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I reflect on this journey of making space, I continue to be in awe of the guests who I've had the honor of sitting down with. These are conversations I feel in my core. There's something so powerful about the courage it takes to share your journey and the lessons I learned. Stay with me. During season one, I welcomed New York Times bestselling author, Suleika Jawhad. She had just released Between Two Kingdoms, a memoir of a life interrupted. The book chronicles her journey from cancer diagnosis to remission, and ultimately, a road trip of healing and self-discovery. Joining us also was then-boyfriend and music legend John Batiste. I remember at the time being so struck by their relationship, their talent, so enormous. Yet in that moment, just a couple of kids who met at Bandcamp and fell in love years later. Sure, we talked about her writing and his music, but we also talked about their day to day dishes, dog walking, and of course, their unyielding support of one another. In the two years since I spoke with them, their life was once again interrupted. With both extraordinary highs and heartbreaking lows. In early 2022, John and Suleika were married in a private ceremony.


That same year, Suleika's book was released in paperback and would eventually return to the best sellers list years after its original release. John was the most honored artist at the 2022 Grammy Awards with 11 nominations and five wins. The very day the nominations were announced, Suleika began the first day of chemotherapy. Cancer was back in her system, and her fight began once again. As Suleika so candidly states, the two are living a life of contrasts. All of this so painfully and beautifully unfolds in the documentary American Symphony, a raw, intimate portrait of their lives together. The trailer, well, it took my breath away. It also made me reflect back on this conversation from August of 2021, a stark reminder that was true then and remains true today. You can hold on to two extremes at once. I wanted to revisit this conversation, and I hope you do, too. I'm Hoda Cotby. Welcome to my podcast, Making Space. First of all, Suleika, I'm crazy about your name. I can't. I've been saying it. I've been walking around saying, Suleika, Suleika. What does that mean?


Well, you may know this. It's Suleika in Arabic, which means the heart robber and the bra.


The heart robber.


What were you like as a kid when you found out what your name.


Actually meant? I think my dad modified it. He told me it meant Desert Princess, which I'll take as well.


Yeah, you'll take that too. When you were little, I love your dad's Tunisian, your mom's Swiss, and you're a mixed bag of all of that rolled into one beautiful package. But when you were a little girl, what did you... What was your dream? Your dream as a kid?


I call kids who grew up as first-generation Americans or with immigrant parents, the spackle, because you do end up having to become a translator between the world and the language and the food that you consume at home and everything that's happening outside of the home. But I, from the time I was very little, was one of those kids who was brimming with creativity. I danced. I played the upright bass. But more than anything, I really loved writing.


Describe, close your eyes for a second and imagine your childhood bedroom. What's on the walls? What sheets you had? Did you share? Tell me what you see.


My parents were strict in certain ways, but when it came to creativity, we had no rules. I painted my own bedroom very poorly, but I painted it myself. I had lots and lots of books.


Did you have any posters on the wall?


I had a poster of an old Tunisian singer named Ali Reihi.


Is that right? Did you.


Like Ali Reihi? At Ali Reihi, I had Backstreet Boys posters and Spice Girls posters. That was my jam.


Let me tell.


You, if.


Anything describes the immigrant experience, the disease- It's that. Is your wall when you were a little kid. That is so cool. Were you super smart in school?


English was my second language. On the first day of school, I didn't speak a word of English. School was an interesting experience for me and a challenging experience, especially because my family moved around a lot. But it wasn't until high school that I realized not only that I was smart, but that the smart path would be for me to focus on my studies. I had a pretty significant shift in the ninth grade.


You wound up at Princeton. I know you were looking at the path of a war correspondent. Why that path?


Right around the time that I graduated, a revolution broke out in Tunisia, which is where my dad's from and where a lot of my family still lives. That was later called the Arab Spring. Up until that point, I'd been writing and I saw, for the first time, a path toward a vocation that made sense to me. I spoke Arabic, I spoke French, and I applied for a job as a stringer in Tunisia for the International Herald Tribune. But before I was able to pursue that, my life changed very dramatically.


You're going about your business and you get a feeling of a little itchiness, which I think your average Joe would think, Oh, well, I don't know what that is eczema, give me some cream. But that was not the case at all. What happened?


At the time, I was living in Paris. I was just a couple of months out of college. I was working as a paralegal and pursuing this other, Stringer position on the side. I hadn't been feeling well for a while. It started with an itch. The itch blossom into all kinds of mysterious symptoms. I was getting cold all the time and coming down with lots of bronchitis. But the biggest symptom I had was fatigue. But of course, at 22, everyone is tired. Everyone that I was hanging out with was working hard and going out at night dancing. I didn't really make much of it. I went to see a number of doctors, all of whom treated that specific symptom or illness and sent me home. Towards the end of my time in Paris, I started to get the feeling that my doctors that I was seeing were taking me seriously. But I think the truth is I wasn't entirely taking myself seriously. Youth and health are supposed to go hand in hand. It was only when I got to a point where I was so weak, it was a struggle to walk up and down the stairs that I found myself in an emergency room.


Within 24 hours, I was on a plane back home to upstate New York, and I got the bone marrow biopsy that led to my actual diagnosis.


To hear the words that you were diagnosed with a specific type of leukemia at 22 is scary enough. But when they said the chances of survival were one in three. I mean, my God. What goes through a 22-year-old's head?


I think there was this immediate sense of fracture. There was my life before and everything that came after. I never returned to Paris, to my apartment, to my job. Friends packed up my things and sent them to my house. I had this sense, even though I couldn't quite wrap my head around what it meant to have a cancer diagnosis at 22 that the person I'd been before was buried. There was no returning to that prediagnosis self.


The cancer fight, and I don't know how you describe it, but usually there's a beginning and an end point for it. I had breast cancer. I think for six or eight months, I went through stuff. Your timing, the three and a half, was it three and a half, four years of going through chemo and bone marrow and chemo again? How did you see light and how did you survive all those days?


Initially, I thought, and maybe more so I hoped that it was just going to be a.


Short trip.


In the kingdom of the sick. I was intent on not getting too comfortable and not letting it take away from my identity. Within the end of that first summer in the hospital, I learned that none of the standard chemotherapy treatments were working for me. What I'd hoped would be a short sojourn was very clearly going to become something much longer. I think one of the most challenging parts of that experience was the sense of the gold post moving. I didn't know in day one that I was going to be in treatment for three and a half years. They say you can survive anything as long as you can see the end date and sight. There came a point in my treatment where I couldn't see that end in sight. That was the most challenging, I think, to know how to anchor yourself when you're swimming in a sea of uncertainty.


There are life lessons that come in your worst times. Some change we choose in our life and some is cast upon us, and you have to figure it out. I remember so clearly how the world got clear. I was never clear. I think I was always mushy about things. Those are my friends. I don't love that one so much, but so what? They're nice. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Then all of a sudden, you realize my life has a beginning and an end, and I'm not wasting time. That time is over. Did you have that sensation?


Yeah, I think a lot of people in their early 20s, I had this feeling of time. I had time to figure out who I was, time to figure out what I wanted to do. That diagnosis brought into immediate, urgent focus the fact that we're all here for a finite period of time. I felt a strange sense of urgency around time. I had the same experience. It felt like all the artifists just fell away.


I got clear not only about who my friends were, but maybe more importantly, who I wanted to be friends with and what relationships I wanted to cultivate. I had such limited energy that I was well enough to maybe do three things every day, small things like write an email, watch a movie, see a friend. What that meant for me was that I had to get very clear about my priorities. It's something I still think about now just as a thought exercise. I ask myself, if I have three things I can do today, what feels most important, most meaningful? I think that's one of the silver linings, and I don't use that word lightly because obviously there's so much about illness that does not feel like a silver lining. That reshuffling of priorities and the clarifying power of having your mortality hang in the balance.


That is so true. There's something so strange about how free you feel suddenly. You didn't even realize you were carrying all that heavy junk around. You don't even realize it. It's like my shoulders feel lighter even though you're in the middle of it. To have a doctor say to you after a bone marrow transplant and chemo again, I don't know if you use the term cancer-free or you are in remission, but to hear those words, what did that moment feel like?


I had been hoping to hear those words for almost three and a half years. The goal had always been to survive. I'd spent 1,400 days working tirelessly toward that goal. I thought when I got to that place, I would want to celebrate, but it didn't feel anything like what I'd imagined. I was physically wrecked from going through those treatments. I was grieving my loss of identity, my sense of self. I was grieving my fellow cancer buddies that I had made. My best friend, Melissa, had died earlier that month and I was grieving a relationship that hadn't survived the stresses of illness. And so I felt this weird dissonance between what should be and what was. I wanted to feel grateful. I wanted to quickly and organically fold back into the rhythms of living. But instead, I found myself in this limbo, this in-between place where on paper I was better, but off paper I couldn't have felt further from being the healthy, happy, 27-year-old that I'd hope to be on the other side of all this.


Especially because when you spend almost three and a half years in one space, it's the same thing. The idea that, okay, now this is over and all your friends or some of your friends and colleagues are saying, Oh, great. Now we can go back to the way it was. Let's go out to the bar. Let's go have some fun. Exactly. You weren't feeling those things.


Yeah, I wanted to be feeling those things. But I think often when we talk about things like cancer, the final act or the end of the story comes with a cure. But we don't talk a lot about what happens after. It took me a while to even acknowledge to myself how much I was struggling. There were so many unanswered questions that I didn't know what to do with. How do I find a job when I need to nap for four hours in the day? Or my immune system is still sending me to the emergency room on a regular basis? How do I date when I have a quarter inch of hair and a port still in my chest? How do I talk about the side effects of chemo, like infertility or early menopause? All of it felt so overwhelming. And in a weird way, I found myself almost wishing that I was still sick, not because I wanted to have leukemia, of course, but I understood the hospital ecosystem. That was the world I lived in for four years. I felt comfortable there. I looked like the other patients. It was the outside world that felt scary and foreign and daunting to me.


When we come back, Suleika, on life after a deadly diagnosis and how feeling lost inspired her to take a trip of a lifetime. And her partner, musician John Batiste, joins the conversation.


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You download your podcasts. I love your New York Times column. I thought it was so beautiful and riveting and moving. But what I loved so much more was when people reached out to you because they wanted... Because they connected with you. You had this way that whether you were sick before or you weren't, or you knew, somehow people felt you. You reached across and you grabbed them by the heart, and people wrote you letters. In this industry, sometimes you get a letter and you got beautiful letters and you read them. But then you did something totally amazing. I have not heard of someone doing this. But what did you do with those letters that you got?


In that year after I finished treatment, I was in the most lost place I've ever been. I knew I wasn't a cancer patient anymore. I knew I couldn't return to the person I'd been prediagnosis, but I had no idea who I was. I started thinking about these different rites of passages that we have in our culture, these ritualized ceremonies that help us move through transitions like baby showers and weddings and funerals. I realized that there wasn't a ritual or rite of passage when you emerge from a long illness. I needed that. I needed time to reckon with what I'd been through and to reflect on who I wanted to become. I needed the space away from my home and my cancer identity to really come into my own. I hatched this boondoggle of a plan, and I decided to learn how to drive.


You didn't have your license. I did not have.


My license. I rented out my apartment and I borrowed a friend's car and I ended up embarking on a 15,000-mile road trip across the country to meet some of the strangers who'd written me letters about their own major life interruptions and their own stories of transition. Those individuals, or about 22 of them that I visited, became my breadcrumb trail through the wilderness of survivorship.


By the way, I was just imagining, pretend I wrote you a letter and all of a sudden I'm sitting out doing yard work, edging my lawn, and you roll up in your car with your dog, Hey. I'd be totally freaked out. What was it like when you actually went up and met these people? They probably... I mean, they didn't even know if you got the letter. Letters are like you send it off and it goes into a black hole, but yet there you stood on their driveway.


It was extraordinary. I mean, If after being sick for so long, my relationship to fear changed dramatically. I was always prepared for the other shoe to drop, prepared for something to go wrong. What I found instead in these encounters and on that road trip was that the world really welcomed me at every turn. I ended up staying on someone's fold-out couch. I stayed on a ranch in Wyoming with a family of survivalist ranchers. I visited a high school teacher in California who was grieving the death of her son. I went to a maximum security prison in Texas to visit a death throw convict. In each of those conversations, I think, helped me gain a sense of perspective on my own prediction. But more than that, I think it showed me a way to reimagine community. It gave me this sense of connection that at a time in my life when I felt so lost and so isolated, really helped me see a path forward.


Because sometimes when you are going through a difficult time and you meet someone who is also going through a difficult time, sometimes it's helpful and sometimes it's a little burden. Some of you are like, I don't know how much I can take of this pain. I feel like I'm carrying mine. But it didn't seem like it worked that way for you.


Yeah, I think for me, my experience has been that when we dare to share our most vulnerable moments and stories, there's a reverberation that happens and a call and response and vulnerability begins vulnerability, begets vulnerability. To be able to tell and talk about the unvarnished truth of what it means to have your life abandoned, whether by a cancer diagnosis or some other heartbreak or loss that brings you to the floor. To be able to talk about that with people who had experienced some version of that felt like such a gift. I call them my road guardians, these people.






Looked at all your.


Stuff and you're just amazing.


You're amazing.


No, really, you do the most amazing and stuff. Your blogs are amazing.


Then it's funny how this is.


Happening and now.


You're here. You're here. It's crazy. Where are we? We're in Seabright. Little Florida, little seaw in Florida.


The little girl, Unique, was that her name? The other girl who you saw? What was her issue? Do you remember?


Unique was, I believe, about 13 years old when she first wrote to me. She had been diagnosed with cancer. Because her family lived far away from her treatment center, was in a hospital room alone for many, many months. When I went on my road trip, she was just finishing treatment. I knew immediately that I was going to drive to Florida and go see her. I'll never forget picking her up that day for lunch. I knocked on the door and I just heard screams on the other side. This tiny little adorable, pine-sized girl just busted out the door full of energy and full of excitement. I remember asking her, You're about to rejoin the greater gathering. What do you want to do now that you've been given this plain bill of health? She was, I think, 16, 17 at the time. She said, I want to go camping and I want to come visit you in Newark and I want to try weird foods like octopus that I've never tasted before. And on and on and on. What that struck me so much about her and her joy and her excitement is that sometimes when you've been through a big trauma, especially a life-threatening diagnosis, is that daydreaming about the future can feel like a scary exercise because you don't know if you're going to exist there.


But I think what she embodies so beautifully is that that daydreaming and hope can feel dangerous, but it's so much more daring and such a richer, more beautiful way to live your life.


Oh, my God. I'm getting chills thinking about that. Oh, my word. Are you happy?


I'm so happy.


What makes you happy now?


The strange thing in the last year of this pandemic is I found myself living a version of the life that I had when I was sick, which is to say that my circle is much smaller, my life is quieter. I don't know about you, but I have spent so much of the last decade striving and working and hustling. I feel so privileged to get to do work that I love. But I've also been thinking about the way that working at that pace can be its own trauma response. This year for me, my goal has been leisure. Which isn't to say I'm not working all the time, but these small moments that I've gotten to have in the last year of being at home with our dogs, of gardening, of hanging out with my partner, John.


You know, it's so interesting because I sometimes think life is full of exclamation points. It's like the good ones. You graduated from college. You meet a great guy. You have a baby. You get married. Then on the flip side, you get a sad diagnosis. Somebody passes away, et cetera. But most of the days are just Wednesday in the middle. Nothing terrific and nothing horrible, just Wednesday.


Something I've been thinking about recently is trying to approach my Wednesday as a ritual, washing the dishes as ritual, gardening as ritual, and really trying to slow down and savor that because it's so easy to move from one exclamation point to the next. But I'm sure, as you know, when you get a scary diagnosis, you're not thinking about the things that are on your resume. You're thinking about the people you love and wanting to spend time with them. You're thinking about the things that nourish you. And yeah, all the rest doesn't matter as much and it falls away. We live in a country that has this culture or this anxiety around accomplishment. And in this season in my life, I'm trying very hard to resist that and to center myself back in those things that I love, the same things that I loved as a little girl: the dancing and music and writing and family.


Speaking of music, so do you play the stand-up bass?


I play the.


Stand-up bass. Girl, you rock, man. That is so cool. You always love that when you were younger?


I started on piano when I was five and I hated it. My mom was very strict and made me practice every day. When I was eight, I got the option of picking a second instrument, and I picked the instrument that I thought would inconvenience my parents.


The most. You were so bad.


I know I was so bad. And that was the bass. I immediately fell in love with it. It's one of the only instruments that's so big that you have to actually hug it to play it. You feel every note in your chest. I immediately fell in love with it.


Music has always been a big part of your life.


Music has always been a big part of my life.


Which explains your very handsome and awesome boyfriend. If you don't know John Batiste, and we're going to bring him in here in just a second, but he's a cool cat boy. He's something special. He is. You met him when you were 13 at Bandcamp. I did. I mean, that's like talk about a full circle life.


Right here. Yeah, back then we were in braces and ill-fitting clothes and supremely awkward. Well, fact-checked, but so done.


When we come right back, Suleika's partner joins us. Did we mention he's also pretty big time? Academy Award-winning musician John Batiste of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Let's face it, money is the one subject we all need to deal with, but no one actually wants to talk about. The good news is there's a podcast helping you learn everything about money no one taught you. Meet Everyone's Talking Money, hosted by me, Shauna Game. Everyone's Talking Money focuses on relevant, inclusive, and forward thinking conversations around money, and just helps you get in a better relationship with your money no matter what your goals are. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to Everyone's Talking Money Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Hi there, it's Kelly Rippa, and I have a new podcast called Let's Talk Off Camera. You might know me from your TV, but now we're turning the cameras off and getting real. Uncensored, unfiltered, and maybe a little unhinged with cebes, experts, friends, and more. Trust me, you won't want to miss a single episode. No lights, no camera, all action. Listen to Let's Talk Off Camera with Kelly Rippa wherever you get your podcasts.


I'm sitting smack dab in the middle of a love story. Okay, so you're 13 years old. You're both geeks. I know you are at 13 because nobody was not a geek at 13. Oh, yeah, fully. Are you guys close to the same age?


Yeah, we're about a year.


And a half apart. A year and a half apart. John, do you remember your girl from band camp at age 13?


Here's what I remember.




Remember Berk & Stocks. This is not an endorsement.


You had Berk & Stocks on before they were cool?


Yeah. She was ahead. So, Laka was ahead.


I also must say, I am honored to talk to you because when I was growing up at that time, I was watching you on www. Come on.


Come on, man.


When I was growing up in New Orleans, Ken of Louisiana, you'd be on TV. My first time leaving was to go to this band camp. First time leaving home and being somewhere for the summer. You go somewhere for the summer, for the first time, it's like a new world.


Yeah. Where was band camp?


Where were you? Saratoga Springs.


Oh, so you took a big trip. This was not nothing. All right.


Upstate New York.


You were already... What instrument were you playing, John, at the time?


Piano. I saw her in the courtyard... And this is, again, I thought this was maybe a New York thing. People were at Birkenstock. Nobody was wearing that in New Orleans.


No, they weren't. Those were not cool in.


New Orleans. I thought what immediately came to my mind was, Oh, she's like a hippie. Like Grownola. Like that vibe.


Crunchy granola. At 13, did you have any confidence level at 13? Or were you like a lot of 13-year-old girls? You did? She did.


Definitely. What? I was like 13-year-old on 20. I thought I was far more mature than I.


Actually was. That's impressive. Most 13-year-old girls feel so incredibly awkward.


I was just coming out of what I call UDS, Ugly duckling syndrome. I just gotten contacts... Oh, she was the hot one. -for the first time to replace my eyes.


My glasses. She was the hot one. Definitely. Okay, so now at 13, that's when the crushes start happening. Was there a crush or were you all just friends?


No, no crush. I was very much a late bloomer. I was into music and video games and martial arts and chess, things like that.


Equactic. You got a nice array.


All the.




Actually. I was about to say all the introspective, introvert activities.


You see? When you saw him, you just thought, a nice kid, nice guy.


I remember thinking he was a little strange because I think I tried to initiate a conversation and conversation was not happening.


You were not into it? You just weren't a conversationalist then? I think.


There's a glorious awkwardness in coming into your own at that age. Yeah, it's weird. It's strange, but a beautiful strange. I feel like I've kept that until adulthood. But I feel like we probably tried to speak and at that time, anybody who I talked to, and she's always been a great communicator, always magnetic, always able to.


Communicate the.


Emotions that other people are feeling. I noticed that about her immediately, but there was no crush. We linked later in college, and that's when we started to really become more friends.


Okay. Did you all went to school together, Shalika?


John was a freshman at Juilliard, and I was in the pre-college program. But what I will say about John that.


First summer- Don't bury the lead. What's the lead? She's so talented. There you go. You got... I'm trying to understand. She was at Juilliard pre-college playing the double bass. Now, musicians know the double bass is not a joke. That instrument is tough. You had planned the double bass back at the camp, and this instrument was bigger than her. You planned the double bass with the bow, the intonation to get it in tune and the command that instrument is really tremendous.


You're at Juilliard. You're in the pre-college. He's at Juilliard. You got two musical geniuses going on. Even then, we didn't have no little spark, no chemistry.


You know what's weird? My first week at Juilliard, I was on the one train with my friend Michelle, and I had... I hadn't thought about John since band camp several years earlier, which when you're a teenager, feels like a decade. I see this young man on the train who is singing to himself and playing the air piano. People were staring because even in New York, that's on a site that you see every day. I looked at him and I turned to my friend and I said, That's John Batiste. What is he doing here? I said, That's the man I'm going to marry someday. Wait, stop it. I just blurted it out and.


Forgot about it. Wait, stop it. I want to stop for a second. On the one train, you knew you were going to marry John?


It was one of those things you just say, and I didn't think about it, and I didn't give it much weight.


Is that the last you see of her before you know she's not feeling well?


No, we saw each other. This is in college, my first year, her last year of high school. Then she doesn't end up going to Ju-Lov. Right. She goes to Princeton. Right. At Princeton, she has this incredible time. We don't see each other. In passing, we see each other at performances here and there. We have mutual friends, but we're not really connected.


Then she.


Has a going-away party because she's moving. You move into Paris. I went to the going-away party with a mutual friend of ours. Michelle Ross took me to the party. We were friends at this point, but not really close friends in that way. But then that was when there was a spark at that party, the going-away party. But she was going away.


Going to Paris.


Bye. That it was not.


The timing. You were pining, John, a little.


A little, you're pining a little. We had a moment.


We had a moment. Well, you got to have a moment. I mean, come on, going to Paris, you all. There's love in the air. Yes. Okay, so let's fast forward to how did you learn that Suleika was ill, was not well?


That same friend, Michelle, told me one day we were playing, my band, we would play in public places often, not for money, just to bring music, revelry, joy. We were playing the subway one day and she told me and I gathered the rest of my band because at this time it was just a few of us. I got the rest of them and we went to the hospital. I hadn't heard that she was that ill until that moment. It was a real moment of clarity that I had to do something. What I do is music. I just felt I needed to bring that to the situation to help in any way that I could. So that's what I did.


But that must have been emotional because you didn't expect to see her in that way.


I guess there's an impact that a person has on you that you don't know the full extent of until you're in a moment of crisis. So it felt like I needed to do something in that moment. Even though we weren't super close friends, it felt like, oh, I really connect with this person. I respect this person, which she's all about what I know of her. This is important. That's why we went to the hospital and we played, and it was a beautiful experience.


I'd love for everybody to hear a little bit of that.




You feel like you were doing some good?


Yes, I felt like we were doing good, but that was a special thing for our relationship, a special time to... You see each other through these different phases, and you see what a person is like when they're 13, 14. Then you see what a person is like at the beginning of the college. You see what a person is like when they finish college and going out into the world. Then you see what a person is like when they're going through tremendous duress, the impact of that on their life, meeting the family, understand how that impacts the whole community. It was important.


What was it like to watch him light up the room?


Also, what John didn't know was that the day before, I'd learned that the chemotherapy I'd been doing wasn't working. I'd entered the hospital with 30% leukemic blasts. By the end of this really harrowing treatment, I had 70%. Oh, jeez. At that point, my only option was an experimental clinical trial. My family, I mean, I remember not even being able to look my parents in the eyes because I knew that if I saw how devastated they looked, I just wouldn't be able to hold it together. John, showed up in the middle of that with this entire band and put on this impromptu concert. The extraordinary thing about music is that especially maybe when you're in a low-down place, it has this musical antidepressant effect. It wasn't just for me and my family, it was the whole cancer ward. Patients and nurses and doctors started to trickle out into the hallways and people began to dance and sing and clap their hands. It's true. But it's also a testament to John because John is someone who shows up in the difficult moments and who keeps on showing up, not just for me, but for everybody. He's always been that way.


Well, you got to show them. You got to show people you love them. I urge everybody out there, show the person in your life who you haven't told or you haven't shown your love.


Show them. How do you show Sulecah that you love her?


I find that every day is a new... It's not a challenge necessarily, but it's a call. There's a call to maybe it's doing a dish or maybe it's going to the hospital. Maybe it's thinking of something that she would want or needs that she's not thinking of because we're so... Creative people are so tied up into their ideas that you need someone to think of the basics for you sometimes. That's a way.


Of showing love. Yeah, that's a good point. You get caught up and you're like, Hey, have you had a meal today, did you miss X? Yeah, you fill in that blank.


You should have been at our house last week when I wake up at 4:00 AM to fire alarms everywhere because John was cooking and I decided to learn how to make fried chicken. But that's been his way of I think, one of your new love languages in the last year has been through food. You're always making sure that there's dinner, that there's something that nourishes the two of us or bringing me-.


In the.


House, you've got to have smells, aromas. How about that? And fire alarms. Any Crawfish boil yet or not yet? Come on now, John. Get the Crawfish boil going. Don't even think that you have not done that yet.


Come on now.


Come on. When you all go to New Orleans, I'm going with you, okay? I want to go. I want to go. I'll show you how to do the crawlfish. I got those down. What's the future with you two?


Well, it's a beautiful thing to have family. We look forward to something in that realm. There's complications. I don't feel like that is ever a barrier to family because you can.


Figure out. Plenty of ways to make a family, right?


Yeah, I think it's possible. It's all about love.


Well, and I'll just say, I think one of my big anxieties coming out of this illness was finding a partner who understood that and who wasn't scared of having hard conversations or awkward conversations around things. I remember talking to John about infertility early on as a result of my treatment. He said, There are many ways to make a family. It's its own creative act. You've just been understanding and open in a way that I wish were the norm, but that I feel very grateful for.


She's a very real person. Elegant, but she can say she's real. It's easy to have real, authentic conversations.


Well, I know that she's taught you a lot. What do you think is the most significant things like has taught you? Wow.


I think it's something in the realm of friendship, how to stay connected with people through long, long periods of time, through lots of changes. She has the most friends from years ago.


Because you can tell a person, by the way, by their friendships, how long people have been in their lives. Absolutely.


So she's taught you that. That aren't family.


Yeah, just friends. Yeah, that tells you a lot about somebody.


That's a huge lesson for me. As someone who I travel and I meet people all over the world, and I'm always somewhere and there's a lot of people in my life, but connecting with those people and really building that community. We've been building a community of our own, too. That's one of the biggest lessons that I'm still learning from her.


Tell me what John's taught you. I want to know. John wants to know, too. I want.


To know this. I think John is one of the most creatively brilliant people I know, but what I've loved, observing and learning from is the way creativity informs every aspect of his life, including our relationship. One example of that is we both travel a lot for work in non-pandemic times. Because of that, I have to spend sometimes several weeks apart. He came up with this idea early on in our relationship, which was to write each other a letter every day by hand. Instead of doing your morning pages or writing in a journal, he would write a letter by hand, take a photo of it and text it to me. I love that. It brought me back to those letters that I got on the road trip. I think that there's sometimes certain things that you can only say in the written word that you don't even maybe know you need to say that come out when you're writing letters. But you're always doing stuff like that. You're always finding creative ways for us to deepen our relationship and to stay connected.


By the way, that is the most beautiful and thoughtful and smart. I was thinking write a letter, but how are you ever going to get it? You take a picture and text it so you can actually read the handwriting. Brilliant. Right? Joel and I are stealing that. Thank you. I have to tell you, watching your story from the beginning unfold. I've been reading and watching a lot leading up to this interview. And sitting here in this moment and looking at you two is so beautiful.


Thank you.


Love is in the air, baby. Yes. All right, Suleika, John, thank you guys so much. We appreciate you being on Making Space. Hey, guys, thanks so much for listening and going on this journey with me. If you like what you've heard, and I sure hope you do, so please give Making Space a five-star rating and a review on Apple podcasts. Be sure to tell your friends and follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you're listening right now. Making Space with Hoda Cotby is produced by Allison Berger and Ursula Summer, along with Associate Producer Olivia Rouchard and audio engineer Bob Mallory. Original music by John Estes. Ryson Barnes is our technical director. Minna Cothoria is our executive producer. Sariah Gage is our general manager, and Madeline Heringer is our head of editorial. Hi, I'm Tom Yamas, and for me, the news.


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