Friday, March 5, 2010

A Divine LIFT--My Interview with Kelly Corrigan

LIFT (Voice) has arrived. I've anxiously awaited Kelly Corrigan's newest effort ever since I finished The Middle Place, one of my all-time favorite books. I cried like a baby when I read its last word--both because it's just that good and because it was over. I sent fan letters to Kelly applauding her amazing memoir. Now The Middle Place must make room on my favorite's shelf for Corrigan's latest, LIFT. The book is a single-sitting read. Kelly wrote this open letter to her daughters, Georgia and Claire. Like a spring breeze, the book wafts through my mind, caressing, lifting and reassuring me in my daily infusion and experiences with my children.

LIFT is about life;
lyrical, brutal and poignant. It's about mothers. And children. And the myriad of exquisite, excruciating experiences this journey provides. How does a mother go on after the death of a child? How does a woman, who is already a mother but without a child, become a mother? How do we reconcile the soaring joys and plummeting depths of parenthood? With LIFT, Kelly suggests that we do so with honesty, gratitude and grace.

Not surprisingly, Kelly delivers her message effortlessly, truthfully and poignantly, like a dear friend, with whom you're talking over a cup of joe or a lovely glass of wine.

On LIFT's debut day, Kelly and I met in New York and talked about LIFT and life.

When I arrived in her room, Kelly's makeup gal was glamming her up for the day's events and photo shoots. I felt like I got a sneak peek at the bride before her walk down the aisle. Kelly greeted me with one of her signature brilliant, flashing smiles and we dove in.

We talked about being mothers. We dished about consumerism. We laughed. We even cried a bit. We compared notes about parenting young girls who demonstrate period-like behavior and emotions YEARS before the actual period begins.

"It's just a simple fact--being a parent is hard", Kelly said, "so let's just all say it out loud."

Right on. Amen. Hallelujah.

Kelly says that yes, the book is a letter to her girls, but even more, it's a tribute to her Aunt Kathy and her dear pal, Meg--her muses and inspirations. Both women's tragic but touching stories provide guidance for Kelly as she navigates the perilous parenthood path.

Kelly's Aunt Kathy lost her child, Aaron, when he died in a car accident. Kathy dealt with his loss with grace. She reminds Kelly that she feels lucky--lucky that she got to know Aaron for 20 years. Through her grace, she provided Kelly, and now all of us, a brutal but poignant primer on being a parent. Risk, and even death, are part of the equation.

In LIFT, Kelly writes about her daughter Claire's brush with viral meningitis. When Kelly and her husband left the hospital, they tucked Claire into safest crooks of their bodies and hearts. Kelly reflected that this experience marked "the beginning how of I came to know what a bold and dangerous thing parenthood is. Risk was not an event we'd survived but the place where we now lived."

Kelly's dear friend, Meg, watched her 40th birthday approach and depart--and she wasn't married. She ached to be a mother; Kelly supported her with this sentiment, "I think you, in particular, were born to be somebody's mother."

During our conversation, Kelly tearily reflected on their experiences and said, "When you love someone, all you really want to do is lighten their load." Yup. We all know that feeling, that pit in the bottom of our empathic hearts that desperately wants to help lessen someone's grief, yet we can't quite find the words to permeate their pain. Kelly accomplished just that through LIFT. She did it for her Aunt Kath, she did it for Meg, and she did it for generations of mothers, current and future, by granting them the permission to be raw, true. LIFT grants all mothers a hall pass--all emotions embody a place and come with purpose.

As we talked about LIFT, Kelly encapsulated the book this way, "Because of Kathy and Meg's stories, it's a huge step for people. LIFT takes you back to a place of total gratitude. Don't forget--you are so lucky to have that kid sleeping in a room in your house." She went even further and said that if the only thing LIFT does is remind us to be grateful, then that's fine for her.

Before my chat with Kelly, I felt irked--more than usual--by the everyday chaos my children brought. Natural, normal, I know. Now I remember what I forgot: I must circle back and give thanks for the gifts the journey imparts. After our interview, I returned home to two sick children--and instead of letting the disequilibrium overwhelm me, I embraced it. I get to care for these children and help them feel safe and better. I'm honored.

True to form, after Kelly revealed her hope that everyone return to a place of gratitude, she quipped that once that gracious moment passes, we'll all still send our kids off to the basement, to watch a movie, because we need a break. Yeah, we're grateful, but that doesn't mean we love everything they do. We all must balance.

Kelly wrapped with this thought, "It's a very dangerous thing as a writer to try to write about parenthood when it's been done and overdone. It's very difficult to add anything new to the conversation. But [having kids] is the biggest thing that has ever happened to me. Meg's story really helped me keep it front and center--how divine it is."

I've read LIFT twice and I've purchased it for all the mothers and moms-to-be in my life. I've dog-eared and scribbled in my copy--the highest honor I can bestow on a book. It means I'll be back--for guidance, for a laugh, and for Kelly's honest, sage reminders that it's all real and all normal. As a result, I'll indulge in the daily divinities, even when laced with angst. Kelly, anytime you have something to say about motherhood or life, I'll listen. Thank you for sharing your story and by default, reminding me to live my own with more gratitude and grace. A divine LIFT.