These Beautiful, Terrible Days

with Bob Crawford

We are kicking off Season 12 of the Everything Happens Podcast (!!) with a little bonus situation because we’re having a little bonus moment. Kate’s new book HAVE A BEAUTIFUL, TERRIBLE DAY! Is available everywhere books are sold today.

It is a book of daily meditations meant to ground whatever day you’re having—all of the ups and downs and inbetweens. And who better to talk about that with than my friend, Bob Crawford. Bob is the bass player for the wildly popular band The Avett Brothers, and someone who knows too well how terrible and beautiful life can be.




Bob Crawford

Bob Crawford plays the upright bass, bass guitar and violin for the Grammy-nominated Americana band The Avett Brothers. He joined the band in 2001 after moving to Charlotte, NC from New Jersey to pursue work in TV and film production. Crawford recorded with Scott and Seth Avett on the band’s first full-length album, “Country Was.” The band has since recorded nine more albums, won four Americana Music Awards (for Emerging Artist of the Year in 2007 and Duo/Group of the Year in 2007, 2010 and 2011) and earned three Grammy nominations, most recently for the Best Americana Album award for “True Sadness.” The group was the subject of the 2016 HBO Documentary, “May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers,” which also chronicles Crawford’s daughter Hallie’s treatment for and rehabilitation from brain cancer. Crawford and his wife Melanie, along with two other families, currently help lead the Press On Fund, an organization that raises money to discover groundbreaking cures and therapies for childhood cancers.

Show Notes

Bob mentions the Frederick Büchner quote from his book Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith,  “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

Bob Crawford has been a part of The Avett Brothers since 2001. He plays the upright bass, bass guitar, and violin for this Grammy-nominated band.

Rob Delaney wrote a memoir about his two-year old son Henry, who died of a brain tumor in A Heart that Works, you can listen to Kate talk to Rob about it in the podcast A Heart that Works is a Heart that Hurts.

Dr. Haider Warrich is the author of Modern Death: How Medicine Changed the End of Life and Song of Our Scars: The Untold Story of Pain.  Kate and Dr. Warrich talk about chronic pain in this episode Embracing the Complexity of Pain.

Learn more about St. Jude Children’s Hospital and how you can help them continue their good work.


Discussion Questions

  1. Kate and Bob talk about living with residual pain and the long aftermath of loss. Kate argues that you can’t just carry the horrific thing, receive it, and put it down. Instead, we have to face the “ongoingness of it.” How are your grappling with the ongoingness of the “beautiful terrible” in your life?
  2. Scars carry deep meaning in the Christian tradition, particularly in connection to Jesus’ own wounds. After being raised from the dead, Jesus continued to carry the scars from his crucifixion. Why did Christ keep his scars even in his resurrected body?
  3. Kate recalls a conversation with her son where they both wonder if faith will actually make life easier. She recounts her response: “My deep hope is that faith will make your life really beautiful, but it’s probably going to make it harder.” How have you experienced this duality? In what ways has faith made your life both beautiful and hard? 


Kate Bowler: Oh, hello. My name is Kate Bowler, and this is Everything Happens, a podcast where I give you five quick shortcuts to a better, easier, healthier, you! No, no, I, I just just joking. I would never I would I would never do that to you. I love you too much to lie to you. This is a podcast where I get to have funny, wise, and tender conversations with some of my very favorite people about the things we need to sustain a life that we can’t always control. If you found that the truth of your life could not be expressed in a Christmas card this year, welcome. I actually one time did have a Christmas card of my grandpa’s girlfriend, which made everyone really uncomfortable. I put that on my college room door. But hey, we don’t all have stories that we can tell at parties. This is a podcast where we can be honest about the ups and downs and in-betweens. Here, we know that life is so beautiful, and life is so hard. Sometimes on the exact same day. We are kicking off Season 12 of the Everything Happens podcast, if you could believe, it with a little bonus situation because I’m having a little bonus moment.

Kate: My new book, Have a Beautiful, Terrible Day is available everywhere books are sold today. I’m so excited. It’s a book of daily meditations. It’s meant to ground whatever day you’re having. It could be a totally garbage one. It could be a peak moment. But it’s a book that invites you to take a moment to acknowledge that up and down and in-between feeling that makes up everyday life. I wrote it last year when I got stuck in a loop. I was going around and around and around the same stupid problem. Maybe you like to jazz things up with multiple problems, but I’m not fancy like that… When it comes to problems, I’m a minimalist. I like to see, like, really commit to knowing where one problem can take me. So I had some neck pain and that really did it. I had neck pain, which became more pain, which became more pain. And before I knew it, I got stuck in a loop. And I was going around and around and around endlessly revolving like a human drill. And before I knew it, I was so deep in it, that I couldn’t get out. Maybe your loop is your relationship. You’ve had the same fight 200 times and now all your sentences start with “you always!” And no one will tell you that you’re right, but you’re right. He always does do that. And you’ve had this fight 200 times now, so frankly, you would know. But don’t worry, you can tell him tomorrow when you have that fight again. You just go around and around and around. Or maybe it’s your kids. You advocate for your kids, you worry about your kids. Maybe you even wish you knew enough to worry about your kids. But they’ve shut you out and you can’t even know. Or maybe it’s your parents. You were hoping you might have that feeling by now. The wholeness of people who really understand each other and have sorted through the past and the present like adults. But that seems less and less likely now. They’re slipping away mentally or physically. Or maybe they’re gone altogether. This feeling of a loop. We can’t get out of it. We can’t get past it. We find ourselves hoping that we set out on a journey, only to realize that we are right back where we started.

Kate: When we live like this, with that kind of awareness, an awareness that we’re living inside of forces that we can’t control, I think that is when the beautiful and the terrible becomes so much clearer to us. That these are terrible days and these are beautiful days. But somehow both realities feel inseparable in our minds now. We have the sense that something bad might happen and has already happened. We read the headlines and we nod, yes, we think, of course that would happen. We worry about gas prices and global wars and who will be elected. We worry about kids and parents and friends. We worry about what we’ve already endured and what will happen next. How are you? People ask us. Anxious, we reply. But when the sun begins its nightly descent, what do we do? We just find ourselves searching for the horizon. And we have the sense that something lovely will happen and already happened yesterday. We notice how the sun pools into oranges and deep reds. And our breath begins to slow. We nod. We think, yes. This is also what happens. We marvel at good medicine and the invention of cheese dip and the wonderful evil in our children’s eyes. We look more closely at flowers and realize that the whole cold shower thing was really a terrible idea, and that that whole thing was really stupid, and we need to stop doing that. We find ourselves surrounded by the daily miracles of planets turning, and stars blinking, and people who hug us when we come through the door. How are you? People ask us. Grateful, we reply. We might feel terrible or wonderful here at the dawn of 2024, but this is the new way of being in the world. That feeling of rising and falling or looping around the same discovery that these are terrible days and these are beautiful days. And we know that now.

Kate: I was trying to figure out who wanted to talk about that sort of thing with me, and I thought, well, well, who’s better to talk to than my friend Bob Crawford? Bob is a musician. He’s the bass player for the unbelievably famous band, The Avett Brothers, who I adore. He also has a history podcast called, The Road to Now. So yeah, you’re picking up on the fact that someone else on the planet wants to talk about history as much as I do. And he had a life-transforming experience when his two-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor and she’s now a teenager. But Bob can’t unknow what he discovered during the last decade of caring for this beautiful girl. That sometimes we fall into loops, and problems endure beyond a crisis. That we have to learn how to live with joy, and courage, and hope even after the dust settles. He knows intimately the highs and the lows of life. Plus, he’s soulful and kind. So, yeah, you’re going to love him.

Kate: Bob, thank you so much for doing this with me. You are like a friend, a friend of my heart and also worldview that I’ve known for such a long time. So, when I was thinking about this book coming out, I was like, who really gets the whole thing? And then I was like, oh, wait, there’s Bob.

Bob Crawford: Well, Beautiful Terrible’s kind of, it’s kind of my thing.

Kate: It is your thing!

Bob: I mean, I just, Frederick Buechner, “Here’s the world. Beautiful, terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. Or fear not.” Whatever it is. And, uh, I’m afraid I’m just going to go right there. But something you’ve done since your, your tragedy, tragic experience, and then the books you’ve written that have enriched so many of our lives. Uh, sincerely, I say that. Uh, you have not been afraid to say it’s okay to be afraid, right? It’s okay to say this sucks. It’s okay to curse. It’s okay. The, the, the rules—there’s not as many rules as you, maybe you once thought. You know?

Kate: Aw, friend, I was trying to think about the timeline of when we first met, and I think I was maybe I was certainly still in treatment. And I think you were a couple of years out from the experience your family had had that was such an undoing. Yeah. And I think we were, but we were both pretty much in the thick of it. I wondered if you could take me back to that. That Bob.

Bob: Uh, August 28th, 2011, I was on a plane coming home from Europe from a tour in Europe. We landed. I called my wife as soon as I turned on my phone. I was in Charlotte. I live in Durham, Chapel Hill, Raleigh area. And I called my wife and, uh, she said there’s something wrong with, honey, there’s something wrong with Hallie. We’re at the hospital. It’s got something to do with her brain. We don’t know what it is. It’s really bad. Get here as soon as you can. And, um, what had happened that morning was, well, we had a two-month-old son and our Hallie, our daughter, was 22 months old, and my wife found her in her crib having a seizure. She was, uh, posturing. Her arms straight out, her, her eyes were, like, moved out to there, her left eye was like, you know, out to the side. Uh, and so my wife, uh, gathered her up in a blanket and brought her downstairs. Called the ambulance.

Kate: That must’ve been terrifing.

Bob: Uh, brought her to the UNC Chapel Hill. Scan. Mass on the right side of her brain. And so when, when I landed and called, this had already been, you know, we’re about 5 or 6 hours into this insanity. And somehow in my wife’s worst moments of her of her very existence, she called our band manager and said, you know, Dolph, you got to get to the airport, you got to meet Bob, he’s not going to be able, when I tell him what’s happening, he’s not going to be able to make it back to Chapel Hill. And, and so it’s like here she is, uh, you know, dealing. And then she’s managing. Pretty amazing.

Kate: She’s reaching through the basement into the subbasement to make sure you don’t fall.

Bob: Yeah.

Kate: That’s so love.

Bob: I’m numb. I hang because we don’t know what the extent of this. We just know it’s bad. And Scot Avett is next to me, and he guides me off the plane not knowing either. He gets me through customs, you know, like, literally, like by the arm and talking to the people for me. And he gets me through customs and, uh, and so Dolph’s there, he meets me. And Scot says, “I’ll come with you.” And here we are, we’ve been gone for for three weeks. And Scot, you know, Scot lives right there. But he, you know, he’s got two young children like, you know, I have two young children. And he jumps in the car not thinking, uh, you know, anything, but just being there. And serving, right. Like, we learn about this, going through all this stuff, the servants come out of the woodwork. And, uh, so we get to uh, you know, that long, it’s like that long two-hour drive to Chapel Hill from the Charlotte airport. And anyway, we get there. And then friends have assembled and we are in, Hallie’s in surgery and we’re at the, uh, the PICU waiting room. And, uh, I do something I’ve never done before. I gathered everyone together, and I said, let’s pray.

Kate: That you’ve never done before.

Bob: Uh, you know.

Kate: You just weren’t that guy.

Bob: To boldly at that time. No, no, no, I was raised Catholic. Uh, always believed in Jesus. The Christian worldview was in me. But as I got into teenage years, you know, it just it just. I just let it go.

Kate: You weren’t just like the, the guy who was like, “Gather around, everyone.”

Bob: No no no no no no no, I was, I went through all the phases. Uh, you know, Buddhism, which I have a great deal of respect for, uh, make let’s make our own religion. Why don’t we just make our own? Let’s take the things we like from here and there and all this stuff. I was just, became convicted in that moment for, for Christ. I pray. You know, we prayed and, uh, and that was…my faith was, was there. That was going to be how we were going to get through this, was going to be with faith. And that beared out. That beared out. Hallie had strokes from her seizures. She had the tumor. She was in the you know, she had the surgery that took out the right side of her brain because the tumor was so big, they just took out most of the right side of the brain. She was placed in a coma because her brain was swelling. You know, the pressure in her head, their intracranial pressure was swelling. For about three weeks it was, well, if the the brain damage doesn’t kill her, the, uh, the tumor is going to get her. And there were times where my wife and I would take these walks around, you know, Chapel Hill at, like, 7 or 8:00 at night, kind of the end of the day. And we’d be like, let’s fight the cancer. Let’s get let’s get to the cancer. Can’t wait to get to the cancer. Right. Like, she’s got to make it to the cancer. And then, and then she made it to the cancer and we went to Saint Jude for the cancer. And there’s a whole story about that. And then it was like, you know, she’s going to fight the cancer. And so she, six months of chemo. Tumor came back five months after that. Did, uh, three months of, uh, of radiation. Uh, had a seven year remission. Uh, and it came back in September of 2020. And so we met in the normal in the seven years.

Kate: In between.

Bob: In that beautiful seven-year—and, you know, brain tumors, you get it to five…I think a lot of people feel pretty good about that, especially the pediatric brain tumors. Thing is, Hallie’s tumor never acted like what they, they diagnosed it as, they had two different diagnoses. It never behaved like either of those. She wouldn’t have made it to seven years if it did. And they, uh, Saint Jude being the state of the art, you know, center that it is, in 2015, retested her 2011 tumor and found it to be this very rare B core mutation that, um, the survival curve went up after a certain period. Uh, there are only 15 known at the time. Now, there are, you know, several hundred. But now that we have time to look at it, they do, they tend to relapse. Radiation works, but they tend to relapse, uh, after about six, seven years. So in 2020, she had full brain and spine radiation, a second dose radiation.

Kate: So, and how old is she then?

Bob: She’s 14. And she’s every bit—and here’s the beautiful, terrible, right? So yeah, her, her being here is the blessing. It is the prayer answered. It is the gift of God.

Kate: Yeah.

Bob: And in her, in her disabled state. In her, in her like, but she still, you know, the one thing I prayed in the earliest days is, I prayed that she would know joy. Because we were being told all kinds of things, right? They tell you all kinds of things because they don’t know, so they just tell you things. And, and I said, uh, I just pray that she can know joy, whatever that, whatever that state is. And she’s got that in abundance.

Kate: Yeah.

Bob: Being 14. She knows, uh, a lot of other things, uh, because there’s, there’s the typical 14-year-old girl, which, from what I hear, can be difficult to deal with at times.

Kate: I was in my Ethan Hawke stage when I was 14. You know, it’s good.

Bob: Very much like my wife. Uh, but Hallie… So the beautiful is we have her. The terrible is dealing with a teenage girl that is, you know, trapped inside this body that doesn’t—she can’t just slam the door and, and go away. You know. So, so it’s, there’s these challenges, but you always got to remember. The beautiful is here. The beautiful we can deal with it. We can. We can deal with, uh, everything else. But then, Kate, we also have to deal with the, the “else.”

Kate: I know people really, also on the, on the, like praying that she would know joy—it reminds me of what Rob Delaney wrote a beautiful book about his son, and he was talking about what he, what he wanted for him. He’s like, yeah, I want to support research and stuff, but also, like, I really just want, like, puppies. So it really, he really thought so much about joy. When you think about, like what returns, that like, effervescence back to just surviving. Then sometimes it is like, what? What is going to make this not just bearable, but somehow strangely lovely?

Bob: Yeah, yeah, there are weird, um… We go to Saint Jude, you know, every, we’re, we’re getting close to six months. Every six months, we’ll go back and forth. There’s a comfort to arriving. There’s a comfort to the hospital. It is like the, you know, because you lived these worst days of your life, you know, in these walls, and, and you… I say I survived. No, my daughter survived. She survived it. We as a family came through it. And so when we go back there, sometimes I’ll be at the UNC, like when you’re in the hospital and, like, you’re using the soap and there’s a smell to the soap. Yeah. And all those nights at the PICU and sleeping, we slept, my wife and I slept on Boy Scout cots in the PICU waiting room. And sometimes I’ll be in an institution because it’s institution soap, and I’ll smell the soap, and it’s, it just takes me back. And there is an odd comfort, right? You don’t want to—She like, my daughter’s had to go back in for hip surgery, all these awful things. And there’s nothing as miserable as having to spend a night in a hospital. But we spent months and months in hospitals. And sometimes there’s a, reflecting on it, there’s a comfort to it.

Kate: It’s weird. It’s clicks in to my, I feel the same strange peace. There’s always like, the waiting and the needles and the taste and the sounds, but there’s like a, a very strange familiarity and love that I have for being there. And I think sometimes it’s because I feel like I can finally see everything. I could see reality clearly, and I feel like I can sometimes only see it when I’m there. Like the little, the hand on the back, the…the old and the too young. One of the closest friends I made in the last long stretch was my chemo nurse, who, like, still comes to visit. And there’s such a, there’s such an intimacy in that love, because you don’t get to hide all the things that you normally get to hide. And that always makes me feel like I know something about God and other people just by being in the walls.

Bob: I feel like, if I was talking to your parents, you know, you have…you live it. You didn’t lived it. You live it. Hallie lives it like you. Like, you two, there are things that only you two can connect on. Your folks? I would connect immediately. Whenever I meet a parent of a of a child who has cancer or has had cancer. I just, hey, like you know me. You don’t know me, I’d probably annoy you, but, but I feel connected to you.

Kate: I guess one of the different things that I was thinking about with this book, as opposed to like having just gone through like the acuteness of tragedy, was the ongoingness of living life as you have to continue to like, live through. Like you can’t just, like carry it and then like receive it and put it down. But it’s the ongoingness of it. And I had a stretch that lasted almost a year, where I had so much debilitating chronic pain that I couldn’t, I couldn’t think for most of the day. And I was so, I was so frustrated because I didn’t realize that it was just all the sort of aftershocks of having had eight too many abdominal surgeries. You know? And like, there was just, there was too much like, residual damage, basically. But I thought that I had arrived somewhere in my life and I was really ready to get on with it. Like there’s nothing visibly wrong with me. I have taken on an aggressively busy schedule. I have blazers now. I was like, let’s get on with it. So I was so discouraged and overwhelmed by the idea that my life was overwhelming again, and that really clued me into something I hadn’t really calibrated, which is like, what is the right amount of being afraid? Because that kind of fear, I mean, I fear physical pain. There’s also like fear, like an anxious awareness, an awareness of the world as it is, like an apocalyptic feeling, like there’s so many kinds of fear that we carry. And in there, for me especially, was like the fear that there just wouldn’t be enough, like enough in a day, enough. And I would run out. And I think I was really scared that I would run out, like in public or like someone would see me be undone. And so then I and then the temptation is just to make your life smaller and smaller.

Bob: Right.

Kate: And I know that that’s just like I mean, that is, I guess, one of the, the early good, bad lessons I learned from cancer is like if, if it, if you listen to the fear, then the world can become so small that it’s no longer beautiful or exciting. Or you’re never surprised because you know exactly what’s going to happen. But if you make it too large, then you’re just not being realistic and like, what’s what?

Bob: Here’s the thing about you, Kate is, like, you have connected with all of us because you shared, you talk about being out in the world and feeling the pain, and now you’ve taken on commitments and you’ve, you’ve created this, this world that people can enter with you. People connect with you because you’re not hiding it, right? Because you’re in the world and you’re like, look at my scars. Look at what I’m carrying. I know you’re carrying this, too. Like everybody’s carrying something. How can our world be so divided when we’re all suffering? Like what? What is wrong with us?

Kate: Yes. Right. Surely that should be the universal language.

Bob: I think I raise the thing about your folks because, um, I don’t want to sound like I know what it’s like to be a cancer patient. Like when I tell Hallie’s story, I tell it from the perspective of a father. And a father, when, you know, and you’ve talked about this in your books, it’s like parents, like the gig is protecting the child. Keeping them alive. Like that’s the gig. Like you can’t do that one thing, you know? You know, it’s like. It’s like you can’t do that one thing. You can’t. And so there is this, uh, just it’s just as everyone can imagine, it’s it’s earth-shattering, but it’s a different earth-shattering.

Kate: There’s, like, the forms of fear, like fear of your own helplessness is the fear of a of a parent with a sick kid. I mean, I guess mine is always, like, fear that I won’t be able to carry, I won’t be able to carry, yeah, the weight of my loves. It’s like, I signed on to things and people need me. And also, I already went through the bad thing and now I’m good, right? And now I’m awesome.

Bob: That’s right, you’re cruising.

Kate: And like, yeah. And I think just to get hit again with, uh, with an, um, unmanageable circumstance really made me try to figure out more about how we like, set the dial on our days and our weeks and our years, as opposed to just imagining that, like, fear is an on-off switch.

Bob: When Hallie first got sick and like, I essentially left the band for a year. And but I would come back occasionally for like Bonnaroo or this or that or Red Rocks or something, and I would come back and I’d be on the bus and they’d be like, I bought these $150 pair of jeans. And, you know, ah, I went out to this amazing foodie experience and I had six, seven-course meal. And I’m sitting there going, I hate you so much, you know, and then I realized I was bitter that people were living life. And my life was sitting in a hospital. And with the future just so foggy. The future’s foggy for all of us, we tell ourselves it’s not. But it is. But I got to a point where I could admit to myself was, I can’t wait to get to the point where I want the $150 pair of jeans, and I want to go out to the restaurant and have the good meal. Like I want, there is something, uh, about the ignorance of the beautiful, terrible.

Kate: Yeah.

Bob: But Hallie, you know. But we, but we, we can’t be ignorant. Like we are all just shapes and shadows floating around. I think you know the people that Jesus healed—they were healed. And then they died. At some point, they died. You know, we can’t deny that.

Kate: Can you make that a devotional series where that’s just the title? “The people that Jesus healed  were healed dot dot dot, but then they died.”.

Bob: At some point! Maybe there was another good 20 years. Maybe. Maybe not.

Kate: I guess that’s my… It does always feel like a kind of protest to the argument that faith is always supposed to make your life easier. I think, ultimately I think it will—I mean, I was having this discussion with my son the other day because I guess we kept accidentally hearing, bumping into one too many messages about how Christianity was going to make him happy. And I was like, oh, sweetie, probably not. But, um. I was like, look, I mean, my deep hope is that faith will make your life really beautiful, but it’s probably going to make it harder. And I just like I want the disclaimer up front.

Bob: Yeah.

Kate: I, um, I think I got some… I’m just thinking about good advice for having a greater, like, a wider aperture for the beautiful, terrible or the ongoingness of the pain that lingers. And, I think some of my conversations I had with I had this, uh, doctor that I interviewed for the podcast, Dr. Warraich Haider, and he wrote this beautiful book on chronic pain called The Song of Our Scars. And he’d had a gym injury. The injury, just like, was crushing pain. And he was a doctor. And like so much of being a doctor is unbelievably physical. And he’s like, Kate, I don’t… so he wrote this lovely account of the physical and mental relationship with managing pain. And I thought that it was such a good—the argument he gave me was so good because it also worked for like, emotional pain or anxiety. He just said, I think I need to just shut things down. I’m really worried that this pain is going to be so bad that I can’t get through regular things, and then I’ll have signed up for all these things. And he’s like, whoa, whoa, okay. Also, good for you for saying that. I know you didn’t want to say that. But you need to pause for a minute and think about what makes your life really meaningful. Is it going on these trips? Is it this particular kind of time with your family? Like, what is it that’s making your life really meaningful? And before we pump the brakes on any of that, ask yourself if we can find a way to kind of, like, ride the wave of the experience through the things that matter most to you. Because I promise you, if you shut it down completely, you will have so much more time to think about how horrible your life is.

Bob: Right, right. Yes.

Kate: And I was like I. And so I, I walked him through all the choices I was making, and he was like, Kate, I don’t think any of those are going to compromise. I think you just at some point you have to choose. You have to choose to believe that there is a way through this and that you will pick up solutions along the way. You don’t know them right now and then, and then, all the, the future becomes sort of painted over in tar, but like, stick with all of the meaningful things. And then just promise you’ll ride it like a slightly gentler wave. And I’m so grateful that I did, because I had a really beautiful year. It was a really painful year, but like, had I shut the whole thing down because I was scared, I wouldn’t have been able to have enough time to find more solutions. Because I did. I mean, none of it became amazing, but I found all kinds of small things I could borrow from that started carrying my life forward, and then it gradually became more and more manageable.

Bob: Talk about the pain for a minute. Like managing it. Like what, have some things worked? I mean, have you been able to manage the pain?

Kate: I mean, some stuff really didn’t work at all. I did the regular, like, round robin of doctors and chiropractor. Oh my gosh, I’ve really tried all the like primary and then secondary and then all the things that insurance doesn’t pay for. Um, and most of the medical interventions would just lead me right back to surgeries and narcotics and I, I’m not great on narcotics. I get so itchy and, and the truth is, it only lasts for a few hours, and then it’s gone for me. So it was more just trying out a bajillion different kinds of subspecialties. And people just had like, little and, you know, and it’s all the, like repeating your same story over and over again.

Bob: Isn’t that  the worst part?

Kate: Oh my gosh.

Bob: I mean, and again, you know, but when the doctor, the new doctor comes in to get, you know, Hallie’s history or where even the things that I’ve gone through, it’s like you almost want to stop, um, going, seeking help because you don’t want to have to tell—.

Kate: I don’t want to tell the story again.

Bob: And somebody maybe not believing you.

Kate: Absolutely. I wish I could make it like a, uh, like a short musical and then just have other people perform the musical and then leave. But what’s so funny, um, Dr Warwick, that, doctor who was so helpful, he was like, “Kate, pain is a performance. And I know you don’t want to, I know you don’t want to perform anymore, but if people…but you have to be willing to show the whole thing.”

Bob: So he trying to say squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Kate: I think he was trying to say, you gotta…and that resistance to not wanting to turn myself out again, but turning, you gotta turn yourself inside out. And like, and it will be an emotionally expensive experience, right? And because, otherwise I’ll want to report it. And then the person who flatly reports it, I haven’t given any of the emotional impact. I haven’t really used all of my colorful adjectives. I mean, I haven’t, like, laid it out, because I’m tired of laying out. It was 40 times ago that I cared the last time. So yeah, I think he was like, Kate, you’ve got to be willing to like, sing the whole song.

Bob: Right? Is this the song?

Kate: Yeah, it’s a brief, it’s in the key of E-flat.

Bob: It’s beautiful. It is. It’s a, it’s a beautiful book. So. You have a, this is a, would you call this a devotional?

Kate: Yeah. Yeah. Kind of daily devotionals.

Bob: So what separates this devotional from your other devotional?

Kate: I think, because I wrote them, in the time frame that I had. Like, I really only had about an hour and a half of clear brain space before the great decline. And so in my day. And so I had a short period of time. And so that’s the amount of time I wrote it for. And so one day I’d write a blessing, the next day I might write the reflection. But I wrote it imagining that a person who wants to manage the beautiful and the terrible in their day, but isn’t entirely sure how they’re going to swing it. I imagined what that person might need, like just a little bit like a, like a little bit of a reflection, like a tiny bit of teaching and then a little Scripture and then something because I think when we’re not sure what to do, the next step is weirdly not arguments, it’s poetry. Like it’s making it back into art and love and the kind of sending it on out to God and other people.

Bob: Well, it’s like a psalm. These are like Psalms.

Kate: Yeah. That’s right. I guess that is. Have a Beautiful, Terrible Day! is really, it’s just about precarity. It’s about feeling delicate and how that doesn’t go away. And like, and wanting and then wanting to have more and more spiritual language for it. I feel like I’ve got a lot of good—it’s funny, like, social, cultural, historical arguments about why we can’t talk to each other like that. But then I was like—

Bob: Which don’t help in the name of crisis, right?

Kate: Yeah! But then I’m like, well, yeah, but how do I talk to God about it? So I think that’s maybe where I started to go is like, I know what I think, I know what I believe, but like, how do I use it to actually get through how long and hard things have continued to be so. You know, it’s so funny because, you know, I spent nine months where I mean, by about 4 p.m., I couldn’t I couldn’t see anybody. I was like, lying in the bathtub. Sometimes I would just be like, walking somewhere. And I had so much pain that I would just, like, double over, throw up in my hands, like, really nice, like publicly pleasant, just stuff you don’t want to tell anybody because it’s terrible. And it just, um. And then it got better and better and better. And then it was like it never happened. And I guess that I find that so strange and so comforting. Because the great lie of pain is that it never ends. So you don’t even know if you should ask for help, or you can ask for help, or if anything is ever going to help. Because the ongoingness of it is the great, um… maybe the need for this better spiritual language for me is like, what is an antidote to despair? And I think it is the right amount of hope, a bearable amount of hope. It can’t be so much that it feels delusional because then I don’t believe you anymore, and it can’t be so little that I’m like, cool. So I should just kind of do this on my own. But like transcendence in the everyday enoughness for me to get through. And then let’s just try it again tomorrow. Bob, thank you so much for your kindness, for the fact that you share a heart, obviously, uh, with me and so many others. It’s really nice having a beautiful, terrible life adjacent to yours.

Bob: And same for me and Kate. Thank you for all that you do. For all of us, for letting us, you know, swear. You’re like giving us permission to, to, to love God, to have faith, but also, you know, get pissed off every once in a while. Be afraid.

Kate: Be very afraid if you’re afraid. That’s the best. I’ll be sure to tell everyone. Thanks, friend.

Kate: Isn’t he perfect? Yeah. Yeah, I thought so. It feels really good to say that Have a Beautiful, Terrible Day! is out today wherever books are sold. There’s even an Audible version if you want to hear the sweet, dulcet tones, tones of this semi-bass. I was always given the low parts in my all-female acapella group at McAlister College. The whole thing has been kind of a long effort in figuring out how to be honest, and I started saying, “Have a beautiful, terrible day!” because I didn’t know how to capture that feeling. Where things are lovely and also delicate and sometimes almost impossibly difficult. So I, uh. Wanted maybe to give a little bit of language to myself and to other people to be able to capture that feeling. So. In closing, then maybe we could bless that feeling. The beautiful, terrible of our lives in which every bouquet feels like it’s made of thistles. Blessed are we, the anxious, with eyes wide open to the lovely and the awful. Blessed are we, the aware, knowing that the only sane thing to do in such a world is to admit the fear that sits in our peripheral vision. Blessed are we, the hopeful, eyes searching for the horizon, ready to meet the next miracle. The next surprise. Yes, blessed are we, the grateful, awake to this beautiful, terrible day. Thank you for sharing your beautiful, terrible life with me and we will be back next week for season 12. Have a Beautiful, Terrible Day! is available everywhere books are sold. Each day includes a short reflection, a blessing for things like regret, or busy days, or quieting an anxious mind, and a little prompt to help you feel a little bit more grounded. And we have a link for it in the show notes. And if that sounds like what you need for your beautiful, terrible days, we’re also inviting people to read it for the 40 Days of Lent, which begins on February 14th. The most romantic of days to really just think about your spiritual life. I’ll be sending out a daily email with that day’s reflection prompt. If that sounds like your thing, sign up for free at that’s L-E-N-T. We’re so excited for you to listen to our conversations this season. It’s going to be such a good one. Next week, I’ll be speaking with Surgeon General Doctor Vivek Murthy and Duke men’s basketball coach John Scheyer. And if you’re wondering, what does she know about basketball? Don’t worry: nothing, nothing. We are talking about the loneliness that we all feel, maybe especially right now. If you’ve got a little post-holiday blues, they offer some really helpful tips on how to build meaningful connections.

Kate: And as always, I am nothing without the people around me. My team worked so hard to bring you this upcoming season. Thank you so much to the Lilly Endowment, the Duke Endowment, and Duke Divinity School, which really supports all of our projects. This podcast is really my favorite group thing. A big shout out to my team Jessica Richie, Harriet Putman, Keith Weston, Gwen Heginbotham, Brenda Thompson, Hope Anderson, Kristen Balzer, Jeb Burt, Sammi Filippi, and Katherine Smith. And we do it all for you, I really wish there was a song there, but, um, I’ll work on it, but we really do it for you. Yes, you in the car or doing your dishes or sitting around right now. You are our absolutely favorite person to hear from and we are so grateful to make useful things for you. We love hearing from you. Leave me a note on social media. I’m at @KateCBowler and leave our team of voicemail. You can call us at (919) 322-8731. I’ll talk to you next week, my loves. This is Everything Happens with me, Kate Bowler.

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