Lydia Slaby: The Stories We Tell Ourselves To Make Sense Of It All

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Lydia Slaby is the author of Wait, It Gets Worse. The book shares the incredible story of how Lydia’s seemingly perfect life was actually in a free fall.

Her marriage was unraveling and the morning after her husband moved back into their apartment, her doctor’s visit about stress turned into a diagnosis of lymphoma. And to top it off, that diagnosis eventually led to an unnecessary open heart surgery.

Or maybe the heart surgery was necessary. Maybe it was the universe forcing Lydia to stop for a moment and pay attention.

At least that’s one of the stories she tells herself to make sense of it all.

In this episode, we chat about:

  • How the book is actually an incredible love story between Lydia and her body
  • How cancer saved her marriage 
  • Her tips for finding something to get out of your own way when your relationship is falling apart
  • How it’s possible to have multiple relationships with the same human
  • The importance of paying attention to the little things
  • Why she believes our bodies will throw up roadblocks if we’re not going in the right direction
  • The similarities to the story of Laura Savage and the potentially career ending injury that forced her to heal what she didn’t realize was broken within her
  • Was her unnecessary open heart surgery actually a blessing?
  • How this book may actually be the most beautiful legal argument she’s ever written
  • Her brief freak out about how much of her life she was sharing publicly

Learn more about Lydia Slaby at her website:
https://lydiaslaby.com/

Buy her captivating book “Wait, It Gets Worse”:
https://bookshop.org/books/wait-it-gets-worse-love-death-and-my-transformation-from-control-freak-to-human-being

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Transcript with Lydia Slaby

Tim 1:03
Today I’m joined by Lydia Slaby, who is a daughter, a wife, author of a book called Wait, It Gets Worse, which is a great title. I shouldn’t be laughing because it’s the story of your unexpected diagnosis of cancer. Your struggle with that as you calling yourself a control freak, then this unexpected open heart surgery you had and then throughout it all your marriage and your husband and your life, although I feel okay, smiling about it, because the way you write is just so beautiful and I think you found so much positivity in all this.

Tim 1:40
Okay, first thing I have to say, and I don’t know this sounds like a fanboy. But everybody listening has to read this book. Wait, It Gets Worse by Lydia Slaby. I’m serious. I don’t. I’m trying to get back into reading now. But I’m, oh my gosh, I couldn’t put it down. Lydia, first of all. This story I mean, there’s so much to talk about. But when did you ever consider, I’m going to write a book about this? I mean, that can’t have been an easy task just from the logistics of writing, but actually like the emotional part of that, at what point you’re like, yeah, this could be a book for others to read.

Lydia Slaby 2:18
That’s an excellent question. It turned into a book for others to read, frankly, after I’d written the manuscript. Because while I was sick, and I was sick with either cancer or recovering from cancer and chemo or this heart surgery situation for about a year and a half, and, and I wrote a blog while I was going through all that, and I wrote it for me, I wrote it. Theoretically, I wrote it to help my friends and family know what was going on with me, but I really wrote it for me, and it became very clear that that’s what I was doing.

And so when I realized that this sort of huge health debacle that I’ve gone through with something that was going to be exceptionally difficult to recover from emotionally, and I decided to write a book. Once I actually had probably about nine tenths of the manuscript, I let my husband read it for the first time. He sort of made his way through it virtually. A few days later, he came back to me and he said, 3d I know that you’d never thought about publishing this before. But I do think that there’s a lot of stuff in here that can be useful for other people. And I said, I’m sorry, what?

Lydia Slaby 3:35
Because it’s a very personal memoir, it there’s a lot in it. And, you know, I mean, like, I’m not that private of a person, but, you know, like talking about how often you’re having sex and like, there’s, there’s a lot in there and, and so when I find when I did sort of read it with that perspective, I did realize that it was potentially valuable for other people. And that’s what I went through the process of trying to find a publisher and all of that, which was a thing.

Tim 4:10
I imagine it really is. I mean, you could speak to how personal is because obviously, it’s your story and you wrote it, but from my perspective as a reader, you know, I thought about this today, you know, getting to chat with you. And I thought, I’m gonna hop on this video chat with Lydia. And I feel like I know her. We’ve never met it. She has no idea who I am.

But I read this book, and I know her husband, Michael, and I know their story of, you know, getting together and you know, everything they went through, and I thought, that’s a really powerful thing you’ve done and obviously, I mean, I know you to the extent you’ve allowed me to know you through the book. But I mean, I would agree with your husband, there is so much in there that others could gain I mean, myself included, so I’m glad that you decided to share it with the world.

Lydia Slaby 4:55
Well, you’re very welcome. Glad to hear that. Thank you. That’s why I did it.

Tim 5:01
I’m so glad so so I kind of gave a quick rundown. And I hate to just, you know, put it in a quick format like that. But I mean, the gist of it is, here’s the part I want to start. This is the part that struck me most in the book. Okay, so you are, you’re kind of explaining. I mean, you give us the premise of like, you got cancer out of nowhere.

And obviously, you weren’t planning for this. Not that I guess many people do. But yeah. And then you kind of explained, hopefully not. Yeah, that’s very true. You had this chapter where you explained kind of your background and where you met your husband and you know, your kind of life together. You know, you met very young and came in and out of each other’s life. And I’m reading this and I’m like, Oh, my gosh, this is just beautiful.

Tim 5:44
They, you know, they have their ups and downs and like any two people, but clearly they’re like, drawn to each other, and they’re probably meant to be and it’s kind of like Pam and Jim in the office like this is gonna happen. And I’m reading this and I’m like, Oh, that’s great. And then we kind of start to learn about how you got diagnosed with cancer.

Unexpectedly you go to the doctor on a Thursday for another reason but that to me the like wow moment was a new reveal this later in the book like a spoiler alert but you reveal later that like you and your husband were going through some troubling times to the point where he was in a moved out of the apartment for some time he moves back in the night before you go to the doctor the next morning and get this diagnosis and I stopped and I was like you know I thought everything was great between them i thought you know they went into the strong united i mean i you did but that that just threw me for a loop. I don’t even know what the question is here. I just can’t believe that.

Lydia Slaby 6:44
It’s interesting. A really good friend of ours from high school read the book and he was incredibly sweet. Because of course when it first came out I begged everyone to do Amazon reviews because that’s important for writers which drives me crazy but it is so you know we have to do it. Yeah, and and he was really cute because I was getting all these lovely reviews saying, you know, oh, health and cancer and transformation and that to that. And all he wrote was, this is the most incredible love story I’ve ever read.

Lydia Slaby 7:13
And I know these people and this is still the most incredible love story I’ve ever read. In some respects, this is a this book is a love story. It’s not just the story between my husband and I, but it’s the story between me and and my own body. But yes, to answer your question, I, the book does start with the day that I got diagnosed with cancer and then it backtracks a little bit. So then we discover what happened in the weeks leading up to me being diagnosed with cancer. And yeah, my husband and I were separated. He decided to move back into the apartment literally the night before I went to the doctor, and

Tim 7:53
That’s just mind blowing to me, like the image I mean, even though he moved back in and I’m sure things were good. I mean, the more you hear that the next

Lydia Slaby 8:02
They weren’t going downhill.

Tim 8:05
Yeah. I mean, going to the doctor the next morning hearing this and leaning on him, you know, but still thinking like, we just started to figure this out last night. Yeah. And now we’re starting this journey. What the hell?

Lydia Slaby 8:18
Well, it’s, it’s interesting. I, I’ve made the joke and it’s a bad joke. And so I need to stop calling it a joke. But I’ve made the comment more, more than once that cancer saved my marriage. And in a lot of ways it did because both my husband and I are very smart. We’re both very well educated. We use our brains for a lot of things. And when you’re in a relationship, sometimes your brain is not the best organ to be using. Really, it’s just how to get your brain out of the way of your heart. The wonderful thing about cancer is it stopped the conversation that we were having about our relationship. We got our brains in out of our relationship.

Lydia Slaby 9:02
And we were just with each other, and suddenly we were our brains were very distracted by something else called cancer. It let our hearts find each other again. More than once people have asked me, you know, how do you like, you know, manage a relationship that’s falling apart? I look at them and I’m like, Well, do you still love the person that you’re with? They say yes, but we just can’t seem to get out of our way. I’m like, so find something to help you get out of your own way, I strongly don’t recommend getting cancer, but come up with something else, you know, adopt an animal. You know, just do something else to get your brain out of the conversation.

Lydia Slaby 9:42
And in our case, cancer was that thing. So four months later, as I got out of the hospital, and I was done with chemotherapy, suddenly we realized that our relationship was in fact different.Tthen what we did is we purposely didn’t let our brain Try and go back to what it was. Instead we just sat in, in the in the new now. At times, that was difficult, you know, I was worried that he was going to leave and he was worried that things were going to happen again.

But every time our brains would kind of spin up that way, we would call each other on it and say, That’s not where we are now. We’re in a different place. Remember, we’re in a different place. We’re not there anymore. We’re here. So it took a lot. And you know, it’s been a while, eight years now. And every now and again, we do still have a moment where we have to sit down and be like, this isn’t. This isn’t where our relationship is. That’s where it was, but it’s not where it is.,

Lydia Slaby 10:47
There’s a wonderful woman, psychotherapist couples therapist named Esther Perel. She talks a lot about the ability to have multiple relationships with the same human Yeah, cuz she does a lot of work on couples who cheat and how to bring that couple back together, if possible, right. One of the pieces of advice that she gives is, don’t think it’s the relationship from before, like, build a new relationship. And so we joke that we are on our fourth relationship with each other.

Our third since we actually got married. It’s wonderfully freeing, because suddenly it’s like, oh, wait, we don’t have to be that couple that we were three years ago. We can be the couple we are now. And we’re both happy with that couple. And so that, yeah, yeah, probably, it’s a very freeing way to think about how to be in relationship with another human.

Tim 11:47
I saw that theme. You know, you mentioned the idea of like, not going back. And that to me, you had a whole chapter called change about that. But that was the part that really struck me and you know, I also love that your friend said about being a love story. I agree about that. But like, to me, the big theme for me come out of the book was you were talking about how your body was never gonna be able to go back.

I mean, obviously cancer changed you physically and change the way your body works. And I mean, just natural aging will do that to any of us. But then how you also I mean, your relationship with your husband, and then just how you kind of came to this realization of like, having to accept that there are times you can’t go back. And I mean, my gosh, you know, recording this during the whole COVID pandemic. That’s, that’s more relevant than ever.

Lydia Slaby 12:37
Yeah, not funny, but yeah,

Tim 12:40
I mean, here’s, that would be really hard. It is really hard for me right now just thinking about that with COVID. But for you realizing that during cancer was like how did you process that like knowing that some things, you know, both your body, your the way you think, you know, your husband’s really, really all that stuff? Ever, not that it’s gonna be worse, but it’s just never gonna be you can’t go back?

Lydia Slaby 13:05
Well, I mean, to be honest, it took heart surgery to teach me that lesson.

Tim 13:10
You have ome extreme things, teaching you all these lessons.

Lydia Slaby 13:12
I do. I’m not very good at listening to the subtle things. It takes a lot to get me to change my mind. And I’m very lucky that I’ve had very good healthcare to help me through that. But yeah, I didn’t actually learn that lesson after cancer and then chemotherapy. And I tried, I tried very hard. I tried to go back to the job that I had. I tried to get my brain to think the way that it had been thinking I tried to get my body back to the body of a early 30s person who’d never had cancer and who’d never gone through chemotherapy. And I failed on all accounts, all counts. The only thing that actually survived that year and a half was my marriage.

Lydia Slaby 13:56
And it was after the heart surgery where I, I’m not a religious person, but I was staring into the ceiling of the ICU. And I said, I’m doing something wrong. I mean, I’m doing something wrong. I can’t be doing something, right, if this is where I’m live right now. And so I talk about it in the book, but what followed was a journey of finding my teachers, because I realized that my brain had gotten me from chemotherapy to heart surgery.

So my brain wasn’t going to help me figure out how to get from heart surgery to health. And so I had to find people who would, and what followed was, frankly, a remarkable Story of paying attention to the little things to help me get to the point where I had the teachers and I was capable of listening to them to get to the point where I have health, and I will be blunt with you right now is that one of those teachers is my body. I just didn’t know how to listen to it.

Tim 15:24
Yeah, and I imagine your body of all teachers is one that’s never going to change this opinion. You’re not gonna be able to sway it a different way. I mean, your body’s telling you, this is how it is your order, you’re not,

Lydia Slaby 15:33
Yeah, your body doesn’t live in the future or the past, it lives in the present. And if you’re in pain, if if there’s something going on, it tells you and if you’re not paying attention, then it moves on to the next thing or tries to tell you harder or tries to tell you even harder and i i don’t like saying that. That I brought cancer into my life. Because I think that puts blame on myself where I’m not quite sure it belongs. And I don’t want people to believe that cancer comes into their life to punish them in any way. Sure.

But I do believe that our bodies will throw up roadblocks if we’re not going in the right direction. And those roadblocks can be any version of dis ease. So anything that’s making you not comfortable in life. And sometimes that dis ease is an actual disease, and sometimes it’s an injury and sometimes it’s just a twinge, but our bodies are incredibly wise. And I do think that as a collective, considering we are recording this during COVID. We’re about to learn the true wisdom of our bodies. Honestly. And the planets body and, you know, all of all of our non brain wisdom is about to come flying to the surface I think.

Tim 17:09
I think so. You reminded me of…I spoke with, her name is Laura Savage. She was early on in the podcast when my guess and this always sticks with me she had she’s an actress and a dancer and a performer and she was doing this show Newsies. I mean, hundreds of times, you know, plenty of times and then one time, she landed the wrong way in a normal routine and tore her ACL. Yeah, and I had to get a reconstructed go through physical therapy, all this and she said the same thing you did.

She said, I stopped during that process. I had to stop. I had to sit back I had to slow down. And I realized I was you know, all these things in my life. I was to content my relationship and I think my body was saying, hey, slow down. I gotta tell you something. Yeah. Yeah. there’s really something to that. It’s something I’ve been trying to become more cognizant of. I mean, since you know, talking to her reading your book, and just this idea of like, there really is something between the mind and the body like they are connected in this way.

Lydia Slaby 18:12
Yeah, I 100% believe that. Absolutely.

Tim 18:17
We keep talking about this heart surgery. And I want to clarify the part of the story here because this, this part is just nuts. You weren’t expecting to have heart surgery, either. This was after, you know, after cancer. After chemo, there was an additional complication that arose and then there was some recommendations from healthcare workers to go down this route. And then it turns out, maybe you didn’t have to. How did you? I imagine there was some forgiveness there. I mean, basically comes down to you probably didn’t need to have open heart surgery. But you did.

Lydia Slaby 18:47
Well, I mean, it depends, right? Like, did I ever need to have open heart surgery probably not interesting. Did I need to have open heart surgery in order to stop the route that I was trying to pull my way through. You know, it’s the tricks we play on ourselves. Yeah, it certainly makes the whole thing seem less. It gives it gives the entire process worth to me. Yeah, and you know, who knows, right? Like, I made it up, but it’s worked for me. It is a story that has worked for me, but it is a story that I have made up.

Lydia Slaby 19:29
Just so your listeners know those who haven’t read my book. The kind of cancer I had was a non Hodgkins lymphoma and it sat in my, in my chest between my lungs above my heart. And as part of the process of recovering from that particular kind of cancer. I had a surgery to remove the tumor, which involved cracking open my chest and that whole thing. So I did that. And then a year and a half later. I basically had a blast. See go wrong, and they ended up having to.

And as part of the biopsy going wrong, they poked a hole in my heart. So that’s why all of this was focused in and around the area of my body which holds my heart. And, and so as a result of poking a hole in my heart, they then had to fix the hole, hence the open heart surgery. So it was supposed to be an outpatient procedure and I was in hospital for five days instead and out of work for 10 weeks while I recovered from open heart surgery. So that is the very brief version of that story.

Lydia Slaby 20:37
And no, I mean, I didn’t have cancer. So the procedure, what they saw in the scans that thought that they thought I might have had cancer again, that precipitated the biopsy that then poked a hole in my heart. Like I didn’t have cancer again, so I didn’t have to have the biopsy and I nobody needed to poke a hole in my heart. Not enough. Never surgery. If I was personally on a path that wasn’t working for me, which I believe I was because it wasn’t working for me.

What else could have stopped my attention mean, cancer didn’t stop me from living a life that wasn’t working particularly well for me. Chemotherapy didn’t stop me. So maybe making me the most critical patient in a hospital that deals with gunshot victims? Maybe that is what caught my attention. And am I and you know, in my case, it did that that caught my attention in a way that cancer and chemotherapy and all the rest of it hadn’t. So, you know, was it necessary, physically? No.

Tim 21:44
Yeah, that’s a fair perspective. Why did your body need to get your attention so bad?

Lydia Slaby 21:49
Well, it speaks back to the conversation we’re having before about going back so well, to two things actually. I mean and this speaks more to the way that I grew up and the way that my brain works and, you know, the stories that we tell ourselves to get through our days, but you know, I had a, I had a certain prescription of how to live my life. It involves going to elite fancy prep schools and then going to fancy colleges and then getting the right job and then marrying the right man and then going to the right graduate school and then getting the right job out of graduate school and then having babies moving to the suburbs.

You know, like the checklists that we all have, that we don’t realize yet that we don’t realize we actually are living by until we have a moment where we stop living them. Suddenly we’re like, Wait, who told me I had to have babies? Like, wait, who told me I had to get married? Wait, hold on, I have to go to the suburbs. Why don’t you go to the suburbs? You know, like, it’s kind of a joke, but like, not really, right?

Tim 22:55
Very true.

Lydia Slaby 22:58
So I was living this life that I wasn’t choosing, I thought I was choosing it because I was making the decision around which graduate school to go to, and which fancy job to accept. But I wasn’t actually choosing whether or not I wanted to be living the life that I was living. And so what cancer tried to do, and heart surgery successfully did was give me the opportunity to choose the life that I wanted to lead.

Tim 23:31
In some ways, it kind of ripped you out of your, your prescriptive life, right? I mean, because, I mean, in the book, you describe how after all this, you know, you’ve recovered and you’re going through the weeks of recovery, you kept trying to go back to your job. You’re a lawyer at the time, a pretty busy lawyer, long hours. A lot of work.

Yeah, and you kept trying to go back and your coworkers are kind of like maybe you should, you know, continue to recover a little bit and you know, we’ll be here when you get here, we get back. It’s okay. But You know, like, to your point, I mean, you, you wanted that life back in that, that that life and yeah, it sounds like they you know all of this, your body basically ripped you out of life and said “uh uh”.

Lydia Slaby 24:12
Yeah, but no, no, no, no no. And oh, you’re not gonna pay attention to that one. Okay pay attention to this one. And that was actually what one of my teachers said after heart surgeries. He said, Listen, if you don’t start paying attention to some of these, at some point, modern medicine isn’t going to be able to save your life.

Tim 24:29
Oh, that’s a hard thing to hear.

Lydia Slaby 24:32
It scared the bejesus out of me to be perfectly honest. Of everything that I’ve gone through that those words coming out of that teacher’s mouth are what really made me stop dead in my tracks. Because before it was just a series of ridiculous health events that aren’t supposed to happen to healthy people in their 30s right. And then suddenly, what he did is he put it all together and he said, Listen Like, it could be a series of ridiculous health events that shouldn’t happen to someone in their 30s.

Like, what if you think about it in a different way, think about it. As you know, this remarkable human being in her early 30s is leading the wrong life. And maybe this is the universe or God or whoever you believe in. Maybe this is their way of saying, hold on a second. Oh, wait, you’re not gonna pay attention to that one. Hold on harder. Oh, wait, you’re not gonna pay attention to that one.

Tim 25:31
Yeah, I’m gonna keep knocking at the door.

Lydia Slaby 25:36
And you know, he was really cute. He was like, Listen, there’s like all sorts of ways you can have conversations with that entity of whoever it is that we believe us like I strongly recommend that you might want to start voluntarily having those conversations instead of having them whacked over your head with a two by four.

Tim 25:55
That’s a good way to put it. That was the other part that struck me as I mean it I think you were 33 when getting diagnosed, and I’m 35 now and I, I’m reading this and I’m like, that’s so young. I mean, like, you know, and of course, I feel like we all think, you know, we don’t you know, you’re 25 and you think 15 is young, and then you’re 30 you’re like, Well, 25 is really young and 35 and 30 is really young.

Lydia Slaby 26:18
We all think we’re young until, I don’t know, until I guess we get old?

Tim 26:22
Yeah, exactly. So I’m reading this and I’m like, Oh, my God, like she was 33. And all this shit just came out of nowhere and I just connected very person that level. You your friend saying it’s a love story. I love that because, you know, it’s interesting to me. You said it’s a memoir. And it really is. How did you? I mean, I know we discussed how you decided kind of like this could be something that can be out in the world and I’ll share this story.

But what made you decide to share the whole story or at least more than just you know? The part where you’re 33 and ripped out of your life and then you know, this all changes. I mean, you give so much background about the love story part, especially about you and Michael, how you met early early in life and then cross paths and what made you kind of want to share the whole thing, as opposed to just that, you know, the most recent.

Lydia Slaby 27:20
To be perfectly honest, I think a cancer story just out of context with the survivors or, or not, without the patient’s life is one dimensional, for the reasons that I just shared with you. You know, these huge moments happen to us. I firmly believe they happen to us for a reason. So telling that just the health side of my story, without the job confusion and without the relationship confusion, It makes the story one dimensional. And I think frankly, it makes it uninteresting.

Lydia Slaby 28:05
And the other part of it too, and I mentioned at the beginning, I wrote this story to heal. There was a lot having to do with the collapse of Michael’s in my relationship leading up to cancer, that I still needed to heal from emotionally, the marriage had healed, but, you know, I kind of wasn’t done with it in my head and in my emotions. So it just kind of came out. Like some days I’d be writing about the cancer and the recovery and what was going on.

And then other days, I just find myself compelled to write about what Michael and I had been dealing with and, and so I paid attention to that. Like if they’re both coming out of me at the same time as part of this process of telling one story, then maybe there’s like something there. And he’s such an intimate part of My health story. I mean, he’s there. He was there every day with me in the hospital. And that I think that I wanted to make sure his the importance in his life beyond a caregiver was shared.

Lydia Slaby 29:18
Andit worked. I mean, it’s funny. I mean, like, there were parts of that book that I wrote that, you know, I usually talk to my therapist once every three weeks or something. While I was writing that book, there were parts of it where I’d have to be on the phone with her once every three days. There are aspects of cleaning up my relationship with him.

And there were aspects of, especially the heart surgery day, where it was just exceptionally difficult for me to write. That, you know, the difficult stuff is where the grist for the mill is, right? So it’s like that I actually kind of got through those. And I could read them without crying and I could read them without sort of losing my breath. Or having a panic attack, suddenly I realized that I’d actually dealt with it. And that was incredibly gratifying.

Tim 30:06
Oh yeah, what a great outcome.

Lydia Slaby 30:09
Yeah, now I’ve got like, you know, none of that, like, what’s the next problem I have to deal with? So, there was that side of it, but then also, to be perfectly honest, just when you’re crafting a story, and it is a memoir, but you know, stories aren’t compelling unless they have kind of a beginning, a middle and an end. Sure. And, and a lot of ways, this is a hero’s journey, if you think about Joseph Campbell, and all the rest of it, so it’s sort of where does it land, and it’s a I didn’t die.

So it didn’t end with that. I am still living a life and I’m living a life of curiosity, and I’m living a life of lessons. And so you know, I had to pick a moment where and where the story could end. Yeah, and having the story and with My husband’s in my relationship being healed. Seems like a good spot. You know, it’s like if we’re going to bring something to a conclusion, that seems like a good conclusion to bring it to. So that’s the other side of it. Like, in terms of my own healing, and also in terms of just crafting a well written story.

Tim 31:20
I love that. I do think I agree with you on on all counts. They’re like, I want to be your story, especially from the book is just one it is about your life. It’s about how cancer spoke to you the person and so getting the background on you the person Yeah, I can’t imagine not having that background. Were you I know during during your time with cancer, you started a blog to kind of keep your family and friends updated, as you mentioned.

Tim 31:50
So you were writing a lot then prior to that, like throughout your life had you written much like were you with someone that wouldn’t journal or write or was this blog kind of the first time you start there? And I asked this, and I’m not blowing smoke or anything. It’s one of the best written well written books I’ve ever read like you. I’m wondering if part of this whole thing was like you.

Your body was like, Hey, you have a calling as a writer. Like you have something here you have a gift to share with the world because it’s it’s a me it’s just so well written. It’s I’m just curious, like, were you always a great writer, or was that part of this?

Lydia Slaby 32:24
Well, first, I am going to take that compliment. Thank you.

Tim 32:28
Oh, absolutely.

Lydia Slaby 32:29
Thank you. I have always been a writer, I have never been a journaler. So I’ve never written except for ones, two stories that I wrote in high school. I have never written personal stories. I’ve also never written fiction. So this was my first foray as an adult into blogging, but your book was my first sort of full foray into a creative nonfiction personal thing. Really just a creative, written story, nonfiction or not? I have though spent my entire career writing.

So I graduated from high school and I went into state government and back I graduate from college and I went into state government and I had a great deal of my time there was writing analytical reports and, you know, policy positions and this and the other and then I went to law school where all you do in law school is right, and then I went and became a lawyer, and all you do is lawyers, right?

Tim 33:37
Is that a different style of writing, though? I don’t imagine that’s as captivating or maybe I just haven’t read enough of that material.

Lydia Slaby 33:45
Clearly, you’ve been reading material from lawyers. But the beautiful thing actually about being trained as a lawyer and one of the most amazing compliments I actually got on this book was from a friend of mine. Who is a very, very good lawyer. And he said, this is one of the most brilliantly written arguments I’ve ever read. And I was like, oh, john. Thank you. So this is the trick.

And this is why I think that like, legal writing that doesn’t make any sense is the worst kind of legal writing because it’s hard to do good legal writing and have it tell a story and have it be compelling and have it be something where when you’re done with it, you’re like, Oh, I 100% agree with everything that was just handed to me. Yes, that is the job of a lawyer.

Lydia Slaby 34:37
We are trained to make arguments and to pull evidence and to weave a story. To convince a lawyer I mean, to convince a judge or to convince an opposing party or to convince them you know, a negotiation situation that our perspective is the perspective that should be adopted. So this is my, my story is, it’s creative, and it’s my own personal story. But it is, in many ways a piece of legal writing. Because I have shared my perspective on the world, and I’ve backed it up. I’ve given you lots of evidence as to why you should believe it. I feel like I’ve made a compelling argument. And people seem really taken with it.

Tim 35:29
I never thought of it that way. So now I’m thinking, you being a lawyer was all part of the destiny here, like,

Lydia Slaby 35:36
You know, it’s like, once again, it’s the stories that we tell ourselves, I try and yeah, this is how I convinced myself that my legal education was not a complete and total waste of time.

Tim 35:48
I don’t know as an outsider here, it’s pretty compelling. I mean, when I think about it, when you phrase it as you were making an argument, you had an opinion, you backed up the opinion with evidence, and you had a strong argument. That’s, that is what the book what I mean? Yes, yes. Now I happen to agree with the whole thing. I mean, but even if I didn’t agree, I could still agree that you were making an argument. Yeah. That’s beautiful way of looking at it.

Lydia Slaby 36:14
Oh, thank you. Yeah.Yeah, it was, it’s one of the most fun pieces of legal writing I’ve ever written. I really like the client, the client client was near and dear to my heart.

Tim 36:30
Kind of, you know, after Michael, your husband kind of said, oh, maybe you could share this manuscripts out. Were you still a little bit nervous about I mean, putting this out there. And then once it was actually out there, once you had to ask people to do reviews? I mean, were you ready for it? Or was it still just that whole nerve racking process of I mean, really, it’s true vulnerability there.

Lydia Slaby 36:52
Yeah. Yes, yes, it is. In many ways, one of the most nerve wracking things ever On my entire life In fact, two weeks before I was to eat before my publication date, so just about this time last year I called my publisher and I left her like a, I was practically breathing into a paper bag, voicemail and, and I said, I, oh my god, what have I done? Like, literally what have I done?

I have written this whole book, and it’s like, all of the dirty laundry of my relationship and all of the dirty laundry with like, with with my own version of my body, like I lost the plot, and my publisher called me back and so wonderful woman and she, she was just laughing. She was like, I mean, we could pull it. Do you really want to pull it? I was like, No, but say something. And she was like, it’s a wonderful book, and people are gonna love it precisely because you’re as honest as you are.

Lydia Slaby 37:54
And I was like, Okay, I took a deep breath and you know, and the ball rolls It is it’s, you know, we have I have personal friends who are still just blown away that I put this much of myself out for public consumption. But you know what, like, if, if we’re all presenting images of ourselves as perfectly made up beautiful humans who never screw up, then it’s we’re putting out false images of what it takes to actually survive this life with any semblance of humor or grace, right? Like, we all have lessons to learn, we all screw up.

And the trick is, how to be a good person while you’re doing that and how to learn something from it while you’re doing that. And that’s actually one of the main reasons why I called it Wait, it gets worse. Because it always gets worse, right? Like life happens, something bad happens, like whatever it is, burn the chicken, you know, like, whatever it is, yeah. How do you be a good person inside that moment? And, you know, how do you apologize? How do you forgive? How do you build community and build relationship?

Lydia Slaby 39:12
And if we’re never taught, and if we’re never shown the really nasty underbelly of what we’re all capable of doing to each other, with a, what I’d like to think as sort of a success story and a way to handle it coming out on the other end, then how are we ever supposed to learn how to become good people? So that that is how I justify putting my entire life out.

Tim 39:40
You know what, I fully support that, because I’m such a believer in this because I’ve been affected by it. When people like yourself have extraordinary lessons they’ve learned or they’ve feel there’s something there that others could benefit from, and then choose to share that there’s this ripple effect.

You know what I mean? Like you’ve now created a positive impact on that was when I emailed you, I’m sitting in my backyard. I’m reading this and I’m reading the part about change that chapter and I took some pictures of my phone. So I wonder, I don’t know how you like I said, I’ll highlight books, that was my way of like saving the quote. And I’m sitting there and I thought, I’m sitting here.

Tim 40:21
And this is in some way changing my life in this moment. Lydia has no idea. I thought, That’s such a weird thing. Like she wrote this book that has the potential to affect millions of humans. But she might never know. Yeah, you might never know who you affected how you affected them. You know, there’s no like feedback loop there. In some ways, I guess I should go write a review. That’s how we could solve this problem.

But and, and so I, you know, part of this is thank you for doing that. But I just I fully support that because you have now given us, you know, you’ve decided to share this and you’ve now created a ripple effect, you’ve created positive impact. And you don’t I mean, like, you’re only human, you didn’t have to do that. You could have decided I’m not ready for that. That’s too much for me. And you did. And like I said, Now, it’s just I feel like there’s so much good, that’ll come from this.

Lydia Slaby 41:20
Thank you. I hope so. And that’s, that’s why I published it. And it’s interesting, I still find it a little remarkable that it came out about a year before. All of this happens to the planet seriously,

Tim 41:33
Like I said that whole not going back thing, you couldn’t have been more relevant.

Lydia Slaby 41:37
Well, not going back how to be kind when you’re stressed and afraid to share life. How to, you know, how to handle being stressed and afraid for your life and having your world turned upside down and feeling like you don’t have any choice about where you are right now, when in fact, there are choices all around us. It’s just recognizing them as choices. Yeah, I’ve been noticing that there’s, you know, I like to think that my book is, you know, the end all be all.

But the wonderful thing about this is that I feel like my book is just one of pantheon of stories that have come out in the last 510 years. 20 years, I think just to specifically help humanity get through what we’re about to be faced with. I mean, currently, and I think it’s only going to get worse from here, honestly.

Tim 42:33
Oh, it’s all preparation. Yeah, that’s interesting. Yeah. So, yeah. What was it? 2000? Yeah, eight years ago. 2012 is when you got diagnosed. That’s first off. Congratulations on eight years later. That’s amazing. Yeah. But so it was how long were you working on the manuscript, then? Was that a couple years or something? I’m just trying to think it was quite a while. I mean, a couple years recovery, but…

Lydia Slaby 42:56
Well, exactly. So I was sick during 2012. And then I had my first surgery in 2013. Then I had my heart surgery in 2014. I ended up leaving my job at the beginning of 2015. So I didn’t actually start writing the manuscript that became this book until early 2015. And I had a publisher by mid 2016 I sat on it for a year. Honestly, not quite sure why. And then really kind of pushed it out did the finishing touches and all the edits and everything from 2018 and then it came out in 2019.

Tim 43:34
Was sitting on it like a possible second guessing of like, maybe not?

Lydia Slaby 43:40
It was a little bit. It was Is this a story that I want to tell? I was getting a lot of feedback from a lot of agents especially saying you know, cancer memoirs, there’s no shelf space you for cancer memoirs, publishers don’t publish them, you know, and I kept being like, this isn’t a cancer memoir. They’re like, well, you got sick with cancer. It’s a cancer memoir. And I’m like, Okay. Yeah, so there was a lot of feeling like I was being categorized before people had really even discovered what the book was about.

And so as a result, I ended up actually at a much smaller publisher and I’m delighted I am to be perfectly honest. I mean, she’s they’ve been wonderful. And they saw me for who I am and not who they thought I was or should be, or how I would be categorized at Barnes and Noble or whatever.So that was part of the length of time that it took.

Lydia Slaby 44:35
But the other reason why it took the time that it takes that it took is a lot of stories come out before they’re ready. And my story when I first wrote it down was before it was ready. I didn’t have enough perspective. The story didn’t have enough perspective. My own healing hadn’t happened to an extent where the lessons that I was trying to relay made any sense, because I hadn’t really understood them. And so especially I think, when there’s true transformation journeys that are being shared, if they’re being shared In real time, it it, it loses its impact.

And my story I think just took the time that it took in order to be wrapped up in the little bow where it is now. It’s interesting because I get a lot of people ask me like, well, when’s your second book gonna come out? And I’m like, that, like, you’re my stories take time. And like, I’m living the stories that make up my next book. Like, I have no idea what like, the big overarching message of my next book is and like, how can I like, I’m not just like, you know, pulling ideas out of my I’m living stories, and I’m trying to figure out what that actually means and how to package it in a way that helps people, you know, make sense of their own life.

Tim 46:08
So, is there a next book? I don’t literally mean like, do you have one in mind, but like, is it something that you’ve thought about, like this is I want to continue this this journey?

Lydia Slaby 46:18
Yeah, I’m I’m actually, it’s been really fun actually, I’ve been taking fiction writing classes. And so I’m about to. I’ve been working on a few different short stories, we’ll see where those end up if they end up anywhere. Yeah, so that’s just been a fun exercise. But my next book will probably be a similar style, memoir style series of stories. And the plot in the way that this plot was about cancer. But I was actually telling a story about something completely different.

The next plot of my book of sorry, the plot of my next book is going to be about caregiving, and taking care of my parents as they age and taking care of Michael’s mother. She’s aging and you know, my sister and her family and which is a whole new ball of worms for me because I’ve never considered myself someone who would ever be a caregiver ever.

And so I’m learning a lot about myself, but there’s I don’t know what the story under the story is yet. So I know that the plot is about caregiving. But what the story is actually about. I’m beginning to get hints of it. But I’m not entirely sure where it’s going to go. And that’s why these things take the time to take.

Tim 47:40
Oh, yeah, that’s amazing. I will say, I’m happy to hear that there’s potentially another book from you coming out.

Lydia Slaby 47:50
We’ll be talking about this again, in a few years, you know,

Tim 47:55
Like I said, I think I think you have such a gift and it’s great that you know, you’ve now you know, this part of your life is where you’re able to start sharing that gift. You know, for the masses. That’s awesome.

Lydia Slaby 48:06
Yeah, I love it. I love writing. I love I love figuring out the multi layers to these stories. It’s, it brings me no end up delight. So, thank you.

Tim 48:15
Do you feel now like your body You know, it kind of ripped you out of your, you know, the state of life you were in before and had you readjust? Do you feel like you and your body are kind of on the same page now like you’re it’s not knocking at the door anymore and maybe there’s some things you didn’t listen to that’s trying to remind you about? Are you both in in sync now?

Lydia Slaby 48:43
We’re in much better sync than we have ever been. I’ll put it that way. So I count that as a win. But I also count that as a work in progress. I am healthy. I’m grateful, exceptionally grateful that I’m healthy. I don’t seem to have any long term lasting damage from anything except that my you know, the numbers are of my immune system, how you know, modern medicine measures, your immune system is still not great.

So keep that in mind. For anybody who has For anybody in your life who has gone through chemotherapy, especially at this particular point in our history with COVID. You know, we’re all immunocompromised even if we don’t think we are.

Lydia Slaby 49:33
But, you know, my body still knocks, and sometimes it takes a little bit longer than, quote unquote, it should, for me to notice. And, you know, my body’s actually been knocking for the last couple of months. And it took me until Monday, frankly, to realize what it was trying to tell me.

So sometimes, it happens quickly, and sometimes it takes a little bit of time, but I am grateful that I have set up my life now. Michael, and I don’t live in downtown Chicago anymore. We live in the middle of nowhere in New York and upper in upstate New York and I’m in a small town we we live in the quiet we live in the dark. We live a much slower life than we did. Even though career wise, my husband is still doing his work, it’s just slower.

Tim 50:24
It’s a pretty stark contrast and lifestyle from you know, living like the heart of a city like Chicago.

Lydia Slaby 50:29
Mm hmm. And it’s made a dramatic difference actually, in both of our health, to be honest. So there are aspects about how we have crafted our life, both in our physical environment and in who my healthcare practitioners are and my teachers that I have set my life up so that I cannot ignore the messages that my body and is trying to send me basically as a failsafe, because I know that my brain is not helpful.

And so I’ve put myself in sort of guardrails. Which is great, because if I’m not paying attention, then somebody else notices and says, Hey, have you noticed and I go Oh, right. Oh, yeah. Oh, thanks brain for you know, a gardener for the last two weeks. That’s great. Yeah. But I know that right like our brains are here to try Guess. And so, you know, I’ve now tricked my brain, or I’ve now at least compensated for that.

Tim 51:26
So, yeah, you’ve set yourself up for, you know, a solid, I mean for success really right? Like you’ve put yourself in an environment where you, like you said, a fail safes in place and you can make sure that when it comes knocking, I do think too, you mentioned that you’re, you and your body are probably more in sync than ever. But I wonder if it’s the type of thing where there’s never full perfection there. Like I wonder if our body is always going to be checking in just to make a stop for a moment and you know, reevaluate, make sure we’re on the right path.

Lydia Slaby 51:55
I think that’s 100% true. I mean, why are we here? Right? Why are we as humans on this planet living these lives, to learn the lessons to learn, right, and one of our big teachers is the vessel that we’re born into, with the stories of that vessel and in a family that that vessel is born into and You know, we, we put ourselves here to learn the lessons and so I think as long as we’re here we have plenty to learn where we go after that I have absolutely no idea. But yeah, might as well learn something while we’re doing this part of it.

Tim 52:37
Yeah, absolutely.

Lydia Slaby 52:43
It does seem a little fruitless and nonsensical. And, you know, why really are we here? Please tell me it’s not just to commute to a job. Yeah.

Tim 52:56
That’s been one of the one of the weirdest things on COVID is like,

Lydia Slaby 52:59
Not commuting!

Tim 53:00
Yeah. And to some extent, like, missing it, because at least it was an interaction with other humans. You know, it’s this weird. I guess the grass is always greener scenario.

Lydia Slaby 53:14
You know, being out and about and being among our fellow humans, I think is a huge portion of why we’re here. So, yeah, the beauty actually is all of this technology is that we don’t completely lose it. While we’re all sitting at home.

Tim 53:29
Yeah

Lydia Slaby 53:30
Hopefully.

Tim 53:32
That’s true. It also makes you you know, it makes you appreciate those in person connections, you know, like

Lydia Slaby 53:41
So much more.

Tim 53:42
Yeah. Like, it’s great to be able to hop on a zoom or video chat, but then you also you realize, Oh, yeah, I I’m gonna appreciate it when I’m sitting down in the same room in the chair next to someone so much more. When I have that ability again. Maybe you’re right, maybe this whole COVID thing was like to it’s like your body or my body talking to me. This is Earth, I guess, talking to humanity, something.

Lydia Slaby 54:07
I think Earth is desperately trying to tell us all to slow down.

Tim 54:11
Yeah, it’s true.

Lydia Slaby 54:14
I mean, for her for her health. But I think also for ours, right. You We’re all running it. This has been stuck in my mind. Shawshank Redemption was on TV the other day, and…

Tim 54:26
Such a good movie!

Lydia Slaby 54:27
Right? Such a brilliant movie, and that heartbreaking part with Brooks and leaving the prison and, and, you know, he writes that letter back to his, his fellow inmates and you know, he said, when I went in, I’d seen maybe like one car a year. And now there’s just cars all over the place. Like, when did when did we decide we had to get so busy?

I’m messing that quote up but there was some something that’s like you went into jail in like, the early 1900s. It came out in 1940 or 50 or something. And he was like, we need we decided we had to get too busy. I was just laughing about it. Like what a great line especially in this particular moment of like, why are we so busy? When did that become our purpose to be busy? And I don’t think it is.

Lydia Slaby 54:17
The other cool thing actually that I learned Maybe about six months ago was our RNA. Like, pulses, I’m gonna not get any of the scientific words on this comment, right? But pulses like a light a photon or something out into the ether. And all RNA is pulsing this light thing out in the ether.

It’s one of the reasons actually why walking in the forest is so nurturing for us because we’re getting all of the light pulses from all of the plants, and they’re alone, and they’re talking to RNA and RNA is talking to them. And it’s this whole thing that’s happening that we don’t know about that’s happening. So when we’re actually physically near another human, we’re communicating with them in a holistic way, not just with our eyes or mouth or ears or in the ways that our brain understands.

Lydia Slaby 56:13
And so the fact that we are actually physically separated from the people that we love you know our friends and our extended family and things like that. It is actually, it’s making us physically lonely, because our little light pulses are used to interacting with each other. And so it’s funny. It’s like I love this technology because it is keeping us connected in this particular moment when we don’t have a choice.

But I do think that it’s also showing us how important it is to not to have offline physical personal connections, which I think that we as a, as a culture had forgotten about in the last sort of 10 1520 years. With social media, I’ve always friends on Instagram, I’m like, No, you don’t like Who are all these people like you have people that you communicate with and that you may enjoy. But like, are they really friends? like are they really like, you know, like pulsar friends, like, oh, maybe they are but like no.

Tim 57:12
Yeah, what an interesting way to think about, like to qualify that.

Lydia Slaby 57:18
There really is something tangible to actual physical interaction. So, yeah, I do miss that. So that was a very long way of saying that I miss it.

Tim 57:31
I haven’t seen Shawshank Redemption in so long. But I remember the part you’re talking about it that is so relevant. I’ve experienced this myself. I’ve just you look at the different parts of your day, you know, pre COVID. And currently, there’s parts that suck for sure. But then there’s parts. Like I’ve been going for a walk, I’d make sure I start out every morning with a walk and then go for a walk at lunchtime.

Yeah, I thought, well, this is all over and we’re back to our normal routines or the new normal routines. Like, I’m gonna make sure I still go for a walk at lunchtime. Why not? Like, there’s nothing I’m doing that’s too busy that I can’t go for a 25 minute walk.

Lydia Slaby 58:08
No, nothing. And I will be very surprised if once quote unquote, all of this is over. That as many people are working in big buildings and downtown’s. I mean, I think we’ve all proven that a lot of the work that is done can be done remotely. So that’ll be, that’ll be an interesting byproduct of all this just to see what happens with that.

Tim 58:30
Yeah, the flexibility of it all, I hope, which to me stems from, like empathy. I hope that, you know, as we start to, that’s a thing. I don’t think this is gonna be like, over one day, it’s gonna gradually, you know, gradient into something else, right, like will shift, it will shift and eventually we’ll all be sort of in this new Yeah, but we can’t predict at the moment. Yeah, exactly.

Tim 58:51
But I hope that what carries through all that the transition, especially is the empathy, like, I feel like we, as a human race have become more empathetic to some degree. You know, I don’t think we’re perfect, but during all this just out of the, I think the human need to support each other.

And I hope that we realize that as we carry on and the pandemic is less of a threat, and the years go by, and we become like, Yeah, no, it’s not pandemic. time that we realize we still need that, you know, even when there’s no pandemic uniting us like there are other things that we should be empathizing with each other about.

Lydia Slaby 59:29
Oh, yeah. I mean, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to start examining all of the ways that you know, we’ve forgotten how to be empathetic towards our fellow creatures, right? our fellow man or fellow animals or environment all of it.

Tim 59:46
Yeah, I do, I echo that hope. Yeah. Lydia, thank you so much. Let me ask you this. Wait, It Gets Worse is the book and I do want everyone to go buy it. But as the author, is there a good place for people to buy it? That’s better for you. And also don’t to Amazon, you know, isn’t the best place to buy it to support the author?

Lydia Slaby 1:00:10
To be honest, I get the I get the same amount of money no matter where you buy it. Okay, yeah. So keep in mind that when Amazon is doing Counting its prices dramatically. It’s doing it in order to undercut all the other booksellers, not because it’s screwing the distributor or the publisher.

Tim 1:00:28
Interesting.

Lydia Slaby 1:00:09
Yeah. So it really is actually really bad behavior on that level if you think about it. So, I always say, Go buy from your independent, your local independent bookstore. They may not at the moment, have a fulsome online operation, but both of them are working on it desperately right now, if they don’t already have one.

Or if you haven’t discovered bookshop.org yet, it is the independent booksellers answer to Amazon. So yeah, it’s a brand new website. It was actually it came out in the last few months. And it is slightly more expensive than Amazon but it is cheaper than the price on the back of the book.

Lydia Slaby 1:01:16
But you know, I like painful price at your local bookstore because they are. I love I love local bookstores. And I think that without their curation and without their skill at holding communities together, that we would lose something. So I’m a big fan of just go to your local bookstore and buy my book. I don’t know.

The best part about that is that that helps me get to the attention of the bookstore and then someone at the bookstore will read it, and then they’ll start buying it and just putting it on their shelves. And then other people will just wander in and say, Oh, this looks like an entertaining book. Like I’ll buy that. So that’s, that’s a way to get me into the bookshelves as well.

Tim 1:01:59
That’s even better! Yeah, that’s even better. That’s great support for you then.

Lydia Slaby 1:02:04
Yeah, so so do that.

Tim 1:02:06
People can’t see where you are, but I can see where you are. And when I first hopped on here, you got the big bookshelf behind you. It looked like you were in an independent bookstore or library. The amount of books you have behind you so I could see your love for for independent bookstores there.

Lydia Slaby 1:02:20
Yeah, we do. We love to read.

Tim 1:02:23
Well, thank you so much, Lydia. I appreciate you taking the time and I love our conversation and yeah, I hope everyone goes out and grabs a copy of it gets worse because I’m in love with it.

Lydia Slaby 1:02:34
Thank you, Tim so much for reaching out for this wonderful conversation. It’s been a true delight.

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