Life. Playing by the rules, doing the right thing, working hard and striving to be a good person can give us a sense of control and security. At least that is what Leah believed until she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian and breast cancer when she was 46 years old. She quickly realized that life is truly precarious - filled with uncertainty and dependent on chance. Through hearing other's stories of their precarious moments, we realize that this is actually what connects us as human beings. There is beauty in the struggle.
Leah Barrett, MS, LCSW is a psychotherapist in private practice in Colorado where she lives with her husband and a few fur kids.
There is No Moral to the Story of Life
I'm in the thick of my latest existential crisis. Cancer will do that. Noticed how I said "latest". Over the years I have tried to make sense of me, my life, others and the world I live in. It's also part of my job to hold space for my clients to do the same. As I have struggled, I see them struggle to "figure it out". In this episode, I ponder the idea that maybe there isn't a moral to our life story. The more we try to do "the work" to better understand ourselves only to feel like we have failed can't be good, right? Instead, maybe it's best to cut ourselves some slack and remember that there isn't a finish line for self-actualization.
My Heart Loves Fall, My Body Dreads It
Even though it's been an exceptionally beautiful Fall season this time in Colorado, I can't help but feel the familiar dread that washes over me as the leaves start to turn colors and the temperatures begin to cool. It was this time almost eight years ago that marks the beginning of my life with cancer. I'm having what's called an Anniversary Reaction: a normal grief response around the date of a traumatic event. In this episode, I talk about Anniversary Reactions, what they are and how to cope with them. I also explore how the Pandemic has created the potential for some of us to experience extended and recurrent trauma responses given the duration of this epidemic.
Our Accelerated Life
The Turley family are the epitome of Grit. Doug Turley lived with ALS also known as Lou Gehrigs Disease for fourteen years way beyond what the doctors had predicted. I sit down with his wife, Becky, and son, Ian in this episode of the Precarious podcast. Their story is a story of grit which is defined as having courage, passion and persistence in the face of adversity. After interviewing them, I'd like to think that some of their grit has rubbed off on me. At the very least, it has given me a lot to think about.
It's Our Debt to Nature to Die - My Conversation with Laura Pritchett
Have you ever felt that someone touched your soul? And, as a result of your meeting, left it just a little fuller? That's exactly how I felt after talking with Laura Pritchett. She is a writer, an award-winning author, a lover of all things nature and an advocate for it's survival. We talk about how the core themes in her work are stories of the precarity of life. Laura shares her own precarious story and how this prompted her writing, "Making Friends with Death: A Field Guide to your Impeding Last Breath". This conversation came just at the right time for me. Connecting with the natural world has become a big part of my healing: physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Laura Pritchett is a mere mortal who will someday die—and she’s doing a little better with that fact now! She’s also the author of nine books. She began her writing journey with the short story collection Hell’s Bottom, Colorado, which won the PEN USA Award for Fiction and the Milkweed National Fiction Prize. This was followed by the novels Sky Bridge, Stars Go Blue, Red Lightning, and The Blue Hour. Her novels have received starred reviews from Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal, and The Blue Hour was listed as one of the “Top 5 books that will make you think about what it is to be human” by PBS and made the Booklist Editor’s Choice for 2017.
She also has two nonfiction books: Great Colorado Bear Stories and Making Friends with Death: A Field Guide to Your Impending Last Breath. She’s also involved with environmental issues, and is the editor of three anthologies about conservation: Pulse of the River, Home Land, and Going Green: True Tales from Gleaners, Scavengers, and Dumpster Divers.
Her essays and short stories have appeared in The Sun, The New York Times, Salon, High Country News, The Millions, Pinch, The Normal School, Publisher’s Weekly, Brain, Child, and many others.
She directs the MFA in Nature Writing at Western Colorado University
Living is Harder Than Dying
Sometimes I think living is harder than dying. At least that's what I've been struggling with since I completed another course of IV chemotherapy. Metaphorically speaking, living means staying open in the face of fear. Living means staying engaged in the midst of overwhelm. It's a courageous act to stay present when life feels like it's one big "sufferfest". Here's to every single one of you who are enduring some version of pain at this moment. You are my hero.
House of the Heart - My Conversation with Laurel Braitman
I sit down with Laurel Braitman - well, she is actually phoning in from the Alaskan wilderness! What an amazing human. Laurel Braitman PhD is a New York Times bestselling author, historian and anthropologist of science. She is the first Writer-in-Residence and the Director of Writing and Storytelling at the Medicine & the Muse Program at the Stanford University School of Medicine where she is helping medical students and physicians communicate more meaningfully--for themselves and their patients. She holds a PhD in Science, Technology and Society from MIT, is a Senior TED Fellow and a 2019 National Geographic Explorer. Her last book, Animal Madness, was a NYT bestseller and has been translated into eight languages. Her next book House of the Heart, (forthcoming, Simon & Schuster) is about growing up, mortality and how we might live with the perspective of a terminal disease without the dire prognosis. Her work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, Good Morning America and Al Jazeera. Her stories have appeared in The Guardian, on Radiolab, in The Wall Street Journal, Wired, National Geographic and other publications.
Laurel and I connected easily and instantly. Listen in as we talk about her work and soon to be published book about growing up with a father facing a dire prognosis and how this shaped the way she lives her life.
This is my go to podcast. I always feel good and empowered after listening to these episodes. We can do this!
Leah’s latest episode is pure and raw grief. She shares in a time of complete vulnerability and anyone having been through a major loss can attest that what she shares is REAL.
Thank you for normalizing the process so people can feel even the slightest bit of hope that they will BE OKAY. It is so important that people understand there is an end to the feeling of complete devastation and hopelessness. We don’t move on, we move forward with our loss and learn to experience joy and love in even more meaningful and enriching ways.
I love the precarious podcast! Leah’s vulnerability and authentic sharing of her experience has been so beautiful and moving. Her guests have been phenomenal as well! Several of these episodes have moved me to tears. Thank you Leah, for an inspiring and very enjoyable podcast experience!