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.”
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.”
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.