Discussion Questions for Kelly Corrigan: Tell Me More
1. Kelly’s book, The Middle Place, describes a year in which, incredibly, both she and her dad had cancer. Although in her thirties at the time, she says, “The threat of losing my father was the very first adult moment of my life—even though I had checked some boxes.” Can you recall one of the first adult moments in your life? What thought, feeling, or action marked its significance?
2. Now Kelly finds herself in a different season of life, one marked by the loss of her friend Liz. Losing Liz prompts Kelly to feel an urgent need to deserve her life, to be different after what she’s experienced. How do you try— and fail—to savor the life you’ve been given?
3. “Sometimes the trivial is tragic,” Kelly reflects. It’s tiny moments, like when a widow recognizes there’s no one to help zip her dress, that weave the fabric of grief. What do you know about these seemingly minuscule, but often meaningful, moments of human connection or disconnection?
4. Tell Me More is Kelly’s book of hard phrases she’s learning to say. One of those phrases is “It’s like this,” which she picked up from a meditation teacher when feeling caught between the world of glorious insights and mundane irritants. Where in your life would it be nice to hear “it’s like this” right now? What would this phrase change, if anything, about your worldview?
5. “I don’t know” is another phrase Kelly writes about. People hate it, she says, especially as it relates to why something bad happened to you—like cancer or divorce—because they want to know how to prevent the same fate. When have you had to say “I don’t know” in response to other peoples’ curiosity? When have you gone looking for certainties in other peoples’ stories? What did you learn from either experience?
6. To say “I was wrong” is different than saying “I’m sorry.” Kelly calls it a game changer because it admits to seeing the world the way someone else sees it. Is it hard or easy for you to say “I’m wrong?” In what relationship could an earnest “I’m wrong” be a game changer for you and your people?
7. The phrase “Tell me more” is an antidote to the vanity that we can fix others’ problems. Instead of solving for the first symptom someone shares, it goes to the thing behind the thing where the pain really lives. What have you discovered about the magic of “tell me more”? What prevents you from using this “witchcraft,” as Kate jokingly calls it, more often?
8. Kelly also writes about “the end of words” after the loss of Liz. Can you a recall a time—significant or ordinary—in your life when you experienced “the end of words”? What did you find about the power of silence? What did you find about the power of other people’s “potted plant”-like presence?
9. In what she describes as the most important and moving chapter of her new book, Kelly writes a letter to Liz in which she says of Liz’s children, “They are moving onward, not away from you, but with you. You are everywhere they are.” When have you experienced a “transcendent belonging” like this? What is hard about it? What is hopeful about it?
10. Kate espouses the value of little mottos that sum up big truths like her family’s “Don’t let the turkeys get you down” or Kelly’s “Things happen when you leave the house.” What motto would you like to adopt for the season of life you’re in now?
Bonus: After listening to this week’s podcast, what part of Kate and Kelly’s conversation resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?
Discussion Questions written by author, editor, and facilitator Erin S. Lane.
For more discussion questions and helpful resources, visit KateBowler.com.
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