What is saving your life right now?
My good friend, Jen Hatmaker, asks this at the end of each of her podcasts called, For the Love, where she has a different theme every few weeks and interviews people who are “experts” in that field… For the Love of Girlfriends, For the Love of TV, For the Love of Books, and so on. Okay, she’s not my actual friend. I’ve read some of her books, I listen to her podcast and I’ve seen her speak, so I’m positive that I know her well enough to say that if we knew each other in real life, we would totally be real friends. In fact, I was talking to my brother a few months ago, telling him something from one of her books.
And he was like, “Wait, is this a friend of yours?”
And I answered truthfully, “Not in real life. But kind of. Like in my mind.”
“Because you’re talking like she is your actual friend.”
So obviously, not everyone understands. We have the kind of relationship that is a little bit one-sided, where I am more stalker/fan-girl than friend and she doesn’t know that I exist. And it’s totally fine.
But here’s the thing, I love this question. What is saving your life right now? Barbara Brown Taylor asked it in her memoir, Leaving Church, and it’s turned into one of those buzzy phrases that I’m hearing everywhere. And, unlike “I’m just saying” and “at the end of the day” and “it is what it is”, doesn’t make me inwardly cringe and scream into my brain.
So the thing that is almost always saving my life at any given moment is podcasts. Well, not always. Sometimes it’s Netflix. But more often than not it’s totally podcasts. Probably because it’s like binging Netflix, just in your ears. I listen to them when I’m doing stuff around the house, taking a walk, driving all the places and grocery shopping. Because grocery shopping is the worst. But the biggest game-changer, life-hack, hallelujah-moment of my entire life is that I will listen to a podcast while I clean my bathrooms. Because even worse than grocery shopping is cleaning the bathrooms.
So here are a list of my favorites. Okay, some of my favorites. It’s hard for me to choose because I love too many. And because I’m bad at choosing things. At some point I’ll write other posts that will have all my other favorites… which I obviously can’t include here or you’ll be reading for one hundred years.
Anyway… here goes.
Favorite podcast of all time: Serial. This was my gateway podcast… the one that got me hooked back when I didn’t even know that there was a podcast app on my phone or what it even meant. If you don’t know what Serial is, it’s a real story told week-by-week. So it’s one of those that you have to start at the beginning and listen to them in order (not all are like that). The first two seasons are real-life stories that are just… captivating. The third season profiles the Cleveland court system and it’s just as fantastic.
It is compelling, entertaining, sometimes shocking and you cannot stop listening. It’s perfect for long car ride binging, going for a walk and mindless chores. It takes some concentration for me to pay attention to this because it is meaty and gripping and the details are important, so I can’t listen to it while I cook dinner or clean the bathrooms, or I end up just sitting there, staring off into space, doing exactly nothing except for gasping or yelling things like, “exactly!” or “no way!” So for that reason, it’s not ideal for the grocery store either.
And if you haven’t listened to S-Town, which is basically an offshoot of Serial… you’re gonna wanna go ahead and download that one too.
Remember that episode in Friends where Rachel and Monica play the trivia game against Joey and Chandler? And there’s that question that’s like, “What does Rachel say is her favorite movie?” and the answer is Dangerous Liaisons? And the follow up question is, “What is Rachel’s actual favorite movie?” and the answer is Weekend at Bernie’s? This is sort of like that.
What’s my favorite podcast? Serial. What is my actual favorite podcast? The Popcast.
If something pops up on my phone notification and I am giddy to listen while I clean some bathrooms, that feels like magic and that just wins everything in my life.
Hosted by Knox McCoy and Jamie B. Golden, the tagline to this podcast is, We educate you about the things that entertain but do not matter. Listen. I need more of this in my life. So many things matter and they are so important… but do you know what I don’t want to have in my ears while I’m scrubbing my shower? Things that are super important and very serious and make me think too deeply.
So this is the perfect little brain vacation. It is hilariously, laugh-out-loud funny, where I have to stop what I’m doing just to laugh. It’s also handy because they’ll let you know what stuff is worth reading and watching and listening to. And look, that is a very big deal because there are a crap ton of things that I want to read and watch and listen to and I so love someone else making those hard choices for me. The only problem I have while listening is that because I’m oldish, I don’t know a lot of the people they’re referring to. So there are times when I have to stop, wash and dry my hands, and then Google, say, “Tom Holland” and then I will probably still not know who it is. As is the case with Tom Holland. Whatever. It’s still the best.
Favorite… um I don’t know how to categorize this podcast… news? current events? random real-life stories? I think it’s all of that.
Favorite real-life stories from current events that will also tell you things that are in the news podcast: This American Life. Obviously, it’s a tough podcast to explain and it’s hard to say how deeply I love it. When I first started listening to podcasts, I flew through Serial while I was unpacking the house we’d just moved into and when I caught up, I was sort of lost and depressed. I needed more, man! This one was recommended (probably because it has all of the same producers as Serial) and, after listening to all of the available episodes on the app, I eventually found the backlogged episodes and started listening from the very beginning… like Ira Glass’s very first episode. (I don’t know if it’s possible that there is a bigger Podcast Nerd alive on this planet.) I tore through a bunch of seasons… I seriously loved them. So. Much. Here is a good list of their best ones.
Favorite interview podcast: For the Love. Obviously, my pal Jen here. Like I explained earlier, she brings on “experts” in whatever theme she is doing at that time. Since she is exactly my age and we love so many of the same things (like books, cooking, TV, friendship), her conversations feel relevant and interesting. There are so many good interviews with authors, parenting experts and actors. Sometimes I’m scribbling down notes and other times I’m tearing up and sometimes I’m belly laughing. It’s a good one.
Favorite organizational podcast: The Lazy Genius. I’m not sure that’s a category, but I’m making it one. I’ve recently found this one and listen to me: It Is Amazing. Her thing is this: Be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don’t. I super love it. Each episode is twenty minutes and focuses on one thing, like meal planning, throwing a holiday party or cleaning, and breaks it all down into doable, helpful, meaningful, bite-sized steps. I think we can all agree that we are forever overwhelmed, feel perpetually disorganized and that mind clutter is for real and it’s also probably killing us. This is such a helpful antidote to that. Just an easy, pleasant, quick reminder that we can actually do it… and she also explains how. It’s hosted by Kendra, who writes a blog with the same name and it is equally good.
Okay… last one. For now. My favorite inspirational podcast: Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. Full disclosure, I go through phases with this one. It is so deeply good for my soul and she invites such insightful, wise, lovely people onto this podcast. I always feel like a better person after listening to one of these conversations. But here’s the thing, sometimes it takes a lot of energy to be a better person and all you really want to do is just make some dinner or walk through the damn grocery store. So I don’t always want the pressure of having to be inspired. When I do, however, this is my go to. My absolute favorite episode is the one with Brene Brown (I mean… Brene! Can I get an Amen?) called Rising Strong and it aired on July 18 (I can’t find the episode number or how to really link it here… but hopefully that’s enough information for you to find it if you’d like).
There are so many more that I love and that go through my rotation. I am obsessed with true crime podcasts, which needs its own post altogether. I’d love to hear your favorites!