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.