Here’s to the Happies

with Kelly Corrigan

As we approach the New Year, we might need a minute to look backward. What even happened this year? Who was I? What went well? What didn’t? Before we start making those New Year’s Resolutions, maybe we could have a second of honesty together.




This week is about celebrating the fact that alongside some of our painful, horrifying moments, we did experience moments of levity and joy and pure delight. In our personal lives, in our inner circle, during our 9-5s, and one real Zinger bonus round that really takes the cake.

In this bonus crossover episode, Kate and Kelly Corrigan discuss:

  • Their own personal happies, including the joy of birthdays as a reset button
  • How being reabsorbed into other people’s stories and problems makes us feel less alone
  • The satisfaction that comes from totally immersing yourself in learning, what Kelly refers to as intellectual humility

Kelly Corrigan

Kelly Corrigan has written four New York Times bestselling memoirs in the last decade, earning her the title of “The Poet Laureate of the ordinary” from the Huffington Post and the “voice of a generation” from O Magazine. She is the host of the podcast Kelly Corrigan Wonders, a Public Radio series, originating from WHYY in Philadelphia, that ponders “the big questions”. Kelly is curious and funny and eager to go well past the superficial in every conversation.

Show Notes

Hear more about Kelly’s College Visit with Miroslav Wolf from Yale on her podcast.

Kelly talks about the work of The Greater Good Project at Berkley. 

Watch Kate’s commencement speech at Macalester College from 2022.

With Kelly’s commencement speech at University of Richmond from 2022.

Follow Kelly Corrigan on Facebook (to Check-out her cute brother’s wedding). Sadly, he is still off the market ladies.


Show MoreShow Less

Discussion Questions

Discuss this episode with a book club, friends, or bible study group.  Here are some conversation starters:

  1. Kate son Zach asks on his birthday, “Is this the day that I’m born again?”.  This is a question that has been asked for a long time, the how and when of being born again. We read in scripture in John 3, that Nicodemus asked this same questions to Jesus. Jesus replies it happens like the wind, “you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes.”(John 3:8).   Discuss with your friends, how has the Holy Spirit blown into your life? Was it like a gently breeze, or hurricane? And how did that experience change your life, giving you new life and hope for a future?
  2. Kate talks about how being born again is like “hitting a reset” button where we can be born again into another dumb year”. What are some of the things in your life that you could use a reset button on right now?
  3. What are your happies for this past year, months, or weeks? Life is Terrible and life is beautiful, and sometimes you need to share your happy, beautiful, terrible life with someone else so that they can see and reflect back to you that you are here and you are in all of it.. the happy and the crappy. We say Congrats to you! You made it through another year, another week, another day, or even you made it through the last 10 minutes. Hooray! May you share it all with someone you trust. Share your happies with the group today.
Show MoreShow Less


Kate Bowler: Hi, I’m Kate Bowler. And this is Everything Happens. As we approach the new year. We might need just a hot minute to look backward, give ourselves, a what even happened this year. Who was I? What went well, what didn’t? Before we start making those much dreaded New Year’s resolutions, maybe we could just have a second of honesty together. My friend Kelly Corrigan and I thought it would be really fun to do a crossover episode where we talk about our happiess and crappies of this past year. Kelly is just a total gem. She’s the bestselling author and host of a really beautiful show on PBS and a podcast called “Tell Me More”. She’s a fantastic listener. So yeah, if you want to see or listen to Kelly talking to somebody else with like deep, deep empathy, she’s your girl. Last week, Kelly and I shared many, many, many, many crappy moments. The lowest of the low we’ve been dragging ourselves through and dragging our loved ones behind us, maybe, debilitating, chronic pain, embarrassing difficult career choices, changing dynamics with our kids, friends going through really painful times. And if you haven’t listened to that one yet, you really should. It’s man. Talking with Kelly is the best kind of medicine. But this week we’re going to take a minute to celebrate the fact that alongside some of those painful, horrifying moments, we did experienced just great moments of joy and levity and pure delight. It’s not so funny how joy and sorrow always seem to coexist. They just are right up against each other in all moments. So yeah, we’ll talk about the lovely things in personal lives in our inner circle during our nine to fives. And then we called it sort of a zinger, like a bonus round, something that really just rose above the rest. All right, buckle up. I can’t wait for you to hear Kelly and I and all the things that the year brought. It’s going to be good.

Kelly Corrigan: What are you offering up today in the personal category?

Kate: Oh, my gosh. Well, this is the deepest kind of bone marrow, kind of happy. But my tiny human became slightly less tiny and turned nine recently. And his birthdays are so intense for me emotionally, because right after I was diagnosed with cancer, he was turning two and I thought it would be our last birthday together. And so I threw this absolutely absurd farm party. We can just sit on chairs, bales of hay. We couldn’t just have desserts. It was a rice crispy cake that looked like, I think, more hay. There’s really a lot of hay theme now I think about it, but I invited anyone who I have ever known. And I just thought, I will not be on this island. This is a full archipelago. Like I will have all the people. And I didn’t cry once. I just was over the moon thrilled at this. And I gave him wildly age inappropriate presents. Like I gave him one of those motorized things you’re not supposed to give two year olds.

Kelly: Oh, like an ATV type thing

Kate: They don’t have arm strength and can’t steer. But I was like, get on, get on in there. I was obsessed. And the picture of that party just fills my heart with so much bittersweet joy that I got it. And also the holy crap, I can’t believe I get it again. And so every year I have a big private ritual around. I can’t believe that you’re alive, and so am I. And so this last year, I threw another reboot farm Birthday party. And there were goats and there were bunnies, and there were boys that ran around like wild things. And with the very the very best part was one, so when my parents were there and my dad is wildly allergic to animals, but also believes that we have we no longer have to go outside because civilization has progressed to the point where air conditioning and other amenities render it just kind of a moot, like a null, like a non benefit. And so the fact that I looked around and I could see my kid delirious with joy, I could see my parents not just tolerating, but drinking the mimosas with my friends that I brought to the farm. But Zach runs up to me. He goes, is this the day that I’m born again? And this is exactly how I feel about it? Is instead of every year being some kind of terrible referendum on the shit that we did or didn’t do over the last year. But this is the this is the reset button where we can for one hot second be born again into another dumb year. And I just had to like go into the farm bathroom and have like just a solid little cry for a second act and then reemerge ready to host. But yeah, that kid I was born again this year was fantastic.

Kelly: Yeah, I got diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 36, turning 37 and Georgia and I have the same birthday, my oldest, and she was turning three. And I, I took it from like a nothing three year old birthday party to like the world’s greatest three year old birthday party. It was a music theme so we had like the cake was a guitar cake that this friend of mine, Jen made. And my husband got some of these old friends of his from college who he sang with like picture Andy Bernard, like singing group singing.

Kate: Bom, bom,

Kelly: And then they sang together and it was so over the top and all the adults knew. And so we were all like looking at each other with the big eyes and all the kids didn’t know. And it was one of those trippy experiences where you’re very aware of the multiple realities existing simultaneously, whereas sometimes you’re blissfully unaware of that. But it’s always true, of course.

Kate: That’s right. That’s right. And when you get the awareness and in a second of crystalline joy, then holy crap, it’s like your, you know, those like crystal glass performances where it is like (singing) You know, it’s like playing all the glasses.

Kelly: Yeah.

Kate: You just feel it in every register.

Kelly: Yeah, that’s cool. That’s good image. I like that.

Kate: So about you. Lovely.

Kelly: My personal happy is moving and moving. I lived in California from 25 to 54. I grew up in Philly. When I left, my dad was like, Lovey have a great year out there. And 29 years later I moved. And I, of course, don’t feel nearly old enough to have lived somewhere for 29 years. And yet, the minute that Claire graduated from high school, we pulled up roots. She graduated on a Friday and the house sold on a Monday. And there’s terrific novelty everywhere I turn, and there’s also a lot of movement in my new places. So, yeah, I have this friend, Lisa Feldman Barrett she’s a neuroscientist and she’s this like a great life advisor for me. And she was saying, you know, there are no quick fixes. But I will say that like sleep, movement, and novelty, like are about as close to a quick fix as you can find because we are contextual beings. And so being in a new context is, is an outside in solution to a mood or a state of being or a period of your life that does actually affect our neurology. And so in New York, we live on the West Side Highway, and that means that I am on these city bikes which are everywhere.

Kate: Oh, my gosh. I can’t believe that takes a lot of bravery to get on those suckers. So good for you.

Kelly: It’s so fun, Kate. I feel like I’m like, 12 years old. Like, I go out there in my sneakers and I have my city bike and I ride up and down the West Side Highway. So it’s not in and around traffic like I have. I have gone in and around traffic and actually wiped out in traffic once. But being on a bicycle is there’s something about it that I feel like the hands of time are just like.

Kate: Yep

Kelly: Unraveling. And I’m like this kid

Kate: I’m it, I can feel the wind.

Kelly: What it’s like bom da bomp da da dah. Riding down to the Reider Pharmacy to see if I get some Skittles.

Kate: Yeah.

Kelly: So that that kind of movement is thrilling me. And then in the winter, we’ve been cross-country skiing, which I’d never done before in my life as a Canadian, no doubt you cross country to school and back, but as a kid from the suburbs of Philly, I did not do that before. And that is about as joyful an experience as one can get in the winter. Like you feel so.

Kate: Alive

Kelly: Vibrant. Yes. Yeah. It’s like vitality coursing through you. And I think about.

Kate: Pink in your cheeks a little bit of wind.

Kelly: Totally, totally. And like you could see your breath and you have your cute hat on and you don’t feel like gray haired and hunched anymore. You feel like I’m out here. And so I just have really noted that, like switching your context and moving your body. Are very promising directions. Like if you’re stuck, just stand up and get out.

Kate: Yep. yes.

Kelly: And, you know, I’d have to rethink it. You don’t have to reframe it like it’s not that kind of work. It’s not an intellectual or emotional challenge. It’s like kind of a shortcut to thinking a different kind of thought.

Kate: Oh, absolutely. If ever it’s going to be a hard road and I can just get this side path.

Kelly: Yeah, totally. Totally.

Kate: The only one I would add to that is showers or baths. I do feel like that’s such a reset that, like, if the world is horrible. Cool. But do you have a shower?

Kelly: Right.

Kate: I’ll be right back. Yeah, yeah.

Kelly: Totally.

Kate: And then you’re just. You’re like, wait, I’m brand new. Yeah, it’s crazy.

Kelly: Well, the smallness is huge. Like, you know, I’m such a fan of wonder and awe, as like, solutions. And I think the take away on them is that you’re, it makes you much smaller in the context of the world. Yes. And it’s better being small. The bigger you are in the frame, the more like self-obsessed and, you know, more rumination. Just like, shrink it down. Like I’ve been doing this weird thing in my head where if I’m wigging out, which, you know, like I wig out twice a week or three times a week about something. And I think some of the things that we wig out about are like actually substantial. Like they they’re genuine concerns that anybody who loves another person would have.

Kate: Just awareness. Is it is. It is it anxiety or wigging out or is it just an awareness of the reality of your going through? I like to think you’re just perceptive.

Kelly: Hyper. Hyperaware. Hyper. There’s something more. It’s not calm like awareness. It’s a little more energized than that, I would say. But anyway, then I say in my head, like, who else? Like who else? Within your field of vision is worrying about their kid or their mother or their husband or their body or their job or their friend, right now. Like, just look around. And if you’re walking in New York, you think like she looks like she might be worried about somebody and she’s worrying about somebody. And then I, like, drone out, you know, I’m like, good. Like, who else in New York City? Who else in New York State? Who else on the East Coast? Who else in America? Like, this is what is happening for all of us right now.

Kate: Yeah, that’s right. That makes complete sense to me. That is why I am so glad I looked into the podcast, because I think the philosophy in that was the thing that does that work for me. Like if I get to be reabsorbed into other people’s stories and problems, I feel, I just feel I feel physically better. I feel more at peace. I feel more connected with the world, even if it’s really sad, frankly. But I just like to know that it’s not just me alone with my problems. I’m like back on team humanity and that’s where I want to be.

Kelly: Yeah. So Reabsorbed is a good that’s a good way of thinking about it. I like that word for it because it sort of speaks to the separation.

Kate: Totally. You look around. Take me back. Take me back. I don’t want to feel alone or weird in the world anymore. I just want to be having our problems.

Kelly: Right? I want to be one of many.

Kate: Yes.

Kelly: Which you always are. You just.

Kate: You feel so special.

Kelly: you just decide whether you. Yes.

Kate: Problems always feel so special. And then they are in a way because the particularity of our dumb love. But then you’re like, No, I just want to be back. As Ariel once said, where the people are. Oh, when I see want to see the ocean. I do sing that though every time I’m in an elevator.

Kelly: That’s one of my favorite songs.

Kate: It’s classic.

Kelly: We probably can’t sing it now because we would have to pay like licensing fees, but let’s sing it in our heads for a minute and so the listener can join us. I want to be where the people are. Hmm. Come on, go with me in your head.

Kate: I wanna See umm

Kelly: I want to see them dancing.

Kate: dancing. That’s right. We do. We really do, though.

Kelly: Okay. What’s your what’s your inner circle?

Kate: Well. My inner circle happy is totally along the same lines as what you were saying about living to scale, like making your thing smaller and then you feel right sized with the world again. And I moved for that reason last month. I wanted to live right near my best friend and her husband and her two little kids. They live right near Forest. And I thought, Yeah, exactly. I want to go out into the world and I want to feel like I can look at the birds and wander around and feel the crunch of leaves under my feet and have my problems and loudly talk about my problems for about an hour. Which is always what happens when we get together. And I want my I grew up right next to where these two rivers meet. And I love I love just like being near it. And I thought, well, if we could have our families there, then wouldn’t that be kind of the best version of life ever? So the really the only thing I had was a series of terrible ideas, which. Is that I had an utterly unmanageable schedule. And somehow in the middle of it, I was going to buy a house and then move a house and then move all the things inside of my house, even though those are all my worldly belongings. And I never thought I would move out of that house, which I’ve lived in for 15 years, and it was the house I thought I was going to die in. So everything about it felt kind of like a half a house, half a museum of a person that I’d been. Like I got Zach’s growth chart on the wall, and I have, you know, all the places where I kept my memory books and then also my medication. And so moving I knew was going to be a big existential leap across the chasm. But lucky for me, I married a mennonite who is so unearthly, cheap. And so absolutely, painfully, like won’t hire a mover. Like, insists that we have friends like here. Here are the friends who could help us move. One has back problems got the Guy tweaked his back within the first 30 seconds, of oh, will you lift this bed frame? And the other friend just had retinal damage, like, basically were ready for his eye to pop out into his open hand. And we’re like, go ahead, Grahm  lift the fridge.

Kelly: Grab that other end of the sofa. You know? Can you see it?

Kate: Get in the game, guys? Yeah, we got a truck. You know, we could do this all day. So I was like, Toban, Mennonite husband of my life, this is a terrible idea. Everyone is telling us that we are of the age we were. It’s not ethical to do this anymore. So instead of listening to me, he just waited till I went out of town and then conscripted all of these people into manual labor because then it was only the cost of gas. So when I got home into my new house, I just was it was boxes and suitcases. But this was my favorite part is that Toban had made all the children in my life pack boxes. And everything that I found in each box was thematically related, as far as I could tell, only by the height of the child. Oh, look, you’re really short. I got shoes, pants. I got a belt in this one. I’m still opening boxes. I’m like, What in God’s name is this box about? But the answer is free labor. That’s what it’s about. But I am now living close to all the children in the name of love, in the name of an affordable and affordable move. Is it a perfect house? It is absolutely not. It, is it what I even imagined for my life? No, but it’s it feels like it’s too scale. It’s it’s right next to the people whose problems I am totally obsessed with. So it’s the best.

Kelly: Oh, my God. Picturing kids packing boxes. That’s so good. I mean, I wouldn’t even let my, like, 18 year old pack. I’m like, that’s not right. They don’t go together. Don’t do that to me because I got to unpack it and you’re not going to be there.

Kate: And like, what did they see?

Kate: We don’t put like one spoon in with the old drapes with dad’s sneakers.

Kate: Yeah, though there’s there was one layer of it which was like, this is wildly inefficient. And the other layer, which was what he. What do I own? Yeah. What if I own things I don’t want you to see? Do I actually own anything like that? I’m just like tick tick, just doing the inventory.

Kelly: Shit, moving is existential. I mean, there’s no question. Like, I cried my eyes out the night that we put the house on the market in California, and then seven days later we got offers. And then for some reason, the day we got the offers was when I when I felt it the most. And I just was crying in front of the realtor and Edwards are like are you ok? And the realitor is like, is she okay? You know, when they won’t address you directly that you’re really like? Yeah. Is she okay? And I was like, I’m right here. I’m fine. I’m just saying this all happened very quickly. And Edward kept saying, like, what did you think was going to happen? I thought, I don’t know. It just didn’t it wasn’t real to me until I had to sign my name 47 times in the stack of papers. And.

Kate: And now life is over. Yes. Yeah. A real ending.

Kelly: Yes. And your going to forget things like that’s the thing I felt. It’s like with that the physical reminders of like that corner or that place underneath the stairs where they used to be, or this like this little window seat where Clair used to set herself up with the pillows and the blankets and read with her little book light. What if I’m not triggered to remember all those lovely things? Now, fortunately, we’ve all taken 17,000 photographs, so there are things in there, and it’s actually the unopposed stuff that most fills me up. When I discover, you know, when they feed you back your photos on a certain day or whatever, and there’s 2007 and you think, Oh. God, look at her. Like, remember that shirt she wore? Remember those stupid shoes it made so much noise and scuffed the floor, you know, whatever. Yes. But yeah, moving is super intense. I found it really hard. And then of course, I just went back and the people who bought our house, like, gutted it and the door was open because they were painting.

Kate: I like that’s both a description and an excuse.

Kelly: I did go in. I did. And, and I went in every single room and God, I hope that I’ll listen to this podcast because I went everywhere and I took pictures and I sent them to Edward. And that’s the truth. And if you now own my house, I’m really sorry. I probably shouldn’t have done that. But like I said, the door was wide open. It was like you were asking me to, like, peek around and see what you did.

Kate: See how you ruined it.

Kelly: Yeah, yeah. See how you destroyed all my hard work of living there for ten years and making everything just so.

Kate: Exactly.

Kelly: So my inner circle is that my brother Booker got married for the second time.

Kelly: Oh, my gosh.

Kelly: Yeah. So he was married for oh, I don’t know. Got to be ten, 15 years and had two kids and then they got divorced and then, you know, you just worry to death. He’s kind of a lover, not a fighter. Like he’s a person that always had these girlfriends and he loved one more than the next. And, you know, he would, like, buy them cards and Red Hots and, you know, like, like the one rose from the supermarket that was wrapped in cellophane and you know. He is very heart on your sleeve sweet. So anyway, we went down to Florida to the big event. And you know how you were saying you’re looking around at Zack’s birthday party and like all in like one eye full. There’s your dad and there’s your friends and there’s your boy.

Kate: Yeah.

Kelly: It was like that. I was looking at.

Kate: Its a tableau.

Kelly: It’s a tableau. It really is. And I was looking around

Kate: Yeah, it’s a diorama of your gorgeous life.

Kelly: Yes, yes, yes. Totally. I mean, he he had friends there from he went to the school called Trinity Poly for one year after high school, like a PG year to try to get his grades up. He had a friend from Trinity Poly come to his wedding 40 years later, he had friends from high school, friends from college, he had friends from camp Takwa to where we used to go in the summers also like 45, 50 years ago. And I so admire his commitment to good old fashioned friendship, and I think it could have easily gone another way. You know, he’s a single guy all of a sudden, and he could start running around with the single guys, and go to the bar, and just kind of lose track of everybody or feel like you should pull back now because you’re just a single, not a double, you know, like when you’re married, friends all get together and you say, I’m going to sit this one out. He never did that. He just stayed right where he was in those relationships. And he’s he’s, you know, he’s a real, like, blowlife into people kind of guy. Like, he he probably calls 15 people a week just to say, hi,

Kate: Oh, my gosh. What a guy.

Kelly: I’m not kidding. Yeah, he’s really outward focused. He remembers the big days. And so there he was in the middle of the scene. And I just thought, oh, God, like, good things happen to good people sometimes. Sometimes,.

Kate: Yeah. But when they do, it is so satisfying to watch.

Kelly: So satisfying. I mean, we had cousins from like five different families show up from my mom’s side, my dad’s side. They got on the plane and they rented the car and they stayed in this little hotel and they got out to this red barn in the middle of nowhere. Yeah. And it’s such a it’s a miracle that people who have been so hurt love again. And they do. They do.

Kate: Yes. Yes.

Kelly: And like to watch them dance. And to watch her laugh at his antics, like his big personality is a total hoot. I mean, basically, like MC’d his own wedding we were laughing so hard. And but like, he he did it. He he licked his wounds for a while. And, you know, he probably, like, went out too much and drank too much and for a while. And then he met a girl, and then he probably, like, held that at bay for a while. And then finally, finally was like, I’m going to do. It am going to dare to say these words again. I’m going to dare to stand up in front of 100 people and say, I will love you until I die.  Awesome.

Kate: Oh, thats a big love. Sounds like he is good at, like, stretching his heart to the limit.

Kelly: He is. He really is. The other thing that was really fun that you don’t get in a first wedding, obviously, is his kids played this pivotal role. So is his two kids in college same basically the same ages as our kids. And they gave this toast at the wedding. That was like I couldn’t have been more proud of him. I was like, Oh, my God. They were funny and relaxed and sensitive and open hearted. And then they danced all night. And of course, everybody wants to be near the young people. I mean, we were just gushing to be close to them on the dance floor. I did try to dance like that, like I kept watching marry my niece and think like, is this how you danced to the song? Like, okay, you do this with your hands? Yeah, because I, you know, I’ve danced in my 55 year old dance and I’m like, that’s how the 19 year olds do it. They dance like that, I guess, like less movement, a little bit more hand, a little bit more over the head stuff I found. Some pointing, It’s a lot more pointing, like yeah, I see you.

Kate: That is surprising.

Kelly: Yeah. Know, there’s a lot to be learned. Really. And I’m ready. I could go to a wedding once a week. Like it’ll never get old for me and. And especially really. A second wedding.

Kate: Yes, that’s right. A resurrection.

Kelly: Yeah. Let off a little bit of the Phoenix.

Kate: Yep. Yes

Kate: Loved it. Loved it.

Kate:  That’s gorgeous.

Kelly: Yeah. Booker Corrigan he’s off the market ladies. If you were thinking about throwing your hat in it’s too late. Too late. All these Everything Happens fans are going to be like, Who is he? What do you mean? He’s gone? He’s off the market?

Kate: Is. Yeah. Is his photo in the show notes? Yeah, maybe. Maybe that’s where we’ll put it. Yeah, maybe that’s where he belongs.

Kelly: What’s your 9 to 5 happy?

Kate: I’m so grateful to be able to travel this year after having not traveled for so long, and I’m so insanely extroverted that it warms my heart like nothing else to have the airport feeling where I’ve got my little carry-on and I get off the escalator and I just have this like there is no wind machine, you know, going. But it feels like there’s a wind machine as I uh

Kelly: Like little Beyonce is playing.

Kate: I just feel like for a second I get to devour the world just like chomp. You know, just for 1 second. And I have, like you and a deep and abiding love of the random. So I’ve been trying to just embrace the fact that when you start a trip, you really kind of just don’t know what kind of trip you’re going to get. You don’t know what kind of weather you’re going to get. You don’t really know, even if you know all the people, you don’t really know what state you’re going to find them in.  And you’ll never really know exactly what the shape of a day is going to feel like. And I’m just letting it be like that. So every work trip, I just let it be peak random. So I have this app that I use Roadside America, in which I have to buy these local maps of bizarre, usually historical ephemera. You know. And so I’ll go someplace and then I’ll just look at wherever I am, and I’ll usually do like a world’s largest and then include the state. And then usually a map will pop up. And then I will if I have, I’ll either conscript someone to drive me or I will get an Uber. Or this last trip I had a rental and I met this other historian who had also we’d been given 2 hours off and I leaned over and I was like, Hey, we don’t know each other, but do you want to go see random historical stuff with me? And he was like, Yes, I do. So we just noodled around. We drove to go see Tom Wolfe’s old mansion in California that exploded right before it was done being built because the people working on the floors had piled up all the linoleum soaked rags in the fireplace, and then it destroyed about $10 million worth of property. And they built this beautiful museum. And an 80 year old man took me around on a golf cart telling me about why he loves the author of White Fang. And the sun was shining and I saw birds I’d never seen. The man I was with said the cutest thing. I was like, Yeah, do you want to go see this? Do you want to go see this? He looked at me, goes, Yes, let’s history. Oh, yes, let us history today.

Kelly: You’re dating. You’re basically dating. I mean. I’m not going to tell Toban. And obviously he doesn’t listen to the podcast since you already went on and on about how cheap he is. But you are dating that man. That that’s a come on, that’s like a nerd come on. He worked on that. He’s like, you know what I should have said the last time.

Kate: He workshopped it alone?

Kelly: He did in the mirorr.

Kate: And then. And now and now. Here we are madly in love. And that will be my forever family. Yeah.

Kate: Goodbye, Toban. Goodbye, Mennonites.

Kate: This is how it ends.

Kelly: Well, I mean, what did you think was going to happen?

Kate: What good story doesn’t begin that way.

Kelly: That’s right. That’s so interesting. When I travel all these years, like 15 years I’ve been traveling, I really rarely stay at a hotel. Like, I probably stay at a hotel, I mean, ten times out of 300 trips because I feel lonely in hotels. All I do is sit there and watch TV and there’s always somebody to stay with. And I find that staying with people is so instructive and enlarging, like just to see how they do breakfast and whether their kid looks him in the eye or who feeds the dog. You know, like from the absolute banal to things that are actually really meaningful. I’ve stayed with these friends of mine a zillion times Christie and Allie and their families are so nice to each other. Every time I come home, I’m like, Edward, we got to like we got to say please and thank you more. Like there’s a way of interacting that we have assumed was only for strangers that could actually be for, like, the most important people in your life. I’ve seen it, and there’s no way they could keep it up this long. Like, I think it’s for real.

Kate: Yeah, yeah. It can’t be a shame. I also love it when people are overly formal with their children. Yes, Penelope, if you would be a dear and get your shoes. I do. I am very, very formal with Zach mostly because we think it’s funny. And then every time he does something that really, frankly, he’s quite obligated to do, we will shake hands, make stern eye contact and go a gentlemen’s agreement that we feel we feel really settles the matter. But I mean, I love watching people’s little ecologies. Yeah. Same reason it’s it’s fun to host. Yes.

Kate: Like, hey, welcome to my cocoon.

Kelly: Yeah, totally.

Kate: Thanks for coming.

Kelly: But the but the larger point is a day counts, like, every day. You know, you can make a little something happen. The only way that great life becomes a great life is in these minute by minute choices like the opportunity cost. For me of like staying with a friend or a near friend, like there have been people I’ve stayed with. My husband’s like I cannot believe like he has some friend that he barely knew from college who was a reader of my books. And she lives in Des Moines and I was going to Des Moines and I was like, Edward, I think I should reach out to your friend. He’s like, Why? And that’s like, because I want to stay with her. And he’s like, Why? I’m like, because I hotels wig me out and he’s like. Okay. But because of the kinds of books you and I write, yeah, you are kind of starting at second base with everybody. You’re not. I mean, people come to us knowing way more about us than you would in a normal interaction and that.

Kate: Yeah,.

Kelly: We wouldn’t probably do it. I mean, I’ve never asked you if you feel this way, but I certainly wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t comfortable with the consequence of it, which is that people just come right on up to you and start telling you things that are meaningful instead of.

Kate: that’s so nice,.

Kelly: You know, this kind of superficial, small talk that, like, makes me. Yeah. Just this exhausting and makes my eyes cross.

Kate: Yeah. It makes you want to take a potato peeler to my face every time I have to have the same conversation. But I didn’t realize how intolerant I am of extended small talk until I was in a group setting the other day and everyone was being normal to each other, just normal, and everyone was exchanging the kind of information that you typically exchange. And then there was just like a microsecond pause. And then I said, How many people here have been punched in the face? I mean, like really punched in the face. Just nice table for women. And then I realized maybe I’m not as good at small talk as I thought I was.

Kelly: That’s an amazing question. And I’m no good with small talk either. I mean, like and I’m so clumsy in my, you know, the way I change the channel conversationally. Like, they’ll still be telling me about their Kalakaua marble counter. And I’ll be like, Let me ask you something. When your mom’s coming to town, are you anxious or happily anticipating the event?

Kate: Yes. No. Like diaries are out. Let’s get in there.

Kelly: Yeah. Uh huh. Tell me something real. Give me something to hold on to. So my 9 to 5 happy is collaborating. You know, we’re doing this really cool collaboration with a bunch of people at the Greater Good Science Center, which is at UC Berkeley. And they are really trying to dig into this idea about intellectual humility, which is basically just knowing that all knowledge is partial and acting accordingly, basically in all interactions, which leads to great things like curiosity and asking more questions and withholding judgment and blah, blah, blah. So anyway, it’s the first collaboration where people are supporting us with like this ground level research. This enormous amount of content and insight and data, and then turn it into something for the podcast. Like what would it be to be a parent who was constantly aware of, and acting according to the fact that all knowledge is partial? My knowledge and the kid who’s telling me the story of their life, their knowledge, like how would that change every interaction? So anyway, collaborations is a huge, great part of our life. The other cool one that we’re doing in June is with this bunch of guys at Yale. Do you know Miroslav Volf who runs the Divinity School.

Kate:  Yeah, I know him. Yeah.

Kelly: So he’s wonderful. And he and I did a podcast together and then we got talking about this course that they’re teaching they’re called Life Worth Living. And it’s a yes collection and summation of all the ancient wisdom and traditions about how to think about what the point of your life is and what the point of your life could be. And the kids love the course, and then they’re writing this book, and then we love the book. So anyway, doing those calls with the Yale guys to figure out how to turn that book into a five part podcast series. Cool. It’s so cool because you’re the learner again. And I like, like ten out of ten times. If you could be the teacher or the learner. I want to be the learner.

Kate: Yeah. Yeah. How does this work then? What happened?

Kelly: Yeah. And so let me ask you this.

Kelly: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Have you thought about?

Kelly: aHuh?

Kate: Oh. That’s so great.

Kelly: It’s like having a private tutorial session with these, like, brilliant people. You know, I didn’t get to go to Yale, but I kind of get to go there right now. And I didn’t get to go to Berkeley, and I kind of get to go there right now where I have like the full attention of these people to ask about their life’s work, like the deep knowledge is so attractive to me right now. And it’s partially because, you know, we’re in a world of misinformation and disinformation and and also of charlatans who are flippant.

Kate: You’ve got to go back to the source. Yeah, it’s true. I always end up having to, like, pause my life every 18 months, maybe two years. And then I have to do a full new research project, because if I if I float too far from the feeling of primary sources and all the intense, then it’s true. You get it goes from, like, deep, super, super textured, detailed research. And then you kind of have to boil it down for people to listen to. But then if you boil it down too much, then you just have, you know, absolute self-help crap, which is trite and can’t possibly be true in most situations. Then you’re saying things like, I invented the high five and now I have a psychologically backed set of researchers willing to prove it. Which is a real bool The High Five Habit. So yeah, I always find like taking a, taking a beat to like fully refresh the feeling of like drawn from the deepest well is such a big and important feeling.

Kelly: And that’s also intellectual humility inaction, to say I need to plug into something larger. Like I just I just can’t take some things we said at happy hour on Friday and like put them out into the world like they’re real on Monday. You know what I mean? Like, we’re so limited. We’re so limited.

Kate: It’s true. Yeah, that’s right. But then it’s so funny because in that stage, though, I have to be like a research, Kate. And I don’t know if you’ve met me in the midst of a research project, but in the midst I am full spreadsheet, unwashed hair. I have too many anecdotes. I mean, just too many very specific examples I’d very much like to show you. I’ve fallen in love with an archivist. And we have a relationship because he gets me whatever books I want. So yeah, it’s not a and I look, I emerge sort of like bleary eyed and haggard, butso cool.

Kelly: It’s so cool to be subsumed.

Kate: Yes, that’s right. That is the feeling, right?

Kelly: Yeah. I love immersive. Like I’d really rather do one thing all day long than to do 45 things. Like the 45 things feels like juggling. Yeah. And the one thing feels like learning and I’m way more on the juggling side. Yeah. You know. Yeah. And that’s just not satisfying. I don’t, I, I remember my girls do this thing where they over spring break and Piedmont, California, they take the kids to build houses in Mexico and it’s totally immersive. They’re there for five or six days and then they hand over the keys at the end of the week and say, whatever you want about it. I know there are multiple points of view on it. It’s immersive and they’re so tired when they get home. Yeah, and they will never forget it. And when I was trying to help our children’s hospital in Oakland for like 12 years, I was involved in this thing. And I remember thinking the first time the girls came back from Mexico, Oh, we’re not asking too much of people. We’re asking too little on the children’s hospital side. They’re not exhausted. They don’t remember it. It’s not immersive. We’re asking like to drop off some books one day and then to give a small donation another day and to like. That’s not enough, actually. That, that it’s the complete immersion is way more satisfying.

Kate: Yeah. They make a big claim on us.

Kelly: Yeah. Yeah.

Kate: That’s right. That’s, that is how I feel about a day if I had one bit where I got to, like carve out a chunk of my soul in some way. Even if it’s for just a short bit. Those are always the those are always the days I remember.

Kelly: Yeah. Do you go to church every day?

Kelly: No, not every day. You know, I work in a divinity school, so there’s a great amount of daily worship. And then I do church on Sundays. Yeah, yeah. There’s a lot of our Lord and Savior, you know, on the regular. Yeah, but.

Kelly: Yeah. You can’t avoid it.

Kate: Yeah, that’s right.

Kelly: I just went and sat in St Patrick’s Cathedral the other day. I was in New York and I was walking by this place my dad loved. And I had a minute and I was like, I think I’ll just go sit in there and see what happens. So if I get tapped on the shoulder. It was nice. He didn’t show up. He didn’t like tell me anything. I was kind of hoping to hear him. But I’ll try again. What’s your bonus? What’s your bonus happy?

Kate: I had a good one. I went to a super hippie college in undergrad and it was kind of a bit of a mismatch. As I had learned about college from watching Saturday morning television programing where canadian kids can watch shows about kids in California having a lot of problems. Hmm. Saved by the Bell huge problems. California Dreamin. I mean, we even had California Raisins, which I think was a cartoon created just by advertisers, out of that, the box of raisins. And we’re like, wow, so much is happening in California. I learned about prom that way. I learned about the SATs that way. And I had no sense, though, that there is some kind of spiritual matchmaking process that American kids go through where they’re supposed to find a college based on their personality. And no idea. I just because we go to university, you just sort of throw a rock and then it hits a place of learning. And then you go there. And guess what, it’s pretty good, you know?

Kelly: Right.

Kate: I lived right near the campus, the University of Manitoba. So I was like, well, I don’t there because I’d like to be the first person to go somewhere else, that I was aware of. And so I found a brochure for this college, and on the brochure people were playing rugby. Again, I’d not played rugby, but I thought I could be the kind of person that plays rugby. But I was in fact not that kind of person. No. And it was Scottish and I was like My uncle Scottish. Like, This is amazing. So I applied there.

Kelly: This place was literally made for me, I think. I love rugby and I knew one person from Scotland. I sure do. They have a tartan. That college was McAllister College in the Twin Cities. And I my grades were not that great.

Kate: But I know that I got in because I’m an international student. And let’s let that sink in for a moment. So did I go to international student orientation? Yes, I did. Oh, did I drive there? Yes. These poor, sweet kids who were from, you know, Sweden and Egypt. And I’m just like, hi, hi. Hi. I’m from the adjacent province. So I. I went to call.

Kelly: You. I feel you. I get it all. I’m from Shanghai. I’m from Manitoba.

Kate: We have kilometers. I did. I brought that up a lot. But it was a total mismatch. It was a cool hippie college for people who hated the small Christian towns that they grew up in. And I was from a big secular country and just so Jesus. So it was a bit of a nightmare. And also the place where I completely fell in love with liberal arts education and have never been more grateful for an education. So I am simultaneously obsessed with McAllister, but it was the place of my greatest emotional alienation, I guess I will say, in this voice. So they asked if I would come back to do their commencement. Is that the right word for the one at the end? Yes. Address. And I have to say, I was so over the moon about it. Like I couldn’t believe that they asked. I couldn’t believe that I got to go back. I did a my own little tour with my college roommates. Of all the places I cried, it took like two and a half hours. It was the full circle feeling of this was a part of myself that I can’t even believe was real. It’s like you flip to the first chapter and you’re like. What even happened then? Totally. And then these absolutely delightful college students, what they did was they asked if I would give a talk for a combined thing for the two two classes that didn’t get a graduation service. So they were like, Do you think you could talk to people whose dreams didn’t come true? And I was like.

Kelly: Yeah, those are my people. You don’t even know? I don’t like the people whose dreams came true.

Kate: So who are they? So I think. I was so hyper and emotional, all 36 hours of being there because I realized the feeling that I had that I was so grateful to have gotten is the same feeling that they had missed and needed, was that sometimes you don’t need friends. You need a witness, like a witness to the person that you were. And you needed to be surrounded by other people who look at you and they say, like, I get it, that happened. It was real. And that so rarely comes around in our lives. So yeah, I honestly thought, this is it. This is a soul completing moment. I will never hunger again, you know. What’s that sort of like? That’s it. I give up. That was perfect.

Kelly: I gave the graduation speech at University of Richmond’s this year. Which is where I was.

Kate: Oh, my gosh. So we’re having twin feelings.

Kelly: Totally, totally. I was completely flattered. I was scared to death. I never worked harder on anything, including, like books that sold to a million people. I did not work as hard as I worked on that speech. And yeah, it really was a conclusion of sorts. And, you know, so funny at Richmond, when you’re student there, you can audition to be the student graduation speaker. It’s not, it’s not just given to the valedictorian or the class president. So all these people auditioned for it. And I happened to go to graduation when I was a freshman. And I saw this very funny guy, not much of a student give this really great speech and the kids went bananas because like the kids are in it for the other kid, you know what I mean? Yeah, it’s a highlight of graduation. So for three years I was like, I want to be that person. I want to give that speech. So I auditioned to give the speech. When I got to the room where you had to wait, I looked around and I was like, Oh my God, this is like every known kid in my class, like the president of this and the leader of that. And that person’s going to medical school. And, you know, I just was like, Oh, I’ll never, ever, ever get this. But I’m glad I tried, you know? And of course, my dad’s super in on this with me, you know, he’s like, Lovey, yeah, yeah, yeah. We’re doing this. You know it is like a we kind of thing. Okay. So anyway, there’s this girl at University Richmond. Her name’s Emlen Wampler, which is a crazy name, but she was actually my friend from diving in the summers outside of Philadelphia, and she happened to go to University of Richmond also. So I go in and I give a speech. They call, you know, a couple days later and they say, Kelly, we’re not giving you the speech, but we’d like you to be the runner up and you should be ready to give your talk. If anything happens, we’re going to turn to you. And I was like, wow, that’s so flattering because I saw who was in that room and I feel very moved. And I said, But by the way, who got the speech? And they said, Emlen Wampler. And I was like and Emlen Wampler beat me again. I  call my dad. I’m like, Greenie, you’re not going to believe who’s giving the speech. And he’s like, who, I say Emlen Wampler. He is like we’re going to break your knees. We’re going to we’re going to take her down Lovey. We’re going to give her a potion so our voice doesn’t work. So anyway,.

Kate: We’re going to break her knees

Kelly: I mean, you know, he’s loving it. And so anyway, you know, 30 years later, I got the call and I was like, God, if my dad could see this he would have been just so, so gratified. Like, you don’t know how long the story you’re in is going to be.

Kate: That’s right.

Kelly: You think the story was and then Emlen Wamper got to give the speech and then you find out 30 years later there’s like one little coda.

Kate: Yeah.

Kelly: So, yeah, it was awesome. It was so awesome.

Kate: I think your dad’s absolutely irresponsible support is so fantastic. I mean just, I love it.

Kelly: Here’s where I could tell you he would have given it to you, too. It was not special. It was not. Although he managed to make people feel special. The fact is he was doing it everywhere to friends and strangers alike. So if he met you, he’d be like, Kate Bowler huh? How about Kate Bowler listen to that laugh. Look at those dimples. I love her. He met this friend of mine and he said, Sarah, you’re the discovery of a lifetime.

Kate: Oh, My gosh.

Kate: And she says, like to this day, she’s like, when I’m having a bad day, I just remember your dad looking over at me at lunch and saying you’re the discovery of a lifetime.

Kelly: Oh my gosh

Kelly: He told my other friend Christie, she was the great American pixie. She’s like, God, I didn’t know really what he meant by it, but I loved it. A great American pixie.

Kate: Oh, my gosh. I’m in love.

Kelly: Yeah. Yeah. You would have been. Oh, my God, you two. You’d have been unstoppable.

Kate: This was such a delight.

Kelly: I know. I don’t know why we don’t just do it every week. I think I always just scrap. Everything Happens and scrap. Kelly Corrigan Wonders. And we’ll us make lists together week after week.

Kelly: Absolutely, we will be happy and crappy simultaneously. Yeah. Til end till the end of time.

Kelly: I think we might need some merchandise. I think we might need a t shirt that says I’m happy, I’m crappy. Deal with it.

Kate: Underline, underline. Yeah,

Kelly: Love you.

Kate: Oh, my gosh you two, thanks. Well, my loves. I hope this year had some bright moments. Some moments that just sparkled. And if you’re not sure. Sometimes maybe that’s a good time to just reach out to a friend and be like from the outside. Did anything do you think anything can stand out? Because, yeah, we need a witness. Sometimes we can be our own, sometimes we need someone else. So here’s to all of your lovely, lovely, sparkly moments. You get a chance to celebrate them, especially when things are hard. Sometimes we just need a minute to be honest about it all, and also maybe to bless it all. All the happy and sad and frustrating and ordinary and hopeful and heartbroken. And that’s a way of speaking that I started practicing doing when things got rough, Blessing became a language to speak spiritually in a way that felt more honest to me. Where I didn’t have to sort of sit around waiting for something especially magical could happen. I was trying to practice blessing it all instead. Jessica and I, Jessica is my co-author and also executive producer of this podcast, and we wrote a new book of blessings for just that, the feeling that we need to bless at all, happy and crappy. And our book is called The Lives We Actually Have, and it comes out on Valentine’s Day and you can preorder and learn more about it at So yeah, if you want to bless it all with us, you are so welcome and I would love to hear all about your crappy and happy as you look back on the year. And we created a little graphic and you can add your own and share on social media and you can grab it in the show notes of this episode or find me online at Kate C Bowler. Our team is going to take a little break because, you know, Christmas, but we will be back in February with new episodes. We cannot wait to be back with you then. In the meantime, bless you, my dears, and have a very beautiful Christmas and a Happy New Year. And a really special thank you goes to our generous partners who make this work possible. Lilly Endowment. The Duke Endowment, Duke Divinity School and Leadership Education. And to my incredible team Jessica Richie, Harriet Putman, Gwen Heginbotham, Brenda Thompson, Keith Weston, Jeb and Sammy, thank you. This is Everything Happens with me Kate Bowler.

Show MoreShow Less