Hard Times & Hope

Alex DiPalma: Caring when there isn't much else you can do

Episode Summary

Alexandra DiPalma and her partner Kenya moved from New York City to Mexico City. But soon after they arrived, Kenya needed major surgery. And Alex, accustomed to fixing problems, had to learn a new skill and an important lesson.

Episode Notes

Alex DiPalma & Seth Godin's video for the Akimbo Podcast Workshop: https://akimbo.com/thepodcastingworkshop

Domino Sound: https://www.dominosound.co/

Jule's website: https://julekucera.com/

Episode Transcription

[00:00:00] Jule: Hi, I'm Jule, and this is Hard Times & Hope, a place for real conversations with regular people about a real hard time. We talk about what it was, how they got through it, and something good that came from it.

[00:00:29] My guest today is Alexandra DePalma, Alex and I connected through the Akimbo podcast workshop where she is the co-founder and co-leader along with Seth Godin. Alex is a podcast producer and co-founder of Domino Sound, a queer black woman-owned network and production company creating authentic, inclusive, and disruptive media content.

[00:00:51] Domino's shows include HBO's Between the World & Me podcast, The Cheat Code, and Raising Rebels. I would not be a podcaster if it weren't for Alex. What will she share for her hard time? Let's find out 

Alex, thank you so much for being here today. 

[00:01:09] Alex: Thank you so much for having me. It's such a pleasure.

[00:01:12] Jule: Well, it's an honor for me because you are the one or one of the ones, but the main one who taught me how to be a podcaster. You've led the way. So what's the hard time you'd like to talk about today? 

[00:01:24] Alex: There's so many different options, but I think the one that stood out in my mind, because it was relatively recent, was actually this past December.

[00:01:32] So smack dab in, I guess we can't really say the middle of COVID anymore because there's not really any end in sight. So it was very much in the thick of COVID. And I had recently moved to Mexico, from New York City to Mexico City. So a ton of changes happening just a lot, you know, like it was, it was amazing coming here and I absolutely love every second of being here, but moving to a new country, not knowing the language, there's a lot going on.

[00:01:59] And so in December my partner, my girlfriend named Kenya, I think we've been together five years now. It's been a long time. It feels like forever. 

[00:02:08] Jule: You're a solid partnership.

[00:02:09] Alex: Exactly. Solid partnership. She had to get surgery here in Mexico and it was like, it was really good because we were able to afford it because we're in Mexico, which normally would not have been the case, but it was like a, really, it was a really serious surgery and it was kind of my first time caring and that way for somebody, you know what I mean?

[00:02:28] Like when somebody is completely laid up in bed and in pain and just, I think the thing that resonated with me about it being a hard time, I guess, was seeing somebody that I love in that, in that situation, you know what I mean? And really feeling like there's not much you can do.

[00:02:48] And having to go through it with them. I think it was one of those. Where it was like, I don't know how we're going to get through this, how I'm going to get through it, how you're going to get through it. How are we going to get through it together? And luckily now, like it's totally in the rear-view mirror and it has passed, and Kenya is healthy and we're better than ever.

[00:03:08] But in that moment, I think it was just, yeah, it was just, it was just really hard, hurts seeing somebody like that, seeing somebody that I'm so close with and feeling kind of helpless. And so. That was like, that was a real hard time.

[00:03:20] Jule: That is a hard time. New country, don't know the language, you figure you're going there together, we're in this together. And suddenly your partner is not able to partner. 

[00:03:31] Alex: Exactly. And I think in the end it was totally a positive thing because she's better now. Like it was something that was necessary in order to move forward and be more healthy. But I think we both really learned a lot throughout that period because it was, it was like, two or three subsequent months afterwards, which is a while, you know?

[00:03:48] And so it was also really nice because I think those kinds of situations, and I'm sure you've heard this about other hard times that people have shared with you on the podcast. You really see people kind of like come out of the woodwork in a way, that people who really care, and the people who are really there for you.

[00:04:03] And it was just like really amazing all the people checking in and being there to support. So that was also like a really beautiful aspect of it. But, yeah, I'm just happy. I'm just happy that we've been able to get through it. 

[00:04:17] Jule: Yeah. It's in the rearview. When I had my surgery, one of my friends showed up at my door with ten frozen bags of soup.

[00:04:25] Alex: No. Are you serious? 10? 

Jule: Yeah.

Alex: That is perfect. That is like the best thing I could possibly imagine. 

[00:04:34] Jule: Yeah. You said one of the things that was hard was seeing someone you care about, someone you love in such a difficult place. What was hard about that? 

[00:04:43] Alex: I think it's, I think it really is the feeling of, I like want to do things like I want to take this action and do this thing. And then like, and then it will be fixed, you know? And then it's just the realization that there are some situations where there's really nothing you can do. And I honestly feel fortunate because I'm like 34 and that was like my first situation feeling like that.

[00:05:06] I think a lot of people have gone through that situation multiple times in life and probably much earlier in life. But, but I do think it's like the main thing that was, that was so hard about it was just feeling… there's nothing I can do to help right now, 

[00:05:19] Jule: You're a problem solver and a do-er and there's nothing you can do, but give it time.

[00:05:25] Alex: Give it time.Exactly. 

[00:05:28] Jule: So during that two to three months, the time that it took for Kenya to heal, how did you... what helped you get through that? 

[00:05:37] Alex: It was very much support from friends and family. I would say it was also, I learned so much from Kenya because Kenya is somebody with an immune disorder. Kenya has like, is, is somebody who is very familiar throughout her life with illness and stuff like that.

[00:05:53] And so I learned from her during that period of… this, this will pass. This is just temporary. This is happening right now. And so in a way it was almost like she dealt with it better than I did. 

[00:06:05] Jule: It sounds like she was a little bit of your support during the time.

[00:06:09] Alex: Totally. And so I think it, her kind of calmness really helped to like get us through it, but it's also hard because as you know, we run Domino Sound together.

[00:06:20] So we have a business together. So it was, it was a period where it was like, all of those things kind of converging into that one, that one time, but more than anything. Yeah. I guess you put it, you put it best. Like I think while I was trying to like, be there to support her, she was kind of supporting me in a way. 

[00:06:40] Jule: I think it shows your partnership. You were both supporting the other in the way that you could in the moment. 

[00:06:43] Alex: Yes. And I would be remiss... I have to say at that point we only had one cat, I think three years ago was our first one. And just having a pet during these during any hard time, like I cannot overstate, like having not had one, especially having never experienced it.

[00:07:00] Are you, are you a pet person? 

[00:07:02] Jule: I'm a pet person. When I was 13, I begged my mother for a dog because I felt if I don't have this dog, what am I going to do?

[00:07:08] Alex: Seriously. It makes a huge difference. It makes a U-turn. Every single morning I wake up and it's like, I see them and just am happy. Like, it's just that it's just pure happiness and it's, it's amazing.

[00:07:22] So that, that was seriously a big… I don't know, just joy, just pure joy. So I can hang out with them. And like, it's like, I'm not on my cell phone. I'm not watching anything. Hanging out with the cats and being happy. It's like, it's very, it's very therapeutic.

[00:07:39] Jule: Yeah. And it's one form of meditation, right? Cause you're in the moment, you're clearing your mind. You're totally focused on your cat. 

Alex: Exactly.

Jule: Okay. So now that you've come through this experience, because you said, you know, it's in the rearview mirror, if you could say something to yourself back then, from what you know now, what would you say? 

[00:07:58] Alex: A hundred percent, I would say it's not all about me. I mean, that's so obvious. I'm not even the one who went through a frigging surgery or anything. It was like, it was not that it wasn't… I was being selfish. It wasn't as much of that, but I was almost thinking of everything through the lens of how it was affecting me, which is so messed up.

[00:08:18]  It's not like, no, not being hard on myself, messed up, but it's more just like really, really figuring out how to take yourself completely out of the equation. And that has very much, even, like I said, I had. Since then, but that has come up since then. Not just in my relationship, in so many different parts of life, like business, like everything.

[00:08:36] There's so many situations where it's just this, this has nothing to do with you. And that's actually a really good thing. Like it doesn't, it doesn't need to. And so I think like in, in those times of crisis sometimes kind of like, I don't know, I guess maybe just getting more perspective and kind of figuring out where you actually fit in the situation that hard time taught me.

[00:08:58] Jule: That's cool. It's not all about me.

[00:08:59] Alex: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I think, I think at one point actually Kenya told me that and I was like, so true. So yeah, that was, that was a lesson from that. Oh yeah. 

[00:09:12] Jule: Is there anything else you'd like to say about hard times or hope or anything? 

[00:09:17] Alex: I think. In so many ways, I have been so fortunate throughout life to, to not deal with that many hard times.

[00:09:24] I, I can really only speak to, obviously Mexico is a country where poverty is really prevalent and coming from the United States here to Mexico, I have learned just so much about what people go through. And so we have a best friend, somebody I really now would consider like a brother whose name is Alex here in Mexico.

[00:09:46] And I mean, the hard times he goes through is like, the thing that I had just told you is like the, like the tiniest grain of sand compared to the things he goes through on a day-to-day basis. And so of course there are times where he kind of breaks down and is like this, this positivity shit is getting to me.

[00:10:01]  Like, I don't, I don't know this is hard right now, but it is. Generally speaking,  what I learned from Alex and what I learned from some other people who I've met here is the power of positivity and, and how, and it's not easy. It's really not easy to stay positive through hard times.

[00:10:17] It's actually really, really hard. And then it's kind of like when you zoom out, first of all, is zooming out and getting the perspective. And then second of all, there are so many things that I have to be grateful for that I don't need to focus on this one tiny little negative thing. And so positivity through hard times. It's real. It works.

[00:10:37] Jule: It is real. And humans are resilient. I have an example of, not comparison, but still, had a friend who... I was in college and studying for my finals. She was… Actually, did you ever live in Minnesota when you were doing the--

[00:10:52] Alex: I did. I lived in Minneapolis!

[00:10:57] Jule: Okay. So I went to U of M. I lived in Minneapolis for about 10 years. My friend came there to get a liver transplant.

[00:11:08] Alex: And, and she was like a college student?

[00:11:10] Jule: Yeah. She, we were, we just graduated, or she was fresh with her law degree. 

[00:11:15] Alex: So you guys were young.

[00:11:16] Jule: Pretty young. Yeah. And so we're talking and I'm telling her about my finals and I'm worried about my finals.

[00:11:22] And then I said, because here I'm talking to a person in the hospital, who's getting a liver, and not just minor surgery but a liver transplant. And she says, Jule, let me tell you what I know. Everybody has a worry bottle and everybody's worry bottle is full. So it doesn't really matter what it's filled with.

[00:11:43] Alex: It's true. That's what my friend always tells me too. The one who I was telling you who goes through so much and I kind of complained to him and then I'm like, I shouldn't be complaining to you. And he's like, what? He’s like, what you're experiencing is real too. 

[00:11:54] Yeah, the worry bottle, the worry jar, worry bottle, whatever it is. But yes, Yeah. I liked that image. 

[00:12:03] Jule: Okay. This is my last question. What's one of life's simple pleasures that you really enjoy?

[00:12:11] Alex: Okay. I can't say cats because I already talked about them too much.

[00:12:14] You can say cats! You’re allowed to repeat. Cats are special!

[00:12:18] Alex: I would say old friends because having been in this new city for a year and you're catching me fresh off this week, back in New York City, back with my family back with old friends from 10, 15, however many years. And I have great friends that I've made here.

[00:12:35] And they're amazing. And I love being here, but nobody has known me for more than a year. Nobody that I've met here and people who really, really know you and who you can like really be comfortable around and just, I mean, everybody says it, the whole sitting in silence thing, there's something about that where you can just, you're on a long drive. You don't have to talk. It's just people who know you and get you. I am just having such a newfound appreciation for that. Having been in a place where I haven't seen them for a year, you know? And so. That's my simple pleasure.

[00:13:10] Jule: Thank you for listening. That was Alexandra DiPalma. I'll put links to the Domino Sound website and Alex's video with Seth Godin for the Akimbo podcast workshop in the show notes. I'm Jule Kucera, host of Hard Times & Hope. My website is julekucera.com. That's J U L E K U C E R A.com.

Take care, take heart, see you next time.