There is a street corner near my parent’s cabin that is at the intersection of 23 7/8 Cartwright Point and 23 5/16 Cartwright Point. How is that even possible? Perhaps it’s at the point where good intentions and misguided ideas meet. But isn’t that always the way? We mean well, but then things don’t turn out as planned.

In the end, did my career turn out as planned? Not by a long shot. Some small part of me still wishes I had become a doctor. But it also was a path that suited me quite well and I can see how it was guided from the get-go. One thing I’ve learned is that Plan C can actually be better than Plan A.

As for my last name, I think it has finally landed for good, having been changed now for the fourth and final time. In our world filled with blended families, it’s often hard to sort out who belongs to whom. So when I got divorced from Rick, I held onto Sanders. I never wanted anyone to think that Charlie and Jackson weren’t my own children.

But in 2014, as Jackson prepared to walk across the stage to get his high school diploma, it felt like the right time to return to my roots. Since that very first day, when someone snapped a baby picture of me—which looks disturbingly like a little old man—I have been Jill Loree. (It’s pronounced loh-REE.)

So once again, taking my own case to court, I changed my last name so that my full name is now Jill Loree Loree. Yes, oddly, my middle and last names are now both the same. I learned from Rick that having a middle name is a good idea. He went through most of his life without one because his mother had liked Richard so much—after Richard the Lionhearted—she couldn’t bear to dilute it. But computer systems don’t always follow such sentiment, as they have blanks to fill.

The judge asked, “Is this right? Jill Loree Loree?” Yes. Plus, I like that my initials are JLL. It may not work for anyone else, but it works for me. Only one TSA official has noticed it so far. Rick joked long ago that if I ever want to open my own ad agency, I’m all set: Thompson, Campbell, Hudson, Sanders, Loree, at your service.

Aside from the very last one, none of the positions I held in any of the companies I worked for still exists today. The businesses have been sold, the buildings have been closed or changed hands, and the co-workers have all moved on. When I left Solvay, after working from home for the final two years, I asked if they wanted me to return the chair.

“Keep it,” my manager said. “As a parting gift.” I sit in it every time I write.

I’m still religious about eating a low-carb diet, but can’t do vegetarian on top of that. I tried it for two years—being the over-achiever I am, I actually did vegan, plus gave up caffeine!—and about starved. A single serving of all the foods that cross over between low-carb and vegan could fit in a shoebox.

What’s more, toward the end of that time, I was hiking a ton in Richmond and despite being in good shape, got very out of breath on big hills. I finally figured out that my iron level was low, and then had a Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious: You know what I need more of? Red meat! I know eating meat is not an answer for everyone, but it works for me at this point in time.

After 20-odd years, I recently gave up running in the mornings in favor of a fast one-hour walk around a lake and up a long steep uphill, three times a week. It gets me to the same place. My favorite power yoga DVD, now on its tenth year, still gets used once a week, and believe it or not, I can still do the splits. Scott and I have taken up skiing together, and after a 30-year hiatus, I’m a far better skier now than when Nancy and I tore it up. Once again, I am reminded how much I learned just watching my big brothers.

I’m not a packrat by nature, but I was a bit of a scrapbooker, back in the day. And for reasons I couldn’t explain, I have toted a few boxes of saved memorabilia along with me as I have wandered. I found digging through my stash to be helpful in piecing together the worn and tattered remnants of my patchwork life.

For my fiftieth birthday, my mother surprised me with an exquisite handmade wall hanging, covered with colorful cabins and whimsical fruit. She is still an amazing seamstress and has mastered the art of creating the most divine quilts. This one hangs proudly on the wall in my office, which keeps her close.

In 2016, I met Scott Wisler, also a longtime Pathworker, and we’ve been life partners ever since. I knew it was kismet when I saw that he too had bought a CRC Handbook for Chemistry & Physics—a three-inch-thick tome of mind-numbing technical information—after college. The difference between Scott and me is that he has cracked the spine on his.

Scott and me in the summer of 2018. In September, he proposed and I said Yes.

Not long after he and I got together, he suggested I write a book explaining what it actually looks like to do the work. For it’s one thing to read the Guide’s highly practical teachings, and another to apply them to our lives. So that is how my book Doing the Work came to be. He and I have both contributed real-life examples to each chapter, hoping to help demystify the process a bit.

In my relationship with Scott, we mirror for each other what we see. When our work surfaces, we muddle through our emotional reactions knowing the other is right there, holding space for us to do our work. We trust each other’s process, and we help where we can. This isn’t always easy. More truthfully, it’s never easy.

But this is a path that creates a solid foundation for us to stand on. This is a way for us to find our ground so we can be open and stable with each other, walking side-by-side and hand-in-hand. Considering the alternative, I’ll go this way. Because this is one way that leads to the light.

Walker: A Spiritual Memoir by Jill Loree

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