This is the third installment for March NaBloPloMo. We are answering the question: When or where do you feel most like yourself?
I feel most like myself when I’m walking in the park. I love open spaces. I love nature. Walking gives me a freedom of mind I don’t get anywhere else. When I’m at work, I’m thinking of work; when I’m home, I’m thinking of chores, kids, and to do lists; and when I’m at church, well I’m thinking about God and my relationship with Him.
However, when I’m walking in the park — Stone Mountain Park, Prospect Park, Central Park or any of the little ones in between, I’m free to think about anything I want. Or I can not think at all. Is that even possible? These are the times when I allow my spirit to roam and my emotions to meander. It is during my walks that I meditate on my hopes and dreams. If I’m going through turbulent times, I use a walk in the park not just for the exercise but also for the peace it brings and the wonderful opportunity to have some private, uninterrupted time with God. This is when I feel free to argue with Him about what I’m going through. Through tears and laughter, my walks in the park have brought me comfort when I’m heartbroken and a place of solace when I feel lost. It is where I sense the presence of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Walking in the park allows my mind to roam free and to think outside the box. This is very much me. I create poems in my head. Compose tunes in my mind. And daydream about what I will do with my life going forward. It’s a time when I literally stop and smell the roses. I walk bare feet to experience being one with the earth. Watching men push strollers; little boys walk their dogs and old ladies gingerly navigating a 5k stretch, gives me a sense of gratitude. Life is beautiful and it is only when I take the time to visit the park that I gain a renewed sense of appreciation for what our good Lord has created. The various trees swaying lazily in the summer breeze; the swans basking in the winter sun without a care in the world; and squirrels friskily running up and down one tree after another all combine to give me this wonderful experience that allows me to be me. Even the tiny turtle “hastily” moving across the dewy grass for fear of being trampled on by someone on an early morning run, catches my interest. I wonder what he is thinking as I stoop down to watch, closely following his shiny body, wondering what is going on in his mind as he “scampers” away. That is me, being myself.
Yes, walking in the park is where I feel most like myself. Where I am free to appreciate and experience what life has to offer. Whether it’s the dream of retiring on some beautiful Caribbean island someday or publishing my first novel, whatever I desire can and does happen when I walk in the park.
I never really think about what I’m putting in my purse. It seems I always use it for everything from a filing cabinet to a safe deposit box or a medicine cabinet. But the morning of July 4, 2013 changed that habit forever when I decided to take the 5k walk around Prospect Park. I was so excited about the walk, I just grabbed my purse from where I had left it the day before and headed out the door. I didn’t do my usual and just carried my wallet neither did I put my purse in the trunk of my car before I drove off. These are two simple decisions I would soon come to regret.
I got to the park at approximately 7:12 am that morning and proceeded absent mindedly to open my car trunk, plunked my purse in and slammed the trunk shut. I skipped across the park oblivious to the grave mistake I had just made.
About an hour later, I walked up to my car dumbfounded as I stared at the shards of glass littered all over the sidewalk next to it. I stared at the now windowless back door and thought to myself that I must had forgotten where I parked my car. However, I knew my grey Toyota Camry and no amount of wishful thinking was going to change the violent scene before me. My heart sank. My knees shook.
My emotions zigzagged between shock and anger as I slowly realized what I had just lost. You see not only did I have almost $800 in cash in my purse, I had my drivers licenses, three debit cards, two credit card, my work phone and ID, my checkbook, prescriptions and a host of personal papers I had amassed between work and home. I had every intention of filing those papers “one day” but could never get around to it. I know, I know. I also discovered later, to my chagrin that I had left my journal in my purse as well.
I had a friend examine my car after the police left and he concluded that the thief had backed into it first to see if I had an alarm system. He or she had then proceeded to smash the glass, pull the back seat down (he obviously knew my type of car), and pulled my purse from the trunk. He/she left no print or fiber – no clue as to whom had done this horrible deed. I yelled at God. I cursed the thief but the truth is I had not exercised any of my usual common sense that morning. The thief had watched me put my purse in the trunk — it was like taking candy from a baby. However, the pain of my loss was not tempered by accepting the blame.
The most valuable lesson I learned from this harrowing experience is that you never put any valuables in your car, or for that matter anywhere while in public. I also learned:
- Take only what you need. I only really needed my drivers license, a few dollars and my phone that morning. The few dollars, only because I had planned to stop at Trader Joe’s after I was finished my walk.
- No neighborhood is safe. Don’t assume that your car won’t be broken into just because it is presumably parked in a “good” neighborhood. I had subconsciously made this assumption and paid dearly for it.
- Keep your eyes open at all times. I was in a good mood that day and had definitely taken leave of my (common) senses.
- Notify EVERYONE immediately. I had the phone numbers to all my cards in my personal phone which I had brought with me on my walk. While I waited for the police to arrive, I called all my banks to cancel my credit and debit cards. I also called the security office at my job (to cancel my Blackberry and ID).
- Follow up. During the days following July 4, I put a fraud alert on my credit report. This can be done quickly by going online or by calling any one of the three credit reporting agencies. Once you place the alert with one agency, a 90 day block is automatically applied to all three major credit reporting agencies. In addition, I filed Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This form can be filed with the IRS if you suspect your identity was stolen and may be used for employment or to file a fraudulent tax return. I’m not sure what made me do this one but I realized I did not even remember half the stuff I was carrying in my purse. Which brings me to my final point.
- Review the contents of your purse regularly: discard trash, file important papers and remove unnecessary items. I mean I really had too much in my purse. Way too much.
For a whole year I passed Jill sitting on the bench, at the entrance to the park. I was too engrossed in my own thoughts to notice much more. She sat there with her entire life in several bags next to her. But like so many other walkers and joggers I just pass by unperturbed by her station in life. After all, what can we do? Maybe it’s her fault — she doesn’t want to work or she is crazy.
The following year I went back and there she was. Still sitting on the park bench. I said hello. She smiled a huge gap-toothed grin and said hello back. I passed by but this time I thought about her. I wondered what her story was. Does she have a family? Why was she still on the park bench after a year? Did she spend the whole winter there?
The following week I said hello and stopped. Jill was sipping on coffee and was as pleasant as ever. It puzzled me that she wasn’t sad or had a sour disposition. After our brief chat, I found out that she had been on that bench for two years after being kicked out of a shelter. She had issues that required legal representation which she seemed to have but I still couldn’t help but feel pain.
I could not put her out of my mind after that. Every time I passed that way, I would bring some breakfast, juice, or coffee. I began to pray for her. We talked every Saturday when I went for my walk. I would even stop by on my way to church. I gave her may business card and a contact card for my church. I introduced her to my mother and two of my sons.
Jill was well groomed (despite the fact she lived on a park bench). Her hair was neatly combed, toe nails were painted…some mornings she was painting them while I was passing by. We became close enough where each greeting was met by a hug. I did not feel I had to hold my breath or make a mad dash for the shower after hugging her.
Unfortunately, I lost track of her just before Christmas 2012. I kept wanting to go to the park during the Christmas season but never made time for a visit. When I went back in the New Year she was gone. I pass by when I am going Downtown Brooklyn and look for her when I go for my walk but to no avail. Again I am left wondering…is she dead? Did she go home back to the South? I think the worst and I think the best. But not knowing…