A Pilgrim on the Path

Tales and ramblings from a humble(d) seeker of truth and beauty

Kim Childs

Kim Childs
Location
Boston, Massachusetts,
Birthday
January 28
Bio
I'm a writer, singer, and teacher of Kripalu Yoga, The Artist’s Way, and related personal growth classes and workshops. I also play the djembe for fun, and I'm forever a pilgrim on the path to greater joy and peace of mind. Thanks for reading. May all the good you do come back to you, with interest.

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JANUARY 23, 2012 7:05PM

I’m Jealous of Oprah (It’s Not What You Think)

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Oprah Winfrey and I celebrate our birthdays this week. She has zillions in the bank and can spend her big day anywhere on the planet with 200 of her favorite people in tow. I have, well, less money in the bank and will spend my birthday with my husband and friends in and around my neighborhood. Oprah has incredible wealth, access and adventures, but that’s not what makes me jealous of her.

Nope. It’s the fact that she has a best friend named Gayle King whom she calls every day. From what I can tell, Gayle and Oprah do pretty much every meaningful thing together and rehash it on the phone. I often wish I had a Gayle King.

I lived next door to my best friend Lisa when I was a little girl. We hung out in each other’s homes making Easy Bake Oven cakes, watching Mr. Rogers, and playing dress up. We also spent hours setting up elaborate apartment complexes for Barbie, Ken, assorted doll friends, and my brother’s GI Joe (for added intrigue). Often, as we put the last piece of cardboard furniture in place, one of our moms would disrupt the whole scene by shouting, “Dinner!” We didn’t really care, though, because we just loved being together.

A few years later, my dad moved our family to another state and I tearfully said goodbye to Lisa. Little did I know it was the beginning of a pattern.

At this point in my life I’ve moved about eight times and moved on from several jobs, leaving countless friends and communities behind. I tried to stay connected to high school and college friends, but those ties weakened as our careers and lives blossomed in different cities. In my 30s I lived my own version of Sex and the City with Julie, Alice, and Liz amid countless cocktails, cigarettes and debauched nights in Manhattan. When that lifestyle took its toll, I left my party pals to reclaim my soul in a yoga ashram. Two years later I moved to Boston.

And so it went for decades, these departures that left me with dear friends in faraway places. I, too, have been “abandoned” by girlfriends who’ve been called elsewhere. Despite our good intentions, months and years can pass without a call or visit, and so Facebook is where we end up hanging out. I have 331 friends on Facebook and, while they give me a much-needed sense of community at times, I’d trade most of them for a flesh and blood BFF.

Which is why I’m in awe of Oprah and Gayle, who are closer than sisters (something else I don't have) after thirty years. I’d love regular check-ins with a girlfriend like that to relay the fascinating details of my fascinating life. I used to pay my therapist for this privilege and now I force my husband to listen, but it’s really not his forte. While he’s loving and devoted and willingly takes out the trash, he rarely asks the right questions, cares about the right details, or wants to hear all about my feeelings the way girlfriends do. People like John Gray tried to warn me about this whole Mars/Venus thing.

A friend of mine jokes that she processes her day with her cats each night. While my cat is a really good listener, she rarely gives feedback, poses leading questions or affirms my fabulousness. Except when she wants something.

I know that I’m not unique in wanting more meaningful and consistent relationships in my life, and I sometimes wonder if loneliness is an American epidemic, despite all the tweeting and texting. A yoga student of mine confesses that her loneliness sends her to the kitchen for beloved companions like Godiva chocolates and Ben and Jerry. The problem is, they don’t really love her back.

My husband is from Senegal, where people hang out in each other’s homes all the time and steady human companionship is a given. His favorite American TV show is Seinfeld, because Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer remind him of his mates back home and make him laugh after a day of commuting and working alongside New Englanders who avoid eye contact. “I’m used to it,” he says, about the isolation he feels in this culture, and that makes me sad.

It takes real effort and determination to maintain friendships in this age of transience, social fragmentation, and overcommitted lives. Proximity helps, too. As I write I’m heating up a pot of homemade lentil soup, thanks to my neighbor Ellen who supplied the recipe after I enjoyed some at her house. Ellen and I are slowly cultivating a friendship via email, Facebook, phone calls, face-to-face visits, and “Hey, got any bay leaves?” moments across the fence. It’s the perfect fusion of modern and old-fashioned relating, and it makes my world feel cozier.

I just hope neither one of us moves anytime soon.

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Really touching essay, Kim. I can relate on so many levels. It is so easy to stay isolated, especially in the winter, so I hope you and Ellen keep sharing soup and recipes, and that the circle expands for you. Happy Birthday!
famous book on the subj "bowling alone" by a sociologist I believe.
Friends come and then they seem to go. It's not like the old days of making up stories and re-enacting them or having ballet concerts with a make believe stage to parents and friends. Sometimes the loneliness is palpable.