KENDRA ADACHI: Spending time naming what is giving you life? What makes you laugh? What you just enjoyed? It's not trivial. It's just not.
This is Death, Sex & Money from WNYC. I’m Anna Sale.
Here at Death, Sex & Money, we’ve put together special year-end episodes, looking back at moments we’re proud of, and also to make some space to reflect on all that we’ve collectively been through.
This year, we’re doing things a little differently.
ANNA SALE: Hi, Laurie.
LAURIE: Hi, Anna. How are you?
AS: I'm good.
LAURIE: I was just going, finishing up with someone…
AS: Okay, great. Thanks for fitting this in between your sessions.
Laurie is my therapist. I have leaned on Laurie a lot this year, as my brain has spun around different stresses and big questions.
At one point this year, when I was feeling particularly spin-y as my book was about to come out, she offered this thought exercise that I’ve found very helpful... about savoring.
LAURIE: Savoring to me is a really big way to be in the moment. And usually when there's anxiety we're in often the past or the future, you know, sort of spinning out on something else. And so I think that was part of where it came up, something that might be useful when we were speaking, right? But that's one of the tenants I when I think of savoring at, so an example could be, I think we even talked about this, you know, being outside because you like that. So like maybe being in the sunshine, right. So usually. A very common thing is someone may be aware of, oh, this is what a nice day, or I like the sunshine, but how often do you actually take, even a minute where you actually really enjoy the sunshine? And so, that might be sitting down and closing your eyes and just like literally breathing and taking it in. Or maybe it's visual, like you're using your vision to sort of take in the beauty of the trees around you or right? But stopping and actually like taking it in.
AS: Well, I think that's why one of the things. Really responded to was this idea of savoring feels, it feels so active and—
AS: It's not, um, it's not like, you know, I've told myself before to be in the moment. I've told myself when I'm trying to meditate to like stop thinking that I'm just like be in the moment. Um, but savoring is like, no, I'm going to make room to notice this.
LAURIE: That’s right.
AS: Which is, so it just feels much more, um, concrete to me.
LAURIE: That's a good point. Yeah, exactly. It is active. And I like what you just said. Of course it never works to say, “oh, stop that.” That it doesn't really work.
AS: I keep trying.
LAURIE: Yeah, we all do, right?
So, savoring is what we are talking about as we end this year. And how to do what my therapist says, to make space for it.
Because having the intention to savor what is happening around you and actually doing it… are two very different things. My swirling brain knows this intimately. But, someone who has helped me with this over this year is Kendra Adachi. She hosts a podcast called The Lazy Genius. She has a book called The Lazy Genius Way. I first learned about her work from producer Katie Bishop, and I’ve come to see her, really, as a master communicator about how to organize your life and create routines that work for you, that serve you. Something she says, she developed out of necessity.
KENDRA ADACHI: I have what I refer to as a caffeinated squirrel brain. [Anna laughs]
AS: And so this has to be present in my life, like savoring the present moment, or I'm not a functioning person.
Kendra’s work is all about creating systems, around the things you’ve decided matter. Like, making time and space…to savor.
KA: I have kind of automated my savoring, if you will. Um, one of the biggest ways I've done that is with music because music is something that just makes me feel like myself. When I walk into the kitchen in the morning to start the day I start a playlist. I make a playlists, because those are decisions there they're based on mood. So I have these decisions that have already been made around this thing that brings me back to myself. That's really helpful. And then another thing that helps me sort of be present and aware is cross-stitching. That's like my new thing is I have decided that whenever I am feeling when the squirrel is really active, which is most of the time I will sit down at night, especially rather than making a list rather than starting some big project, rather than whatever, I will just cross-stitch because it keeps me present. I have to pay attention to what I'm doing, but it's not, uh, it's not easily measurable. It's measurable enough and like stitches, but it's not changing anybody's life. And so we're moving kind of the pressure of the, of the productivity of the savoring of the like gripping, gripping, our awareness of what's happening around us like so hard that we lose the whole point. Cross-stitching helps me release my grip a little bit. So those are the two things that I've done. That's what I'm going to do to savor and be present and notice where I am.
AS: You're making me realize you, you like me or a parent. You are a parent of three people, and I'm thinking like for me, the intention to savor does feel a little bit in tension with the idea that I'm in charge of these small people who are constantly vying for my attention. Um, and, and what I love about the playlist is that they're things you can do in the midst of the swarm of the chaos. You know, you can still be savoring or doing your, your thing that you've decided to do. Even as someone is saying, I need a snack. Can you help me in the potty? Et cetera, your children might be saying different things cause they're a little older, but that's, I think it's in the way of my savoring.
KA: Yes, no, my, my youngest just might be too much information here everyone but my youngest is just learned to wipe her own rear. [laughter] And it's, it's, the delight of my life. And I think even if someone doesn't have kids, all have that we have work, we have, we have aging parents are taking care of it. We have kids, we have whatever it is. If there are things that are interfering, maybe with your ability to just sort of be yourself in that moment. To choose something, not five things, not 10 things, a single thing that your right can exist as a through line, no matter who's around you, that can make you feel like yourself. You're talking about savoring and noticing. But also paying attention to how the marrow of who we are, like the things that make us happy, the things that make us, ourselves, the things that make us feel connected to other people a lot of times, those are things that we dismiss as unimportant. And they, I think there's some of the most. It just brings a tremendous amount of joy.
Another thing Kendra told me: it can also be overwhelming to even think about what you want to savor. Kendra’s team at The Lazy Genius developed a tool to help you make time to just list out what you love and savor—they called it The Favorite File—and we have a link to that in our show notes.
Coming up, with that as my inspiration, and with apologies to Oprah: my list of Savor-ite Things from 2021, after the break.
This is Death, Sex & Money from WNYC. I’m Anna Sale.
In the spirit of savoring, and in hopes of inspiring you to make your own list of savor-ites, I’m going to share six things that I have truly savored in 2021. Stories, performances, moments that I found arresting… where I felt appreciation, delight, and totally absorbed.
For this list, I added one more qualification: they are all things you can pull up on a device and press play to to enjoy. So at any time this holiday season, or in the next year, they are here for on-demand savoring.
MOSE: Hey! NDN mafia been telling everybody they at war with y'all.
MOSE: Told 'em y'all was the Reservation Dogs. Since y'all didn't like Rez Bandits. [chuckles softly] Yeah, they said this is they streets.
Number one on my list is the show Reservation Dogs. It follows four best friends in the reservation community in Oklahoma where they live, and I loved getting to know them, their families, even the local cop who drives his cruiser around. The episode that followed him was one of my very favorites…because it which also led me to go down rabbit holes in appreciation for Native actor Wes Studi, and the band Redbone.
BUCKY: A band, a band’s name.
CHEESE: I don’t know them
BUCKY: Before your time. All-Indian band. It’s the only tape I play “He-yeah, -he-yah…what’s the matter with you."
[Music — “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone]
Number two is another coming of age story that I really loved: the movie Plan B. It starts with a familiar teen movie setup: someone’s parents are away, there’s a big party that brings everyone out, everyone’s talking about sex, like here, where one friend gives the other a flavored condom.
LUPE: But it’s not for sex, I mean it is, but that’s not why I’m giving it to you. It’s like a good luck charm. Like a rabbit’s foot. Tastes like strawberries.
Then this movie spirals in so many unexpected directions, as the two best friends characters set off on a road trip to a women’s health clinic.
LUPE: Alright. Yes. Go get 'em. Make good choices!
The kids' show Bluey. It delivers ten minute packets of total delight. It’s about a family of dogs, and nothing makes my kids laugh out loud more consistently. It also makes me feel totally seen as a parent in 2021.
[Music — Bluey theme song]
In my favorite episode, Mum, Dad, Bluey and her little sister Bingo are piled into the parent’s bed, playing games and lazily talking about Australian potty slang. That episode is called Dunny.
BLUEY: Chloe’s parents let her say it.
MUM: Well, that’s fine for Chloe. She can say it.
BLUEY: How come she can say it and we can’t?
MUM: Different families have different rules, and in this family, we don’t say Dunny. [flush]
DAD: Dunny’s free! [laughs]
BLUEY: Dad said it, Dad said it!
Here’s a curveball, but trust me. One night my husband and I were searching YouTube on our TV, and decided to look up tap dancing. We came upon the Challenge scene from the 1989 movie Tap and it is worth watching and re-watching.
There’s Sammy Davis Jr, there’s Gregory Hines, and in this scene, many other veteran, elder dancers all trying to one-up each other and show what they can still do…It’s a beautiful scene.
MEN: I ain’t got no legs, you ain’t got no legs, and the men in there ain’t got no legs…
And, from when we were producing one of our episodes, I latched on to this song by Beverly Glenn-Copeland, a live performance of Deep River, which feels like church whenever I turn it on. Thanks to Afi Yellow-Duke for initially introducing me to Glenn and his music.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: [sings] Deep river, Lord, I want to cross over into campground
And finally, number six, is for anyone who has ever felt righteous anger at someone they loved who didn’t love them well back…
EGO NWODIM: But what I won’t deal with, I’m not going to deal with, a man who can’t be honest or direct about what he wants.
...you will savor this breakup scene from Season 2 of the TV show Love Life.
EN: You’re not a king…you’re a little ass boy. [slam]
EN: It did feel like, um, it felt like justice for, uh, broken-hearted people everywhere to get, to deliver that line.
That’s Ego Nwodim, with that epic, withering line. You may also know her from SNL, and I really loved seeing her as this character on Love Life.
EN: Um, Will said to me, by the way, when we were doing that scene and I, we had the big argument and I started. At one point we'll who's so brilliant in Love Life says to me, you really hurt my feelings back there. And I go, well, then I'm doing my job.
AS: Will, who I know is William Jackson Harper, you know, as Will, you burned him.
EN: Yeah. [laughter]
This was just one moment Ego has savored this year. When we zoomed together last week, she told also me about another one, from an impression for SNL, that grew out of internet scrolling.
She noticed that she was savoring the biting and supremely assured tweets of R&B legend Dionne Warwick, and had the idea to do a talk show sketch.
EN: Hello, welcome to the Dionne Warwick Talk Show, a show where I ask celebrities whatever I wanna know.
EN: And so when we did it, I was actually a little nervous that this woman legend, who I respect so much may be offended by it. I mean, who came from certainly came from a place of love. So the day after the first time I did it on that Sunday, when she expressed like embrace, and that she had enjoyed the impression and I felt like a wave of joy and calm come over me.
Dionne indicated her approval of Ego’s impression—via tweet. And, then in a follow-up SNL sketch, Ego got to perform with Dionne herself.
EN: Let me ask you, Dionne, why are you perfect?
DIONNE WARWICK: Darling, I’m not perfect. I’m very, very good.
EN: I'm doing this thing because I really enjoy it. And I revered this person who turned out is freaking hilarious and the loop sort of closed when they like receive it warmly and are proud of it and proud of me and, and, and affirms my talent in a way.
EN: One of my friends actually, um, my friend Rashida printed her tweet and framed it for me that said you did a wonderful. Uh, you did a wonderful job, baby. You are a star, the red heart emoji. I'm reading it now from my bed. Um, because it's, it's on a desk., There is something so affirming about it. Like, it just felt like such a complete experience in a way.
AS: And then the other thing that I savored when it came to you this year was I, I really loved, um, getting to know some of your favorite things. And I was reading about it in the New York times. And then I saw that you mentioned our show, and Ego, I was so excited.
EN: That makes me so happy. I mean, it was it's true. I, I'm a regular listener of the show. It's been many, many years because. Being on the floor in my bedroom and Santa Monica, probably the first time I used to get ready on the floor for the day up in front of and do my makeup on the floor. It's more comfortable that way. But, um, I, I remember the first time I listened to an episode of, uh, Death, Sex & Money. And so, and then it just became such a routine part of my life so that's true. So I thank you and I savor your work and what you guys are doing over here to make us all feel so connected and, um, okay. And comfortable in our own humanity.
AS: Thank you, Oh, mm, wait, I want to understand you would put your makeup on laying on the ground, like holding a hand mirror and yeah.
EN: On the floor, no no no. My, my, I had, uh, in my bedroom was at one of those like floor to ceiling kind of mirrors and so I would sit on the floor in front of that mirror and do my makeup and get ready for the day.
AS: [laughs] I was picturing you being totally horizontal, staring at the ceiling.
EN: No. It's not as weird, so it's still weird, but not as weird as it initially sounded. Only mildly weird.
That’s Ego Nwodim. And I am savoring that she may listen to Death, Sex & Money in the same room where that tweet from Dionne Warwick sits framed.
Ego stars on Saturday Night Live, and in the HBO Max show Love Life. She’s in Season 2, which is excellent. And if you still need more things to savor, among the other things she listed as her favorite things in that New York Times piece were Jay Z, gold jewelry, and yerba mate tea.
Death, Sex & Money is a production of WNYC Studios in New York. We are listener-supported, which means we rely on the people who listen to us, one by one, making the decision to make a financial contribution. That, along with ads, that’s how we pay for this work. If you enjoy Death, Sex & Money—if you savor it, even—we hope you’ll join in and support our work. Go to deathsexmoney.org/donate or text DSM to 70101 and we’ll send you back the link to get your donation in. Do it by the end of the year, and you may thank yourself come tax time.
One more thing: if you don’t already receive our weekly newsletter... sign up! Next week, I’m going to share more of my savor-ite things from 2021, along with links. That newsletter is put together by the Death, Sex, and Money team, who is Katie Bishop, Afi Yellow-Duke, Caitlin Pierce, Emily Botein, Andrew Dunn and our intern Sarah Dealy, who we are saying goodbye to at the end of the year. Thank you for all you have done for us.
Thank you Kendra, Ego, and my therapist, Laurie… and I wish you all a warm, restful season of savoring.
I’m Anna Sale and this is Death, Sex & Money from WNYC.
New York Public Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of New York Public Radio’s programming is the audio record.