to travel with him. We had not gotten that. They could not leave.
As I received the text from my partner, my heart sank. My head exploded. I was choked by all of the emotions that were invading me and I felt my tears at bay so I stood up from my chair and moved to the place in between carts (amazing things seem to happen to me in the inbetweens – a story for another day). I sat down on the floor and started shaking, sobbing and …. praying. For the first time in … I can’t remember how long. In the small compartment between carts and exit doors, as the train was speeding into the night of the underwater channels, it was me on the floor, holding a phone and sobbing and a young father, trying to calm his baby of a few months, who had been crying but had now stopped, staring at me as if to say “now, what’s the matter with you, lady?” If I didn’t know any better I would say I was probably in the company of some angels he was actually staring at. But that is a bit too woo woo for us today, I guess.
What a metafor for life itself though, right? I was in between carts and exit doors. So many choices! But, on a train speeding under water I had only one choice: to sit with my feelings and what was happening.
So I started praying. Or better to say I had the thought, I should pray. It felt hipocritical though. I had not prayed in tons of time, I knew the orthodox prayers I had learned by heart were actually just … empty words. I knew I did not believe in the old, bearded guy in the sky, watching us with a raised eyebrow. So I just gave up … . And just sobbed.
In that letting go I found what I had been looking for, for ages. I found the divine. I cannot think of a name to give this. Just divinity. I found myself closing my eyes, going to a place deep, deep down inside of me, breathing, I was no longer panicked, just in pain, thinking I was not going to see my family. From that place, I felt like I was right there with them and I found myself saying: God, please, let them meet good people to help them!
The next hour and a half was awful, with my partner and our son running between an overly crowded airport and traffic to the police, getting a criminal record, running back, begging people to let them cut lines and … making it to the plane as everyone was boarding.
I got the message “We made it!” and simply collapsed. I was sobbing so hard that I was now loud but didn’t care who heard me. I called my partner to hear her say: “We met so many good people who helped us on the way!” I was floored by this phrase. I looked around me and, though I saw nobody, I knew I had not been alone. I went back to that place inside me and, in true old Catalina style, I asked “How can I repay you, what can I do?” The answer was instantaneous: “You silly, I showed up so you would know me. The real me! And that I know you and that I am with you. And that I am manifested in people. You don’t need to repay me, just be kind.” My heart was flooded with immense joy and gratitude for someone or something I could not define. I felt carried, for the first time in a very, very long time.
I went back to my chair transfigured from what had just happened, from my tears and from sweat. I was smiling. I must have looked completely crazy. I was no longer mad at the Eurostar for no wifi and no cell coverage. I understood immediately that we cannot find ourselves and each other truly in the distraction and the constant noise of our daily lives. That we can only go into that place inside us where we are able to connect deeply if everything else is quiet. No wonder the divine only found me on the Eurostar, deep underwater.