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 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.


I accidentally felt happy. For days and weeks after the visceral, physical breaking out of the cocoon I was bound up in, a feeling kept flitting in my side view. Brief and effervescent, blue and bright and entertaining. What was this? It was familiar and fleeting and then swooped back up and out and I laughed, a lot. Smiling in my kitchen alone, at the sun in the window I realized this was happy.

It was so long since I felt something similar to this—so many shedding skins ago, that I kept quiet. I didn’t want to shoot back into a caterpillar skin or reincarnate into trying and testing again if I spoke it out loud.

A few weeks ago I went to D.C. on a work trip, flying into air I used to be afraid of, settled in with a movie and few hours of silent shuttling sky, sitting in tandem quiet with a kind-souled fellow traveler. I wish I could explain what happened then, maybe someday there will be words for what it is when two people who have both found themselves as butterflies find the same draft of air. For now it is enough to know that while the cocoon may feel lonely, newly winged flight is not.

I spent the next five days waiting on couches in hotel libraries, trying on hats and wandering new streets, running to keep warm and crying from the cold. I came home and talked on the phone, met people in stores and smiled, sipped soup and felt full, bought bread and coffee creamer and wore warm socks on frigid nights.

I lived. And until then I thought what I was doing before was living, but it wasn’t. It was leaning toward what I thought would feel more, look better, seem easier somehow. I was waiting to live until living felt nicer. If I could go back and try it again, faster, better, would I? No. I had moments of great through every minute of my life as a caterpillar and cocoon. I had family and love and friends and a life that held me while I found my way to this. I hold it in my hands like a cup of warm tea, look across the steam and see sugared sunlight fall through leaves, see the shadow cast of light in an afternoon room, and I know that this life is magnificent.

It is magnificent.

transformation. part one.

I am fascinated by life cycles, transformation, changing from one into another, shifting shapes and forms into something better, cleaner, finer. The idea that if you work very, very hard in one stage, you will earn the next, a graduation of a lesser self into a higher one. Safer. Less predatory. I believed that action created station, that leaning forward created the next stage, the next swift climb into a cushioned space, noise blunted and sweet.

Endurance was essential. Never letting up; the trying was the way to reach the elusive place of peace. When I became tired, it was a weakness, a thing to be healed, strengthened, fortified, all so I could keep trying to be well, keep doing the thing that made me tired, ill, unwell.

When I was somewhere in my late 30’s I became very, very tired. I was sick all the time, a rash on my skin, pale and pregnant feeling, without proof I was growing anything in my body except weariness. I went to the doctor, thinking it was mono, the long slow illness of fatigue and loss of normal. A blood test revealed a low thyroid, very low in fact, how am I still functioning they asked me? I wasn’t, I just hadn’t stopped trying.

After medication and further blood tests showed I was now healed, all well, I still was not. I slept, rested, napped and lay through each day, and asked to test my blood again. Again, the tests were normal, but I was not; something was not right. For many months, and maybe a year, tired and still a rash, now and again showing up–an unknown stigmata, a morse code of attention. I did not know it was wheat slowly weighing me to the ground, my immune system fighting and fighting; trying to be well, while I kept doing the thing that made me sick. Soon, my joints began to ache, swell, keep me awake at night, my head hurt, my skin felt tight and stretched, and always, always so very tired.

When the idea that this was a food allergy, an autoimmune response to a sweet and savory poison I was eating every day, the suggestion was to stop, just for a week, and then eat it again. The eating it again was a birthday cake, 7 days after none, and that night, the rash came to celebrate.

It would seem simple, then, just to stop, but it was not. There was another year, maybe two, of debate, argument, struggle, followed by a quiet acceptance and a new way of living, not chosen, but necessary. I missed so much, I yearned and grieved my not-normal-ness. Slowly, I began to feel better. What I had consumed was no longer consuming me.

I began a job a few years after this recovery, a new stage, the next stage for me in my career, and endurance was essential. When I became tired, I persevered, that weakness un-allowed; I kept doing the thing that made me tired, ill, unwell, always trying to do it better. When I became burned out, I kept trying, trying to find the cure, the wellness as elusive as the riddle of my earlier illness, and because I did not know the cause I kept doing the thing that was making me sick, burned out. Soon, my fatigue turned into lethargy, my head hurt, my heart ached into dullness, and I no longer cared about healing. I no longer cared. I wanted escape, to be let out of this never ending spin of trying another way to work in a job that was like the bread I used to be able to eat, and could no longer tolerate.

When a butterfly lays an egg, she does so on a leaf that will be its first food, the hatching of it creating such an appetite, the resting place needs to be its first sustenance. The caterpillar is born, with its first and only purpose to consume; it eats and eats and eats its way through each day, inching along branches and leaves, stringing itself on invisible threads to new trees, new sources of green and growing nourishment. As it grows, its skin becomes tighter, and it sheds, up to four and five times, it’s exoskeleton left behind, as it inches again, ever expanding. The last shedding is done higher up, sometimes under the leaf that fed it, hidden and hung by the silken tie it created itself, it spins, alone and quiet, and for a moment it could be seen as an unwell caterpillar. But thats not it, is it? It isn’t unwell, it is unbecoming.

When I learned this, I understood something I did not know before, the consumption was the cause, and the illness; what I had consumed, was consuming me.

(to be continued).