This month I handed in my resignation to the Grand River Community Health Centre where I’ve been working as a staff physician for the past three years. I’ll miss the challenges and rewards of working with the people who seek services at our health centre, many of whom struggle with poverty, addiction and mental illness. Although I’m ready to move on to a new phase of my life, saying goodbye is always hard for me. I become attached to my patients, whose lives have touched mine in such intimate and meaningful ways.
My plan is now to plunge myself fully into the work with Body Brave, the organization that I co-founded a year ago with my daughter Sonia. Body Brave is a community organization providing support and advocacy for people with eating disorders, the most dangerous and the most misunderstood of mental illnesses.
Sonia is leading me forward on this journey, challenging me to “think big”, to address the issue of eating disorders on a national, even global level. She sees the work of Body Brave at several levels: providing on-the-ground support for people struggling with eating disorders, raising public awareness about these conditions, and forming strategic partnerships with other stakeholders in the eating disorder landscape. Using the power of these strategic partnerships, she hopes to create a cutting edge e-platform that will serve as a hub for training and information about eating disorders.
Sonia is already pursuing these goals with remarkable drive and ability. But I am more hesitant. My natural inclination has always been to focus on the small and particular, using the lens of the microcosm to study the wider world. As a family physician, I experienced my greatest joy in one-on-one encounters with patients. In India, I felt that same joy in those moments of communication with village people and with our health workers, creating a bridge of communication across the barriers of culture. In these intimate encounters I feel fully alive and engaged. Yet now it seems that I am called to move out of that comfort zone - to challenge myself to see the world through a different lens.
I’ve been reading the work of Rebecca Solnit, an American writer whose nuanced reflections on the nature of hope and courage are inspiring. She writes about the necessity of allowing yourself to “get lost” in order to transform yourself. Here are her words: “It seems to be an art of recognizing the role of the unforeseen, of keeping your balance amid surprises, collaborating with chance, recognizing that there are some essential mysteries in the world… To calculate on the unforeseen is perhaps exactly the paradoxical operation life most requires of us.”
My commitment to Body Brave requires me to “calculate on the unforeseen”, “to collaborate with chance”. I’m certain that we have a worthy goal, but I am not confident that I have the skills, resources or courage to pursue that goal with the kind of single-minded passion that is needed. But I feel ready to take the steps into this unknown world, ready to “lose myself” in this quest.
And what an exciting prospect it is to have Sonia as my traveling companion on this journey! The powerful fire that has been lying dormant within her is now crackling into life, lighting the path for both of us.