Balm for the Soul: Sugar Calling and Becoming

Michelle Obama and Cheryl Strayed
I know I'm not the only one feeling awash in emotion these days.

I veer among being brought to tears by watching a tribute to essential workers, feeling deep fear and sadness, being moved by inspirational words shared on social media or a call from a friend, and feeling infuriated at our nation's horrific response to the pandemic and its seeming disregard for people whose lives are not deemed as valuable. It seems that this pandemic and "Great Pause," as I'm calling it, is resulting in big feelings.

Constantly looking for ways to lift myself up, I'm glad to be able to share two recommendations with you this week:

"Becoming" on Netflix

"Becoming" follows Michelle Obama on her historic book tour last year and delves into her life before and while she was FLOTUS, as the book Becoming does.

I loved Becoming when I read it last year, and Mike and I were extremely fortunate to see Michelle in Portland over a year ago. I cried throughout the event...and the Netflix show.

Never have I encountered a woman with so much grace, wit, elegance, spunk, and intelligence, and each time I read her words or witness her presence, I feel so sad about the situation the country is in right now. She brings hope and warmth wherever she goes.

Heartwarming, moving, and insightful, "Becoming" is totally worth your time and will lift you up even though it might make you feel "verklempt," like it did to me.

"Sugar Calling" Podcast by Cheryl Strayed

"Sugar Calling" is Cheryl Strayed's resurrection of "Dear Sugar," in a format perfect for our times. Cheryl calls an author over 60 years old each week, and they have an intimate conversation similar to the ones Michelle Obama had with her cohost on her book tour events.

She has chosen authors whose books have touched her through her life (and mine!). She begins with her mentor, George Saunders, and proceeds to interview Margaret Atwood, Amy Tan, Pico Iyer, Judy Blume, and Alice Walker. As I was walking my dog listening to her interview with Judy Blume and Cheryl explained how seminal Amy's books were when Cheryl was a teen, I felt she was speaking words in my own head. As she tearfully tells Amy Tan that she read The Kitchen God's Wife with her mom before she died, I cried again.

The Color Purple changed my life, and I read everything Alice Walker wrote for many years. But recently I've become disappointed in her, as I've read about anti-semitic statements she's made and her fondness for a British conspiracy theorist, David Icke. Nylah Burton, a Black-Jewish woman, writes about her own ambivalence and disappointment with Alice Walker in The Intelligencer, delving into Walker's difficult marriage to a Jewish man and the racism she experienced from his family. So I listened to the Alice Walker interview with anticipation, but Cheryl Strayed stuck to easy questions. Of all the interviews, I found it the least satisfying...but still worth a listen.

Most of the writers are less upbeat, outgoing, and optimistic than Cheryl Strayed, but the conversations are warm and intimate.

The new podcast drops on Wednesday, and I'm looking forward to seeing who the next interviewee will be. I cannot recommend this podcast highly enough!

Cheryl Strayed and Michelle Obama are both so good for my soul!