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.