Feb 17

“Tell Me More”: 12 Hardest Things to Say

One of the most popular nonfiction books a couple years ago was Kelly Corrigan‘s Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say. “It’s a crazy idea: trying to name the phrases that make love and connection possible. But that’s just what Kelly Corrigan has set out to do here,” states her publisher.

I’ve compiled a list of Corrigan’s 12 things, which are also the titles of her chapters. Featured as well are snippets of what they’re about.

It’s Like This.

About having a full life as well as about the grief process: “…It’s like this. Minds don’t rest; they reel and wander and fixate and roll back and reconsider because it’s like this, having a mind. Hearts don’t idle; they swell and constrict and break and forgive and behold because it’s like this, having a heart. Lives don’t last; they thrill and confound and circle and overflow and disappear because it’s like this, having a life.”

Tell Me More.

How to listen better, how not to cut in with self-serving talk and opinions. Helps people feel heard and valued. “Makes you wonder what else people might tell you if you just keep asking questions.”

I Don’t Know.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in our lives. It’s okay to make peace with this. “I try to be one of the exceptional people who can live with the complexity of things, who are at peace with the unknown and the unknowable, who leave all the cages open. I tell myself: There’s so much that you don’t know, you can’t know, you aren’t ever going to know.”

I Know.

Connecting through showing understanding.


Setting boundaries doesn’t always make you well-liked, but it does make you better at self-care. “One friend told me her one big takeaway from three years and $11,000 of therapy was Learn to say no. And when you do, don’t complain and don’t explain. Every excuse you make is like an invitation to ask you again in a different way.”


Things the author will always say yes to.

I was wrong.

Kirkus Reviews: “…(T)he funniest entry in the collection…highlight(s) the power and near-impossible difficulty of admitting personal fault.” And apologizing meaningfully: “According to my mother, the cornerstone of a proper apology is taking responsibility, and the capstone is naming the transgression. Contrition must be felt and conveyed. Finally, apologies are better served plain, hold the rationalizations. In other words, I’m sorry should be followed by a pause or period, not by but and never by you.”

Good Enough.

Realizing you can’t be perfect. No one is.

I love you.

I love you.
The first time the words pass between two people: electrifying.
Ten thousand times later: cause for marvel.
The last time: the dream you revisit over and over and over again.

No words at all.

“Despair defies description…the reach of language can be laughable.”


The following is from the closing of a letter Corrigan writes to Liz, her very close friend who’s died: “He and the kids are moving onward, not away from you but with you…You are everywhere they are. I love you through them.”

This is it.

Appreciate what life is, as in having a family.

The abstract performance art called Family Life is our one run at the ultimate improv. Our chance to be great for someone, to give another person enough of what they need to be happy. Ours to overlook or lost track of our bemoan, ours to recommit to, to apologize for, to try again for. Ours to watch disappear into their next self–toddler, to tyke, tween to teen–ours to drop off somewhere and miss forever.

Apr 25

“The Call to Courage”: Brene Brown

The Call to Courage, Brené Brown‘s new Netflix special, may be more for the uninitiated than those of us who’ve already been reading her books or watching her TED talks. On the other hand, if you are a big fan, why not keep up and keep on by also watching what John Serba, Decider, is calling “a Quadruple-Sized TED Talk Crossed With Standup Comedy“?

What Brown offers about her pre-Netflix background, as relayed by Serba:

 …(S)he’s a smart, grounded self-described introvert, albeit one who found herself unexpectedly shoved in a bright spotlight. She tells the story of her rise to fame, explaining how she didn’t want to give a dry TED Talk, and instead dared to shed her ‘academic armor’ for something more personable. That took two things. What were they again? Oh, right: courage and vulnerability! Her talk went viral. Then she read the nasty online comment section, and retreated inward. Her antidote? ‘Peanut butter and ‘Downton Abbey’,’ she deadpans, to big laughs.

Then Brown gets down to it, notes Alice Field, ReadySteadyCut, offering her now-well-known-to-some take on vulnerability: “(V)ulnerability is not weakness, but the most accurate way we have of measuring courage. Brown’s life provides a series of case studies with lessons learned, but she doesn’t put herself on any pedestal: she’s no show-off about how she’s applied everything she’s learned.”

On the downside, adds Field:

If there is a flaw to this special (and there is), it’s that the case studies, and indeed dialogue with the audience, are very white, middle-class heteronormative: the psychology and lessons may be pretty current, but it doesn’t feel like she relates them to a broad contemporary world. She talks about the current ‘social and political **** storm’, and explains how business people need vulnerability in order to innovate, be creative and hold difficult conversations, but it’s apparent that she sees these issues from a very specific, narrow viewpoint. For example, she assumes everyone she’s talking to works in an office, seemingly forgetting that people with any lifestyle might watch on Netflix.

Other key takeaways from The Call to Courage are provided by Michelle Darrisaw, OprahMag.com. First, in order to “find the same sense of love, joy, and belonging that Brown learned comes from putting yourself out there,” there are three questions to ask yourself.

  1. Am I willing to open myself up for love?
  2. Do I really belong, or am I just fitting in? “…Belonging is belonging to yourself first. Speaking your truth, telling your story, and never betraying yourself for other people. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are. It requires you to be who you are, and that’s vulnerable.”
  3. Deep down, am I scared of being happy?

Second, “six misconceptions she often hears from subjects about vulnerability”:

  1. Vulnerability is weakness. 
  2. I don’t do vulnerability. “You only have two options—you do vulnerability knowingly, or vulnerability does you,” Brown says…
  3. I can go it alone.
  4. You can engineer the uncertainty and discomfort out of vulnerability.
  5. Trust comes before vulnerability.
  6. Vulnerability is disclosure. “…There’s no vulnerability without boundaries.”

You can view the trailer below:

Oct 18

“A Star Is Born”: Why You Might Feel Triggered

What does remake-of-a-remake-of-a-remake A Star Is Born, with Lady Gaga (Ally) and Bradley Cooper (Jackson), depict that some viewers may find troubling? Ahead are possible triggers and spoilers from review excerpts.

The Coupling

Britt Hayes, ScreenCrush: “…a perfect reflection of institutionalized misogyny; it is a movie that is very much of our time, but we are living in a time that demands so much more — at the very least, criticism of a world in which the best a woman like Ally can hope for is marrying into fame with an alcoholic because he’s the only person who ever admired her nose.”

Misogyny and Boundaries

Headline by Aja Romano, Vox, is A Star Is Born has a problem with consent”:

Throughout the film, Lady Gaga’s character, Ally, says no, and her ‘no’ is always converted into a ‘yes’ by men. This happens again and again, from every man around her: her father and his friends…

Narratives where a woman’s no always means yes directly contribute to rape culture. Sexual harassment and assault occur in part because men are taught to view women as saying no when they mean yes, and to wear women down through repeated asking until their no changes into a yes.

Ally’s Mental Health

Aja Romano, Vox“Despite the number of lines given to its female star, no version of A Star Is Born has ever cared about her psychological makeup, pivoted around her decisions, or given her much agency over her own career.”

Jackson’s Addiction and Emotional Abuse

Robyn Bahr, Vice: “…It’s truly one of the best cinematic examples of an emotionally abusive relationship I’ve ever seen. And much like real life, it’s hard to detect when toxic behavior crosses the line into systematic emotional abuse.”

Jackson’s Mental Health

Elizabeth Cassidy, The Mighty: “While Jack goes to rehab, which happens in other renditions as well, we could expect Jack to seek more mental health treatment than would have been available in the ’30s, ’50s or ’70s.”

Aja Romano, Vox: “When he ultimately realizes his disgrace is hurting Ally’s career, he decides to die rather than continue hindering her rise. It’s framed as a tragic, noble sacrifice — but while it’s absolutely a tragedy, it’s anything but noble, because it’s brought about in part by his inability to see Ally and her career as existing apart from him.”

Britt HayesScreenCrush: “While the impetus for his relapse (Ally’s producer makes a couple cruel comments) seems flimsy, the actual relapse and subsequent suicide are deeply upsetting — and borderline triggering for anyone who’s lost a loved one to addiction.”

Concluding Thoughts

Li Lai, Mediaversity Reviews:

By all means, go and enjoy A Star is Born. Cooper and Gaga bare their souls in this film, and that level of vulnerability is brave and laudable. But know that its 1937 story goes wholly unchallenged and can be discomfiting to watch in certain scenes, especially given these current times where, much like Ally, women continue to be controlled by broken men with too much power in their hands.

Robyn Bahr, Vice: “Jackson Maine is a tragic character because of the childhood neglect he suffered and the heartbreaking choice he makes at the end of the film. But his inner demons don’t absolve him from inflicting devastating control over the woman who loves him and, hopefully, viewers see that message loud and clear.”

Aja Romano, Vox:

A Star Is Born keeps being remade because Hollywood is besotted with the mechanics of stardom, refracted here through a lens of male power and female submissiveness. It’s deeply frustrating that this story has reappeared, with all its problems, at a moment when we’re taking a hard look at the very kinds of power imbalances and consent issues within the industry that this film reifies, and even romanticizes. Maybe by the time the next remake comes along in another 20 years or so, we’ll have finally figured out that it’s really just a bad romance.

Oct 16

Prodependence: Alternative to “Codependence”

I use this term to describe healthy interdependence in the modern world. Essentially, prodependence occurs when attachment relationships are mutually beneficial — with one person’s strengths filling in the weak points of the other, and vice versa — and this mutual support occurs automatically and without question. Robert Weiss, Psychology Today

Prodependence: Moving Beyond Codependency by experts Robert Weiss and Stefanie Carnes offers a new approach to helping the loved ones of addicts.

Whereas codependence “is a deficit-based trauma model that views loved ones of addicts as inherently traumatized, out of control, and overly obsessed with their troubled loved one,” prodependence “is a strength-based attachment model that views caregiving loved ones of addicts and other troubled people as heroes for continuing to love, help, and remain attached, despite the debilitating presence of addiction or some other serious issue” (Psychology Today).

Weiss’s most recent Psychology Today post “Codependence: Is It Time for a New Model?” uses this subtitle: “After 35 years of codependency, perhaps it’s time to celebrate dependence.” In other words, to support loved ones versus blame and shame.

The newly coined term prodependence, therefore, emphasizes healthy interdependence and mutual support, rejecting the pathologizing notion that caregivers are always rescuers, enablers, and/or controllers. “To treat the loved ones of addicts using prodependence, we need not find that something is ‘wrong with them.’ We can simply acknowledge the trauma and the inherent dysfunction that occurs when living in a close relationship with an addict. Then we can guide them toward loving more effectively, with better self-care and boundaries.”

With this prodependence model, the attitude of therapists and other providers changes (Psychology Today): “Instead of being confrontational with spouses and others who love and care for addicts, we need to be invitational. We need to meet them where they are and teach them not to walk away, but to support in healthier, more prodependent ways. Rather than preaching detachment and distance over continued bonding and assistance, as so many therapists, self-help books, and 12-step groups do, we should celebrate the human need for and the pursuit of intimate connection, using that as a positive force for change.”

From Weiss’s most recent Psychology Today piece on the subject (also mentioned above):

Interestingly, prodependence recommends and implements the same basic therapeutic actions as codependence: a fresh or renewed focus on self-care, implementation of healthier boundaries, and an ever-improving response to the addict and the addiction. But prodependence views this work through a different lens. Prodependence does not ever ask loved ones to doubt themselves, to doubt their love for the addict, or to consider some of their loving as pathological. Nor does it give them any reason to feel as if they are ‘part of the problem.’ I believe that we can create change in such partners by validating their efforts as being nothing but love — no matter how ineffective — and then shifting their efforts toward becoming more useful. We do not need to discuss enabling, past trauma, or the spouse having contributed to the problem.