Writer Mary Laura Philpott had all the regular kind of parental worries until her teenage son had his first seizure. She had to learn to balance her fear alongside her love all the while recognizing that everyone has something they are dealing with.
In this episode, Kate and Mary Laura discuss:
Do you have a bookclub? We recommend reading Bomb Shelter as your next book. Mary Laura has resources with recipes, discussion guide, and more on her cute website!
What are the different patterns of worrying? Take a test to see at what level your worry registers. Or learn more about different types of worrying patterns.
Read more about Kate’s (mildly strange) childhood book Alicia My Story, that is about a young Polish-Jewish girl who died in the Holocuast
Read the story of Raven Rock by Garrett Graff. Which is where Mary Laura discovered her father worked 40 years after the fact.
Listen for more on the topic of balancing our fear with our love in the conversation I had with Taylor Harris.
Kate Bowler: My son Zach loves to hear me tell and retell the story of the day he was born. And to my great credit, I have managed to remove all the gory and painful bits and distilled it into a central plotline, the great discovery. I always start when I had a baby in my tummy. I knew one day he was trying to get out and the baby pushed and pushed. And do you know who it was? And then he can’t handle it. So he goes, It was me. Because he knows his lines. And I always say. But I didn’t know that yet. And then I went to the hospital and the baby pushed and pushed. And he wouldn’t come out. And do you know who it was? It was me. But I didn’t know that yet. And finally it was time. And the baby pushed and pushed. And finally there he was. And the nurses picked him up and wiped him off and checked him and weighed him. And by this point, he could just, like, not handle what is happening. And he goes. It was me, Mom. But I didn’t know that yet. And then they put the baby in my arms. And we looked into each other’s eyes. And we loved each other. We loved each other that very moment. And then you know what I said? And his eyes are always wide. And this is our favorite part. So we take our time. I said it was you. It was you the whole time. Then. There it is. It was you. And then once there was a you, and there was the whole bit after the feeling where you love them so much that your heart explodes when they walk on a regular sidewalk near a road, or the way your hair on your neck stands up whenever you see them climbing anything taller than a toaster. You know, love, nerve racking, horrible, regular love.
Kate Bowler: My name is Kate Bowler and this is Everything Happens. Sometimes love makes us afraid of all there is to lose. So how do we balance our loves and our worries? When it comes to being a parent in a world that doesn’t guarantee safety, when you can’t promise, your kid will skate by unfazed or unharmed by the world around them. My guest today knows a lot about that kind of love. Mary Laura Philpott is the author of I Miss You When I Blink and Bomb Shelter, Love Time and Other Explosives, which was the well, basically everyone’s favorite, a New York Times Book Review, etc., etc.. NPR everyone. Everyone who is smart, kind, and funny was like, Yes, I love her. Her writing has been featured by the New York Times, The Washington Post and The Atlantic. Mary Laura lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her family, and I already decided we are friends, so thank you for entering my reality at last. Hello.
Mary Laura: Hi. Thank you for having me. I’m so, so happy to be doing this.
Kate: You have such a beautiful way of making like I. I feel that when I hear your authorial voice, it feels warm and loving and, like, hilariously intense about things that I’m intense about. Like, you are obsessed with your kid in a way that. I mean, I always tell Zach, like, I don’t know what happened. I was pregnant. Then you came out of my body, and then a stranger moved into my house. And now all my things belong to you. And I got. And now you may never take risks. Or else you will hurt my heart and stay home and never leave me.
Mary Laura: Right.
Kate: It’s a healthy kind of intensity we have, right? Where they are never allowed to leave.
Mary Laura: It’s perfectly normal. Hilariously intense is a great phrase. I’m going to go change all my social media bios to just Mary Laura Philpott, hilariously intense. It’s I mean intense is right. I’m a very intense feeler. I feel everything very intensely. Not too long ago, I was at a luncheon. I love speaking at luncheons because you get free lunch and be like everyone’s happy. So even if you don’t speak well, they’re happy already because they had dessert. And I was I was leaving this luncheon and it was a group of I don’t know what this club of women is, but they’re all like sort of older and very well heeled and have nice earrings and they just look like they’ve all kind of made it. And I was walking out of the room and a woman who was 80 years old, if she was a day, grabbed my arm and said, Thank you, with this Southern accent, Thank you for coming. You make us all feel less crazy. But that’s why it’s good to feel things intensely and then tell people how intensely you feel them because they feel less crazy by comparison.
Kate: Oh my gosh, that is so real, it reminds me of all the times I’m standing at a party and I see something that I think is normal and so it goes. Thanks so much for opening up. I was like, oh, no, no, no, no. That was regular levels of information.
Mary Laura: Yeah, that was half closed. You haven’t even seen opened up yet.
Kate: So I think there’s such an intimate relationship between love and this desperate desire to throw yourself off a cliff, to protect the object of your love. And how it makes us want to rush toward like I don’t know, it makes me want to bubble wrap everything and everyone I have ever loved. You think a lot about that close connection between love and fear. Why do you think it is that love actually just makes us more afraid?
Mary Laura: Because once you love someone else, you have so much to lose, you know, that’s that that backward deal of the universe. The more love you get in your life, the greater loss you stand to have at some point. Because we’re not immortal. And, you know, as much as I like to imagine myself as some sort of superhero who, by the power of wishing I could keep everyone safe with my love and my care can make it so it is not so. And I know the rational part of my brain, the part that knows I’m not a superhero, knows that to be true. And so that’s the fear that comes with it. And, you know, you mentioned my kids earlier. They’re just one example. I irrationally and desperately fear for my parents. I irrationally and desperately fear for my friends, my dogs. I mean, if I’m driving down the highway and I see a little deer like walking by the edge of the woods, I am irrationally overcome with dread for that deer, I think should I pull over? That could cause wreck and then the more people could get her which is the what’s the least damaging scenario here? I think if you’re a loving person and you’re very in touch with the love that you feel for other living beings, that fear just comes with it.
Kate: I love what you said about the backwards deal of the universe. You just, you accidentally overpay. I find too. Especially when I launched into fear. When, like one second ago, everything was very normal. Like, we can have these befores and afters that are sort of hysterically monotonous at one point. Like, I am doing dishes. People are commenting about if it’s Canada, people are commenting about like rain levels, so many rain levels. And if you wouldn’t mind taking me back to your big lurching moment. You were having this very even kind of moment. And then you were suddenly so terrified for your teenage son. If you don’t mind taking me back.
Mary Laura: We were having, you know what, probably a very typical experience for families that have teenagers when it’s getting close to the holidays and it’s high school exam time and the mom and the dad maybe haven’t done all their Christmas shopping, and I forgot to turn on the crockpot for dinner. Like, everyone was kind of snapping at each other a little bit and being grouchy in that way that loving families often are. But we were getting through it. You know, it was one of those things where I’d given everybody a pep talk that day, like, guys, all right, we’re going to just power through. You study for the exams. I’m going to wrap the Christmas presents. We’ve got just a few more days and then it’s the holidays and we’ll all just get to relax and be together, and it’ll be great. And that night I went to bed, and at 4:00 in the morning, my husband and I woke up to the sound. That at the time in my half asleep brain, I thought was the sound of someone ramming down our front door. I don’t know why that’s where my brain went with it, but it did. So I sat up in the bed and I said the door. And my husband sat up, too. And he was like, I’ll go see. And he walked out of our bedroom in the dark. And I could sort of barely see him and hear his footsteps. And I heard him kind of go step, step, step, like normal walking steps and then running. And I thought, okay, something bad is happening. And I was more awake at this point. So I got up and I ran to where he was, which is in the bathroom, just down the hall from our bedroom. And our son was on the floor. Unconscious. And the sound we had been hearing was his body hitting the tile floor again and again and again. He was having a seizure. By the end of that day, by nighttime, we had had the ride in the ambulance, the trip to the hospital, the EEG. We knew that he had epilepsy, which was a complete shock. But in that moment at 4 a.m., I didn’t know any of the stuff I would know by the end of the day. I saw him on the floor and I thought, This is it. This is the kid who made me a mom like this. He was there for that big before and after. And now here we are at this other before and after death has come for him, like the universe has come to take him back. That is what it felt like was happening that morning.
Kate: Something about how surreal time like that is it feels, it almost feels more realistic than that there could be any other intervention in the world. The way you describe going to the hospital and like untangling all of the words and categories and asking for the new tests and checking with people outside the room. Other experts you knew to make sure that, they were even beginning to like wrap their brains and minds around the complexity of what was happening to him. And then and then the horrible satisfaction of a diagnosis that was like not even really that helpful, it sounds like
Mary Laura: Yeah, horrible satisfaction is such a good term. You know, I’m somebody who I’m a nerd and I like information and I like answers. I like to get an A on everything and even and, you know, life’s most critical crisis moments. That part of my brain is active. So that part of my brain in the hospital that day was like, okay, we need to know what this is. We need to know what happened. We need to know what’s going to happen next. And and so, yeah, like you said, I was talking to the doctors there, but then I was also on the phone with my sister in law. My brother’s wife happens to be a pediatric neurologist, of all things. So I was on the phone with her and she was saying, Bar the door and don’t leave until you get the specific kind of test. And I was like putting the phone behind my back going, I hereby bar the door and won’t leave until you give us this test. But at the time, it felt like if I could just have words for what this was, if I, if I can have a diagnosis and you can tell me what happened so that we’re not wondering. Then then I will feel okay. And of course, by the end of the day we had the words and funny enough, I did not feel okay.
Kate: Yeah, yeah.
Mary Laura: Like, wait, now I have 200 more questions. Which is how life goes. Every time we think, like, there’s just this one thing I need to know and then I’ll feel good.
Kate: Right. You were describing epilepsy as. And different from any other kind. Like, it was like the biggest possible umbrella. So you’re like, well, you have a thing that could be everything.
Mary Laura: Right. It’s a catch all term. It means has seizures. It doesn’t mean like one specific disease. Like there are so many things that are considered epilepsy, like one, you know, you might have epilepsy and I have epilepsy, but we live completely different lives with completely different seizures and symptoms. And so, you know, we knew a little something when we left the hospital that day, but there was so much we didn’t know. And that kind of kicked me into this overdrive of trying to figure out, all right, I have more uncertainty than I’ve ever had in my life and it feels more critical than it ever has before. How can I get some certainty?
Kate: Yes. Some people seem kind of born wired for worry, and other people learn to worry, especially the more they experience that side of luck that makes you feel like you’re just falling through every crack in the universe. If you’re going to do one of those, like, personality, 17 magazine personality inventories like, What kind of worrier are you?
Mary Laura: Who am I? I you know, I love those tests. I love any test that gives me a label.
Kate: I’m a Leonardo DiCaprio. Just joking.
Mary Laura: Right.
Kate: Those are always the choices.
Mary Laura: I took a personality test once that was supposed to tell you your top personality trait. And I wish I could remember what the test is called, but I took it. I filled out all the answers, and I got to the end and it said, Surprise. You have a tie. You have two top personality traits. And they were cheerfulness and anxiety. And I thought, I have never felt more seen in my whole life, that is so extremely accurate. But it was like the kind of worrier I am. I think some of it must be hard wired. Because I can remember being very young. And having these sorts of leanings when like, there’s nothing that could have made me a worrier when I was that little, there was a part of me, even when I was really young, that was drawn to the dark side of the human experience. Not so much, you know, like, you know, I’m a super dark goth little kid. But just out of curiosity, you know what? Okay, I know people die. I know pets died. What is that like? Like, what are all the ways you can die? I went through a phase when I was really little where I was reading, I would go to the little scholastic book fair and spend all my money on sad books. Yes. So I bought like A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry. You know, all of those. And I just ate them up.
Kate: My parents drew the line when I ordered Alicia My Story. It was like the fourth story of young Polish-Jewish girls who died in the Holocaust and they were like, Oh, Kate. That we’re like, Yeah, we might need to. I was 800 pages into another, like, deeply tragic account of. But what I wanted to know was. Who are we if? And what happens if you take the lid off this whole world? Then what would I find? What goes in and what comes out?
Mary Laura: And and if I can understand that, then maybe I will be prepared for whatever comes my way. If I can understand the absolute deepest depths of every different feeling you can have, nothing’s going to come along and surprise me. Nothing will happen that I’m not prepared for.
Kate: First of all, I’m so confused that we grew up apart. I mean, obviously we were basically next door neighbors emotionally.
Mary Laura: But I think there are some people who are drawn to that way of thinking and feeling and seeking out those feelings to try them on and be curious about them and really feel that part of the human experience and some who are not. I mean, I know, like even today at age, how old am I? 48. I will read books or watch movies where just awfully sad things happened. And then I will try to go recommend them to friends like, oh, you got to watch the show. It takes place in a hospital and my friend will go, No, why would I watch that? So I get that it’s not everybody. Like, not everybody is like, let me just go ahead and marinate in the darkness for a while.
Kate: I don’t think I’ve ever talked to anyone about my my horrible long stretch, only reading Alicia My Stories. So thank you. This was deeply cathartic.
Kate: What was your parents relationship like to worry? Your dad had a very post-apocalyptic job that might surprise some people.
Mary Laura: Literally. Yeah. That’s the reason the book is called Bomb Shelter. The original title for the book, when I was working on it as a draft, was Hello from Upside Down, which is the name now of the second chapter. And it was called that all the way working through until I got to the chapter, I started writing about my dad’s job that he had when I was little that I didn’t find out about until I was like 42. I mean, I was I was in my forties when my dad casually dropped into conversation, something about a new book that had coming out at the time by Garrett Graff, who is so smart and really interesting historian. The book was called Raven Rock. And my dad was like, Oh, you know that new book, Raven Rock, about the government’s secret underground nuclear shelters that they maintained throughout the Cold War, you know, where they could, like, hide the president case of the nuclear bomb. And I was like, yeah, I have heard about that book. He goes, Yeah, me too. It reminds me of when I worked there and I was like, When you worked where Dad? And he was like, at Raven Rock.
Kate: It would remind you of that. That, I suppose.
Mary Laura: Well, I suppose it would, since it’s about that exact thing. And that is, you know, immediately I hit him with like 20 questions, like when, where, what, where was I? You know, apparently all this took place when I was a toddler. My brother was an infant. We lived outside Washington, D.C. And of course, I’ve known all my life that we moved around a lot when I was little because I remember moving. I knew we moved for reasons that had something to do with my dad’s medical career. He’s very specialized, and so he was doing fellowships at different times. Like we lived in Durham for a while when he was doing something at UNC. So I knew we moved a lot, but I never really questioned why we lived any specific place and therefore had never gone Well, why did we live outside D.C.? And it turned out it was because my dad was one of the Army doctors whose job it was in case of the big bomb dropping. To get in an ambulance and go over to Raven Rock, open it up, receive the president and whoever the other chosen people are. Lock it down and keep everyone alive. That was one of his jobs was to literally prepare for the end of the world run drills. And and I didn’t know it until a few years ago. And so their relationship with worry, I don’t know. It’s so different. Like my understanding of their young adulthood now is so different than it used to be. But they were born, you know, right at the beginning of the Cold War, the end of the forties, beginning of the fifties. That’s when they started showing those little videos to schoolchildren about if you hear the siren, hide under your desk as if a desk could, you know, keep your safe from a nuclear bomb. That’s what they grew up in and we’re used to. And my dad was in the Army and had this training and just very much was of a generation where you do what your government asks of you. And they asked him to be the guy that gets ready when the bomb drops. And so he did. And then didn’t mention it for 20 years or 40 years. Yeah.
Kate: Your little wondering like, hey, just curious if you plan to leave as you had promised to do. What? Where would I go? Right in this scenario. Exactly.
Mary Laura: That’s one of the things that kind of dawned on me in waves after that phone call with my dad, I was like, oh, my gosh, what an amazing job. What a huge responsibility. Wait a second. They don’t let the staff people bring their families into the you know, the special bunkers. We would have been, you know, blown to hot dust, I guess. And that’s something that he walked around with. And my mom walked around with him and she knew what he was doing. Maybe it’s no wonder that I grew up with this little streak of dark worry on the inside. Like maybe I was absorbing things that I didn’t fully understand. Who knows?
Kate: The idea that worry is something that we can’t easily unlearn, and it might pop-up in funny ways. I loved reading about how your dad used to send you those nonperishable food stuff to college. Like, Oh, here we go. Canned beans.
Mary Laura: Right. But, so that was when I was like 18. So I’m 18 getting these boxes that, you know, everybody else gets boxes from their parents and they had copies of like magazines and cash and brownies. And I would open it up and it’s like four layers of canned fruit, you know, and then canned meet, it with no note, just a box of canned food. And no kidding, my roommate and I used to joke. Does he think we don’t have food? Does he think we’re building some sort of survival bunker? We used to make that joke. Twenty something years later. It all makes sense to him. You know, just like to us now, once your kid’s life starts time moves so differently. And so to him, the 18 years between me being a baby and him doing those test runs for the end of the world and me going off to college felt like a second, you know? Whereas to me it was like 18 years of being a child and then growing up it was all this time. It all makes sense in retrospect. In such a strange way.
Kate: Looks exactly like, worry. And probably about $40 of shipping at the post office. Yes. Still really. This will really be worth it.
Mary Laura: She’s going to love this.
Mary Laura: Like I wish thinking back, like I could have used all that Chef Boyardee. It’s like I could have bartered with it, you know? I could have gone to parties have been like, I’ll give you two before rudeness if you give me one beer. But we just ate it.
Kate: I like you so much.
Mary Laura: But, I mean.
Kate: I’ll give you two Beefaronie.
Mary Laura: What do. What do I need to trade to get one Yagermeister at this party?
Kate: When the bad thing does happen, at least in my brain, it does a very strange thing to my. Experience of worry. You said something like worry programs us into this sort of like this “what if” relationship. And then it feels like it’s cements then into a kind of if then for me. Then I’m like, then I feel like I have a predictive superpower over the whole universe.
Mary Laura: Totally. And I have this conversation all the time with my therapist because she actually says and she’s correct, that if you’re too good at storytelling, what happens is your brain, which is spitting out all these what if stories: What if the plane goes down? What if there’s a flood? What if what if what if your brain tells the stories to well. And they’re very believable and they seem very real. And then you have an actual emotional reaction to that made up story. So you go through the stress, the emotional stress, and honestly, the physical stress, like the heart beating and the sweating and everything of of of reacting to something that hasn’t even happened. But all it takes is one time for it to be right.
Kate: For it to be always right.
Mary Laura: One time that you’re like, what if there was a flood? And the next day there’s a flood and you’re like, See.
Mary Laura: I am a superhero and can predict the future. And because I thought about it in advance, we had sandbags ready. So this is what I now have to worry about everything constantly, because I’m the only one keeping all the planes in the air.
Kate: That’s so true. I think I think that happens, too, for people who. In the persistence of pain, uncertainty becomes so intolerable.
Mary Laura: Yes.
Kate: I just need this to be over. So I know that when I’m. I’m having a lot of I have chronic pain. And so sometimes I have these big spirals and in the middle of it I would pick an ending even if it was an unfavorable. Like, look, I just even if it was terrible news. I would want that last note to just get played already because I’m like, going to strangle someone if I don’t get that.
Mary Laura: Yeah, I just need to know when and how it ends. I was talking to a friend the other day who has kids a little older than mine, so my oldest is about to turn 20, my youngest is about to turn 17 and this friend of mine has hers are like early twenties. And I was asking her, when do the adolescent brains grow up all the way? Like when can you count on them to be rational and make a decisions? When does that kick in? And she was like, Oh, for some people, the brains fully grow up at 26, for some it’s 25. And I was like, No, I need you to tell me exactly how much longer I have. Like, I need to know when.
Kate: To lock this down.
Mary Laura: Right? Like when, when is the date that I can exhale and go, okay, you’re going to make smart decisions now their brains are fully cooked and they’re not this, you know, adolescent mismatch of chemicals and impulsivity and everything else that is in every 17 and 20 year old brain. And sadly, my friend could not give me that date, but I really wanted it.
Kate: Do you like every year they send her like one of those 365 day tear away calendars, right? And be like, write it in, sweetheart.
Mary Laura: Which one? Which one?
Kate: You have this family motto that I find incredibly comforting, and I know it doesn’t sound nice on the surface, so let’s let’s dig in. But you you say everyone has something.
Mary Laura: Yeah.
Kate: What is that? What does that mean in your context? And let’s talk about how wonderful it is, because I find it a delight.
Mary Laura: I thought you might. It feels like something, you know, honestly, it feels like something you would say. I mean it and I can’t really take credit for it. I think my husband is the first one who actually, like said it out loud around the dinner table. And it was shortly after my son had gotten his diagnosis and was learning how to manage his epilepsy. And learning how to manage, as you know, a chronic condition is like such a decision tree of who do I tell? and which medicine do I keep in my pocket? And how much rescue medicine do I keep on me is that, you know, there’s so many. Yes, no. If yes, then do this kind of questions to answer. And so he was going through this like. Do I tell people at school? You know, for my own safety, do I need to tell people so that they know the first aid to do, or are people going to be weird about it? Should I not tell people? And I think it was my husband who was like, listen, buddy, you can’t tell by looking at everyone, but everyone has something, you know. And then we kind of went through like just around this dinner table. Okay, my husband has Grave’s Disease, which is a hypothyroid kind of thing that he has to take medicine for every day. I have migraines. Mom has migraines like awful, terrible barfing migraines. A baby sister has asthma. You know, she has to walk around with an inhaler all the time, like a little cartoon character. This dog over here has an eating disorder. This dog over here has pancreatitis. Everyone has something. But people that walk around with labels that say, my thing is vomit is migraine. So you don’t know. So you you go to school and you think to yourself, oh, this is a lot of pressure to tell people, I have my thing. But what you don’t know is they all have their thing too. And, some people have more than one thing. Some people have lots of things, and people are carrying around not only their own thing. But the pain and weight and burden of someone else’s thing. You know, their kids in high school, you don’t know their mom is an alcoholic or you don’t know their dad is going through something awful. People are carrying around all this stuff and you don’t know. And that makes it sound like the world is really full of misery. But that’s not what I mean. What I mean is look around and see all these people smiling and having a good time. They’re doing that while having whatever their thing is. You keep going and you you live the little domestic daily parts of your day. While also, you know, taking your medicine or giving yourself the shot or going to bed early or whatever your thing is that you have to do. This is just what we all do. That’s life.
Kate: I also like the idea, though, that everybody has misery because
Mary Laura: I mean, that, too, you know.
Kate: Only because then we all know, like then, then when, then, we are all you know on the course. I Well, there’s a couple of people now I won’t name names, the people I specifically want to experience the knowing. But it is a lovely feeling when you’re like, oh my gosh, well, everyone has something. And and the multiple somethings. I’ve been dealing with chronic cancer stuff and now I’m dealing with a very unrelated, also incredibly time expensive, emotionally exhausting chronic pain situation. And when I would use it, everyone has something. I was like, Oh yeah, it’s okay. I can and I can even have multiple somethings.
Mary Laura: You can, although you know that the other stupid, twisted, deal of humanity is that you don’t earn any kind of credit by managing your thing well, that you can use to get out of having another thing. Despite the fact that we sometimes behave like that. It’s not like, well, if I’m really good about my thing that I don’t get another one. You could still have another one. No matter how consistently you did your stretches and took your medicine and whatever else, you could still have your other thing. And that’s just life. And I feel like the sooner you kind of again, this is one of those things that could sound dark. But I think it’s really right. The the sooner and more openly you accept, it we all have a thing and sometimes we get more than one thing and we can’t always fix it. Then, then we can stop struggling. We can stop doing that superhero thing that half my brain wants to do where it’s like, No, if I just wish hard enough, I can make things the way I want them. That is struggle because it’s impossible. And struggle hurts that the sooner I say, look, we all have a thing and we cannot fix our thing, but we can do the best we can by each other every day while walking around with our thing. It’s a little bit of a bummer, but also it takes the struggle out and it’s and it puts the focus back on, okay, what if you can’t fix your thing and you can’t be magical and you can’t be a superhero who, you know, puts invisible bubble wrap around everyone you love? What can you do? What could you do right now? Like, what could I do right now that would make somebody laugh or bring joy to somebody, or bring some tasty thing that someone could eat? Like, what can I do for myself or someone else that will just make this moment happier?
Kate: Yeah, I like that you right away went to snacks. You’re like, the world is full of sorrow.
Mary Laura: Or How many brownies am I going to have right now? Because that would bring me joy. Honestly, it does. And that is why I keep chocolate in the house all the time.
Kate: You are a complete delight. Thank you so much for doing this with me today.
Mary Laura: Oh, thank you for having me. This is a joy this is an absolute joy. And I feel like it’s something that should happen all the time.
Kate Bowler: I love what Mary Laura said about the backward deal of the universe. We imagine that love will make us safe, that if we just predict all possible outcomes, we can guarantee a certain future. But. But that’s not how it works. But as hard as we try, the more we love, the more fear we have. So here is a blessing for all of us learning to carry our love and our worry. Blessed are you looking at the miracle. The surprise before your eyes. That kid you prayed so hard for. The relationship you hoped would come. The feeling of family you get when you’re all together. This chest expanding, heart bursting. Time, please slow down, kind of love. The kind of love that would really prefer to be rolled and bubble wrap. To be protected just a little longer from the harshness of this world and shows our helplessness in keeping them safe. It is a wonder that so much love makes us so afraid. Blessed are we who remember this strange equation that was so much we have. There is so much to lose. Grant us gratitude for the villages who make us feel less alone and the needs we cannot meet. The guarantees we cannot make. The futures we cannot predict. Grant us the practice of presence to count eyelashes, squeeze in another bear hug and linger in the doorway a little longer. Because, yes, the days are long, but the years are short. And that is what this moment offers us. Grant us the wisdom to show them the world, in its wonder and tragedy, its brokenness and splendor, where joy and sorrow somehow coexist. And grant us courage for when we have to let go of the fear, of the worry, of the hands we long to hold, knowing, trusting that our loves and worries are held together by someone greater still. Amen.
Linnea from Washington State: Hi. My name is Linnea. I’m from Washington State and I have two teenagers. And what I wish they knew about my love for them is that my love for them is not to restrict them. Not to make them miss out on life. Not to hold them back or make them small. But rather my love for them is to show them how grand life is, how big and beautiful and full life is. And they don’t see that. And I just wish, I wish they could and I know they will someday. But right now all they see is the boundaries. They see the negative. And I want them to see that that’s not it at all. We want so much for our kids and that is why we love them, because we want so much for them. And we see the beauty and the amazingness that’s in them and we want to draw that out. Thank you.
Carol: Hi, my name is Carol. So just briefly, my daughters are adults. They’re 30 and 33. And we live kind of far apart, one in Amsterdam and one in Cleveland. And what I want them to know is that a mother’s love is capacious. In other words, any time we talk and have heart to heart and share what’s going on in our life, I’m always struck by the capacity for loving them more and more. And I love this feeling after I hang up of feeling heart full. And I look forward to all the hopefully the years ahead where that capacity for love growing and being able to share that with them means the world to me. So thank you for making this possible to hear that. Bye bye.
Stephanie from Seattle: Hi. My name is Stephanie and I’m calling from Seattle, Washington. What I wish my kids knew about my love and maybe worry for them is that after losing their sister to heart defects a couple of years ago, the bravest thing I’ve ever done is not wrapping them in bubble wrap and just keeping them home. Every risk I let them take is, just, it takes so much effort to let them do that, knowing what could happen. And yet I know that they need to, you know, do the normal child things. They need to climb. They need to ride their bikes. They need to, you know, cross the street to get to school and, you know, all those things. But being a bereaved parent who is connected to a lot of other bereaved parents for support, I know I’ve opened the Pandora’s box of everything that could go wrong. I know that there’s just so many things that could happen. And, you know. I see cars and trees and windstorms and furniture that’s not anchored to walls. And I know that all these things can be deadly. And I know my kids someday will probably talk about how anxious their mom was all the time. And I want them to know that it is so hard to let them just take normal levels of risk knowing what could happen and knowing what it feels like to have a child die. They hope that they know that it’s because of my love and worry for them.
Morgan from Flagstaff: Hi, this is Morgan from Flagstaff, Arizona. I want my daughter to know that the way the weight of how I love her. The magnitude of what has so much gravity that it changed the fabric of my universe. The way that time works, the way that I orient myself, everything is different because of how I love her. And I want her to feel the… I don’t want that to be a weighty thing or a burdensome thing on her. But I want it to be something that she feels like it’s a cradle that she can sink into.
Jennifer from Rome, GA: Hey there. I’m Jennifer Collins, calling from Rome, Georgia. I think one of the most difficult things as a parent is the tightrope we walk between holding our children close while also slowly letting them go. Of worrying for their safety and future and mental health and friendships. And the future where their phone is and why they can’t find their shoes. So not letting them see our own worry and echo it in their own lives. Even so, both of my children, as they have, they’ve both struggled with anxiety and depression in very unique individual ways, especially since the pandemic. I think it’s important for our kids to know that they’re unconditionally loved by both of their parents and that they have a strong space that anchors their lives. But there’s not a day goes by that a million little worries don’t pop up. The biggest thing is that they feel loved and safe. Thanks, Kate. Love your podcast. Listen every week.
Kate Bowler: A really special thank you to our generous partners who make this work possible. Lilly Endowment. The Duke Endowment. Duke Divinity School and Leadership. Education. And to my wonderful team, Jessica Richie. Harriet Putman, Gwen Heginbotham, Brenda Thompson, Keith Weston, Jeb and Sammy. Thank you. And I would love to hear what you thought about this episode. Would you do me a favor and leave a review on Apple Podcasts? It really, really means a lot to us when we get to hear what we do well and also might even do better. You can also leave us a voicemail and who knows? We might even be able to use your voice on the air. Call us at 919-322-8731. All right, lovely. I’ll talk to you next week. But in the meantime, come find me online at Kate’s Bowler. This is everything happens with me, Kate Bowler.
One thought on “Everybody Has Something”
Your podcast is great.
In the opening intro to this program, you told about a conversation with your son about when he was born — “It was me!! This would make a fabulous children’s book (with the perfect illustrations. Just the back and forth of your statements and his responses is wonderful. Title- “It Was Me!” Please do it!
I had a baby in my tummy. I knew one day he was trying to get out and the baby pushed and pushed. And do you know who it was?
It was me.
But I didn’t know that yet.
And then I went to the hospital and the baby pushed and pushed. And he wouldn’t come out. And do you know who it was?
It was me.
But I didn’t know that yet.
And finally it was time. And the baby pushed and pushed. And finally there he was. And the nurses picked him up and wiped him off and checked him and weighed him.
It was me, Mom. It was me!
But I didn’t know that yet.
And then they put the baby in my arms. And we looked into each other’s eyes. And we loved each other.
It was YOU all along!