In so many ways I sought myself through other people, searching for someone to mirror back some understanding, acceptance, a place for me to rest for a few moments. Blending into another is hard to notice, hard to capture why I didn’t feel settled at the end of a shared day.

What I found was not what I intended; somewhere I had become the mirror, acting back what was given, shared, creating agreements and likeness where maybe there was none. I said things were okay that weren’t okay, because I wasn’t. I didn’t know what I was doing so I didn’t know why I was tense and tired. There are other words for this focus on the other; fawning, placating, pandering, people pleasing.

It takes energy to bend into ways you didn’t grow in, to mimic another’s preferences that aren’t your own means to be forever stretched and trying. Living outside your own self is surviving in a climate that you aren’t accustomed to, the thin air making it hard to fill your lungs with someone else’s share of oxygen.

It took me a very long time to understand that survival in any form does not feel good. If you have ever felt invisible, being seen seems worth the price of admission into a venue where for a moment or two, you belong. When you add technology, social media, texting and email, life can become a funhouse of possibility, the myriad ways to be seen and noticed revolving into a frenzy of shifting likes around the flickering fluorescent need that stays the same.

The need stays the same as you bend into ways to fill it, and it doesn’t ever work. There’s the truth; it doesn’t work because it wasn’t meant to work forever. Survival responses are born as a means to keep you alive, then. The same tactics, so necessary at the time, can keep you from living, now.

The best way to know why you do something is to stop doing it, even for a moment. Notice when you fight, leave, freeze and please. It could be the reason you are tired is because you have been doing it for so long. When you look back across your own life, you might see what helped you survive until now was never other peoples’ reflection; what brought you through these shifting floors and tilting hallways was you, always you.


North Rim, Grand Canyon circa 1992

30 years ago my friend Kris and I left our classes at BYU to go on a road trip to Cedar Breaks National Monument three hours away. We started the trip with cassette tapes falling off the roof of the car where we left them as we packed our Birkenstock sandals, hers real, mine fake, our shorts and t shirts and no real idea of where we were going. All we knew was we were driving, singing to George Michael, watching the Utah landscape shift from brown to green to red, our blinking eyes changing the scenes like a classic view finder toy.

I don’t remember everything about that road trip, a brief memory of the place we intended to go, the rock formations beautiful and stunning and not enough. We drove south, and ended up at the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

I was fearless as I sat on the edge for that picture, adventurous when we climbed into a rock building with no windows and posed for more, the setting sun lighting the last picture I have of us, sitting up against a boulder, together, sated and suntanned on this meandering trip.

We had a flat tire, a stay at a very dingy motel, rolling the tire down the street to be repaired in a town I no longer remember its name—and all the while pictures of us laughing.

South Rim, Grand Canyon 2022

Last week driving alone from Utah to Sedona I saw a sign for the south rim, 25 miles off the route, and I took it, the ghost of that adventurer who sang and laughed nudging me to take the right in that round-about. I thought I was going to find fearlessness there, enlightenment, the vista that would take my breath away, taking away my gathered up anxieties and wished for antidotes.

As the road started to climb I was terrified, each mile forward, deeper and deeper into a panic of what do I do, how do I get out of this? There was no way to turn around, and I could see the canyon out of the corner of my eye, breathing heavily I kept driving, no choice to go right or left, I turned into a look out, so that I could drive back down. The view above was beautiful I guess, for someone who could see it. I could not. I was ungrounded, wind blown and even looked around at the people walking on that dirt on the edge wondering if someone could drive me back down.

I found my way back to level ground, cursing myself for the road I had taken. Questioning what I believed would happen when I got there. Knowing I was not ever going to find the freedom I had looked for, it was not for me, the giving up angry and vindictive and final.

And then, many graces and gifts over the next six days, spent in an infinity of women, led me back. Sedona, the place I was meant to go, that would be meaningful for me, surprised me open.

South Rim, Grand Canyon. 6 days later.

Another day I will write about the cross hanging around my neck, the one I chose because it has a circle in it, never realizing what that would mean as I returned to this place, 6 days and 30 years later, my friend Kris replaced in the car by other strong and trusted women, meandering, no idea where we were going, but seeing and being seen all along the way.

I am fearless in this picture. Adventurous, together and sated. All the way home, we laughed.


This is hallowed ground, the space I live now. It has seen, absorbed, reflected, cried, and held the living of a life myriad and vast, endlessly new and achingly circling back on itself. One more chance to say the thing I haven’t said the other go rounds. One more pass by, not quite yet, the pull of the unknown tenuous, the sameness gradually better, cleaner, sturdier.

I live by different rules now, more mine, less justified, stirred together with some old unsaid rules that keep me in a small state of confusion, a tension between the two the thing I notice, the thing that leans me a little to the left of gratitude.

A few things bring me back, swift and straight~ my children, gathered in a room, laughing, piled on and entwined, these people who before me didn’t live, didn’t know how much they loved each other. I introduced them, and that act is a saving, wavering grace, that will last long after me, a gift to them of each other, my lingering love ever dusted up when they are together.

I follow their togethered love in pure wonder, I will listen to them laughing long after I am gone, isn’t that what all parents do? Conjured up in the delighted spaces where siblings become soul stunning friends.

It is easy to heal the tension I carry when I am in the middle of this comfortable pile of beloved humans, who didn’t know each other before me~who made their way here, all because they wanted to, and oh, how I needed them to find me too.

This is hallowed space we share now, grounded in the kind of love I didn’t know before I met them.


Part of finding the way back, to the place we left that girl, is to remember. To see her, to recognize her in the listed doings of every exhausted day; and when you find her, to stop, wait and listen. There are tales to tell of when she lost the way to who she dreamed she would be, and visions forward to becoming her after all.

During the beginnings of the COVID-19 lockdown, my sister introduced me to an Instagram account I began to follow with her. A Canadian beauty, filming short videos of outfits, makeup and all around lovely living; it transfixed me, and it connected us, my sister and I. We shopped our closets and online, went when we were able to stores, outlets and malls and found remnants of the outfits we saw. We started to use her name as a verb; I’m going to ‘Liv Judd’ this.

I started to remember what it felt like to dress for fun, in what I loved, what felt the best, no matter where I lived or worked. When I was young enough to not critique, I used to love anything novel, quirky, strong. When I was a young fitness instructor, in the early 80’s, someone at the benign gym where I worked asked me what I would change about myself. ‘Nothing’ I replied, honestly not considering what I would shift in the gravity a handful of years of living had given me. ‘Not even your thighs?’ replied innocently enough. Where there was a no, was now a maybe, a wondering, a glimpse into the delusion of my accepted form. How insidiously this became a maybe so. There are many ways to change and hide and shrink away from what you loved when you were young enough to not be asked about your thighs.

Stopping at a small high mountain town a few years ago I held the door for a woman who must have been my age at the time, maybe a little younger. She wore weekend clothes and red lipstick and her natural beauty stunned me out of social shyness and as she passed into the store the words I sent, ‘you are so beautiful’, followed her in.

I went back to the car and waited in the passenger seat for the rest of my small tangled crew to return, she came out of the store, smiling widely, talking to her friend, jubilant. She caught my eye and held it, paused, and mouthed the words ‘thank-you’. She stays in my mind just that way, standing there, her hand over her heart, beautiful and happy and for a moment, we were both seen. I think of it sometimes, the shared connection of two women, who will never see each other again, who saw each other so clearly in that moment, beautiful.

Decorating myself again feels jubilant and true; a way back from the girl who learned to hide from perceptions, into a woman who stands in imperfections. And in this moment we are both seen. Both beautiful.


Sometimes I think about the stone I put by the tree in the yard of the first house I remember. I think about it sheltered under bare branches now, winter coming, snow not yet covering the gray rock sneaked there that sun spring day. Does it sit the way I left it, or has the unknown strains of the universe tipped it on its side, covered it with dirt or otherwise shifted its nest?

That house plays games in my mind, bigger than it is in person, brighter too. The memories are kaleidoscopes, turning into snaps of sound, the crying in my own ears. The understanding of my place in the way of things. I was 2 when we moved there, 5 when we left, and 52 when I walked away. It holds the first memories of being unliked, unfitted, and undone.

We drove there, my sisters and I, they waited in the car as I walked past the address nonchalantly, my eyes averting to another place up the street, those coordinates of shame mapped who I became that kindergarten year.

I was a fighter until then, a cryer, a temper tantrumed, stand by the wall demander. That year I lost my voice in the drifted need to hide behind the door that wasn’t going to open for me.

When it was time to move from that place, both when I was 5, and walking back to my sister’s car, I held on, and looked back. The specter of the girl I might have been waved once and sat back down. It would be a few more years before I could go back and let her know what belonging was. To explain the word I took with me as we drove away.