When enduring the pain of loss, confronting grief can be the most terrifying thing one can do. However, on the other side, grief can become a powerful source of innate creativity and transformation. Mary Potter Kenyon offers you everything you need in ...
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Srini: Mary, welcome to the unmistakable creative. Thanks so much for taking the time to do.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Thank you so much for having.
Srini: It is my pleasure to have you here. So I found out about you and your work because you are a long-time listener of the show and you actually wrote in and told me a bit about the work that you've done around creativity, but also the some of the things that you written about and talked about when it came to education, really caught my attention.
Srini: But before we get into all of that given what I know about the book and your background, I thought I would start by asking you. What birth order were you, and what impact did that end up having on the choices that you've made throughout your life and your career?
Mary Potter Kenyon: Ooh, I love that question. So I'm number seven in 10 children.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I'm not really a middle child and I don't know what effect that has on me as, being at the tail end. I used to think being seven with magic number. I don't know, but I think having seen my siblings before me, follow their interests and follow all of their what they wanted to do in life.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I think that has an effect on the younger children, because I knew by the time I was in junior high, I wanted to go to college. I thought I wanted to be a teacher, but I soon change my mind once I got to college, but I was determined and we were. So that wasn't really a, that wasn't really a possibility given to me by teachers is that I can go to college and I was just determined.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I don't know if you get more determined, the farther on down the line with children.
Srini: Yeah. Okay. So being four and a family of 10 kids what did that teach you about being resourceful, making your way in the world? And did your parents loosen up in terms of how strict they were with each subsequent child?
Srini: Cause I feel I always, definitely say my sister got away with murder in comparison to what I got away with when I was.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I'm the mother of eight children. And I can tell you for a fact that the first four had a different mother than the last serious. Yeah. Because, oh my gosh, the rules and all that.
Mary Potter Kenyon: What we had with our first children, I think you either get tired or you just relaxed a little bit by the fourth or fifth one. It's but yeah, I can tell you for a fact that my children had a different mother. The first four had different mothers in the last four now from my parents. I can't, when I hear stories of my, from my older siblings, it's wow.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I don't know. I didn't know those parents because there is quite a few years between me and my oldest sister. So I bet that's true for most families. You you said you use the word relax. Could it be in those larger families that you just. Tired. I don't know, but I've heard this saying that the first child is like a pancake, you're testing everything out.
Mary Potter Kenyon: You're trying to batter and you make a mess, make a mess of it. I don't know if that's true. I feel sorry for parents who only have one child then, because best practice baby, but yeah, my kids will, they look at their younger siblings and say, oh, you got. And I don't think that's true. I think it's just a little, you learn, what's important.
Mary Potter Kenyon: You learn to pick your battles, w which of these rules don't make sense or even spanking. I spanked my for I'm horrified when I think about it. And I actually spanked my first two, and then I didn't like spanking and I didn't spank the other children. So they never got.
Srini: Yeah. What else changed with each subsequent kid?
Srini: How did you change as a parent? How did you evolve as a parent and how in the world does somebody navigate the dynamics of a household with eight kids without losing their mind? I remember my dad and a mom. I remember one, one of my birthdays asked them. I said, do you guys ever think about having a third kid?
Srini: And my mom said, yeah, I wanted to, but your dad was pretty much done and. Thinking about doing aids research. And he said, I don't want to bring a kid into a world where I'm going to be doing aids research, but that never actually happened, but it just sounds insane to, in one way it sounds insane.
Srini: And others I'm almost envious because I see TV shows like parenthood and I was like, man, I want to a family dinner like that. Like I want to go to a Christmas where somebody has 10, 10 siblings at the table.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I will say growing up in a family of 10, I always had a friend I had. Near my age always.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And so until I went to school, I didn't feel like I lacked for anything. Cause there was always somebody to play with and then raising eight children. First of all, you have them one at a time. That's good. So I wasn't, I didn't have eight babies in the house. I didn't have eight toddlers in the house.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And I love love, holidays, getting together with my family or outside picnics or something. And just looking at these amazing adults that we managed to raise, and then they become friends too. So it's I loved it, but it was hard. It was very hard. And I was the kind of mom that used attachment style parents.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And that means I wore the baby, on a backpack or on my front pack, I nursed, I slept with them. It was just a very close relationship. I think it in the end probably affected my marriage a little bit because how could it not, when I'm giving so much of myself to children as for myself, I think I had to hang on to some semblance of creativity.
Mary Potter Kenyon: So I graduated from college and gave birth to. Fourth child and took finals in the hospital bed after giving birth. And that's what I decided I'm going to stay home with my kids is I now have four of them and, maybe I need to be there for them, but I knew I had to hang onto something, some creative part of myself.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And for me, I believe I wrote the first article I ever wrote. Was when that baby was an infant. And as soon as I got $50 checks for that, I thought, whoa, this is easy. This writing thing is easy. You just write stuff down on paper and you get it, you submit it and you get it published and you get money.
Mary Potter Kenyon: But anybody who's a writer knows it's not that easy. I lucked out with that first article. I think I sent it in, I hate to say this on paper handwritten. I'm pretty sure. And then I went to typewriter and eventually computer. I still write my first draft even to this day on paper. I just, there's something about handwriting on paper, but I think that's what saved my sanity.
Mary Potter Kenyon: When I look back is I kept that creative part of myself. I don't understand how somebody can say you lose yourself in mothering, or you lose yourself in parenting. If you keep some interest or some creative part of yourself, whatever it is, whether it's baking or gardening or, and it doesn't hurt our kids to see that either.
Mary Potter Kenyon: So yes, I was mostly a stay at home mom selling articles and maybe doing some part-time work at a library, or I'd had lots of home business. So it's mostly a stay at home mom, but I always, the kids grew up, always seen a mom who could get lost in thought or could get lost in something. And for me it was writing and I never thought that hurt my kids because then they knew that they could follow their dreams.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Even if they're busy at home, or if they're busy with a job, there's still a way to keep that creative part of you. But yeah, I say that saved my sanity. Sometimes
Srini: what's the age gap between you and your siblings, which are the ones who, which ones are you closest to and why? And then same question about your kids.
Srini: Like what's the age gap between them?
Mary Potter Kenyon: So with my siblings, I think that my oldest is early seventies. Terrible. I don't know exact ages. Maybe 72 is my oldest sister, my young. We're getting old. She's getting close to 60. So there wasn't this huge age gap in my family. My parents sometimes only had 12 months, 14 months between children for myself and my kids.
Mary Potter Kenyon: My oldest was 23 when his siblings, baby sibling, baby sister was born and. There's that, that's eight in that amount of time. And like I said, those first four kind of had a different mom than the last four, but in my family, that's the ones that I'm closest to. Probably it changes with their lifestyle.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Now, when you're a younger kid, you don't even know those older kids when they leave home. My sister, Joan, I didn't know that. My sister, pat, my brother, all, we looked up to him, we thought he was amazing. And we thought her older siblings were amazing people. And then they would come and visit and then they're having children and I'm still at home.
Mary Potter Kenyon: So you don't really know them until later when you develop a relationship. So right now I'd probably say I was closest to my oldest sister, the sister that I didn't know that well, when she moved from.
Srini: What about your own kids? What which ones are the closest to, do you notice any sort of similar things between your own kids and, your own family and your own siblings?
Mary Potter Kenyon: So my youngest just turned 18 this last summer and her brother is over 40. And so when we get together, she's just starting to fit in with her older siblings who some of them have started families, some are married and I love watching. The interplay between them as they started start to see her as, oh, she's not this annoying little pest anymore.
Mary Potter Kenyon: She's actually a human being with ideas and a job. And, I love to see that happening. I've got a couple girls who have been best buddies since they were young and they're still very close, the relationships change. I see the change in conversations as we. As they're growing up.
Mary Potter Kenyon: So it changes just like it did with my family. And I'm amazed to see, these adults, but I still see them as kids. Sometimes I still see. And, what's funny is when you raise that many children and you see this, these distinct personalities, and then to see them as adults and to still see those certain things that you just know are part of them that they were born with.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I loved, I love to watch that too.
Mary Potter Kenyon: We're about to jump into today's podcast, but first here's a message from Queensland health children, aged five and over can now get the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination offers excellent protection against COVID-19 in children it's clinically tested and proven safe. Some children will experience side effects, but most of these will be mild like a sore arm and disappear quick.
Mary Potter Kenyon: For more information or to find your nearest vaccine clinic search COVID-19 kids vaccines.
Srini: Hey, it's Srini. So one of the things that makes it possible for us to make this show is by selling sponsorships to advertisers. And one thing that would be really helpful in terms of helping us get more sponsors that are relevant to you and useful to you is that if you tell us a little bit about your, and you can do that by filling out this quick email@example.com slash pod survey, the questions are about you demographic information and information.
Srini: That's helpful to the team that sells ads for the show. And if you're someone who wants to buy ads, you should definitely get in touch. It'll only take a few minutes. Easy way for you to help the show. Again, that's understandable creative.com/pod survey, and there'll also be a link in descriptions of most recent episodes.
Srini: If you're listening to an older episode, thanks and stay tuned for the rest of the episode, what are the sort of skills that come from? Juggling so many kids that most of us wouldn't think would be applicable to other parts of life. Cause I, I always think back to that Sally fields quote from brothers and sisters where some, investor tells her that, she's not qualified to run a business and she's just like, all right, running this huge enterprise as you call, it would be a day at the beach for me in comparison to what I had to deal with, raising six kids.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Multitasking for sure. And yet they tell us science tells us that's not so good. We can't do as well when we multitask, but I certainly know how to write no matter what is going on around me, I can go into a crowded cafe and write, I can I can write with a lot of noise around me because I learned how to tell them that out.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Or when I had deadlines, if I was working for a newspaper. Whatever. And to this day, the kids know when I'm in my head, they can be talking to me that can be looking at me. And if I was, if they caught me at the computer or a legal pad of paper, cause I was writing and I looking at them and I see her mouth moving and I, but they can see it in my eyes.
Mary Potter Kenyon: They say, oh, you're not really listening. Are you? You're still in your head, so they can see that because they grew up with. W we get lost in the things we love. And I got lost and writing a good book too. I can get lost in a good book, but that's a skill because I know people who say I all right, when the kids are gone, it's just too noisy in the house.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Or I got to go someplace quiet to write. I got to go to the library where it's quiet to write. I can write anywhere. I can write it apart. I can write in the doctor's office in the waiting room. I can write. And I'll pull over to the curb. If something comes to me and I'll all right in the car, cause I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go.
Mary Potter Kenyon: So I'd say that's a skill that I got because I was a writer raising children. Other skills I've started. I don't feel like I'm qualified to start anything or organize anything, but maybe all those years of organizing children and organizing coupons to save money and stuff helped me. I have the confidence to start a writer's conference, start an annual grief retreat, these different things that maybe if I hadn't been organizing a family or learning how to save money or, all of that, maybe I wouldn't have that skillset of being able to organize things and keep things organized in order people around, Hey, moms are good at that.
Srini: Yeah, especially Indian moms.
Srini: As I told you, I think the thing that really struck me and this was my Viet a sort of hell yes, for your story was the homeschooling thing. And this is one thing that struck me. In your book, you said a, another milestone memory was in third grade when I missed 36 consecutive school days due to illness.
Srini: And the teacher informed my parents, I'd likely have to repeat the grade. I returned to school, not only caught up with the work, but once again, ahead of the class, my dad helped me with the math, but I learned everything else from reading the textbooks that were sent home with my sister, I'm convinced those two formative experiences contributed to a disillusionment with the educational system and a foundation for a future homes.
Srini: It's going lifestyle. And you haven't heard the show know that I have some pretty, strong opinions about the education system, despite the fact that my dad is a college professor. Talk to me about the experience of, deciding to pull your kids out of school and how you structure a curriculum that prepares them for like being successful in adulthood.
Srini: And then let's talk about the system at large.
Mary Potter Kenyon: You used it, you used a dirty word. You said curriculum. It's not a dirty word, but I'm was a very relaxed homeschooler. I interviewed a lot of homeschoolers for a newspaper job that I had, and I thought I could never do that. Oh my gosh. They gave so much of themselves and they spent a lot of money and they had shelved the books and sometimes classrooms in their home.
Mary Potter Kenyon: They were homeschooling exactly like. And when my old, my son, Michael, was having trouble in school and it was junior kindergarten. He's pretty much a junior kindergarten drop off. He was changing his personality, his sweet little personality was changing. It was starting to hit his sister.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And I didn't know what was going on. Kids have to go to school. And he cry when he had to go to. And when I went to the first parent teacher's conference and she said, I know you're worried about him, cause he's so shy, but he is out there on the playground, hitting and kicking with the rest of the boys.
Mary Potter Kenyon: My heart dropped. I thought that's why I sent my son to school so he can learn to hit and kick. And I went home and I looked at that little boy whose personality had changed completely. And I thought I am going to take him off. And he's going to be a junior kindergarten dropout. And I called these homeschooling parents and I asked, how did you do this?
Mary Potter Kenyon: And then I got ahold of a magazine called growing without schooling, which is no longer around, but, and I poured over those. I got back issues and I poured over them and I thought, whoa, there are so many different ways to homeschool. Just as there are so many different types of families, I don't have to do it the way those people that I interviewed did, I don't have to spend thousands of dollars and make a classroom in my home and use all these textbooks.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I can do it. I can gear this around my child's personality. I pulled him out of school. His personality went back to that sweet personality, stopped hitting and kicking. And my older daughter, when she found out I was going to be homeschool and she says, I want to homeschool too. And my oldest son said no way, I don't want to be a weirdo.
Mary Potter Kenyon: We're a homeschooler. So I started with working with a certified teacher who had the same ideas of, okay, we'll use some real books instead of all textbooks, we'll use textbooks for math, just put together, we'll use the word curriculum because it is, but when you're not using textbooks for everything, it's real life reading, real life experience.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Some of my kids ended up having home businesses, selling t-shirts on eBay or they learned hands-on learning through having garage sales, how to count back change. Just, I try to incorporate real life into everything. Real life learning is everything. And so I would let them choose the books that they were interested in.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Now there's holes in their education where maybe they weren't interested in this. And so I didn't push too much of that. They, none of my kids ever diagrammed a sentence, but you know what, I don't diagram sentences anymore, even as. I get the idea of, where the words are supposed to be and what kind of words you're supposed to be using.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Also, I am a dismal failure when it comes to
Mary Potter Kenyon: yeah, so I learned things in for tests and that's the way teachers have to teach at school is you have to teach to the test. I learned things for. But as soon as I took the test, I let a lot of it just go out of my head because I didn't care about it. So when you say designed a curriculum, really what I did is I took my child's personality.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I, and through trial and error learned what worked and what didn't. Some of my kids were hands-on learners. Others had to see something, others had to touch something and just tailored their education towards their interests. And they had a lot of say in. My one son wanted to read everything you could find about kit Carson and Daniel Boone and all these different real life stories.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And you'd think that he wasn't learning, but he was learning a lot of history in there and he was reading about world war two or battle of the falls. Loved reading because he was reading what he was interested in. Another daughter wanted to learn about science and you can, we can get the benefit of schools to buy dual enrolling.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And one of my daughter was wanting to take some art classes. So she took art classes at school, or you can find somebody who will work with them, but my kids became very self-reliant self-learners they still are learning my one son. By watching YouTube, how to blow glass. And he does that as a living.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Now he blows glass. So it's just. And nobody asked them to see their diploma. When they went to get jobs, nobody's said, let me see that diploma. They just I just finished my homeschooling and I had an employer tell me once that she would only employ homeschoolers because they were self-starters.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And then they they worked really hard because they've they learned to be like that because your homeschool methods, I'm not anti school. And I, but I did find that. When I interviewed homeschoolers and saw their kids, they were different. Sometimes weirdly different, which I didn't necessarily want for my children, but other times they just got along with all age groups because they were so used to being my kids would go shopping with me.
Mary Potter Kenyon: They'd talk to the butcher and they'd ordered a meat for me, sometimes. And they just, they were comfortable with all age groups. They never had any peer pressure to drink or to smoke or. To take drugs when they got jobs and they were out there in the real world, which, you got to face with the real world is not a homeschooled girl.
Mary Potter Kenyon: They were a little bit curious and confused about why these teenagers were so interested in drinking and smoking and no early sacks or whatever, they just, but they did have interaction. It was important that they did have interaction with other kids. So sometimes when they join a homeschoolers group, There was a period of time when we were pretty isolated in the country where couple of my kids did not have much interaction.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And you do need to know how to get along with your own peers. And then when we moved to town, it was easier to join youth groups and that kind of thing. And they all got jobs easily. And some of them haven't since attended college community college, just following their own interests.
Mary Potter Kenyon: But I found it's to me, it's fascinating. It's what I would have loved as a child. I would have loved that little girl who in third grade missed all that school and learned at home could not see any reason why she had to go to school and being bullied to learn because that's another reason probably why I homeschooled.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I think, people ask me that sometimes. Was it because you were bullied as a child? Not consciously, but I ensure, I thought that, if my kids were square pegs, trying to fit in around hole, Homeschooling would protect them from some of that. Allow them to be as different as they, they might naturally be, allow them to learn reading at their own pace.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I have a son who didn't learn how to retell these 10. I was terrified and I talked to the certified teacher and he said, what? If boys learned how to read at their own. Feed in their own rate. Instead of at the same time, girls were learning to read. A lot of them would be reading later. A lot of them would be struggling a little bit more and stuff.
Mary Potter Kenyon: So part of homeschooling was trial and error. And I hope my kids were not this grand social experiment, but they're all turning out really good. And I'm really proud of them. And, but it was a little scary to go against the grain and do something a little bit different like that when people were saying, oh my gosh, you are going to have so much trouble.
Mary Potter Kenyon: These kids are not going to. Any socialization, you're going to raise a family of weirdos and stuff. And then I saw their kids drop out of school or have trouble with school or get involved with drugs or alcohol or peer pressure is so hard for our kids. And I didn't see that happening with my children.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And I thought I'm doing something.
Srini: Yeah. You've mentioned peer pressure and sort of socialization multiple times, and that was the question, is that, how do you create, the social experiences of things like going to prom and, things that, not that I went to primary, any of that stuff, because I wasn't cool, but those kinds of, quintessential experiences that, the typical American teenager has.
Srini: When you're homeschooling children. And then what parts of this did your children absolutely hate?
Mary Potter Kenyon: I went to prom and I have to ask myself, did I, did my kids miss something by not going to prom? I don't know. Yeah. They missed an experience. But it wasn't necessarily, not all of our socialization experiences are good for our teenagers. And if I could be a part of helping them avoid some of the peer pressure that I'm glad for the homeschooling the kids did not always like mom telling them what to do, obviously.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And some parents won't homeschool because they think, oh my gosh, my kid's not going to listen to me. I think because mine was more of a relaxed homeschooling, you got to do this, you got to do these math problems, if you want to read that book, instead of doing this and science experiments, They missed out on that.
Mary Potter Kenyon: If they were really interested in biology and wanted to cut up a cat or a that's what I did in high school, we had to cut into a cat, my biology class, or a frog or an eyeball or something. I probably would have made sure that they can do that as a school or dual enroll or set something up like that.
Mary Potter Kenyon: But nobody really expressed an interest in something like that. And I didn't see any of them headed towards medical careers because I watched my kids. I knew their strengths. They learned their own strengths. So if there was a part, there was a part of me that always wondered, am I taking something away from my kids by giving them something, by giving them something else, which is freedom to learn at your own pace, freedom to learn for your own interests.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And I would say, I don't know if they would agree or not that the one thing. It's those children that were out in the country, isolated those 10 years that we were pretty isolated, I think, would say it was harder to learn how to talk to their own peers, to learn how to get along with their own peers.
Mary Potter Kenyon: The son, I said that read the kit Carson stuff. He would spend hours on the forest. You can take a can of beans, a pan and his dog. And a book and he'd walk out in the woods and he'd be gone for hours and he cooked the beans over a fire. And that's the son who ends up making a blowing glass.
Mary Potter Kenyon: He's just, and I don't think it hurt him because his personality was fine. Being alone is five spending 60 hours a week below in glass and selling on Etsy. But maybe some of my kids have a little bit of trouble. Oh, so I didn't know his peers, but when we go out in the working world, our peers are not everybody our own age.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And so it, maybe they have an advantage in that way that they can get along with a 70 year old woman, just as easily as a 30 year old woman, because they learned how to do that, but I've never actually gotten complaints. They're homeschooling experience from them. I'm waiting for it. I'm waiting for the counselor therapist, bill.
Mary Potter Kenyon: That blames me because I homeschooled them. But I think they knew where I was coming from and we talked enough and that's another thing, homeschooled kids. They hear their parents talk, they know everything that's going on in that home. They learn the adult problems and the, you couldn't hide anything from them.
Mary Potter Kenyon: So when their dad got cancer, I couldn't hide that from them. Th they knew and they were part of all of it and they just learned a set of skills. Maybe use it. It's just a whole different world. It's a homeschooling world. I realized that when my husband died and I thought I can't homeschool anymore.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Cause he did a lot of. And I'm going to have to put these kids in school. And at the time I was working with a certified teacher who was also principal of junior high. And he said no, this would be the worst time in the world to send your kids to school because they just lost their dad. And then you're going to take away the only lifestyle they know, knew or know.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And I realized then that this life homeschooling with a lifestyle, it was a way of living. It wasn't just a form of learning. It was a way of living. And he also said those junior high kids would eat them alive because that's the worst time in the world to be in school is in junior high. If you don't fit in junior high.
Srini: Yeah, that, that is one part of my my youth. I would happily never relive. I think that basically, I think, being an adolescent is one giant identity crisis in which your parents turn into the most horrible human beings on the planet. So one final question about the homeschooling piece, what aspects of.
Srini: The way that you teach in a homeschooling lifestyle, do you think could be incorporated into traditional education to make it more effective?
Mary Potter Kenyon: I don't think any teacher in a classroom of 30 students can possibly teach to a child's interests. Kudos to a teacher who tries, and I do know teachers who try, but you have the curriculum, you have the textbooks and you find out this one child.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Love painting. You're not going to let them go paint when you have to learn math or another child has this natural gift for something you can encourage it as a teacher as much as possible, but you, the classroom would be a huge mess and you would lose control, complete control of your classroom.
Mary Potter Kenyon: If you tried to teach in the classroom, the way a homeschooler might be able to, I knew homeschoolers who would teach exactly the way. It's 50 minutes of this 50 minutes of that 50 minutes of this. Okay. Now you get recessed. Okay. Now you come back in and you get lunch 50 minutes of that. And I always wondered what's the point?
Mary Potter Kenyon: What was the point of bringing your kids home and giving them the exact same experience as school? And it was usually religion. They wanted to put religion into every single Every single topic. And there was a whole set of textbooks that my first certified teacher wanted me to use. And I was looking at.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Wait a minute. This math book has Isaiah and Moses. And why are you pushing that into your math textbook? I don't get it. I didn't homeschool for purely religious reasons, but some people do. I have faith and faith as part of my life, but it was not. So I'm amused by that.
Mary Potter Kenyon: First of all, why are you teaching exactly the way school is? Because there's no point. And why are you using this curriculum that. Probably going to make your kid run away from God someday.
Mary Potter Kenyon: It can be ridiculous.
Srini: Yeah. I'm glad you brought up the face because I did want to ask you about that because you do make numerous references to God in your book. So what role does faith play in your life?
Mary Potter Kenyon: Probably since my husband. Passed away in 2012, faith has become my lens, the lens.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I look through the world that through faith, I look at everything through my faith. So when I looked at creativity, I looked at the creator when I speak on grief and not, I speak either way. I can speak from faith. I can speak from my certified grief certification. I look at the great healer.
Mary Potter Kenyon: When I talk, when I do grief retreats, I look at the creator when I talk about creativity. So it's a huge part of my life so much so that when I went on a dating site, I limited myself to only those people who only those men who had that same kind of faith and ended up. Wonderful man, who was seeking what I had and didn't already have it.
Mary Potter Kenyon: So it's just a huge part of my life. And it's, I think it's because after my husband's death, I developed a personal relationship with God, which I never had. I was raised Catholic and I went to church, but I never had a personal relationship.
Srini: So this was something that really struck me in the book that you said about the loss of your husband.
Srini: You said losing the person. I loved most in the world, the man who relished living after about with cancer in 2006, gave me a renewed appreciation for life. I had lifted my face to the sunshine, closing my eyes and soaking in the warmth. I'd saved to the breeze in my hair when biked to the cemetery and the smell of fresh mown grass.
Srini: Every scent seemed sharper, every color, more vivid. I grabbed gas, but the beauty of a rainbow. Like the young bride who used to view her laundry drying on the clothes line, I'd watch the sunset on the horizon and get up, then get up early to see it rise. That struck me so much because it's not what people would expect as a reaction to something as painful as losing your significant other.
Srini: And one thing that I think that I've made this observation about grief before is that I could read every book on the planet about losing a parent, losing a loved one. And I don't think that anybody can ever truly understand that until they've experienced it themselves. But why is it that some people respond this way to grief and others, let it just demolish them.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And I still feel that way. I still can look at a rainbow and. And that appreciation came from fire from grief, not just my husband, but I'd lost my mother 17 months before that I lost a grant eight year old grandson, 17 months after that. And I studied grief. I studied it like it was a test I had to pass because I thought, you know what?
Mary Potter Kenyon: We've got to be built with stand this because we're all gonna lose. So I studied it and I delve into the science and I realized, and then I became certified as a grief counselor. We have a choice. Every one of us has a choice and we can be broken by that loss. Or we can mine that pain and become broken, open and become better.
Mary Potter Kenyon: People become more. Like those people that we love and the best of them, we can consciously choose that people don't feel like they have that choice because grief is so painful and we'd rather avoid it and run from it. But to use that pain in some way, and I don't know if it was instinctual and if we each have that instinctively and us, and some of us are just floundering around and some of us turn away from all good and all, cause we're sewing.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I've met people who are still angry years after they lost somebody that they love so much. And they're angry whether at the person or at their life or a God or whatever, they're just, they Harbor that anger. And then what a waste of a pain, what a waste of a lie. If we can use these losses and become better people.
Mary Potter Kenyon: That. And then probably yes, having a husband who had gone through cancer, who came close to dying and watching him appreciate life. I remember before a 60th birthday yesterday, are you dreading this birthday? With that zero. Cause I shared during those birthdays with zeros and he just looked at me, said, no, think of the alternative.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Yeah, the alternative is not being here. So I get up every morning and I have a lot of things to be thankful for because I have met somebody and remarried just this year and I just get up every morning and I think, what can I do today to help somebody out? What, or who am I going to meet today? What exciting thing is going to happen today?
Mary Potter Kenyon: Or what exciting thing will I see? And I just live like that. And I think that's the way. I think that's the way we're supposed to live. How much better to live like that. But yeah, I think it's a conscious choice and people don't like to hear that because that means we have some work to do when we lose somebody.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Maybe we have to figure out how we're going to live without this person. But how else, or how are we going to use this to, how are we going to use this? Okay. Make me a better person. How can I live a life that this person would be. But I'll never forget the way that felt when I would. First of all, I'll never forget the way it felt to be not so busy with just one child that I could watch laundry drive and to just stand there, being so happy because those diapers in the wind would smell so good and feel so good that I would actually go in the house as a young housewife and look for more things to wash so I could hand them out.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And I think I had that again, when my husband died, I had. Period of time when I knew I was going to be okay, I didn't have to go out to work for maybe another year and I could choose consciously choose and not all of us can do this. I could consciously choose to do only those things I wanted to do what a life I had for those.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Yeah. I was grieving, but I could I didn't do anything. I didn't want to. And I only said yes to those things and we could get away with that as grievers too. We can get away with doing things differently. Or, and I just said no to anything I didn't want to do. And yes, to lots of workshops, lots of public speaking and, talking to people and the things that make me come alive.
Srini: You mentioned that you remarried and you, you met somebody else. How do you. Open yourself up enough to meet somebody else after, somebody who is clearly the love of your life has passed away. And also honor the person that was once there while falling in love with another person.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I think COVID, and the isolation of COVID really demand because I went home from work and worked at home for about seven months and went home to the only child of my age. Who did not hug. And so all of a sudden I went from being out there in the world where you are at least getting a handshake or somebody, since I was doing grief events, there was always hugs with grief events, or I was doing writer's conferences.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And there's always a lot of hugs at those writers conferences and stuff. But all of a sudden I was in a place where no, I was, nobody was touching. I had no touch and my daughter didn't want to talk to me. She was 17 and oh, she didn't want to talk about the buyer. She didn't want to listen to, she wanted to go to work.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And I was telling her, I think I need to stay home because you're out there as a essential worker. And I'm here at home working to protect myself. And so I made her quit her job for a month and until they start wearing masks and stuff, and up until that point, I knew in my head. That I could love somebody else because my husband had said, if I ever died before you, I would want you to get married again.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I would want you to have somebody to hug and to hold hands with. And, cause I know how much you love that. And I needed that and I did, but I thought, I could, I had it once I could die without ever having that again. At least I had it, but boy, the pandemic to me and I heard an Iceland, they were hugging trees to alleviate loneliness.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And so I tried to hug the tree across the street at the school, across the street, and just felt like a fool. Hugging a tree and just ran back in the house. And I thought that's not going to help me any. I started to think about dating sites at a time when, of course you couldn't see anybody anyway, you'd have to stand six feet apart in a park with a mask on, but my heart was open.
Mary Potter Kenyon: My heart was open to being loved again. And then I went into the woods where I'd grow up. And my son had bought that place and I hugged those trees and those trees felt different. They felt friendly, they felt loving. And I thought, oh, this is something I can hug the trees. And that gave me the idea to take walks with my daughter.
Mary Potter Kenyon: She would take walks with me and in the woods, she would talk in the woods. We got close. And so I at least got close with my daughter, something wonderful came out of the pandemic and it was that closeness with the daughter who's now 18. And I did sign up on a couple of dating sites and, oh, there's lots of weirdos out there.
Mary Potter Kenyon: So I would get think, oh my gosh, no, that's not it. I had a very stringent idea of what I wanted and I wrote it down in my journal. And actually in 2018 I had felt led to. A prayer about the husband that I would have some day to him. And I don't know why, but I just felt led to write this prayer, my journal in the summer of 2018.
Mary Potter Kenyon: So yes, my heart was open to that and I thought it probably would be, would have to be a widower because that's the only person who would ever understand that my first husband was going to be a part of my life forever. You love somebody that are part of your life. They're the father of your children and their just that love would be.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And this man answered this ad and oh, their first date was two hours long and I felt like I known him forever. And I thought, could this be in the next day it was nine hours long. And I found out his wife had died in the summer of 2018, right before the summer of 2018. I thought, whoa. He said it was the worst summer of his life.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And I thought, I was praying for somebody who I did not yet. In the summer of 2018. And so after that nine hour a day, we both thought, oh my gosh this is the person who we could love again. And we got married just probably six weeks after we met, which sounds crazy. But once you've loved and lost and you would give anything to have an hour back with that person.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And then you find somebody. You'll give anything to have every hour with that person. And he and I are. Our love story is amazing and we both feel like our former spouses might've had something to do. If there's a possible, if there's any possible way, that's something to do with bringing us together.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And so we got married in the woods where I had been hugging trees all alone for year before.
Srini: So for both of you, is there ever the sense of, how is this person ever going to live up to the person that was the love of my life? Obviously there's, clearly the person who was your father, your children, and then I'm guessing for your husband, new husband as well, who, do like somebody who was his wife for so long.
Srini: Is there ever the sense that, like you'll never live up to that, his wife and he'll never live up to your.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And the cool thing is they don't have to because it's a whole new relationship. It's a whole new love. It's different from the start. And we can talk about our former spouse without the other person being jealous, because we both understand.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And so I don't think there is ever, he doesn't have to live up to that person. He's a whole new person and our love is so different. I will say this because I am a faithful person. Before that nine hours a day. I had to ask him, I had to ask this man that I'd seen only once for two hours, would you pray with me?
Mary Potter Kenyon: And he said, yes, immediately. And we started every single day with prayer. We start every day of our life with prayer. And I didn't do that with my first husband. I was 19 years old when I got married, barely knew what I was doing. Kid and wish I had, I don't know if that's why this love is so different, but I think it might be, I think it might be because we've had gotten it from the start and it just so different.
Mary Potter Kenyon: We both Marvel at it and we don't feel like for doing something against our former spouse, by loving so much in such a different way. It's just it's, this is something so different.
Mary Potter Kenyon: It's funny because the last four of my eight, the ones who lived with me when their dad died, reacted, I think most accepting even that daughter who just turned 18, maybe because they saw the grieving mother, maybe because, and they saw her so intimately because they would hear me crying in the night and they saw the loneliness more than the older four did.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And the older four are fine now. They've met him. But there was like, oh, what are you doing? Type thing. And but those last four also saw the faith-filled mother, the mother that changed with grief. And so they knew I was coming from a place and that I had prayer and all of it and stuff. Now they're good with a, he loves cooking.
Mary Potter Kenyon: He owns a restaurant, so he cooks and I don't, maybe that won their hearts over. I remember one of my kids saying, boy, mom, you need to find a man who cooks because I didn't like cooking anymore after my husband died. And not that his food one won them over, but there's definitely that, that made him a little more acceptable, but also seeing how much he cares about me and stuff.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Yeah, and I don't blame them. If I had one of my daughters, tell me after the second day I love this person, I would say, ah,
Mary Potter Kenyon: and yet here, their mother is doing that. So it hasn't been scary for them. It had to have been scary. It was scary for me. I thought this can't be, you can't know, after the second date that you love a person and yet. And he knew. And so it's been amazing from the start, but it was terrible. It was terrifying for both of us.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Cause we thought it doesn't work this way. And then somebody who I call my spiritual mentor said, Hey, why are you surprised? That's exactly the way it works when God's in it. That's what I knew the day I met my wife, but she was going to be my wife. This is that's exactly how it works. And I thought, oh, okay.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I didn't know that this is trust your feelings. And I'm glad that. Yeah,
Srini: you may have read it. There's this really beautiful book I titled that my wife says you may want to marry me. And the guy ended up writing the book because right before she passed away, his wife wrote an op-ed in the New York times titled you may want to marry my husband.
Srini: And I remember seeing the story and I immediately picked up the book and I thought, wow, this is such a beautiful story. It really struck me, but yeah. I think you're right. What funny to me is yeah, if the 19 year old said, they're in love with somebody after a second date, a black grad of your damn mind, you're crazy.
Srini: But I think if you're like, like later in life, it I've noticed that with a lot of people, like when I hear friends were, in their thirties or forties, late thirties or forties getting married and they're like in six months, they're engaged. I'm like, yeah. At that point in your life, you know yourself enough to know that, this is gonna work or not.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I was really worried about my youngest daughter, because she was she had just turned 18 and I said she, for her 18th birthday, she wanted to go visit her sister in California. So she gets on airplanes and I tell her I'm meeting this guy this week and I've been corresponding with, and she said, good, you won't be bored then.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And then she goes away and she flies. Back in a week and I'm sit her down and say, I'm marrying, I'm getting married. How terrifying would that be to be 18 years old? And she said you're getting old. You better hurry up.
Srini: Yeah. Wow. It's funny because we've danced around the idea of creative work, even though your book is about creativity.
Srini: But I just, to me, like this was the part of the story that I really wanted to hear. The part that I knew I would never get to hear. I just, from reading your book, You say towards the middle of the book, and I think it will make it a really beautiful place to wrap up. You said most of us will probably not make a living for our creative endeavors.
Srini: There's a reason I keep a day job, which offers its own opportunities for creativity and innovation. Some readers will have been fortunate to discover a purpose in life during their youth. Others will have struggled for years to become what they're meant to become holding down dead-end jobs or fighting frustration as they attempt to stoke that tiny flame that burns.
Srini: Then there are those facing the tail end of life, wrestles with certainty that there is so remaining, like my mother and great aunt Christine already incorporated creativity and faith in every part of their lives. It's like you said, I think that we both had a very similar idea behind our books.
Srini: So why is it that, people have this idea that if they can't make a living. That it's not worth doing it. And how do you know, make a case for changing their mind, given your experience?
Mary Potter Kenyon: So often the younger people don't, they follow a career that will make them money and sadly, Our society is to blame for part of that, because we're telling them you got to make a living and oh, you can't be an artist.
Mary Potter Kenyon: You'll never make a living or start starving are struggling artists, or you can't. We're telling our children, the world is telling our children, you got to get a job and you got to make you money. You do have to make money and you do have to make a living and stuff. And so we abandoned that creative part of herself instead of.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Grasp and hang onto it. So many of us life raising children, jobs, it just pulls us and pull us. And then where's the leisure time. There's maybe no leisure time. And we think creativity belongs with the leisure time. And we'll do that when we're retired or we'll visit. Although I've heard people say it's too late for them too late to them.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Now I've heard women in their seventies or eighties say, oh, it's too late for me. And then women in their twenties saying I'm too busy. We've got to realize that science is behind putting creativity into our lives and we'll be happier. We'll be healthier. And so it's worth our time to fit our creative selves into that.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And we were designed science shows that we were designed to be creative. We are built to be creative. So if we can work that into our jobs or work that into the way we're parenting our children or work that into our quote leisure time, which most of us don't have, we're going to be healthier and happier for it.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And we got to stop valuing creativity for monetary means because how many of us are going to have paintings in a museum or even what my mother did woodcarvings that we could sell. Beautiful quilts or, flowers in the garden that are amazing and win awards. That's, there's a value to being creative in our everyday life.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And the value is that we will be healthier and happier for it.
Srini: Oh, wow. This has been really just poetic. So I have one last question for you, which I know you've heard me ask, what do you think it is that makes somebody or something.
Mary Potter Kenyon: Unmistakable when you see, when I hear somebody talk and I see the light in their eyes, I know that is what they were created to.
Mary Potter Kenyon: I have met people who were in the dead end job or in a job for the money. And then I hear them talking. It was just recently. About the cupcakes Sinead for her daughter's birthday or something. And I saw this light come on in her eyes and I thought, oh, that, that is it. That's what makes you unmistakable is what you love, do what you love, do more of what you love.
Mary Potter Kenyon: And if you can find a way to make money with it, all the veterans stuff, but yes, that, it's what you were built to do. And we have to look for childhoods for that. Sometimes. That's what makes you unmistakable what you were designed and built to do? You might not be doing it right. That's what makes you unmistakable and find a way to do it?
Srini: Wow. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us and share your wisdom and your insights with our listeners. This has been really beautiful and thought provoking and eye opening. As I expected, it would be working people find out more about you, your work, your books, and everything that you're up to.
Mary Potter Kenyon: You can find me on Mary Potter, kenyan.com. Or on Facebook, Mary Potter, Kenyans, Instagram, Mary Potter, Kenyon. My book is available at any bookstore on Amazon or a familiar company or working in publishing.
Srini: Awesome. Like I said, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us. And thank you
Mary Potter Kenyon: so much for having
Srini: Absolutely. And for everybody listening, we will wrap the show with.