remains.

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.

way.

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.

all.

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.

anyway.

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.

her.

To be loved be her. To hear her say ‘my love’, ‘my dear’— is a thread that weaves us then and still, my middle aged heart warmed as well as if I was a child.

I look like my mother, young pictures of her sitting on docks and by pine trees, I see myself there, in those places I haven’t been. She is smiling, surrounded by friends and soaked in the adventure of someone who knows where she is headed, to places she hasn’t been.

This morning in our weekly call, I asked her if the reason she is so healthy and strong is because of the way she lives, unbeholden to anyone else’s whims or worries, her path each day not charted by stars or planets, horoscopes or how-tos, but one foot in front of the other of where she chooses to walk.

She knows she loves flowers, longer spring days and snowdrops under melting snow, she does not question that she likes tea in the afternoons, cross stitch and ladies lunches. She has long lost the unhelpful habit of trying too hard, reaching too far and questioning why she loves what she loves.

A couple of weeks ago my mother told me that this time of year, there is two and half more minutes of sunlight each day, that adds up each week, the shifting of this planet toward lighter days more palpable, more seen, pointing toward more snowdrops under faster melting snow.

This time of life for me is two and half more minutes of light each day, and it is adding up toward lighter days, the trying less is more palpable, the reaching less is more seen, and it is all pointing toward a life of loving what I love, wherever I choose to walk.

To be loved by her is to say back to her, ‘my love, my dear, thank you.’

flight.

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.