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Keeping In Touch....With Yourself

Even A Busy Parent Needs To Take Time To Remember

Recently at at a child-related sporting event I ran into a woman I haven't seen in awhile. Our kids had attended preschool together. We greeted each other and marveled, as adults do, how quickly the last couple of years have passed. I mentioned someone we knew from that time in our lives, which in all reality, was not very long ago.

When I asked if they had remained friends the woman sighed, "I wish I had stayed in touch with her....but I can hardly stay in touch with myself."

The event ended. I collected my kid, she collected hers and we waved goodbye, both of us quickly reabsorbed back into the whirl of our own lives.

But what she said stayed with me.

Quite eloquently she had verbalized a feeling I have lately been experiencing with all too much frequency: a sensation that although I am actually doing more than ever, I feel less and less like myself.

Then what exactly do I feel like?

I feel like a parent. A partner. A friend. A wife. A pet-owner. A working woman. A neighbor. An animal advocate. Most people in the area know me as those things. That is, most people who didn't know me before I moved to the RiverDell area.

But there are other people with whom I've shared truly important and meaningful experiences with, people who still know me as an artist, an independent thinker and a risk-taker.

These are people I no longer see every day in passing. People who remind me of my whole self.

Yes, there is email, Facebook, texting, twitter. You can always send a couple of sentences or post a quick pic, but there is for me in all of this, an undeniable sense of loss.

One of the things I do to remind myself of who I am, is walk.

In the RiverDell area, there are several favorite destinations, all of which end up with me spending as much reflective time alone as I can grab.

Some locales are further from home than others, which simply means some walks are longer than others. But my favorite is the River Edge September 11th Memorial Garden.

Set back from the street, you are alone once you embark on the little path which winds around to reveal a singular, simple memorial sculpture to honor each  resident who died that day.

That is, you are alone with the spirit of the past, with the memory of these residents. I did not personally know any of them, but when I am in this place I feel something essential, something eternal.

Today when I arrived at one of the memorial sculptures, I was struck by a heart made of small, irregularly shaped white stones which had been carefully arranged upon the sculpture's surface. A visitor had come and gone before me, leaving behind their heart.

That day in September, after many frantic calls to ascertain that my husband was safe, I began calling friends. The first ones I called were Francine, Richard, Bethany....hearing each of their voices, regardless of what they actually said, made me feel sane in a world that had gone completely insane.

So today while visiting the memorial garden I made a little list of phone calls I will be making this week. To those same friends; one who went on to suffer from cancer and subsequently moved to California. One who created a remarkable documentary film that has, after so much hard work, brought him just some of the rewards he has always deserved. And another who gave birth to her son just a week after September 11th, 2001.

I think about how despite all that terrible chaos and sorrow, she became a parent. Then I place a pretty, clean stone on each of the memorial sculptures.

I have my list of old friends to call. I got what I came for.

It's time to go home.

Robert Kogan June 08, 2011 at 05:06 PM
This article is very timely, since we just hosted four of my oldest friends on the occasion of our 50th hs reunion. It was wonderful to become reacquainted with our class, but the time we spent in a small group was especially poignant and gave us the opportunity to process the larger reunion. We're hoping to make our small reunion an annual event. In the meantime, thank goodness for email! Margaret Kogan
Cous Vicki June 08, 2011 at 05:35 PM
Very timely, indeed. We recently took part in a neighborhood flea market (managed to sell lots of "fleas" we no longer needed or wanted). Strolling past our table was a familiar face I hadn't seen in almost seven years even though she and her husband live a few blocks away. I called out to her.."Linda?" and the smile she gave me in recognition, the way she ran to me and gave me a big hug has reinforced exactly what your article means. And that is that no matter what your days are like you should never lose touch with those that meant something to you. There really is no excuse. We both apologized for being neglectful and have renewed our friendship. I too am making a list of phone numbers and intend to get back in touch with all those I think of often but put off calling for no other excuses than I am tired, lazy, had too much to do, etc. etc. at the end of the day. Thanks Andrea. You are a wonderful conscience for those of us unconscionable scoundrels.
Niamh van Meines June 08, 2011 at 07:50 PM
I simply listen to traditional Irish music, Davy Spillane, to be precise, that was part of my younger years growing up in Ireland. It always brings up emotions that transport me back and remind me of who I am, where I came from and what is meaningful in my life. Sometimes I don't know how it's related, but there is such a sense of comfort in it....it always trumps and "manages" the busy feelings, agitations or anxieties that go along with day to day life, and give me a moment of pause. Transference is a great tool to use this way....easy and effective.
Andrea Kahn June 09, 2011 at 01:21 PM
Thank you for your very interesting comments. It's so important to find your way back to those parts of yourself that can easily diminish over time, overshadowed by daily obligations and responsibilities. Finding that "sense of comfort" (as Niamh eloquently calls it), is an essential survival tool. How exactly we find it doesn't matter (reconnecting with old friends, music, art, biking....)....all that matters is that we do.

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