Notes from Exeter Meditation

Meditation Exeter: I don’t want you to get reader’s fatigue,    But I thought it was worth sharing my notes from the Exeter meditation in Phillips Church. Excuse as usual any typos. It has been a big performance week with Bread and  Roses at Sweetwater and then reading for this, thank goodness in my pajamas. We had a fabulous family dinner at Aquerello last night. High end Italian and the chef, Suzanne, has been producing food as delicious as it is beautiful. Bebe was on fire dominating the conversation and was in a dress that she insisted fit but was actually barely held together in back by half the buttons. Her expressions and vocabulary kept me and Mom engaged and laughing. She really is a riot. After a crap week I’m finally feeling a bit better. The blood results were all over he place but still not good and my oxygen remained very low.

Here is the meditation.  Have a great weekend
Good morning! My name is Kerry Landreth Reed I’m a Trustee, class of 91, and my fight with metastatic cancer is keeping me from seeing you in person. I had an 11 hour and 4 hour day at UCSF tues and weds and my Exeter girlfriends and husband got me through much of the day.

I have such fond memories of meditation as a time to let go. Sometimes you take it all in and in others you just zone out. Both are good. Both are healing.
I came to Exeter from London as a Lower in Hoyt and left with lifelong friends, a deep love of learning, a passion for singing and writing, and an appreciation for being somewhere where being smart was celebrated. I loved learning to listen to all sides of an argument, forcing myself to understand points of view I might never agree with even if it required sitting on my hands. I also married Creighton Reed, class of 1990, in 2001. Who would have guessed when I passed him on the paths in 1989!
I sang in peadquacs which I adored, choir which I had to, and then senior year blissfully in a band and in several senior projects. Finding my singing voice helped me find my real voice both in terms of confidence and in finding more soul, learning to show vulnerability, learning to let go and be utterly in the moment. A friend taught me to sing Billie holiday as well as Shawn Colvin or Stevie Nicks and to get comfortable pushing my boundaries, taking risks. In 2013 I was asked to be in a dad band in SF which has proven to be one of the great joys of my life. We have a silly name, Birdseed, as the studio is the Bird, but we play great covers and have 5 originals on Spotify and on an LP. Check out where there is a good rockumentary too. I am not a sophisticated songwriter, but I enjoy the process immensely. And my favorite part of it, while humbling, is bringing the band my loose song which I record into my phone and have them all weigh in with ideas until we have something compelling. I even got my brother to play sax in the band.
Despite no aptitude for math I spent 20 years on Wall Street retiring after my cancer returned in spring 2015. I had an incredible woman partner as a boss and was one of the 2pct of women at the Goldman Sachs who made managing director in 2011. I was running the equity desk in sf and managing relationships with west coast hedge funds and mutual funds. And in 2014 I co-ran the desk with fabulous Exonian Peter Mortimer who iAd also gone to school with in London and was in Creighton’s dorm. .
It was tough waking up at 3:47am all those years and yet it was a great job as a mom. My second job of the day started at 5pm. That was a gift. I just learned to be super vigilant at managing my time and prioritizing, and it was those years as a working mom that I was most productive for the firm. I loved working in a man’s world, and the confidence I gained speaking around the Harkness table came in very handy. I always felt I had a voice and a seat at the table. It made me sad that so many women left the industry early, but I also realize that my schedule, while grueling, allowed me a daily workout/walk and true parenting time. It was exhausting but gave me a form of work life balance that NY is still working on. I also realized there was no reason for not staying in shape as a mom. I had Bebe in the Bjorne hanging off my front, Will jumping in and out of the stroller, and the challenge of the San Francisco hills. Whatever your zen, you can always find 15-60 mins for it. It is just about prioritizing and being able to laugh at yourself too along the way. And rather than managing by fear, I helped people enhance their strengths and conquer their weakness. Funny how simply showing someone that you believe in them can help them achieve new peaks.
Breast cancer struck first in 2010 when Bebe and Will were about to turn 2 and 5. I knew it would be a year from hell fighting it via surgery and a trial chemo, but no part of me thought I would die. I had too much ahead. I was blessed to have Laura Esserman and Hope Rugo at UCSdF as my doctors. And sure enough after losing my hair and strength I came out stronger and so many doors opened. I remember at one point in 2013 when I was an Managing Director and was loving my role as trustee at Exeter, as co-founder of California’s leadership council for The Nature Conservancy, lead singer in the band that maybe I was packing so much in that I was only going to get a short life but that it would be overflowing. I said thanks everyday for that and never worried about the cancer coming back. Sadly though it did and with a vengeance in the spring of 2015 in my bones, then November in my brain and February in my liver. I have a real go for it cancer that is terribly unforgiving. I write a blog nexttriparoundthesun on WordPress which details both the fun travels I squeezed in while feeling good as well as the terrifying moments where the fight is one day at a time. As I write this on sept 1 I have lived 1 of the 1-3 months they’ve given me but I still have my eye on 2018. With a 9 and 12 year olds I have to live for each day. I hold out hope while remaining realistic. A tough balancing act. I say thanks when I go to bed and thanks when I wake up to the light. Every day is a gift. Good and bad. All a gift.
When I think about the most important people in my life besides my parents and kids they are my mama bears from Exeter. Sarah Coates who was my lower roommate. I still remember her beaming smile when I crossed the threshold into our one room double in Hoyt. She was a phenomenal runner and swimmer from Maine. She also loved good dental hygiene and one night I opened my eyes to find her gargling mouthwash above me. I burst into laughter after trying to ignore her and she spit her listerine all over me. She still makes me laugh and lives 15 mins away. She runs a landscape design company. Susie Gelbron was my tennis partner. In my head we won our doubles games mostly because we were laughing so hard and it drove our opponents batty. Susie runs a letterpress stationary company. In the years after Exeter those two helped me rekindle friendships with Ria Mendoza, an interior designer who lives 4 blocks away and Katherine Post, a big hitter in sw Pr. Because we are all in such different fields we are always learning from one another and it keeps things in perspective. I also have an incredible crew of Exonian women one and two years behind me in San Francisco. It is such a blessing In good times and bad. I ran into Creighton in NY when I was headed back into the Goldman building for training and he was leaving an internship before going into the Marine Corps. I took the risk of saying hello and he remembered me. He was looking good! We had a great 15 minute chat and then moved on with our lives. About 9 months later a friend in LA, where I started my career on the institutional equity desk, realized I had attended Exeter and asked if I knew Creighton. I said yes and thought he was hot. It turned out she had roomed with his older sister and she declared she would call him. It turned out that was the month he was living in Boston with his sister while recruiting marine corps candidates. He told her he remembered me asked that I call him. Since I was having fun with another Exonian, sexy winemaker Doug Wisor , who very sadly died in 2004, I said he could call me when he got to California. He called me the day he arrived at Camp Pendleton. We had a 3 hour date and just as at Exeter it was the talking that made him so interesting and gave us an immediate bond. We hung out for 10 months before I relocated to Hong Kong for a year and he deployed to Okinawa. I managed to get there to cook thanksgiving for 8 marines and for Easter. Somehow email and phone calls held us together until I moved back to SF on my 25th birthday and he eventually attended Stanford business school. I loved that he knew so many of my Exeter girls and they wrapped him in quickly. We have been married 16 years and together for 21. We are real partners, particularly as parents and our blond kids have been my life’s greatest gift. They claim they will attend Exeter. They give us a run for our money like little litigators and we try to have family dinner almost every night to get them comfortable talking and discussing myriad subjects. Other than that we try to help them find their passions but don’t overprogram them and don’t hover. We don’t help with homework and let them learn from their mistakes. They are my best medicine.
I find it is always easy to talk to Exonians of any age. Somehow over the years we either find we have shared common ground or simply have fond memories of being somewhere where smart is celebrated, where risk taking is welcome and where the Harkness table doesn’t allow you to hide. I always learn from those conversations.
I have always walked an hour a day. It is my sacred time to reboot and let go of the day. Where we live in SF that keeps you as fit as running and has been a great de stressor particularly with the gorgeous Presidio national park a mere 2 blocks away. Only in the last few months have the hundreds of nasty lesions in my cerebellum compromised that and I’m more like a slow fragile 80yr old. Im still glad to be moving even if it is for less time. But I miss the freedom of covering a lot of territory each walk. I ran rain or shine at Exeter and loved the escape of the Drinkwaterwater trail, the lush smell of the forest after the rain or the crisp fallen leaves of fall term. Sometimes I just close my eyes to manifest that. When I go back for reunions and trustee meetings I always cut out time for that. Nature will always soothe me that way.
I also loved assembly. My favorite one though was senior year singing Rhiannon with Peadquacs. My heart was pounding before we went on, but then I settled into the moment and just enjoyed our voices melding together to a generous and attentive audience.
Being a trustee at Exeter is such a privilege although I can’t be as active as I was. The people are incredible and dedicated and smart. I loved being around the harkness table again and having to keep my mouth shut until I really established my view and understood the others. One of the highlights was helping to find Principal Macfarlane. The team worked so diligently to find her and vet her. I’m grateful for their dedication and for these new friendships. I learned so much from my fellow trustees.

I hope you find your zen at Exeter whether on the trails or in the performance building, the art studio or the fields. There is so much for the taking. Remember to pause. When things are hectic just sit down where you are and breath and figure out what is nagging you. It is easy to just stay busy but it is so valuable to know what your core is telling you. It will make you more resilient. I’m a born optimist and try to find the silver lining in all situations. That isn’t everyone’s style, but you can cultivate pieces of it to help you stand taller when you feel lost or confused.

I want to share a few quotes that have helped my perspective:
Be a rainbow in somebody’s cloud

“Dont compare yourself to others.”
The grass is always greener. Release grudges. Let go. This is so important. Someone will always be smarter, richer, thinner, more successful so just love yourself, do your best, and don’t worry so much about everyone else. Right now you have a clear path towards college and a job but there is no one right path. Find your passion even if it isn’t your parents path and go for it. There are so many paths and adventures. Of course you have to work hard, but again do it your way.

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
I think about this a lot in light of a too young death that could be around the corner or in a year. I’m trying to get over the fear of dying, ironically the one certainty once you are born. The only certainty really! I can’t ever make piece with being ripped my children before getting to see them grow up, but I do try to make the most of each day, leave a legacy in conservation and breast care health and in friendships.

“For many years, at great cost, I traveled through many countries, saw the high mountains, the oceans. The only things I did not see were the sparkling dewdrops in the grass just outside my door.”

My Mom sent a wonderful note this week saying that while they are rather quiet people they have loved seeing life lived by a child who lives in technicolor. It made me laugh and cry as it was so on. I have lived big and much of that was due to the confidence instilled in me around the harkness table and on stage at Exeter.
My Dad taught me early on that you should always have a book so that even if you are in a painful wait you can escape or learn. He would only buy ski jackets with a pocket big enough for a book and would read on the lifts even when young girls said “you’re weird sir”)
My cancer and my dad’s stroke are a good reminder that no life comes without trials and tribulations. That is what makes up life. In fact I think it is funny that we work so hard to give our kids stability and routine, and that we too thrive on the same, and yet nothing is permanent. Everything is always changing. So in a way we would do well to have our good routines but leave plenty of room for uncertainty and learning to live with the uncomfortable nature of that.

Two quotes to close with:
”When the waves close over me, I dive down to fish for pearls.”

”Help me to be less fearful of the measure of time, and more fully alive in the time that simply is. Help me to live time, not just to simply use it; to breathe it in, and return it in acts of love and presence.”

It is hard to believe how much happens in the space of a year. I wish you health, joy, and happiness in 2017! Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.


2 thoughts on “Notes from Exeter Meditation

  1. OMG Kers. You are so funny. I almost just spit out my coffee remembering everything about that Listerine moment. What you forgot to say, is that your sudden giving in and laughing made me laugh and THAT’S what made me spit out the Listerine. You! Oh amazing how it still makes me crack up 34 years later.


  2. as always, you put a lot of thoughtfulness on the email page, dear kerry. what resonates
    for me today is your channeling your mother’s so good/cogent comment on being a rather quiet couple who have a child who lives in technicolor. who knew your mum was that pithy?~!
    we both know she is, of course. this has been a refrain of hers for years, and it still stands.
    smart mom. smart daughter.
    xo for now, gillian.


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