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A Little Happier: Musician Rosanne Cash Reminds Me of a Paradox: Love Is Unconditional, and Love Is Demanding

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In episode 22 of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, my co-host and sister Elizabeth and I interviewed singer-songwriter-author Rosanne Cash. We talked about many things, including her brilliant memoir Composed (Amazon, Bookshop) which I love, and her Grammy-award-winning album The River & the Thread. At one point, she talked about what it was like to work with her husband, the Grammy-award-winning musician, producer, songwriter, and recording engineer John Leventhal.

And she told a story that resonated with me deeply, and that I’m still thinking about, years after this interview.

He told her: “I would have pushed you harder.”

To me, this story captures an important tension that exists within loving relationships. We want the people around us to accept us unconditionally, and we also want them to expect the best from us.

And this captures how we feel ourselves, about the people we love. We love them just the way they are, totally, and at the same time, we want to push them harder.

My sister Elizabeth is a TV writer, and so is her husband Adam Fierro. She tells the story of how once, she gave a TV script to Adam to read for critique, and when he gave her notes, she got very upset. Really, she just wanted him to tell her that the script was great, but he wanted to make it better.

It’s one of my aphorisms: The opposite of a profound truth is also true. Love accepts you just as you are, and love insists that you live up to your potential. Love is unconditional, and love is demanding.

Love says, “You’re brilliant,” and love says, “You can do better.”

If you want to listen to the entire interview with Rosanne Cash, click here.

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