Monday, December 31, 2012

Review


Winter at the beach appears quiet, but as you walk toward the shoreline, the beach teems with lifethe skies and sand full of birds: pelicans, cormorants, grebes, terns, willets, sanderlings, egrets, gulls. You see them poking their long beaks into the sand for crabs at the surf line, or bobbing and diving in the water just before the waves begin to roll to their crest. Somedays when I look out, there are hundreds of birds floating in the water.

During the fertile season of the summer and early fall, I spent most of my waking hours away from the beach meeting new people, building new professional relationships, creating new art. The last couple months have pulled me back to the beach to reviewto scan over all I’ve done and determine what truly speaks to me as a creative, as an artist. The pendulum of outward focus having swung so far that it must self-correctpull back its pioneering to store up for the winter. I find myself putting away the winter squashes of ideasthe ones that will keep for a timeand gathering up the crop of apples and pears to preserve them for later when the crisp burst of their sweetness will pierce the salted meats of winter.

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
I knew it was coming. The astrological calendar for November said Mercury retrograde and with that communication, travel and the “go” of the fleet-footed messenger slows, giving us time to look back...to reflect, reimagine, revise, renegotiate, redo...in all areas review. 

So I have been back walking the shoreline at the beach, writing in my journal, meditating, cooking, cleaning. But this, too, feels unnatural having ventured out so far. I feel a bit like the genie who has been let out of the lamp and then after granting the three wishes is commanded to wait in the lamp for that unknown day when someone’s curiosity and desire will release the magician once more. What it difficult about this image is the reliance on the external catalyst. But we are not alone on our journeys. Sometimes it does require patience, allowing others their right rhythm and path.

Like the winter beach my days may look a bit quiet, but I am hard at work sorting the crop of experiences I have collected and deciding where I will focus my energy when it is time to press on again. This time with more focus and more claritymy nets not cast so far wide, but rather falling deep into waters teeming with life, with stories to be told.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fault Lines



The other night I got home from picking my daughter up from school and the headache that had been in the background swelled to a debilitating fever pitch at the same time my stomach was seized by what felt like a vice grip. I dragged myself to the kitchen to make dinner for my family and then sat down at the table and watched them eat. 

And then earthquake. Just a little 3.3, but the epicenter was only nine miles out to sea from where I sat. As the tension began to release its grip on my stomach, it started to make sense. I had been reading the tension building up along the fault line before the earthquake. This happens from time to time with me and earthquakes. Looking back, I think I knew something was up because I found myself intently watching the neighborhood dogs being walked below my patio the hour before. I had been watching to see if they were alarmed in any way.

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
It is like this in life for me. I feel the tension building around a situation along the fault line of a relationship, work, health, and so it is not exactly a surprise when something blows up. Sometimes the tension resolves in holy release, where the outcome exceeds my expectations. Sometimes it’s a disaster where I end up having to call in emergency relief to retrieve me from the wreckage. Mostly, it falls somewhere in the middle.

I have a habit of blaming myself for these situations, placing fault on myselfthat there was something I should or should not have done. And lately I’ve been noticing that I do something that makes these fault lines even more painful for me: I don’t say what I really want. I color my feelings in response to the energy I am reading from other people. I look for the peaceful middle ground, often at the expense of my own hidden desires. Yes, there is something good in my mediation methodology, but there is also something insidiousa lack of courage, a fear that if I speak my desires that I will be left...alone. It’s been a poignant lesson over the last few months as I have begun to speak what I desire out loud, even when I know that it will (at least for the moment) place a rift in the smooth flow of my relationship with another. 

After an insanely busy summer, I needed to get away from my responsibilities for a moment and play. So I made arrangements for my daughter, booked plane tickets to New York City and announced to my husband that I was going. It was a bold gesture. The look on his face was a mix of surprise and questioning, but I stood my ground. I knew that discussing it would have led me down the slippery road of compromise as I tried to ease his comfort with my decision. Over the next few weeks he peppered me with comments about the trip, making it clear that he did not appreciate me making the decision to go without consulting him. It was not easy for me to sit in the discomfort of that space and not defer to his opinions, but it changed me to do it. Even though he didn’t like it, it was not a make or break situation. He was still there when I got home, and I came back from New York with more energy than I had had in months.

Sometimes I am nostalgic for the person I was just a few months ago. For much of my life I have stood behind and supported others while they found success in the worldgrounding romantic partners, business partners, family and friends to the detriment of my stepping out into the world. That status quo persona was comfortable, but it was not representative of the person deep inside. I want to be out front, leading the charge. Now it’s been long enough in this new path that I can’t go back. 

What I am beginning to notice is that there are many who have been waiting for this to happen, waiting for me to step out from behind the shadow of the peacemaker to blaze a trail, cause a stir, incite change. And that it is not my responsibility to take care of those who do not understand where I have gone. This leg of the journey is about walking the fault lines between who I used to be and who I am becoming, and learning to stand confidently in my desires whatever that tension brings. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Higher Ground

A white pigeon has taken to roosting on our patio. Every night before I go to bed I look to see if she is there, and she is. I saw her flying about here and there for weeks before she showed up on my patio a month ago. And I always noticed her because she is different, a loner. This shockingly white bird has become my angel, my protector, my friend.

I could say that it is just chance that she chose our patio, but then I would not be owning what I know. We're safe. This little bird was probably someone's pet and so she has no flock of her own. And when you fly alone, having a safe place to come home to at night is precious. And our patio is safe. We consider her a very special guest and try not to disturb her peace.

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
It is no small thing to find people who love you for who you are and who continue to believe in you no matter how the journey takes you off-course. Or as the case is with me, no matter how the journey makes you hide yourself away because you're just not ready--you just haven't gathered all the tools you need to be safe as yourself in the world. Because knowing who you are and being who you are in a public way are two entirely different things.

Deep down I have had this horrible fear that I will lose my home, lose my safety and find myself utterly alone if I become who I am in a public way. It's a crisis of faith that I have to own so that I can cross the threshold of my cage door and never go back. For you see, the door to my cage has been open for some time. I venture out on a regular basis, but I keep coming home to roost inside the cage at the end of the day just to make sure it doesn't go away.

The next step of the journey is about redefining safety. To do that I will have to fly to higher ground. The only way to leave the familiarity of the cage behind is to fly high enough to see all the other birds like me and gather with them in a flock. Won't a flock impinge on my independence? No, not if it is a flock of birds who can support each other in authenticity, even when that authenticity requires choices that go against logic, that are painful and that set them apart.

So, little bird, you may stay as long as you like. I have decided to create a business, a flock, for people like me. It's called PrimeImpulse and it's a home for bold creatives and brave healers. And I think you would fit right in. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mommy Rising

A powerful group of women is rising in the world right now. We were professionals in our fields, we waited to have children, we stepped out to raise them, and now we are back. But motherhood did something profound to us. Our "mid-life" crisis coincided with having our babies. We stepped out of our previous existences. We came face to face with questions of who we are, our purpose in the world and how we want the world to be, and we are redesigning both motherhood and the world from the inside out. Our generation of moms are redefining home. When we speak of home, we are not talking about the place we sleep at night, but the world we live in.

Not content with the model that a woman has to become like a man to have success in the world, we have become entrepreneurial, approaching ourselves and our families as businesses. Some decided to change their lifestyles in order to stay home. Others found ways to remain connected professionally, juggling work projects with childcare and playdates. Together we have lifted motherhood to a choice and not a requirement, we have encouraged and required our partners to be our real partners in parenting, and with the help of technology, we have found a way to be out in the world and inside our homes at the same moment.

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
We also discovered other moms as resources. No longer in the years of seeing each other as competition, we are re-entering our professional worlds having practiced a model of collaboration where our survival depended on our ability to connect with the strangers we met at the neighborhood park, library or meet-up. Together we became school lunch crusaders, grassroots environmentalists and educational reformers. No longer the silent angels in the house, we have voices, and make them heard on our blogs and in community-based organizations. Far from being the isolated islands of our grandmothers, we have reached out to tell our stories.

Now that our children are growing up and need less of our undivided attention, it's time to write the next act. But I see many of us hesitating, waiting to be acknowledged, thinking that we need permission or a platform before we begin. To that I say what I have said to many a student in my writing classes: "The story is already there. You just need to find a way to get it to paper." Or the canvas, or the stage, or into a business venture. When you are creating something that hasn't existed before, there will be no user manual. Funny, that sounds an awful lot like being a mom. No one gave us permission to be moms or provided us with special training. We have been figuring it out as we go along with the help of fellow moms, blogs, internet groups, workshops, conferences and a few good books. We learned that if we reached out, we could find the help or encouragement we needed.

Do I know exactly how we'll get there? Nope. But I do know one thing: being a mother and nurturing the growth of another human being has given us an incredible model of the creativity, flexibility and stamina we'll need to do it. As a good friend once told me as he hired me for a job in a field I knew nothing about, "I can teach you what you need to know about this business, but you have what I can't teach." Try that on yourself the next time you get discouraged because you have been out of the professional waters for a few years. Because people are going to reflect back the energy you send out into the world. Tell them that you have mastered transformation. And you are exactly what the world needs now.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Anniversary

This week is the one year anniversary of this blog. I remember how terrifying and invigorating it was to write that first post. And no one was more surprised than I that people were reading--that what I was writing was resonating for others. But that's the reality, isn't it? We walk around thinking we are alone only to find that there are many others walking right beside us.

Picture by AMADAES
And that's the ancient story I hear every time I put words to the page. It's the one that gives me courage to speak when my self-doubt tries to silence me. We are all trying to solidify boundaries even as we are trying to tear them down. We are all trying to balance our connection to the group and our ability to hear what is ours alone.

When I titled this blog "What We Carry," I was hoping that I could free myself of the past. That I could clean my closets of old ghosts and define my borders so carefully that I would never lose my way again. But what I have really been practicing over the last year (the last years) is how to maintain my equilibrium--knowing when to merge and when to separate.

It was good to keep my distance while I refined my ability to distinguish my energy from the energy of others, but I'm beginning to see that I do my best creative work when I merge my energy with other heart-centered beings. This is the gift I brought in with me. As a teacher, as a mother, as an artist--I nurture things into being. And I make it safe for others to be who they are.

So it's time for a bit of transformation of the concept of "What We Carry." Yes, there are things we carry that do not belong to us. It's good to clean them out. But there are also energies we carry that are uniquely ours. How do we uncover them? How do we nourish these energies and make them known to the world?

Time to go back and remember. Remember what we thought we forgot about ourselves. Here's to anniversaries as opportunities to recover our stories--to remember the beautiful energies we carry.


In the spirit of merging energies, I invite you to write a guest blog for What We Carry. I'm also interested in sharing your photos, artwork, music and videos. Here is music from AMADAES, who is also the artist behind the beautiful picture on this page. Enjoy!


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Transformation

Everywhere in economic reports I hear the term growth, and every time I hear it, the space between my shoulder blades tightens. As if growth will make our problems go away. As if growth will dig us out of the hole we're in. Wasn't it accelerated growth that got us into this fix? And yet, we're still looking for growth to be the one-size-fits-all solution. Then every once in a while I hear the words redesign, re-envision or redevelop in relation to a company or a community. Every once in a while I hear people talking about transformation. Those words make me stop in my tracks and listen.

What's the difference between growth and transformation?

Picture by AMADAES
Growth is one-directional. Growth is expansive. Growth has us employing all the resources we have to layer new forms on top of old forms. Growth, by definition, isn't "sustainable" in a world with finite natural resources. Growth is exhausting unless it has a built-in pruning process. Then growth becomes transformation.

Transformation is a conversation between old and new forms. It sits in the space between what is and what could be. Transformation is about cycles of expansion and contraction, of creation and destruction, and therefore, by definition is sustainable. It is self-reflective, requiring that we destroy what is no longer useful to free up the energy and resources to create something new.

Why are these concepts so lit up for me?

For many years I have been growing into my own skin--expanding into the places I knew were a part of me but didn't dare to embody. More recently I have been feeling the need to transform into something else--something I can't yet see. In order to transform, I have to let go of outmoded concepts that have been central to my identity. Because trying to add a new self-concept on top of my current identity would be an act of self-sabotage. I cannot maintain the old picture under the new picture without burning out from exhaustion. I've been hinting at this on my blog for the last year. Now it's time to do it.

Picture by AMADAES
Sure, I could try to find new possibilities while holding on to the old model, but somewhere along the line it would cut me off at the knees just as it has every other time I have tried on a new creative identity. Like clockwork, illness shows up to inform me that I have over-tapped my finite physical and emotional resources. This time I am going to put out the welcome mat for transformation--destroy old pictures to make room for new pictures. And our recent economic "illness" could benefit from the same treatment.

Time to listen to the clues our individual and collective intuitions have been dropping for years about where we need to go. Time to be daring. Time to burn off what no longer works in the fire of transformation and free up that energy to redesign our worlds, both inner and outer. This time I'm sounding my own transformational alarm. Want to join me?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Acceleration

hearing the glass shatter before collision
the blur of what I am
racing the past to see who gets there first
growing into a mind that has stretched
beyond its map
Photo by Kathleen Keagy

I am
is not
what
I am

acceleration
grasping at wisps of yesterday
watching the pictures change 
on the screen of my eyes
the present
earthquakes under foot
my selves opening like nested dolls

can't get past the beginning of the story
rewriting, rewriting, rewriting

not wanting to leave
but knowing survival depends
on shedding my skin

acceleration
watching cells grow and die in elapsed time
meeting the face already reflected in the mirror


.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Rescue

For the past few months, a solitary wildflower plant has rooted itself in the sand dune in front of our home. As if to spite the dogs that used it as a toilet, it thrived, producing petite lavender blossoms. And during the violent winter wind storms when the sand all around it eroded, it held its ground. I was not blessed with a green thumb, so this wildflower's flourishing has felt oddly personal. I have been cheering that plant on all winter, even saying hello to it on my way to the surf line for a walk.

But as I was making breakfast Monday morning, I noticed it was gone. A strange sense of panic set in. Where was it? Then I noticed the bulldozers scooping up the sand that the latest wind storm had tossed on the bike path and unloading it on the dunes nearby. The plant was gone. Buried or uprooted, I'm not sure which, but it was gone. And it has taken enormous self-control not to try to rescue it.

But this isn't about a plant. It's about an impulse. An impulse to run in and save.

Sculpture & photo by Julia Keagy
There is nothing inherently wrong with the idea of going out to look for the plant or with trying to unbury it. After all, it was a human action that hid it away. I am not against helping another get through a rough patch, especially when help is situational. And I am ever so grateful for firefighters, paramedics and police officers who provide rescue in the direst situations. But I do have some very strong feelings about the word “rescue” when it is used to justify stepping in to resolve someone else's problems. Rescuing when it is associated with the words pity, worry and fear make me question the motivation behind the help.

There is something insidious about the idea of “saving” or being the “savior” for another. It implies that somehow we know the paths others need to take better than they do, assigning ourselves god-like qualities of omniscience. It is taking away the greatest power I believe we have as souls: free will. And I believe in free will. I believe we get to choose how we learn and when we want to grow. Do I really know where you are on your journey and what you need to manifest to help you evolve?

Maybe this stems from being fiercely independent about my growth as a soul. I do not like being told how to find my way or which way to go. Or maybe it is because I have spent a great deal of time with my hand in the cookie jar thinking that I have it all figured out for someone else. It is only recently that I am kicking the habit with any success. Thus my exercise of restraint with my friend, the wildflower plant.

When it comes to the people I care about, I have to work against my compulsion to rush in and save. The most effective counterbalance to this old habit has been developing neutrality--the ability to watch without judgment. "Hmmm...I wonder what change will come of this?" I ask myself. What growth, what evolution, what beautiful flowers will push through the sand and reach the sun?

And the more I practice this neutrality with another's pain, the more I am learning how to do it with my own. And that is a double win.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Progression

The other day I was lying in the sand with my family. I had my eyes closed, leaning on my husband, and my daughter in her usual pack-dog way had nestled herself between us. Something told me to open my eyes, and there they were. Dolphins.

Groups of dolphins swim up and down the shoreline following schools of fish, so this was not an unusual sight, but this time the dolphins were not just surfacing to breathe, they were jumping out of the water like they do in the shows at SeaWorld. I have never seen dolphins play like this in the wild. It felt jubilant. Their whole bodies were leaping into the air and hanging there for a second before diving back down into the water. We watched in wonder as they continued their water play for ten or fifteen minutes.

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
When I see dolphins, I feel a kind of muscle memory. The sensation is not of watching, but remembering. Remembering what it felt like to be like them. Somewhere in the tapestry of the lives that brought me to this one is the life I lived as a whale or dolphin. Sometimes I feel like I can hear them before I see them. It's as if their energy signature makes me look. When I see these magnificent mammals, they remind me of how old my soul's story is and how far back my memory goes.

And I don't need past life regression to remember. Nor are the memories brought back by any intellectual process. It is always a sensual experience of the body that triggers the memories, which seems counterintuitive because when we think of past lives we think of souls, of ether, of the stuff we can't see or touch. But it makes more sense that it is the sensual that stirs this kind of memory for we are remembering past experiences in a body.

There was the time I dropped a box of chalk pastels on the floor. I bent down to pick them up and felt a wash of feeling come over me. In that moment I was no longer in my Twenty-first Century house in pants and t-shirt, but in a long flowing dress of jeweled hue with my hair wrapped up in fabric and surrounded by stone walls covered in tapestries. There was another set of hands reaching down to help me gather my things, and when I looked up, there was a dark-haired man with piercing blue eyes. This was the first time I met this soul, but it was not the last. I had seen those eyes in this lifetime.

I was twenty-six and searching. And it was those eyes that gave me comfort during a major crossroads in my life. He was the one who told me with unflinching conviction that I should take my trip to California in spite of all the logic that told me that it made no sense. We were standing in the crowded chaos of a post-performance dressing room when he took me by both hands and told me, "You have to go." That trip was a turning point in beginning to trust the things that I now see and feel with conviction. I believe that we were fulfilling an agreement when he said those words to me. An agreement from the life I remembered when I dropped my pastels on the floor in this one.

Why does any of this matter?

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
Our lives are full of old agreements. When I think back on friendships, relationships, places, clothing, music, art and careers I have been attracted to in this lifetime I see a similar pattern. And being able to see those patterns has given me a peace I can't explain. Instead of feeling limited by what I know, it is setting me free.

If we only look for the origins of our knowing in this lifetime, we can look forever and feel nothing but frustration. When we are able to see what we carried into this life, we can project those images outside ourselves. We can distinguish our lives in the present from what they have been in the past. We can change agreements or end agreements we made in another body that don't work for us in this one. We can move agreements into present time. We can purge our closets of worn-out patterns and relationships. It makes no sense to wear a fur coat in the Bahamas, and yet, I know that I have tried to do that more than a few times in this life--placed limitations or expectations on myself that don't support the life I'm in now.

When we explore the past to move us forward, it is not past life regression, but present life progression. Moving our consciousness out of the past so we can see ourselves clearly in the present. With practice we become better able to see what is now and what is not about all the unexplainable reactions we have in this life and all the ways we seem to defeat ourselves before we begin. If we could know that we have carried these patterns with us from the past--that they are echoes of what has been--we could forgive ourselves for the struggles, for the failures, for all the false starts. And we could look with greater compassion at the struggles of others, recognizing that the picture we see is only one layer of a many-stepped process.

Compassion for self. Compassion for other. Healing and growing and evolving our souls apart together through experiences in the body. In process. In progression.

I'm excited about the possibilities.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Love: The Means, Not the End

The more I hold tight—the more I grip—the more it slips away. The more I try to understand—the more I look for answers—the less I am able to maintain it. The energy of love.

When I was barely out of my teens I met someone who shattered my illusions of love. I thought love was fair. I thought if I gave love I deserved to receive it in return. Deserved—like there was some tally in the sky that kept track of all the love I gave out and made sure I got it back. But he couldn't. He couldn't love me back. After that, I made sure that anyone I loved could love me back. Excellent protective measure, but not the best criteria for loving. And then I had the tables turned on me. I was the one who couldn't love. I had to walk away not able to return the love I had been given.

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
I question it. I question whether any of it was love. Romance, relationship...yes. But love? I have my doubts.

Then there are the models of love that are steeped in self-sacrifice. Taking care of another at the expense of yourself at the one end and the willingness to die for someone you love on the other. When I was eighteen, we moved out of our home to take care of my grandmother who was dying of cancer. I loved my grandmother, but I was angry. I was angry that love meant turning my life upside-down for someone else. Was this love? Commitment, family...perhaps. But love?

Then what is love? If we take away the trappings of romance and self-sacrifice, what is left? What is the energy of love?

The energy of love is energy. Okay, so this is circular logic. But it makes sense. Love isn't personal unless we make it so. Love doesn't have strings unless we attach them. And as an energy, love surely doesn't know how to keep tally. It's too busy moving around. When love gets stuck, it's no longer love, but the energy of fear, of jealousy, of loss. And when love is flowing it becomes freedom, forgiveness and joy.

Love is not the destination, but the ocean we sail to experience a range of emotional ports of call. When we take love out of its box—when we untether it from the notion of relationship—it roams around gathering experiences, gathering opportunities, gathering people that match its vibration. Love is the ultimate “right here, right now” energy. Seeing love this way makes it easier to feel without having to know why. The why is the experience. The why is the reason we are here.

So do I still say “I love you”? Sure. But now it is with a twinkle in my eye. It is a thank you—I am thankful for the energy of this moment. It is an acknowledgement—I am thankful that you are part of this experience. It is an affirmation—I am thankful for this chance to know I am here.

So what is the energy of love? The energy of love is the means, not the end.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Make It Real

The answers are not in the past, but I keep looking for them there. I keep looking for the answers in the words already spoken, in the things already seen and heard. But those are the past. Those have already been thought. And as brilliant as those ideas were, they were. They are not now. I am now. And I am enough.

I have been a lover of the past. Read many books, studied great works of art. But I also have steeped myself in stories of soul--asked over and over why I remain stuck in spite of unlimited opportunities to be free. What is it that holds me back, that fills me with fear, that isolates me from others who want to create, too?

Photo by Shawn Keagy
The answer: I live in the past. Not remember, not learn from, but live in the past. And I am learning that I am not the only one.

We try to earn a living the way our parents did, we try to educate our children the way we were educated, and we try to raise a family the way we were raised. We look to government and religious organizations to provide us with the answers. We say things like: "It was so much better when..." and name a time or place where the filter of the past has blinded us to that era's reality. We keep resentments alive and make ourselves victims where no one is holding anything over us.

What would happen if simultaneously we all decided to move into the present time. Close your eyes and really imagine it. Each and every person, in each and every interaction seeing the person in front of them as the person they have evolved to be, not the person they were yesterday or last year. We would remember the past as a story full of information helpful in decision-making, but we would not be stuck there. In the present time, the patterns could be studied with the detachment of an infant regarding an object for the first time, sticking it in our mouths and chewing on it until its purpose becomes clear. We could let go of obsession, idolatry, and shame. We would put these down just as a baby puts down a toy when it has outlived its usefulness. 

What I am also learning is how many people are letting go of the past. Their trademark is a singular focus on the present. They lean on the wisdom of the past and reach towards the future, but ground themselves in opportunities that exist right now. Some are moving themselves into the present, some are helping others move into the present, and some are creating structures and organizations that move our world into the present.

Who are these people and how are they getting there? Some are household names, but most are unsung heroes. Because they don't see themselves as heroes. What they are doing is detached from the praise-mongering of their egos. They keep moving on, grounding their vision in reality, and giving their lives meaning. The future belongs to the dreamers who plant their dreams in the ground and nurture them over time.

What opportunities are available to you right now? Close your eyes, reset your vision, and see the seed that wants to be planted. And plant it. The longer you think about it the more you will be convinced that you cannot do it, that others will laugh at you, and that it will not work. But the only way we can see what a seed will become is to plant it. And if somewhere along the way you decide that this plant doesn't work for you any more, give it away or plow it back into the earth to fertilize your next seed. But do whatever you can to make your vision real, right now. 

Writing this blog is my seed. What is yours? 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Revealing

The tides of winter are exposing more of the sea bed than the tides of summer. In the summer I only caught glimpses of the rusting bones of the jetty to the south. I didn't know the treasure she was hiding at her feet. Muscles and barnacles, I expected, but the more pronounced low tides have pulled the shoreline back so far off the beach that I can walk almost to the end of the jetty. Baring themselves to the sunshine of winter are hundreds of sea anemones, their sticky fingers encrusted with broken shells. Sea stars of rainbow hue adorn the base of the rocks, and if you begin to climb the rocks you can just catch a glimpse of the sideways scamper of tiny crabs wedging themselves into rock crevices for safe-keeping.

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
Tidal pools hold a fascination for me. I am particularly entertained by the crabs scampering on the rocks or the hermit crabs carrying their homes on their backs inside the small pools of water the tides have left behind. No matter how many times I do it, I still get a child-like thrill out of sticking my finger into a sea anemone and watching it close around me. Today hundreds of clams no bigger than my smallest finger nail peek up from under the sandy shoreline around the jetty. So much treasure revealing itself to the sun.

Sometimes I feel like those tidal pools. Like I keep so much under wraps all the time that I startle people when circumstances draw me out into the sun. Like my high school biology teacher who after seeing me dance in the school talent show my senior year said, "I knew you could dance, but I didn't know you could DANCE!" Or the mildly awed faces of my students and their parents when I got up and sang a Broadway standard at their graduation dinner. They didn't see that one coming. Or when I tell people that I spent two years working in investment banking in New York. That one really throws a curve ball. Needless to say, when people ask me what I do, it's not a quick story.

And then there is my name, and I'm not talking about my married name--that people seem to get with no problem. It's my first name. Is it Kate or Kathleen? My birth certificate says Kathleen, but my nickname for most of my life has been Kate. My father was pretty adamant about that growing up. No one called me Kathy except my father's brother who did it perhaps to irritate my father. When I moved to Los Angeles, Kate just didn't seem to fit. And since no one really knew me, I started introducing myself as Kathleen. But I couldn't get it to stick. Then I had my daughter, and I tried again. I introduced myself at Mommy groups and in my new neighborhood as Kathleen. This time it took. But every time my husband would call me "Kate" in front of these new friends, I would watch the puzzled expressions on their faces. Often I would be asked which was my name.

The answer, like the one about what I do, is that I am all of them, including Katie, the affectionate name my younger sister gave me when we were growing up and that I am now called by my nephews. I am KatieKateKathleen. I shift between the subtleties of their energies seamlessly.

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
Kate is the top of that jetty. When you first meet me, you are likely to meet Kate. She is organized and efficient. Kate likes to order what she sees and builds structures to contain the whole.

Kathleen is passionate, digging deep in search of treasure. She is the mother-healer who can see what is hidden. Kathleen is soft-bellied like a crab and hides in dark, cave-like places for safety when the world is too much.

Katie is playful, child-like, and free-spirited. She invents without effort, likes to throw all the cards in the air just to see what happens, and joys in friendly competition. She is the one who never tires of sticking her finger in the sea anemone. How do they do that? Why do they do it? Why? Why? Why? is Katie's mantra as her curiosity carries her away on yet another adventure.

It is Katie's energy that feels potent for me at the moment. I want to play. Kate has been wearing the yoke of responsibility around her neck since childhood. I am hunched over from fulfilling other people's expectations. Kathleen has been digging in cavernous places, writing to reveal and heal what is buried. But I am sick and pale from so much grief.

I want to play in the light of day. I want to play hopscotch and jump rope and get my shoes all wet from running in the surf. And I want to do it without worrying about what happens if I do. Because I know very well that I will have to stuff my shoes with newspaper when I am done, but I now have enough experience to know that it is worth it. It is worth it to make a bit of a mess on your way to creating something new and joyful. The answers don't need to come of effort and strain. They can appear out of play and fun.

It's time for me to get out of the boxes--to embrace dichotomies, to honor fluidity, shapeshifting, and change. Who am I? I am KatieKateKathleen, and every shade in between.