Kids Are Grown,

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Transcript

Transcript – Episode 61 – How To Cultivate Happiness By Writing Letters Of Gratitude – With Nancy Davis Kho

Alice Agnello:

Hey, Nancy. Thanks so much for joining me today on the podcast. I really appreciate it.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Thank you, Alice, I'm excited to talk with you.

Alice Agnello:

Me too. For my listeners who don't know you, can you explain who you are and what you're all about?

Nancy Davis Kho:

I don't know if I can explain that, but I will do my level best. My name's Nancy Davis Kho, I live in Oakland California, the sunny side of the San Francisco Bay. And I'm a writer. I have been writing the Midlife Mixtape blogs since 2011. And I started the Midlife Mixtape podcast in 2017. And in both places, we talk about the years between being hip and breaking one. And I always say, if you don't laugh at that tagline, you will find nothing of interest in any of my work. But yeah, I'm a humor writer. I do a lot of personal essays. I've written for the San Francisco Chronicle and Washington Post and a few other places. And yeah, I published my first book last year. That's my newest thing that's on my LinkedIn resume.

Alice Agnello:

Yes. The thing you have to constantly keep up now, not just your resume that you hide, on your computer and update every once in a while. Today we're going to talk about gratitude and Nancy wrote a wonderful book called, The Thank-You Project: Cultivating Happiness One Letter of Gratitude at a Time. And in her book, she likes to define terms and words just like I do on this podcast. I thought I'd read a little bit about one of her definitions that she uses in the book.

There's two components to gratitude. First gratitude is the acknowledgement of goodness in one's life. It is the positive information of the people, places and things that make our lives worthwhile. And the second component is figuring out where that goodness comes from. It's recognizing the source of this goodness lie at least partially outside the self. When I read that, I just thought that's absolutely true. And I was wondering how your definition of gratitude, start at the beginning of the book and how maybe that's changed or evolved as you've done Thank-You Project as well as hearing from other people.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Well, that definition I lifted pretty much word for word from this wonderful researcher in the field, Dr. Robert Emmons who's works at UC Davis, and he is one of the preeminent researchers on positive psychology, the psychology of wellbeing. And that was from his book called, Thanks! With an exclamation point. And it's a really good, just foundational read for the brain science behind happiness and gratitude and how they're intertwined. And I know we're going to talk about what my Thank-You Project is, what it actually consisted of, but in terms of the book, I wanted to, I told my publisher that I really wanted to understand the science behind it because I knew how it worked on me and I wanted to understand why it worked on me. And a lot of what I found out in looking at the research is that that idea of looking, my favorite part of that definition is the second part, which is recognizing that at least some of your happiness emanates from people outside of you.

In other words, you are, of course, there are parts of your own life where you can make yourself happier. Of course you have some agency in whether or not you are a happy person, but a lot of it comes because of the relationships you have with other people and the way that other people have helped, and the way that other people have supported you. And that tied so closely into what my actual Thank-You Project was, which just, I don't want to keep anybody on the edge of their seat. I wrote thank you letters to 50 people, places and pastimes that had helped me up to that point in my life. And it really was that idea of taking a moment to look around and figure out who had helped me to get to where I was in my life, who had stepped in at formative moments to give me the assist.

And in doing that, you start to rewire your brain to continue to look for those helpers, to continue to look for the good things around you, even during difficult times. To answer the second part of your question of how my definition of happiness changed, I don't think I had any kind of a nuanced understanding of where happiness comes from when I started. I was just writing letters. I never really had given it much thought. But after writing the letters and understanding how powerful that practice was for me, and then looking at Dr. Emmons' research as well as a bunch of other folks in the field who have looked at correlations between gratitude and better health, gratitude and better sleep, gratitude and improved social connections, it really made me understand that happiness isn't really the goal.

That's a great outcome, but the real thing that you can pursue and that you can have an impact on is looking for gratitude and putting yourself in a grateful state. I don't think I'm somebody who is like, I don't read a ton of books about how to be happier or anything like that. I've never really thought that was the point of the pursuit, but it makes sense to me that understanding a little bit better about how gratitude can make you happier, can give you that push you need to be more grounded, grateful in your day to day life.

Alice Agnello:

And you started this project as a way to celebrate your 50th birthday. And your goal is to write 50 letters in one year. And a lot of things went on in your personal life and eventually you got them all done. And I love how you talked about that in the book that you gave yourself some grace. That it's okay. And you talk about in the book a lot of times is that have a goal, but don't beat yourself up along the way as you write these letters.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Well, one of the things I like to do, back in the olden days when I could do book readings and go out and do presentations in person, I like to start asking everyone in the room who was ever nagged to write a thank you letter, or who has ever nagged their own kids to write a thank you letter. I ask them to all raise their hands and I put my hand up too, because I had a grandma who would red line my thank you letters and fix the grammatical errors and send them back to me. Nobody who reads this book should think I went in like, yay. I love thank you letters so much. But I did think, I was turning 50 and that felt obviously like a big milestone birthday. And I was trying to figure out a way to make it meaningful and just to kind of reflect on what I had accomplished in my life to that point, who I have surrounded myself with.

And the thank you note writing, which was once a week. That was my plan, once a week for the year, was really just to reach out and make sure that I had done my karmic good housekeeping, I guess. Just really thanked people because a lot of times when you're getting help from people, either you don't realize the longterm impact as it's happening or you're 14 and you don't know that this person in your life at 14 is going to be one of the most important, is going to stick with you for 40 more years or whatever. I went into it without a real sense of, I was ambitious. I was like, yeah, I want to do one every week. And then as you say, that year turned very difficult for me personally. I had a couple of things go on that were just, that knocked me backwards.

And so it ended up taking me a year and a half to finish the letters, almost a year and a half. And I wanted the book to not be one more nagging thing that you feel guilty that you're not doing. And so throughout the writing process, I tried first of all, to bring in voices of other people who had done similar kinds of initiatives, but had done them in a slightly different way, just to give the reader a sense that there's lots of different ways to do this. And also just to keep saying over and over, “This is what I did. I'm not the boss of the thank you notes. If this works for you, great. If not figure out what does work for you.” Because the last thing you want is to be nagged about thank you notes again, we had enough of that when we were kids.

Alice Agnello:

My mom was very big on thank you notes. And so that passed down to me and my kids. I don't know what they're going to do if they have kids and how that will look like. I know that there's been a change in thank you notes in the sense that my kids wrote them when they were little. And now I'm like, can you at least send a text message to this person? Or can you call them if you have the time to do it? But it was one of those things ugh, they have to do it. And also there's that, as you said, there's this guilt that comes along with it when you haven't sent that thank you note and or you didn't receive one. Why didn't I get that thank you note when I sent that wedding present off the to cousin?

Nancy Davis Kho:

I keep track of that too. I hate to tell you. I know exactly who's never sent me a thank you note for what I did. I'm petty as can be, but what's different I hope about the thank you letters is that they're really an invitation for the writer to think about themselves, which sometimes makes it easier to sit down and get that motivation. Because the whole point with each of the letters was to figure out, how did this person who I'm writing to make my life better, different? What did they specifically, what skills did they teach me? What good advice did they give me? What's the time that they intervened, where I really needed help? And in doing that, you get to revisit these very fond memories of people. You get to think about all the different ways that someone has made your life better. Which again, going back to the brain science, that's doing the heavy lifting of rewiring your brain.

Without ever writing it down, you're already putting your brain in a state where it's more likely to look for positive things around you than negative. That's already just the thinking part of writing the letter is good. And then writing it down and committing it to paper. I do encourage in the book, I encourage people who write the letters to send as many of them as they can, because we are even before COVID, we were in a time where a lot of people felt isolated. A lot of people are feeling anxious and then this happened and it's worse. We're literally isolated in our homes. And so receiving a letter in the mail that says, “You matter to me so much, here's all the ways you made my life better.” Can you imagine on a dull COVID Wednesday walking out to your mailbox and finding that treasure?

I didn't really intend to write something that would pop so much against the background of pandemic, but here we are. And of course, I also say for the writer to keep a copy of every letter you write, because you're creating a record for yourself of all the people who have been on your team, all the people who understand your value and want to see you succeed and want you to overcome your obstacles. And when you're having a low day, like during a pandemic, it's really nice to be able to look back at those letters and say, “Oh right, my friend, Andrea is always there for me.” Or, “My friend, Adam, totally got that I needed his friendship at the time I knew him.” Even if we're not friends now, there's value to knowing that somebody felt that about you.

Alice Agnello:

And in this point in our life, midlife, gen X, whatever this, where we are right now for you and I and a lot of my listeners, is that they're always, I hear a lot that women are trying to find their purpose. What's my purpose? I don't know what it is anymore. And one thing that struck me when I read your book was that this is a good way to start looking for your purpose without having to go and search and do a whole bunch of different things. By taking the time to reflect on your past and the people made an impact in your life. Good, bad, helpful, not helpful, you're able then to dial in more to who you are and maybe find something new that you realize, oh, I hadn't done that in a long time. And this is the person that helped me figure that out later on.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Yeah. One of the many benefits of this project that I did not foresee was exactly what you're talking about. It was almost like taking a catalog of all the different facets of my personality, all the things I'd done besides being a mom. And the year that I wrote these, my kids were, my daughter was born in 2000 so it's always easy for me to calculate her. Okay, so she was 16 and the other one would have been 19. And I wasn't quite an empty nester yet, but I was sure approaching that phase. And I do think it's a useful practice at midlife as you're approaching the empty nest, to kind of remind yourself, these are all the different ways I was out in the world beyond being a mom.

And a lot of my letters went to people who I knew through my kids. My kids' teachers, my kids' doctors, things like that too. But they also went to my friends who I knew in Europe, when I first graduated college. I moved to Europe and the friends who knew me in high school as the class vice president and I still like organizing things. I do think it's a useful exercise if you're having that question of what's next? What do I do now? The kids are grown, now what? If you're having that question.

Alice Agnello:

Exactly. And I also love in the book that you were talking about that women are more likely than men to express gratitude on a daily basis. Women just kind of do that automatically. And one of the statistics that you mentioned is that 58% of people are more likely to express gratitude to a waiter at a restaurant than to their spouse at only 49%. And I just thought that's so not right. But it's truthful at the same time, when you listen to other women and see what they talk about.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Well, part of what I think is interesting. The way the book is organized, it's not a collection of the letters because who cares? You guys don't probably know my 50 people, so what do you care? But what I tried to do was first of all, just give some real nuts and bolts about how to organize it. And here's what you can put in a letter. And here's some writing prompts. Because I think sometimes that feels like a stumbling block to get started. And I wanted readers to feel encouraged to pick up the pen, but most of the book is organized into sections of here are different kinds of people you might want to write to. And in some cases there are snippets of what I wrote to those kinds of people.

And a lot of the people in the book to whom you might want to write are people you would never consider. You wouldn't really have a reason to write a thank you letter to your spouse. I don't know, maybe other couple dynamics are different but when my husband gives me a gift, I don't write him a thank you note. I just look at him and say, “Thank you.” It was cool to, I don't think I've written my husband a letter and I actually included this in the book. I had not written him a letter since one very dark day of parenting young children when I was pissed off about, why are you going out on your bike when I've been home with the girls all week? And I wrote a very mean letter. This was a chance to write a much nicer letter.

Alice Agnello:

I have to interrupt you because I think every woman has thought that exact same thing.

Nancy Davis Kho:

I know where he keeps it too. He's held onto that letter too. I don't know he knows that I found it, but yeah, I could see why he held onto that for proof in case there was a homicide. He would have been like, this was.

Alice Agnello:

This is why.

Nancy Davis Kho:

This is why. But no, to just kind of take a step back and think, my gosh, I've been with this guy since I was 24 years old. I'm 54 now I. Obviously I am a different person because I know him. And there's a lot of parts of his world that I've been led into. And I like to think I've changed him too, but it was fun to kind of take that step back. And then the letters I wrote to my siblings and my parents. You really just take, having that reason to step back, even the letters you write to your closest friends, you don't probably send thank you notes to your best friend all day long, but I've known my best friend since the first day of college. And I was like, wow, this is what I know because of her. This is what I do because of her. It's fun to write those letters.

Alice Agnello:

And I like how in the book that you, I do like those ideas and the structure, because when I picked up the book, I'm thinking there's the people that I automatically think of that I'm going to thank, my immediate family. And I still needed ideas for that. I have a different relationship from my mom, I think it's very similar to what you were saying. You have one relationship maybe with one parent and you have a different relationship with another parent, or you might not have a relationship with a parent or a step parent or maybe a grandmother was more of your parent.

But to have those little ideas as jumping off points, I just kept thinking, oh, I could write about this. There is a way I could say thank you to this person. And maybe it is just the one thing that I was able to learn from them. Or as I think you said, one of the boyfriends or something was like, this is the bar that I know I need to find someone above that bar. That's what you showed me is I need to find someone that's better than this because this is not acceptable in my life.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Well, and that, so I think what you're alluding to is the fact that a lot of the letter, well not a lot of them, but probably about, I don't know, I think nine or 10 of them I wrote, but didn't send because as the neural pathways improved, now I know, now I understood what happened the time I was just writing my letters. But the further I got into the letter writing, the easier it was getting for me to identify things to be grateful for, even in relationships that ended in a bad way, or that had ended period. And in experiences that I had remembered as more negative than positive. And what that is, is simply your brain, just getting more efficient at figuring it out and saying, “Look, you might not have stuck with that boyfriend, but maybe you learned something important. Maybe that guy taught you how to drive a stick shift.”

Or maybe that former friend, I talk about a friend who I met in college and we haven't talked in 30 years and I don't think I'll ever talk to her again. But we lived together when we studied abroad and I kept couldn't have gotten through that study abroad period without her. And so the point is you can write a letter to somebody like that and be thankful for that time that you did have together and then let it go. And there was really a lot of forgiveness that came through in writing those kinds of letters that I didn't expect. If you look at the entirety of a relationship and maybe it may have ended, but there were things to be grateful for.

And I could find myself really releasing resentment and really releasing tension that I'd held onto because what's the point of that. You're not in a relationship with them anymore. You don't want to be. That you can still go back and be grateful for the things that they did in your life that were healthy and positive. And like you said, there were certainly the frogs along the way that helped me say, “Okay, tried kissing that, that didn't work. Let's aim a little higher next time.” And I we've been married 28 years to okay if I call him my prince, I cannot share this episode with him. And I've been married 28 years to a very good guy. I knew him when I saw him for a reason.

Alice Agnello:

And a lot of those relationships, you remember the end or how it ended and how, and it could be a relationship with a boyfriend, girlfriend, but it also could be someone in your family or a friend or a boss, how that last thing was, how you ended it. And that's all you feel is that resentment and anger. And then to have the opportunity to look at that situation in a new light, through writing a thank you letter, through using your book as a guide and giving ideas to say, “Okay, now look at this in a new way. How could you think this person for even just one thing?” And re-examining how that situation affected you back then and how you might still be carrying and keeping that resentment with you even now and using the thank you letter to release that and get rid of it in a much more clean break of a way. And so it's not this thing that you just, the scab that you just don't want to keep reopening the whole entire time.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Well, and I think I say it in the book too, forgiveness clears the way for you to find more things to be grateful for. What do you want to use your energy on, resenting people or just acknowledging, moving on? And so I think the letters that you write and don't send can be really healing. And people have said to me, sometimes at readings, “Well I've got this stepmother and I've got this very complicated relationship with her and blah, blah, blah.” And I say, “Don't write the letter.” The subtitle of the book is, cultivating happiness one letter of gratitude at a time. If there's something that feels really itchy that you don't think is going to be easy to write, put it aside or don't write it at all.

But if you start with the easy ones, I would bet that you will get more thoughtful about figuring out how you might want to write one of the harder ones. And you can write it and not send it. And I've even, I talked to one woman at a reading who said she was going to write one to, I can't remember if it was her mother or father, she was going to write one for herself. And she was going to write one to them. And it was going to be a different letter, but that's fine. That's a good way to work through it too. You can keep your full unedited, director's cut version in your book that you save of your thank you letters and you can give them the one that's going to be meaningful to them.

Alice Agnello:

It's just like when something happens and I have to write it all down in an email, and then I'm like, okay.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Delete them.

Alice Agnello:

That's got to sit there for at least two hours. Go do something else, come back.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Alice is wise.

Alice Agnello:

Do it again, take out that word, take out that word. I get that. And the one thing I liked reading too, was you said in the book, the part you control about writing your thank you letters ends when you sign them. After that the universe takes over. Because that's the biggest thing you have to learn is that once you let go of it, you have no control over if you're going to get a thank you back, a phone call, a note, anything you just have to release it.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Well, I said to myself from the first letter, I don't get to have an expectation of a response because nobody asked me to write these letters. It'll be great if I hear back from the people I send them to, but I don't get to be disappointed. The point of this is not to create more disappointment in my life. I'm going to write the letter, that's it. Boom. And the fact is virtually every person to whom I wrote a letter and sent that letter, acknowledged it in a really positive way. In some cases, people would text me, “Oh my gosh. I just got this beautiful letter,” blah, blah, blah. Sometimes I just would run into the person around town and I'd get a hug.

My dad, who I start the book with my dad, framed his letter, put it over his desk. That was very on brand for Larry Davis. And I loved that. And a few people wrote me back too. But the whole time I was like, this is not why I'm writing these letters. I'm really happy that they make other people happy, but that's not the point. And I think that releases, that is helpful as the writer, if you can decide to do that right from the jump, because you don't want to set yourself up to be waiting by your mailbox, why did they write me back? Other people acknowledge things in different ways. They helped you when you needed it. Let that go. That should be enough.

Alice Agnello:

And then you also talked about that there were three simple steps that you just repeat, repeat, repeat every time you write a letter and it was see the people, places and things that make your life richer, say something to acknowledge your good fortune in your letters, and by keeping copies of your letters to reread, savor the generosity and support that surrounds you. You have to see, say and savor in all the letters that you write. And I love that you make it so simple to just put that framework together.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Well, it's not a particularly complicated project. It's funny because when I wrote the letters, that was 2016, I certainly had no designs on writing a book. I was launching a podcast at the time and I had been working on this other memoir that was more music related. And in 2017, I was at somebody's 50th birthday party and a mutual friend sat me down and said, “I heard you wrote these letters. My 50th birthday is coming up. What did you do?” And I was like, “Well, I just wrote the letters.” And she'd say, “Well, who did you write them to? How did you decide?” And she kept asking questions. And I thought, well, I think it's pretty self explanatory. But then it happened a second time. And by the third time it happened at a different party, I thought, well, maybe people just need a little direction and I know how to do this. And I can make it a little bit more straightforward if they want to get started.

But it isn't very complicated. That's all it is. See the people, the places and the pastimes around you that make you happy, that make you who you are, say something to show your appreciation and savor that whole feeling by putting it in writing and going back and revisiting your letters. I wrote those letters in 2016 and I keep them, I printed them out from a little copy shop here in Oakland. I keep them on my nightstand. I flip through them all the time. And I have to say at the end of the book, I talk about the fact that one of the things I took away from writing the book versus the writing the letters was, you dummy, why'd you stop?

Because I got to my 50 letters and I was like, okay, that's it. I feel good. I'll move on. And then in writing the book and doing all the research, I thought, well, that was so shortsighted. First of all, there were a lot more people who could have gone on the list. Secondly, it's so beneficial. Just yesterday I wrote my 20th letter in my second set of thank you letters. And I was rereading, I went back up, I scrolled way up in the document because I was like, who else? Oh right, I wrote to my friend who helps me do voter registration drives. I'm so grateful for her. And they just, that's how they work. They really do. And I'm living proof of it because I keep writing the letters and this has been a hard couple of weeks, obviously with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor news.

And I'm trying to do what I can and between that and COVID, there's a lot of reason to feel anxious and scared and hopeless. But I know, because I've done this, that if I write a thank you letter to somebody, I'm in a better frame of mind for girding my loins, doing the work, staying positive, staying hopeful because that's just how gratitude letters work.

Alice Agnello:

No, I think that's a great space to try and be in, as you said during this time and it does get harder and harder when all you keep getting inundated with information and I always try and tell people, put the phone down, limit your exposure to news just for a little bit and try and direct yourself into other directions that will bring you more positivity in your life. And what has been maybe the biggest thing you've learned through writing these letters of gratitude?

Nancy Davis Kho:

That's a good question. The biggest thing I've learned is that it's just like a muscle. If you work on it, if you work gratitude like a muscle, if you, I think prior to doing the research, I hadn't really given a lot of thought about how gratitude works. I'm not one of those, I'm not a particularly introspective person. And frankly, when I saw that my book had been shelved as self help, I was like, who? I am the last person you want to come to you for self help. But you can't make up how the brain works. And it really works to be in a state of gratitude and you can get yourself into a state of gratitude by writing the letters. It's not complicated. It's just like saying, when you go to the doctor for a physical and they ping you on the knee with the little hammer and your leg kicks up out of reflex, it's just the same kind of thing.

Nancy Davis Kho:

It's a physiological response to sitting down and thinking about what you're grateful for in your life and documenting it. And it works. It's just the way our bodies and our brains work together. I guess I was kind of, I think that was the biggest thing I learned is that this is not just predictable, but it's replicable and anybody can do this.

Alice Agnello:

And is there anything that I didn't touch on that you might want to mention about gratitude or the letters in general?

Nancy Davis Kho:

Alice, I'd like you to touch on my playlist please because I have both a playlist, and we have both a podcast and a blog called Midlife Mixtape. I put a lot of time into putting playlists at the end of every chapter and I make sure every interview at least mentions them.

Alice Agnello:

No, you're right.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Because I'm a music dork.

Alice Agnello:

And I love music. And so it's funny because I was looking at some of the mixed tapes. Each of the chapters ends with a mixed tape of some of the songs that you should listen to maybe while you're writing that particular one or while you're in that thinking mode of what you're going to write down. And so even there's some of the songs I recognize instantaneously, but I'm going to have to, I always think I'm like, I go to Spotify. What is that song again? And I play it. I'm like, oh yeah, that song. It's like, you just don't know the title or you've forgotten what it sounds like. And so that was actually kind of fun for me to do is to go.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Well I put all the playlists on Spotify. If you look at Davis Kho, you can go ahead and just play them. But I probably spent as much time doing the playlist as I did actually writing a book.

Alice Agnello:

I think everyone has subjects like that. We get this thing done, but then there's this other fun thing that we take over, our whole entire lives. For me, it's fonts. Don't put me down the font spiral. If I have to find a font, I love fonts. It's so much fun, but I will so go down that black hole and I have to pull myself out to go back to what I really should be doing.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Did you notice there was a nod to fonts in one of the chapters because I have a really close friend who's also very into fonts and I find that I don't care about them at all, but I love that she cares about them and I'll see books on letterpress type and I'm like, oh, I just found Jill's new present. I'm going to get this for her.

Alice Agnello:

I was actually looking at the font on the pages of the book. And I'm like, I think I know that font. But it's like, okay, totally stop distracting yourself and read the book. Don't, it's distracting.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Must be hard to go through a long book.

Alice Agnello:

The other problem I have is because I trained as photographer a while is when I look at light, I will get distracted while watching movies because of the way that the lighting is. I'm like, oh my God stop. Look at the movie not the way the beautiful light is coming through the window.

Nancy Davis Kho:

It's the golden hour.

Alice Agnello:

Yes. I figure lots of people have these weird little quirks and those are two of mine that I have.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Well mine's music. Going through the grocery store, stopping the shopping cart for a moment and going, is that the new Bob Schneider? I can't, I think it is. Why would they be playing that in here? That's me, walking the aisles at the Safeway until I can name that tune.

Alice Agnello:

Either that, or I'd be kind of singing it down the aisle and my children will be like, “Mom, shh. Don't do that. Shh.”

Nancy Davis Kho:

This is my finding with COVID. We have to wear masks everywhere we go in public. And it turns out if you have a mask on, you can sing to the music because no one knows where the sound is coming from. I have been heartily singing as I push my cart and my kids are like, “Oh Mother, God, she's still going at it.” And I'm like, “Nobody knows. They think it's that guy over by the strawberries here.”

Alice Agnello:

Oh my God. I love that. My one plus is I don't wear lipstick now underneath my mask. That's my biggest bonus is hating lipstick. All right, and so all my interviews are always end with three questions. Tell me something that not a lot of people know about you, Nancy.

Nancy Davis Kho:

I'm so excited to answer this question. Do you know that i, for a very brief period of time, held a Guinness Book of World Records for being part of the longest Soul Train line in Oakland California. I went with some friends. We danced for four hours in a Soul Train line in the boiling hot sun. It was magical. It was one of the best days of my life. And to dance down that center aisle, where there were 4,000 people dancing down the middle of 4,000 people. Amazing.

Alice Agnello:

That is so cool.

Nancy Davis Kho:

4,000 people. I think I'm exaggerating. In my mind it was 4,000. It might've been 300. I can't remember. A lot of people.

Alice Agnello:

And so your name was listed along with all the other people for that?

Nancy Davis Kho:

No, because Phoenix broke it a week later. We only held, Oakland only had it for a week. I keep looking to see if they're going to do it again because I'd go back in a heartbeat. It was amazing.

Alice Agnello:

So cool. That is so cool. I love it. Now name three things that you can't live without, other than your family and your friends.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Okay. Number one is books, obviously huge reader. Number two is concerts. Normally I go to a concert once a month. I have since I was 14 or so. I write a lot about that in the book. And it's hard for me. This is the hardest thing for me about COVID right now is the day I realized I probably won't go to a concert until at least part way through next year was a very dark day. But I have been trying to fill in the gaps by doing streaming, doing online concerts and streaming concerts, stuff like that. But it's not the same thing. It's sad for me that we can't go to concerts right now. And the third thing is a nice frosty IPA. I lived in Munich. That was my first job after college. I do not drink wine, but I do love a cold beer.

Alice Agnello:

I love it. Yeah. One of the concerts that we were going to go to, Alanis Morissette got rescheduled. Just got rescheduled to August.

Nancy Davis Kho:

I just saw it's Alanis, Garbage and Liz Phair.

Alice Agnello:

Yes.

Nancy Davis Kho:

That is a good bill. I don't, honestly, I am not a huge Alanis fan, but I've never seen Liz Phair so I might get tickets to that show.

Alice Agnello:

Yeah, I saw it at the last minute.

Nancy Davis Kho:

I just got that notification right before you and I jumped on the phone. Okay.

Alice Agnello:

Yep, they were supposed to be July 4th weekend, which I was excited about, but then they moved it now to end of August on a Tuesday night. And I'm like Tuesday night, God, I'm old. Come on people you can't do things.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Once in a while you can stay up late on a school night, Alice it's just once a month. Take a nap the next day.

Alice Agnello:

That's what I say. Thank you for that attitude. I can do at least one time.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Concert naps are important at this age.

Alice Agnello:

Exactly. And I know this is going to be a hard one for you, maybe, if you could choose one song to play every time you entered a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Nancy Davis Kho:

It is not a hard choice. I've thought this through obviously many times, it's a song by Neil Finn who was the lead singer of Crowded House and has a couple of great solo albums. And it is his song, She Will Have Her Way because I think that should be played wherever I go. She Will Have Her Way. And it starts off with, “I may be old, but I'm someone new,” which I always think is the greatest line for somebody in our stage of life.

Alice Agnello:

No, I love that. I'm up to go look that up because I can't remember that song off the top of my head.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Oh, the video's amazing. The video for that is hilarious. She Will Have Her Way, Neil Finn, check it out.

Alice Agnello:

I love it. And thank you, Nancy, so much for being on the show. And if anyone didn't figure it out, of course we'll have links on the site, but her wonderful, inspiring book is the Thank-You Project: Cultivating Happiness One Letter of Gratitude at a Time. And I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I told my mom about it and she says, “I want that after you're done.” Now I'm like, I don't know because I need it for guidance so I don't know if I want to give it to her. I might have to just buy her own and then send it to her.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Give it to your mother, Alice. Come on. Don't be stingy.

Alice Agnello:

I'll keep it for me and then buy her another one because I need it.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Okay.

Alice Agnello:

I need it for, like I said, because I think I do, I'm trying to craft, do I want to add this to my plate? Which is not the right attitude of course to have to this. But I think I do want to start doing this as to you, said my parents are getting older and I want to make sure that I've communicated what I wanted to communicate.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Just start by just making your list, making a list of who you would write to. Just brainstorm the first part of your list. That's already a big step. And I'll sign a book plate and send it to you to you to give to your mom if you give her a copy. How about that for incentive?

Alice Agnello:

Deal. Thank you so much, again, Nancy. I really, truly appreciated today.

Nancy Davis Kho:

Thank you, Alice. I really appreciated it. It was great talking with you.

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