If there was an unanswered, unanswerable question, it would be this; how can you lead, how can you work and live as well as you can on any given day, without losing people you love(d) because they turned their opinion of you from one of apparent care and interest into one of derision and dislike?

Is the answer that they never did care, that they were not who you believed them to be? That all the conversations and connections amounted to pretense, or worse, that it all amounted to them knowing you better and deciding you were not who they believed you to be? I wonder if there is way to make this okay, and less painful at the same time. I haven’t yet figured out how to hit up against someone’s broad dislike of me without wincing a bit, without willing it to be different, wishing that endings weren’t part of this real world that seems less real, less concrete, the older I grow.

It’s as if you spend years of your life stirring up a soup of traits, habits, inflections and illusions, filling the bowl with everything you want at the top, not understanding that keeping it there means always moving, always the turntable and swirl of constantly churning so that what stays popular, stays on top. It also means hoping the other parts you want to sink stay always sinking, dropping to the bottom of the storm so all of the wonderful can keep tossing and spinning.

But here’s the thing, at the very same time, you are also choosing what other people you want in your life based on what is on the top of their shifting turns, ever deciding who you will care for, be interested in, and love.

It is madness to me now to see how what I wanted is not even close to being what I gave.

It is craziness to think I wanted everyone to love and choose me, while at the same time demanding my freedom to choose who I would love. It is nonsensical to have kept my bowl filled up with liquid pride and fear, not allowing anyone to see all that was in the bottom of that never ending container of what life had offered me, the chips and bits of scarred wisdom and hand-holding laughter.

I get to choose, and so does everyone else. I get to have left a job because it was no longer for me, and so do the people I wish wouldn’t leave this one. I get to stay at a job that taught me inexorably what it was to lead, how the evaporation of all my false beliefs about my smaller self was necessary to know the bigger belief of why I do what I do, and who I do it for, and I get to keep growing with those who chose the same. I get to see that a friendship is not as alive as it once was, to still care for someone who isn’t in my everyday, and also allow someone to realize they haven’t seen me for a while, and they don’t miss me much. I get to end and allow things to end. I get to let the watery confusion drain away, dry in the desert sun, and allow what’s left to sit against the white truth of what this life has meant, this life that matters, just like everyone else’s, in fiercely equal measure.

I get to choose and I get to be unchosen.

Maybe in the end there is an answer, because I think I know what it is now. Once the water recedes, and the air is filled with all the built up pretending that finally blows away, what is left, what has been and is me–the sharp, the shiny, the splintered– remains. Not everyone is going to like it, and maybe that’s okay.


I believed in god my whole life, until I didn’t. I loved religion, ritual, jesus, easter, apostles and the long fantastical history of bearded holy men in long robes and the women who suffered them. When I lost all of this and so many more filaments of belief that strung me equally into hope and longing, I became undone for a while. I forgot about god and all of it, in pursuit of a new set of beliefs to obliterate my old ones.

And then, on a trip to Sedona, going earlier than the group I traveled with, I found myself turning right to follow a sign for the Chapel of the Holy Cross. A church built into a red rock mountain high on a hill, walking up toward it as if pulled by invisible string, filled with tourists and people milling around the holy water, lighting candles and kneeling down to pray–and I, a non-believing ex-believer, sat on a bench marked with a IV, and cried. I cried for the loss of what I had long ago lost, and what I had never found. I cried in the remembering of what I had loved, who I had been when life seemed like a long story of faith and flight and the fantasy of a salvation that was both possible and impossible to earn.

It cost money to light a candle, donation money I did not have. So I sat watching those clustered, faltering lights and a voice, familiar and low, asked a question in my ear— ‘haven’t you paid enough?’ And I had, I was a woman who had suffered long enough, and I walked to the front of that magnificent place and lit a candle for the girl I used to be, and watched it burn for the woman I was becoming.

I have played to an audience in my life, from a stage filled with characters who have come and gone–I kept the god character out of the play, uncast with no lines, not realizing until just now, god was in the back row, in the dark of the theatre that stayed filled with the echoing voices and loud silences up until now. This god isn’t the same as the one I stopped believing in. It isn’t a man; no white bearded, robed all knowing judge. It is the one in the back who is silently applauding. It is the smiling light of people I love in a room, and a fierce protection from the people on the other side of the door who no longer or never held love. This god is sly and fun and is the fading laughter in a car, riding in the passenger seat on the way home from this play I stopped playing.

The stage is not for me, but sitting beside the one in the back, cheering and laughing, loving without rules, and living without suffering? That is god, that is us, that is what I lit the candle for, and what I now believe, fully and wholly, is it is still burning.


I weigh 160 pounds. I want to weigh 155. There is not a day that passes that I don’t think about the equation of what I wish to weigh and what I do. Not a day that I don’t wonder if I go to bed a little hungrier can I wake up a little thinner, less burdened by the ounces I hold on this frame that I wish was a smaller ratio of body, a larger ratio of soul.

I don’t think there has been a time that what I weigh has changed how I live, that in a quiet, lovely conversation with another soul seeker, they say, that would have been so much more lovely if she weighed 5 pounds less. I cannot see how a square box on the floor of a room I don’t stay in, decides what space I stay in this magnificent and interesting world.

A few days ago I was in a meeting, my mind wandering while my video settings stayed on, the passive stare we have all managed to capture while following other thoughts, and I heard by name. I came back fully to the meeting and listened for real, and realized it was not my name, it was what I have done in this lifetime; carry.

All these years I didn’t make the connection between the noun of me, and the verb. Keri=Carry.

The question now, at this life pace and style, over 50 and somewhat more taken with the mystery of this universe, it made me pause, made me realize it isn’t just digital numbers on a scale in a bathroom of the house I live in. I carry those extra 5 pounds with me all day, every day. And maybe it isn’t even that I carry it, it is that I think of carrying it.

One pound for what others are thinking when I am making my way through a day, sometimes confused with the pull and push of working and living in a stimulating simulation.

One pound for how I didn’t do what I intended to do, a few words, taken wrong, offense in a room I entered, and not fixed by the time I left.

One pound for who I miss, who I left, who I leave. For the undone past that I cannot undo, the choices I made fixed in memory and unchanged by time.

One pound for the shadow side I wish I hid better, the times I show the fear I try to cover in words.

One pound for those words. Too many of them, too loud, too often.

The verb of my name changes how I see the noun of me–who I am and who I have been, what I have done and what I can do balancing on a bigger, cosmic scale of my weight in this world. The space I take up not tied to any number on any square box, in any room I stay in.

A new choice is showing up, it is me that steps on the scale, and it is me that can walk past it. To think about something else each day, like the larger ratio of loving outward, the smaller ratio of checking for love coming in. The equation of who I am, who I was born to be, undivided.

That is the way; already balanced.


I sat in a bar, inside a restaurant once, with a drink in front of her and none in front of me, because I was driving us back and forth from the nearby hotel where we both got the federal rate because we both worked for a federal program. She had driven here from a neighboring state, to visit one of the sites of a program I was in charge of at the time, and still am. We talked about what had been happening in the site, in the program, and a little bit in our lives. She asked me how I was because before that visit I told her of the troubles we were having, the way the people she would visit that day may not be getting along, the place she was going may not be in the shape I tried for it to be, but I was trying.

We stayed in the bar long after our meal was done, she described to the waiter what she wanted, something colorful, something sweet, something surprising. We talked, her relaxing with the orange/yellow drink in her hand, me still sitting up straight, being visited. I heard somewhere since if you eat orange/yellow food for two days you will feel better. I wonder if that’s true.

I answered her question about how I was, sitting in the small, dim room—I am doing the best I can.

No, no, Keri, she said, looking at me in my eye with the orange/yellow drink between us, no—you are not doing the best you can, you are doing all you can.

She told me a story or two then, about family members who said they did their best, and she explained how that isn’t true, they didn’t. She saw them do everything, all things, all.

And she saw me too, she saw me trying to figure it out, she said when she thought of me that’s the phrase I always said, ‘I’ll figure this out’. But the figuring out wasn’t working, and the trying wasn’t working, and the drink I couldn’t have because I was driving wasn’t working because I couldn’t have it. I could not have what I wanted in any way, that night, and the many nights after.

But something was a little different after that day when she was the visitor and I was the visited. I knew I couldn’t have what I wanted; the solution, the thing figured out, the endless learning to do something better that wasn’t getting better, at that site, in that program that I kept finding myself in charge of. But it wasn’t that I wasn’t doing my best, it was that all I was doing wasn’t working, yet.

That colorful truth was sweet, it was surprising. And it did make me feel better.


It is possible, that the answer to a question of what to do, has a simpler, easier, almost impossible answer of what not to do, and that is why it is harder to hear. For any decision there is a risk to be wrong, to be clouded by the judgement of the voice in our head that was not spoken by us, but by a chorus of other voices along the way that believed they knew that what was best for us was the same as what was best for them. The choice becomes less to choose and more to convince–to right the path of someone who believes they can see ahead of you, and in doing, fail to see you at all.

I have been guilty of this, as we all have perhaps, with my children, my friends, the people I work beside, those who I have taught in front of classrooms and over internet lines, and for that I feel regret, and am sorry. I have seen what is behind me, and told them it was what was ahead of them. That is just not true. The truth is I knew nothing and yet believed everything.

What I have been doing in this life is just enough to do what I dream of, and just not enough for it be a risk, to avoid humiliation–to walk that thin chalk line of who I hide in order to be who I have always been. To move forward bigger, to dust that chalk line out with the scuff of my shoes would be to risk it all, the carefully drawn map of where I can be found–to risk someone saying I need to pick up my feet.

I have taken the key to opportunity, ran to the door, looked in and then leaned away and waited to find the voice that tells me to step back –that’s not the way. Do what you must, but do just enough, do not do it all.

It hasn’t been what I have been doing, no–I am too skilled at checking my steps, watching my words, never promising too much, too fast. It is what I have not done. Not risked. Not said. Not dared.

Until now. Now when something is ending I can sense it, and I do not need to convince anyone, not the voices in my head, or the voices around me. Now when something is beginning I can sense it, and I can wait on my own, knowing that what is coming, is coming for me, not us. Not together–just one life, living one day, saying yes and no in measure, without predicting what might happen because of what has happened. Knowing that I do not know for you, and you do not know for me.

I can’t let what other people want be what I want. I can’t let someone else’s truth be mine just because I can see their point. I can do both, see and be seen. Say yes and say YES! Walk to the door, and walk through.

I write because I love to write, and I don’t write often because I don’t want it to be annoying, for me to be annoying. I don’t want to be misunderstood, unclear, clouded by questioning. For me to be humiliated. Now that is true. What is also true is I do not need to believe that. A voice is just a voice, but my life is real, and it matters, it means something.

To walk through that door, to see beyond the frame, is to not only do, but to stop doing. To write, and stop not writing. To maybe be humiliated, but to do what I want to do, anyway.


I lived on county roads when I was young, dusted in the summer from farmered pickup trucks hauling hay to cows over the next hill. I rode a faded blue bike with no gears down our graveled lane way, leaning at the end into tree lit back roads, no lines, no lights, waving past black eyed Susans and Queen Anne’s lace. In rain it was muddy, in winter the skid of back tires kept us home, and in spring the runoff made miniature buttes and canyons in the narrow rutted lanes. The road changed and slipped its sides over the years, gravel and wildflowers mixed up and sliding down into fields of hay.

It was never made uniform or fixed, maybe some new gravel spilling out of a dump truck and maybe dark, heavy oil in the summer to keep the dirt down, maybe plowed in those old scowling winter storms, but never paved.

And every day it brought me home.

Home on a bright, loud bus filled with noise and competition, voices slipping out of open windows scattering crows from corn stalks. Home on that faded blue bike with no gears at the beginning of the school year when that bus was too full and I was too shy to risk being watched finding a seat. Home on long walks in the dark and rain, staying late in high school halls to be with friends and boys, catching up on homework I never did. Home in a small red car that stalled at stoplights, and taught me how to shift gears on hills.

All those years, I was never made uniform or fixed.

Maybe I studied, read and prayed to stop feeling so mixed up and scattered. Maybe I learned religion and then unlearned it, competing ever and always against myself to be more, to be better, to have lines and lights and to be unchanged by rain. To be paved.

But the best roads are not paved. They change on different days, they wind and veer a little for no reason, they dip down where water pools and they stay a little rough, a little messy and are left unfixed. Paving a road is fine, and I have tried that—but for me, I am always going to find that back road to walk alone in the dark, singing.

All this time, all these ways, this old, lovely dusty road brought me home.