Heather Havrilesky: Be Where You Are - Kate Bowler

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Heather Havrilesky: Be Where You Are

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podcast banner Heather Havrilesky: Be Where You Are

Heather Havrilesky: Be Where You Are

How do we find “enough” in a life that keeps getting…. harder? Our lives are shrinking. We are shrunk by the pandemic or by illness or by age or by any number of losses. And it can be difficult to feel satisfaction and enjoyment again, especially in the midst of a self-help culture that tries to tell you “EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE.” In this episode, Kate speaks with writer and advice columnist Heather Havrilesky about finding contentment in our bodies, in our parenting, in our relationships, while living a life we didn’t choose. Sometimes we just need a smoking appliance day. (that will make more sense when you listen).

Guest

Heather Havrilesky

Heather Havrilesky writes the popular advice column "Ask Polly" for New York magazine’s The Cut. She is the author of the memoir Disaster Preparedness ,the advice book How to Be a Person in the World, and What if this Were Enough? She is a columnist for New York magazine, and has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and NPR's All Things Considered, among others. She was Salon's TV critic for seven years. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children.

Show Notes

Follow Heather on her Twitter, on her Instagram, and on her website. You can also find Heather at her Substack for Ask Polly (or for a real treat, read through old Ask Polly articles, here!).

Heather has several amazing books that you can find here: How to be a Person In the World, What If This Were Enough?, and Disaster Preparedness

Watch Oprah ask Joel Osteen about his prosperity message here.

Heather’s advice column Ask Polly has an alter ego Ask Molly. Subscribe for Ask Molly’s Substack here or find old Ask Molly article’s here.

CW: health problems

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Transcript

Kate Bowler: I’m Kate Bowler, and this is Everything Happens. I’m a historian, author, aggressively, fast walker. But lately, in a world that promises endless progress, even now in a pandemic, I realized I just need to be a person. It’s hard to give up on the feeling that the life you want is just out of reach. If only you tried to eat this food, find that relationship, just get the kids graduated or the parents this kind of care. Only then will I feel different, better, whole. But that’s not the way this works. When I was 35, I was diagnosed with stage four cancer. And here’s the very fun thing about that. The world loves you better when you are shiny, when you are cheerful, when you still believe that your best life now is right around the corner. I’ve written multiple books on the history of the idea that you can always fix your life. So I’m going to be the one to say it. There are some things we can change and some things we can’t. And it’s OK that life isn’t always getting better. We can have beauty and meaning, community and love, and we will need each other if we’re going to tell the truth. Life is a chronic condition and there’s no cure for being human.

Kate: I used to be the kind of person who thought anything was possible. It is an intoxicating story we tell ourselves. We can climb every mountain, crush this New Year’s resolution, lose the weight and maximize our mornings. Maybe you did it too. Then one day we realize we aren’t immune, we aren’t immune to the tragedies and the grief of a life we can’t choose of lives that shrink because of illness or financial struggles or a global pandemic. We lose things all the time and sometimes we can’t get them back, no matter how hard we try, regardless of how the self-help culture tries to convince us of what should be possible. So what do we do when it’s not enough? Heather Havrilesky is an essayist and critic who writes New York magazine’s popular Ask Polly Advice column. Basically, she’s the big sister and wise sage of the Internet. She is the author of gorgeous books like What If This were Enough and How to Be a Person in the World. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and The Atlantic. She lives in Los Angeles with her family. Oh, my gosh, Heather, I have been waiting forever for this conversation because we are a shared mind, which is what this looks like.

Heather Havrilesky: Yes. It’s so nice to finally meet you. And I have definitely had that feeling about you before. So it’s it’s nice that the feeling is mutual.

Kate: I wrote this history of the advice column in my last book and where has like Dear Abby and Dorothy Dix and Emily Post kind of thing. And I think the advice column is such an interesting feature of American life because it’s typically dominated by women and a place where women could have have expertize over, say, like domestic issues or emotion or trying to figure out how to be polite at family gatherings. But you are not that kind of advice columnists.

Heather: No, I would say that my advice is 90 percent existential. Ethereal. Free floating, concept driven advice and much less of concrete, you know, how do I handle my mother in law kind of thing?

Kate: The other bit that I found so unbelievably refreshing is that one of the I mean, go to philosophical stances is like, well, if I’m not just giving sort of contextual advice, I’m giving you self-help. And you and I both believe that self-help is unhelpful and that self-determination is delusional. And your account of why best life now is a complete myth is so beautifully evident in your advice column. So like when you look at the questions that come in, how does it help you see our culture’s dominant myths?

Heather: Oh, man. I mean, I think that the well just to start off with the the sort of like live your best life imperatives that we’ve kind of grown up in the middle of you know, I think it affects different people in different ways. But for and I’m sure we have this in common, a sort of like or I believe that we have this in common. And because our lives are so curated by the Internet and so displayed on the Internet, we all have a window into each other’s lives. And we all have a feeling that even if one element of your life is off, it’s like you’re a complete and utter failure. And for me, it’s always been my personal presentation, my fashion and my home and the way that my environment looks. I’ve just never prioritized that. And it took me a long time to understand that I care about these things, actually, but also that to understand that I was living under this dark cloud of like I’m pretty much a slob and a failure because I haven’t perfected these aspects of my life yet.

Kate: You’re like me. Maybe maybe this can’t be rendered visually in the way that other people could be rendered visually. Some people’s lives, just like photograph beautifully.

Heather: And there are people who naturally perfect those kinds of details.

Kate: Yeah, that’s right.

Heather: You know, and it’s like different people have different kinds of things that they’re perfectionists about. But there’s a there’s a message in our culture that says you’re supposed to be perfect on every level. In every dimension. The main, a big part of of writing my book was really just a process of understanding how we eat these kind of poisonous messages that tell us we’re supposed to be the best possible person in every way and how that constant quest for perfection eats away at our our ability to live in the moment, our ability to be present to other people, our ability even to enjoy ourselves and connect with the present moment.

Kate: Yeah, yeah. It reminds me of the there was a moment when Oprah went to visit Joel Osteen’s mansion. She was sitting down with Joel and Victoria and she said, you know, people will criticize you for your your best life now message. And the idea that that God just wants you to be healthier and happier. And, you know, I just think, like, who wouldn’t want a God like that? Like who wouldn’t want a life like that? And. I’ve just found your account of of this as false narratives and shared hallucinations, as you call them.

Heather: Yeah.

Kate: I think it’s hard to describe to people that there is something we forget when we buy too much into these myths.

Heather: You can believe in the religion of constant self-improvement and it can make it. I do think there are a handful of people that are made happy by that religion. You know what I mean? Like there they really are embodying, you know, being on top of all of your situations and they have systems for running their lives. I just know for myself, though, I find myself in a place where I’m eating myself alive, if I believe that I truly have to get it all right. And by the same token, I find that the less pressure I put on myself to become someone else, the happier I feel not just with myself, but with the people in my life. But, you know, in contrast, when you’re in a place where you really accept that you’re a human being, you’re flawed, you are not on some triumphant path to glory every day, you know, it makes it possible to see other people and to not expect them to be on that path either. And to also see clearly the beautiful little flaws and imperfections that make people unique and lovable and interesting and who they are. I mean, we aren’t made this way in order to, like, shine off and to sand off all of our flaws. We’re supposed to see the beauty in each other’s unique flaws.

Kate: That’s right. No, no, no. I became a Christian so that I could be the gospel, that I could just go around and people will meet me and then they’ll just be like, oh, my gosh, God is amazing.

Heather: Form yourself in the in the you know, because that’s what the Bible says so often is make yourself into a shape just like God at all times.

Kate: Yeah, it’s weird.

Heather: And more false images, the better

Kate: Will know it by her banging body. You know, I just go, this is the good news.

Kate: Writing about the Prosperity Gospel was always so tricky because I learned so much about expectation and and hope from being around people who are constantly pressing into this idea of best life now. And their just kind of urgency to always make all parts of their life, you know, good, better, best. On the other side, there’s just there is such a there’s such a punitive side to it, though, when, you know, when life doesn’t turn out and then the the blame immediately becomes turns inward or I I love what you’re describing too that it makes us fundamentally uncharitable about the the flaws and the the hardships of others.

Heather: What I find in reading letters from strangers every day, every week is that a lot of times people have they’ll hear a message in their heads that they’re messing up and they’re always messing up the thing that they care about the most. So basically they will think that it’s arbitrary, like I’m a monster. I look terrible all the time. I’m too big. I’m too ugly. It’s not just, you know, I’m self-conscious about this because the culture cares too much about it. If you repeat if you find yourself in a place of shame about something over and over again, you’re the one who cares about it, you know what I mean? You value it.

Kate: No, no, no, they care about. Oh crap, no wait, I care about it.

Heather: I mean, I had been through I’d been writing my column, ask Polly for years before I realized that any kind of anger and weird contempt that I had for people that I felt competitive with, nine times out of ten it was a message to me that there was something about the way that these people were doing things that I actually admired I was envious of, which is, you know, incredibly difficult thing to look at.

Kate: You really challenge us to wonder what if this were enough? So what did you mean by that?

Heather: At the time when I was writing my book, I was really struggling with how to face the limits essentially in my life. I think you reach an age where you say, oh, my God, I’m not going to be a ballerina on Mars after all. You can’t instead of like, can’t believe, even though you didn’t really think you’d ever get there. It’s sort of like, oh, my gosh, is it possible that the I’m not going there’s no possibility that I’m ever going to be a ballerina on Mars? Like this is, you know, an injustice beyond compare. We see our lives as having limitless potential because we’re told that our lives have limitless potential constantly. And there are ways that that’s a good message to have. I think there’s a shift needs to occur between the the material potential, like I can live in Spain, France and New York and have endless wealth and be perfect looking and have millions of close bestest friends. And the potential of I can feel good right here in this flawed place when I focus and by feel good, I don’t necessarily mean feel no bad things. Feel no emotions, feel no sadness, feel no anxiety. But I can, I can confront this day and take it for what it is and I can savor all of the things that this day offers me, the good and the bad and the sadness and the anxiety even. It’s weird to savor anxiety. Maybe that’s not completely possible.

Kate: Yeah. It’s just it’s funny you said the word you’re talking about savoring life and what it means to like, feel I guess because the question I was really thinking about when I when I bought your book is was about that feeling of hunger’s is, man, are we just all wired or cultivated into just feeling hungry for everything forever, like what do fullness feel like? What does satiation and or are we just like small hungers forever. And I was so worried about it because I you know, I just finished a stretch, almost dying for a long time. And I was like, oh gosh but if my life continues, like, does that mean I just I keep feeling hungry forever? Like, that seems horrible too. And so I really I turn to your book to really think about, like, what fullness feels like. What like how do we, how do we live into the richness of now without falling back into that sort of other self-help paradigm, which is that like if you don’t live in the present, you’re not just a really joyful neo Buddhist who is mindful at this very moment, then you are a monster.

Heather: What’s interesting is the deeper you go into the stuff, the more in some ways it gets simpler. And in other ways, it’s amazing that the same simple puzzle can confront you day after day.

Kate: Yeah, that’s right.

Heather: Because you you show up for it and you think like I feel like I’ve solved this already, but why?

Kate: No, but then tomorrow. No, Heather, you’re exactly right. I think there is a weird this is this, this is this is the puzzle inside the puzzle, like those matryoshka dolls, you know, they’re just down to smaller versions of the same doll. And it seems to me that the question is always, yeah. Is what does what does fulness feel like? And sometimes when I have less and less and less, what can enough be?

Heather: Well, what’s interesting, as you know from your health challenges at times, I’m sure, and I’ve been through a bunch of health stuff this year, it’s been a nightmare. You sometimes when you’re in the absolute most torturous place, life gets really small and it’s actually easier to feel satisfied.

Kate: It is totally.

Heather: You know?

Kate: Oh, look. Yes, Snacks and this garbage magazine.

Heather: Yeah, exactly.

Kate: But here in the oncology ward. Yeah. You It’s so true. Simpler things can sometimes like add up to more and then other times when you have seemingly limitless choices. Then it can really still feel like you’re starving to death.

Heather: That’s right. The hardest letter that to answer. Actually I just got one of these is I can go anywhere, I can work from home now. I mean, a lot of people are their jobs are shifting and they can work from home. And they’re you know, some of their bosses are saying you can work anywhere actually, we’ll keep you remote so you can go anywhere. I had a situation like this where I worked from home and I could go anywhere for a couple of years when I was younger. And it’s actually kind of torturous to have limitless possibility. It’s very difficult to decide where you should live arbitrarily around the country. Our country is gigantic. It’s really hard to be far away from your family. It’s really hard to be close to your family,

Kate: What? No.

Heather: No, it’s perfect.

Kate: I love it.

Heather: Like with health stuff. It’s like all I know is I have to get through this and then it’s like, oh, I’m getting through it. It’s it’s weird how I mean, it was like just you all you have to do is just exist for another day without completely freaking out. You know, it was like where I was for like a month this year.

Kate: Oh I’m sorry.

Heather: And I wasn’t freaking out. I was like, look, I’m not freaking out this. I’m so proud of myself. I feel so good. I mean, I was happier during that month than I was the month before, the month after, you know, even though my whole task was just get through this torture.

Kate: Yeah. Because you knew what counted as surviving. And then you could tell if you’d done it or not.

Heather: Yeah. I was like, oh my God. Finally, I have a checklist. There’s just one box exist, you know.

Kate: That what I love what you’re describing, because, like, if you figure out the threshold of like what, just like what can count as succeeding in my life right now and then you allow other other things to fall outside of that. That sounds like a really satisfying feeling.

Heather: Well, I will say that, OK, you’re not going to like this very much.

Kate: I probably won’t. And I’m already sorry.

Heather: But I did you know, I started to write an evil newsletter named Ask Molly all right, because my advice column is Ask Polly and my newsletter is Ask Molly. And it was like an experiment in can I write the most wretched things?

Kate: And just what does Molly say? I’m so curious to know.

Heather: Well, Molly’s kind of evolved. And she’s unfortunately, I would say, getting slightly less evil as time goes on. But I think that when you give someone total freedom, they actually become less evil. It’s when they’re confused by when they’re trying to get something and they don’t know what they want. That’s when they turn evil. But she started out kind of like a lustful predator type of muse, I’ll say, which was very interesting. And then she was humbled and very shamed by her predatory nature. And now she’s sort of like figuring out enjoyment for herself I’d say, you know, until you are willing to be a slight inconvenience to other people at times, like, I think that as women we often grow up thinking I must be the most convenient appliance, you know, that feeds everyone the love they need everywhere I go.

Kate: Oh, my gosh. Yes.

Heather: So becoming a little bit inconvenient, becoming a little bit like sometimes I just start smoking and the appliance doesn’t work. You know? By claiming that space, actually being more generous as a person is similar to the flawed thing I was talking about. It’s like if you give yourself the chance, if you’re not defined that as a failure, if you give yourself a chance of like I’m having a smoking appliance day where I just break down and I’m in the way, I mean, I often say to my kids, my kids are 11 and 13 girls. They’re both girls. And it’s amazing when you are clear with the people in your life who you love a lot, how what an easy time they have with it actually, like when you just say say to someone like, oh, God, I just feel terrible right now and I can’t do I really can’t help you. I’m so sorry. Like, you know, that I would help you if I could. But I cannot. I just I just feel ugh. You know, they’re immediately like it’s OK. It’s OK. Mommy, mommy just. Yeah. Lay down. It’s fine. I mean, you know, I don’t do that all the time, but they’re they’re very generous with me because I’m very straightforward with them about, you know, I give to them when I can and I tell them when I absolutely. You know, also I also have a habit of saying at night, I’ll say, you know, my kids come to me at night with their big plans. Hey, I picked out four sweaters and I want you to help me pick out which one. You know, I’m just like, oh, god sweaters, sounds terrible. Well, I’m like, please, let’s talk about the sweaters. And before 2:00 p.m..

Kate: Yeah, that’s a good rule.

Heather: Like I’m a morning person.

Kate: Yeah. And then it’s just downhill after noon. That’s good.

Heather: I’m just I’m trying I’m experimenting with caffeine in the afternoon now.

Kate: My husband and I have this really horrible, wonderful, like kind of ritual we have where when we both have nothing left to give and we’re like a little bit angry with each other, we’ll just be like, all right, let’s do it. And then we both lean our body weights directly against one another so that we’re entirely propping the other person up like a like a little little teepee. And then we make the most horrible sounds that we can at the same time as loud as we can and just sort of exhale all the hatred we have mostly toward the other person. I find it’s very cathartic.

Heather: That sounds good. That sounds really good.

Kate: It feels good.

Heather: See Bill and I have a thing where, my husband and I have a thing where we just are like it’s kind of like we’re emotionally lying on the floor. Yes. And, you know, usually the lament has to do with dinner. It’s just like, oh, I don’t want to.

Kate: Not again today.

Heather: Thinking about dinner. I don’t care about dinner. And then we’ll go through, like, let’s, you know, let’s drink bourbon for dinner or let’s have let’s have potato chips for dinner.

Kate: That’s cute.

Heather: And it’s almost like cleansing to believe that you could just like.

Kate: Let it go.

Heather: Completely neglect.

Kate Bowler: I think that is what’s so freeing about just saying things like can we have cereal again. I the last thing I want to do is picture myself running or anything like that is just that it seems to run so beautifully against this myth of toxic positivity that you can, in fact, like work your way up into every hard thing. Sometimes it’s nice just to say, like, tell the truth. You know, this is miserable. Today seems horrible. I didn’t plan on taking care of myself or others. I mean, just from the most basic to the most. Telling the truth is wonderfully cathartic.

Heather: 50 oh, god, 90 percent of a marriage is just the ability to tell the truth and hear the truth without feeling contemptuous or alienated from the other person.

Kate: In the community that we have here at Everything Happens, there’s a lot of folks who’ve either gone through something or they’re in some kind of caregiving profession or stage of life where they are really thinking a lot about the needs of other people, but they’re kind of tired. And one of the things I thought that we get a lot of questions is like, how do I be when it comes to advice giving people want to be loving and helpful. But there is this kind of space we’re trying to find between the language of like hyper agency. Like you should do everything, everything could be perfect and then simultaneously not wanting to give people no hope. How do you find that space? Answering people’s questions, but not not pivoting to this, you know, deeply exhausting self-help kind of answer?

Heather: I think that a lot of the movement that helps people, whatever their situation or their story about where they are or how bleak it is, a focus on enjoyment and connection. I mean, it sounds too simple, particularly this year, as things have just gotten darker and things have just gotten darker and darker for so many of us, we’re all in the middle of this weird experiment with bleakness and lack of hope. When I was at the beginning of my sort of the scary low information part of my health challenge, it was like a lot of what I was up against was the idea that I was isolated and alone. Like, there’s no I mean, I know you know how this is. It’s like if you think you’re going to die, right. There’s nothing more isolating than that. It’s like, oh I have to die and everybody else survives. It’s very hard to feel compassion for people who have something that big that you’re not going to have. At one point, my husband said everyone’s just really worried because we all love you so much. And I was like I just said something, you know, I was just like, I hate everyone, I don’t want to hear that. Screw everybody. I mean, I was really I just remember feeling like I don’t want that love at all. I don’t want it you know? It’s hard to describe until you’re there, right. You don’t know. You don’t understand. Like, why would you ever say screw everyone who loves me. Like how could you possibly feel that? But so there there are places you can go that are so, so alarmingly dark. And also the thing that I learned a lot was sometimes you have to stand still and take love from other people. You know, I didn’t realize how hard that was for me to just be still and say I’m suspending my disbelief and I’m going to accept that these people love me as much as they say they do.

Kate: I just love what you’re saying about, like, pulling apart the story that’s being told. Because there’s I mean, the opposite of each version can be really oppressive. Right. That like, if you’re yelling every moment is a gift at someone who’s dying, you know, that’s oppressive. But also but like but simultaneously, it is true that like digging deep into the beauty of the present, like pulls things apart like taffy in this gorgeous way.

Heather: Well, you know exactly what you’re saying. I just want to interject, because I I hated so many of the messages that I got when I was in a tough place health wise. And you realize how hard it is to show up and do it in a way that someone else needs you to do it right. Like you don’t have to counteract with where they are. Part of enjoying the moment is like allowing other people to influence what the moment is, right? So like, if you’re helping someone who’s like, I’m in my misery right now, I’m living inside this misery, right?  Sometimes it’s just healing for them to see you go inside their misery with them, you know. But that means that you can’t be afraid of the dark things either in the moment.

Kate: Yeah, it occurs to me too, that I mean, when you wrote What if This Were Enough that the country was living through a kind of grim spectacle of abundance, right. Where it looked like there should be more than enough for everybody. But then and they were unable to acknowledge the I mean, you write gorgeous things like the enthusiasms of American life thinly mask the specter of death. I mean, like, that is great and intense right. But like but now we’re kind of we’re living in a very apocalyptic moment in which the illusions of what we thought was possible are are likely gone or almost gone. And it is a strange thing to teach yourself to live close to the edge, especially if you’re not used to it.

Heather: Yeah.

Kate: I’ve seen people really kind of go one of two ways on it. Like there’s those who awaken to this experience of common fragility and then just decide, like, OK, like, how do I live beautifully here?

Heather: Yeah.

Kate: And then there’s so many others who just double down on some version of the moment, some version of the like this is the moment to exercise every day to maximize a day without a commute. So why are people this way? Do I have to keep loving them?

Heather: That’s such a good question. No is the answer. You do not OK? No. I mean, I think to keep loving people is always the kind of the answer right?

Kate: Yeah, Jesus did kind of say something like that I guess.

Heather: But you can admit that they’re a nightmare and you could say no to talking to them constantly, you know what I mean, you can say no to seeing people who are just you need a break and you can’t save anymore.

Kate: I mean, the amazing thing about boundaries, it seems, is that it’s the direct answer to the problem of like the myth of invincibility or, you know, immortality or endless energy or the myth of the two hundred hour day is that, like, I am a limited person with a limited body and a limited brain and I cannot answer more than ten text messages.

Heather: Yeah, I mean, my thing is like. I turned in a draft of my book at the end of May. And I said to myself, the next few months I am going to do the bare minimum at my work like not not like write bad things, but just like I’m going to write my column and I’m going to handle my newsletter and that’s it. And I’m not going to do a million other things. I’m not going to make a list of other things that I can get done during this time. If I do those things, I am a success. That’s it. When you start to do that, you feel like you have more time, actually. I say this because I just kind of snuck back into this feeling of like, oh, my God, there’s no time. And I’m like, wait a minute, there was so much time a second ago. Yeah, I got more done when there was, you know, like when my expectations were low, I got so much great not not in the productivity fetish kind of way, but just like I was doing a lot of stuff, I was growing things and cooking and spent time with my kids. And when I get into this scarcity mentality, the same thing with common fragility. If you are feeling if you’re feeling the fragility of existence, space and time open up right when you’re humbled somehow and when you’re when you admit that you’re vulnerable and that you are not on top of the world and you do not have everything under control, connection becomes possible. All of this possibility rushes in when you focus just on survival. Right. We’re just surviving, things are hard, like just make survival your goal. Which includes joy, by the way. Our survival brings us joy. Like, narrow your site’s down to that, because when you get out of the story about how dark things are and you go back to survival and you really just accept I’m just getting through this. Suddenly you’re more satisfied than you were, you know, in the middle of an embarrassment of riches.

Kate: You know, it’s funny, like the worst my life got, I got a sign that just said basic. And then I just like put it up on the wall and I just I kind of I kept it there as being like, oh, like I’m a really basic person. I need to eat. I need to love people. I need to feel a little something of getting something done. And then I need to sleep. And then all of a sudden it felt, yeah, I knew how to like, well, St. Augustine would say, like, you order your loves. And then that felt suddenly very reasonable.

Heather: Uh-huh, Yeah. Yeah.

Kate: Do you want me to quote Saint Augustine more often?

Heather: Yeah, I do.

Kate: That kind of landed and maybe I should do more of that. But you’re you’re so good though on trying not to let the finish line always be just over the horizon, though, like you write about this so beautifully, like the idea that if you just constantly are following these steps or drink these gross juices or wake up earlier or read these books, you’ll get there. But you really question the idea that there really exists.

Heather: Oh, yeah, I think because I sort of landed in a version of what was supposed to be there and I was like this? Now I just want more? Like, is this how I’m going to do it? I can’t believe that’s you know, obviously it’s going to take a bigger reimagining of how I’m living and a kind of redesign of how I feel my way through the world. Just be satisfied because I’m apparently I struggle with being satisfied. And I would say that, you know, although this has been like one of the hardest years of my life, it’s also easily been the most satisfying year of my life, too, because my eye is on, you know, enjoyment and satisfaction. I feel good on a bunch of different levels that I didn’t feel good just a year ago, two years ago. And when you feel good, you help other people by, you know, so many different levels, right? But most of all, you connect with other people without fear, without anxiety, without telling dark stories. And you allow room for other people to, you know, be where they are, which is really the hardest, hardest thing to do.

Kate: Yeah. Yes. Be where you are would be a nice if we could say it in the right tone of voice. I think that’s where we would both land.

Heather: I know, without sounding exactly like Ram Dass. That would have been good.

Kate: That’s true. Maybe maybe that means that the truth is probably not already trademarked. Or if it is, we mean it in a slightly different way.

Heather: You know, we don’t care about selling some branded version of the truth because all we care about Kate is this beautiful moment together.

Kate: You know, what’s funny is honestly Heather I’ve been looking forward to this forever. I do really care about this beautiful moment.

Heather: Well, I’m so glad I can feel that. That’s why we had a good conversation, because you care and I care.

Kate: Well, Heather comma, thank you for showing up today. This was a joy.

Heather: It was so fun. Thank you so much for having me. I really, really enjoyed talking to you.

Kate: Your coffee is probably cold because you’ve reheated it in the microwave once already or forgot where you put your cup down. Your kids are fighting in the other room. You haven’t called your mom and you really should. The dishes are piling up and your inbox keeps pinging you and people keep calling and texting and needing and wanting. And someone has to decide what’s for dinner again tonight. Why does this happen every single night? If that’s you, let’s lower the bar on what we expect from ourselves and one another. Here’s a little blessing for when you want to shut it down. Blessed are you, dear one. There is too much hanging on you and there isn’t enough time or sleep or energy or resources to make it OK. Blessed are you when you are hanging on by a thread or are unraveling at the seams. Blessed are you who wonder if there is enough in this tired moment for beauty and meaning and connection. So instead of pretending we are limitless, blessed are you who have given up the illusions of perfection and are taking this as a permission slip to be basic. Contentment isn’t something we can assign to someone or offer a seven step path to master. It’s not a guarantee. And sometimes the moments of contentedness, can’t even be strung together. It’s like a cloud that can’t be pinned down. Once you catch it, it slips away again. But there is a pocket there. Sometimes when something like magic cracks open, a very ordinary, very boring, very tiring moment, just enough to let the light in.

Kate: Don’t miss an episode. Be sure to subscribe to Everything Happens wherever you listen to podcasts. And I would love to hear from you. Find me online at Katecbowler or at KateBowler.com. Today’s episode was made possible by our partners Lilly Endowment, the Duke Endowment and Duke Divinity School, who support our faith and media project. We are so grateful for their generosity and investment in what we do. And of course, my perfect team, Jessica Richie, our executive producer, Harriet Putman, our associate producer, Keith Weston, our sound designer, and the rest of the Everything Happens crew who make this project so much fun. Dan Wells, AJ Walton, Mary Jo Clancy, J.J. Dickinson, Launa Stewart, Kelly Dunlap, Erin Lane, Jeb and Sammi. Thank you. This is Everything Happens with me, Kate Bowler.

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