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House Calls Podcast
Finding Chosen Family
With Actress & Activist Ashley Judd and her friends Logan Raines, Heather Raymond, and Samantha Andros

Description

In this episode of House Calls, the Surgeon General talks with actress and activist Ashley Judd, who brings along three friends she calls sisters in her chosen family. This five-way conversation explores the meaning of friendship, trust, and supporting one another in times of joy and hardship. From experiencing daily life to the devastating death of Ashley’s mother, country singer Naomi Judd, Ashley and her chosen family have been there for one another in ways that demonstrate the power of intentional connection. Listen as Dr. Murthy asks why this group of women hold their chosen family so dear.

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Transcript

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Hello and welcome to House Calls. I’m Vivek Murthy and I have the honor of serving as U.S. Surgeon General. I'd like to introduce you to Ashley Judd and her inner circle. Today we'll be talking about the power of friendship and chosen family. I believe deeply in the power of connection. This episode asks questions about what it really means to be a friend. How do we form and maintain friendships? How do they evolve over time or distance? What does it mean to have a chosen family? Today we're having a conversation with actress, feminist, and humanitarian, Ashley Judd, and her group of friends. She introduces us to the people she calls her sisters: Sam, Heather, and Logan. Our conversation explores how their chosen family works. We talk through moments of love and vulnerability, how they handle conflict and accountability, what it means to hold each other's differences and make space for one another's ideas. As a chosen family, they do all this while staying curious, respectful, and presuming goodwill. They know that no matter what, they will always show up for each other as friends in the good times, and especially in the bad times. Ashley, thank you so much for joining House Calls and for joining with a few special guests I'm eager for everyone to meet today. You and I, Ashley, we've known each other for some time, and I must say I've always admired your courage, your determination, especially during hard times, but recently during a conversation that you and I had, you let me in on a powerful resource that you have in your life that helps you get through tough times, and that's actually where I want to start. You know, a little more than a year ago, you experienced an extraordinarily painful loss when you lost your mother to suicide. You’ve spoken openly about that experience and how it affected you, and you've done so in a way that's given a lot of people courage and hope. And so I wanna thank you for that. But I also wanna draw attention to a particular group of people who dropped everything they were doing and showed up for you that day. They weren't blood relatives, but they were your chosen family. And I'm thrilled that they've joined us today for this conversation. We're gonna come back a little bit to how they helped you on that day. But to start, Ashley, could you introduce us to your chosen family?

Ashley Judd

I would be very delighted and honored to introduce you to my chosen family. And, Vivek, thank you so much for your friendship and the depth and warmth of our rapport. I so enjoy our conversations, whether it's grabbing a coffee in Washington, where casual paparazzi are more interested in you than they are in me, or at conferences in Nantucket and New York. And you're just a gem. And I so appreciate our friendship.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Thank you so much.

Ashley Judd

I also wanna just acknowledge my higher power and ask her to guide my thoughts, my actions, and my speech, because I'm a little nervous. And first, in no particular order, because they are loved equally, I will start with Heather May, who is my chosen sister. We met at a funeral. We had a spiritual experience together. And then there's Logan to her left. We met through her husband, who was a goofball, who made me laugh so hard at a recovery support group and then he brought her to the meeting and I was like, "Where have you been hiding this fabulous woman?" And then there's my sister, Sam, who I also met at a support group. And when she shared, she said, "I don't know if that made any sense." And I was like, "Lady, you just made so much sense to me and I wanna be your friend." So we've got Heather, Logan, and Sam here today, and I appreciate their vulnerability and their trust in being in this space with us.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Well, Heather, Logan, Sam, welcome to the podcast as well and thank you for joining us. I wanna start with each of you. Could you tell me how you met Ashley? Heather, let's start with you.

Heather Raymond

Yeah, absolutely. So, as Ashley had said briefly, we met at a mutual friend's funeral, and Ashley walked into the private room before the funeral started and she said a prayer. And it was just a really important moment, and I got to see who she really is.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Hmm, that's beautiful. Thanks, Heather. And, Logan, how about you?

Logan Raines

Yes. As Ashley mentioned, my husband introduced us. And at first, you know, I had some of my own insecurities of thinking, "Why would she want to be friends with me as being a public figure?" But she kept inviting us around, typically for running charades and family picnics. And the more I got to know her, I just realized I just loved her heart and really enjoy being around her.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Oh, that is beautiful. And I suspect, Logan, if you weren't alone, perhaps, in wondering what it would be like to be friends with Ashley, if she wanted to be friends with you, given her public profile, and, Ashley, I know that's something you've had to navigate, which isn't always easy in life, which I want to come back to. But, Sam, let's go to you next. How did you first meet Ashley, and what was your first impression? Well, as Ashley mentioned, we just kind of made sense to each other before we even met. And I was in a community support group one evening sitting with, I don't know, maybe 15 people or so. And Ashley came in and the first thing that I noticed was that she was barefoot. And I, you know, just recognized that groundedness and thought to myself, "Now that's how you do it." You come in here barefoot. You know, you come in here ready and with your feet right on the ground. So, you know, we got to know each other through sharing there. And eventually I was invited by Ashley to her home and met Logan and Heather that way. So Ashley's kind of the connector for all of us.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Oh, that is wonderful. And, you know, what you're all describing, I'm just feeling this sense of warmth that you experienced when you first encountered Ashley. And I'm resonating with that because the first time I met Ashley was in Aspen, Colorado. We had, you know, we didn't really know each other, but we were introduced by somebody else. And I remember sitting down in this empty space where they had just finished a bunch of events, and it was just me and Ashley on two chairs sitting next to each other, talking for like a half hour or 45 minutes. And I just felt like I had known her forever. And so I think you, Ashley, you have this powerful effect of showing up so authentically with so much warmth for people. And it feels like you draw people into your life. And I wanna come back to the day, actually, that you all came together when Ashley's mom passed away. Ashley, tell us what it was like to have your chosen family show up for you during that time of need.

Ashley Judd

What was it like? It was steadfast. It was true. It was a given. It was assured. I knew with every fiber of my being that they would be there. All I did was, in the car on the way to the hospital, I was, you know, my partner was in Europe on that day, which turned out to be a real blessing because Pop was also in Europe. And so Martin was in Berlin and Pop was in Vienna singing. And Martin flew to Vienna, collected Pop and escorted Pop home to Tennessee. So Pop did not have to make that journey by himself, of which he would've been entirely incapable. So in the car, on the way to the hospital, I was on the phone with Martin, and both of us were just bawling and heaving. And I just sent a text to Sam, Logan, and Heather, and also our friend Laura, and just said, "Emergency." That's all I said. Oh.

Ashley Judd

Come to Williamson County. And in the time that it takes to drive there from their respective homes, they showed up, no questions asked, no context needed, no explanation was necessary. And then the other text I sent was a code word that the desk, and I agreed upon so they would be escorted to the back where I was, and we were just together and fell into each other's arms.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Oh my gosh, that is so moving, especially the fact that you texted one word and your chosen family showed up. That's really powerful. And they weren't all local either. It sounds like everyone drove in from different places.

Ashley Judd

Yeah, it's a relatively small town, so fortunately I wasn't suspended by myself for too long. I mean, they moved with alacrity. They moved with alacrity.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

There's a word you used, which struck me, which was assured. You said it was assured that they would show up. You just knew that these folks would be there for you. It strikes me like, what an incredible source of comfort that is, even during good times and bad, to know that you have that kind of support. I know that, even in friendships, I know so many people struggle with asking for help, even though they know somebody might show up for them. Has that ever been a challenge for you? And if so, how did you get to the place where you felt so comfortable asking your friends for help when you needed it?

Ashley Judd

Well, I think that Sam, Logan, and Heather also model asking for help, and so they normalize it for me. You know, I remember a time, not that long ago, where Logan reached out about something, and, you know, Sam's really good at speaking up, and Heather and I do these wonderful regular check-ins, kitchen table time, you know. They all have open door policies, and I'm a stopper buyer. You know, I send a text first and ask, but I don't necessarily knock. Once I show up, I crack the door open and holler. (Vivek chuckles) And it has been difficult for me to ask for help. I grew up with a family disease of alcoholism. There was a lot of ick, intergenerational trauma and unresolved grief, and the abnormal became normal, and I learned how to keep secrets. And something that I've learned in recovery is I'm only as sick as my secrets. So, for example, I lived alone for two years as a child and didn't know that that was weird and I didn't tell anybody because nobody asked. And so I've unlearned that behavior and I've become, you know, very skilled at asking for help to undo the isolation and loneliness of that childhood that hurt a lot.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Gosh, and this does go so deep, just as you said, for so many of us. Our patterns today are often the product of what happened to us in yesteryears and often early in childhood, you know. So I can appreciate the journey you've been through to get from where you were to being able to ask for help. I'm also curious to ask, Sam, Logan, and Heather, like in your friendship, you know, among the four of you, I imagine in addition to asking for help, sometimes you don't wait for someone to ask for help, sometimes you proactively go and ask them, "Hey, what can I do for you," or you just show up. And I know that, too, is a challenge sometimes for people in friendships who say, "Hey, I don't wanna intrude on someone's privacy. I don't want to stick my nose where it doesn't belong." How have you navigated that? Because it seems like you all have a wonderful way of proactively placing yourselves in each other's lives when you need one another.

Samantha Andros

Yeah. I can get us started with this one, I think. You know, Ashley has also modeled for me a kind of vulnerability just in the world, being in the world that I didn't experience. And I think all of us met under circumstances where we were already open and vulnerable in some way, shape, or form. And there was a mutual respect already for, you know, "Hey, I'm showing up here and it's hard and, you know, I'm scared." We could kinda smell it on each other maybe. And so I think my impression of these women is that they have that heart that just knows. And so when I need support or I need to ask, there's just a safety there that allows me to do it, where in other spaces I would be reluctant to, you know, and it would feel just very frightening, and I don't experience that here with Logan or Heather or Ashley. It's just safe enough.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Yeah, that's beautiful.

Logan Raines

Yeah, and, you know, I think I could add to that, is that, you know, I think support looks different for everybody. And so, you know, what might feel good and healthy for one of us might not be the same for the other. And so I think a lot of the times it starts with the question of, you know, "How can I support you?" And, you know, sometimes that means space, you know, sometimes that means I need a minute to process. Other times it means, you know, "Could you just sit with me, hold my hand, say a prayer," you know, "Let me know you're thinking of me." So I just think it just depends for each one of us uniquely.

Heather Raymond

And coming into our space together, approaching it with openness and honesty, but also with reflection and a quiet space so that we are open to hearing from one another as well.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Mm.

Ashley Judd

And I wanna add, a key thing here is that we don't give each other unsolicited advice and we don't tell each other what to do. I think that's a core practice that helps create that safety, you know. Unsolicited advice is always received as criticism. And as Logan was saying, we ask these open-ended questions and we get real curious like, "I'd love to hear more about that. Tell me more about that," you know, "What's the story you're making up? Is there anything I can do to support you today?" Like today, I was in bed crying and I obviously texted my sisters and I shared with them what was going on, and, "I love you," "I'm holding space for you," "That sounds so painful," you know, "Hold that little girl inside of you, she's really hurting," you know, that's the kind that's not like advice. And there's a really big difference between those kinds of responses.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Ashley, that's so powerful, what you just said. And I wanna underscore that 'cause I think for many people helping another person is often about giving them advice, telling them what to do. And I think it often comes from a good place. You think you're sharing your wisdom, your experience with them. But just as you said, sometimes that can be received as judgment. I love these open-ended questions, these expressions of support that all of you share with one another. And, Ashley, I'm curious, you know, they rattle off of your tongue so naturally and it just seems like it's who you are, but where did you learn to ask these kind of open-ended questions, to listen as deeply as you do?

Ashley Judd

Dr. Ted Klontz, (chuckles) my wisdom teacher. So Ted and I have been together since 2004. I was introduced to him by a family member in whom I saw beautiful changes. I found the changes her, very attractive and very appealing, and I was benefiting from what she seemed to be doing differently. And I said, "What's going on with you?" And she said, "Ah, his name is Ted Klontz. I trust him with my life," which was a pretty robust endorsement. And so I reached out to Ted and yeah, we've been walking together ever since. And he's magic, you know. He's a really wise person, which is why I call him my wisdom teacher. And he says one of his goals is never to ask another question in his life. And so that's why these questions are very open-ended and not like, you know, "What are you gonna do about that," you know, it's more like just being curious, just being really curious and letting the other person lead with what they want me to know rather than pushing my agenda of what I think I want to know about them.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Got you. Oh, that's beautifully said. I wanna spend a little time talking about the nature of your chosen family. First of all, and people are familiar, I think, with this saying that you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. But what you've all built is something beautiful and in between, which is a family that you did choose. And I wanna ask you, in your mind, like how do you define a chosen family and how is it different from you than having a group of good friends?

Samantha Andros

You know, I saw that question or something similar on our notes and I still am not exactly sure what the answer to that is. It's such a feeling difficult to describe because, of course, I love my family, family, you know, the one I was born into and there are deep connections there, but this chosen family, for me, has such a sweet and deep part to it. It's very meaningful to me obviously because it is my choice, you know. This is an intentional set of relationships that I, you know, choose to be a part of. And I think that it really is the level of knowing each other outside of our families of origin as just unique people, you know, without all of the attachments that makes it so special to me. I don't have, you know, a role from childhood that I am trying to live in or live up to or get out of or whatever with these women and their families, you know. I'm Sam, and that has been a big blessing for me.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Oh, that's beautiful. I love that, you know, in ways you're almost describing a fresh start, a sense that you had with this group of friends who became chosen family. And even that designation, that notion of all of you as chosen family, like when did that come about? Like was there a designated group discussion where you all decided that you were gonna be chosen family? Did it happen more organically? Yeah, how did that conversation take place?

Logan Raines

In my memory, it was pretty organic. It just sort of evolved over time. And I think the more time that we spent together, you know, as women, but then also with our families, with our children, with our husbands, you know, we just sort of had this dynamic that felt like family.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Mm.

Ashley Judd

Yeah, and I mean I've gotten the education of how a healthy family works by being in this community. I didn't know how to go on a family vacation. And when I went to the Smoky Mountains for the first time with this group, I learned how to decide whose car to take, and if we needed to rent a larger car, and how to organize the groceries, and what to bring and what to buy there, and how we needed to have a supper pre-prepared so when we were moving into the cabin we weren't all starving and trying to cook dinner that was too time-consuming. I didn't know how to do those things, you know, and how to plan who was gonna bring the picnic for which hikes and how to have a group conscience about which hikes to do, taking into consideration the ages of all the children. Those were beautiful educations that I learned in this chosen family, you know. And we spent our holidays together, you know. And there was Christmas, everybody showed up and we realized we'd all had the same stomach virus the day before. (laughs) You know, and Luke, Danny, and Logan's son is here living with my partner and me for a little while. And Heather trusts me with, you know, gender equality education for her children, for her daughter in particular. And, you know, Sam's girls, all three of them, have been, you know, we've had incredible conversations. And I go over and visit her daughter who's at Yale Law School; and Rebecca, her daughter, has lived with me and has worked for my housekeeper. You know, to me, it's this real commitment and dynamic and of being involved, a very intentionally curating involvement in each other's lives. And being trusted to be a presence and a leader and a mentor in my sister's children's lives is the honor of a lifetime.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Mm. Oh, that intertwining is so beautiful to hear you describe 'cause what you're describing is the fact that it's not just you who are all connected to each other, but you're deeply connected with each other's families in a really powerful way, the way an aunt would or another member of a biological family. And you've used the word sister several times, Ashley, when you've talked about Sam and Logan and Heather. and I love that term. And it seems like you use that for each other. I think it speaks to the notion of chosen family. Are there other traditions or sort of moments that remind you that you're chosen family, whether you've come upon them by chance or intentionally created them?

Ashley Judd

You know, Sam gave me something from her grandmother. Heather gave me this little zip bag that I just adore, you know. It says something about sister on it. And Logan and I talk a lot about her role as a caregiver to her parents right now. And I hope that I'm like a safe sibling, a neutral partner in being that listening 'cause one of the things I've learned from Ted is we all need a good listening to. And, you know, our sibling is hopefully our longest relationship, and that is my hope for these relationships, you know, is that we will walk together. Sam talks about us sitting in our rocking chairs with quilts over us, you know, with our hair long and gray, and that's my hope and expectation for this community.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

What a great hope. Yeah, what a great hope. And I certainly hope that comes to pass for all of you. I'm also curious, you know, for people who are listening to this beautiful description of the chosen family you've all created, they may also be wondering just how it actually works mechanically, like how often do you stay in touch? Do you make it a point to see each other in person, like with a certain frequency? So tell me a little bit about how you approach that. 00:24:33,166 --> 00:24:34,666

Heather Raymond

Sure. We stay in touch on a regular basis on our phones and text messaging each other. And Ashley's really good about initiating pretty much weekly check ins. "Hey, can we FaceTime? When are you available?" And, you know, that's across different time zones and geography. And, you know, we make that time to stay in touch because that effort is important. with Ashley's travels and her big availability, she's made it possible for us to stay connected to her, you know. She makes it possible for us, you know. If she's not in the country, she will go out of her way to, you know, find a common time for all of us to meet or speak, or she has just this great understanding or she has just this great understanding about, you know, some of us still have young children at home and we of course have careers and lots of moving parts in our lives. And so she might just give a call out, "Hey, sisters," you know, "here's what's going on with me. Anybody wanna come?" And whoever can show up, you know, shows up. And it is very organic. I hadn't really, like I said before, thought about defining this, but it all just kind of works. And I think primarily it is because of the respect and the openness. And we all realize there's such a level of competence, you know. Each one of us is a very competent and independent woman, and so there's just a bedrock of trust that works. We stay connected to keep that solid.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

And, Sam, it sounds like from what you and Heather are saying, that there's a certain amount of initiative that it takes as well and that-

Ashley Judd

Yes.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Ashley contributes that, it sounds like all of you do as well, but initiative to invite people along into experiences to share how you're doing, to initiate perhaps, you know, a FaceTime call so you can all catch up. And it sounds like that's a key part of what helps keep you in touch as each of you taking the initiative.

Samantha Andros

Yeah, definitely. And I think, you know, Ashley maybe catalyzed it initially and then everybody just kinda ran with it, you know. So if one or the other of us has something going on in our family, it's just the call out, you know, to the sisters and their kids and their husbands. And, you know, sometimes there's a random parent or niece and nephew that also comes along. It's very much a, "Join in," and, "We love you," and, "The door's open," and, "You can walk in to Sunday supper with, you know, your hair a mess and crying because you fell down and skinned your knee," or whatever it is and everybody's just there, so.

Ashley Judd

Yeah.

Samantha Andros

It's not hard to stay connected. There is an intention there, but it's just the place you wanna be is you wanna be connected, makes it easy.

Ashley Judd

And I try to have a one-on-one call with each woman each week, as well as doing a weekly Zoom where all of us can be together and have a group hearing, a group listening and a group sharing. And also, you know, Heather has traveled with me to my speaking engagement. Sam has traveled with me to my speaking engagements. And, you know, Logan, I just am a sofa dweller at their house. (Vivek and Ashley chuckle) And as I mentioned, I have a lot of good kitchen table and back porch time at Heather's home. And when Sam and her family still lived in Franklin, you know, her husband makes the best popcorn and I was right on time every night. (Vivek and Ashley chuckle)

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Now, what kinda popcorn does he make? Popcorn's very popular in my house.

Samantha Andros

It's just delicious. He does it the old-fashioned way, on the stove with some oil and, you know, the perfect amount of salt, or not, and you can request vegan. And yeah, he's just-

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Wow.

Samantha Andros

He's great. And we would pile on the couch and wait for the bowl. (Sam and Vivek chuckle)

Dr. Vivek Murthy

That sounds pretty good. But I love that you're sharing these tips, because I think, unlike perhaps 40, 50 years ago, so many people find that they end up feeling connected to people who don't live around them, who aren't geographically in the same town. And this question of how do we deepen friendship over distance, I think is a common question that's coming up in people's minds. But I think the fact that you all take initiative, I think ties back to something, Sam, you had mentioned early on, which is around safety and around the idea that all of you feel safe with one another, and you feel safe knowing that your outreach to one another won't go rebuffed, right, that it's welcome. And I think that's a really important part of feeling like you can take initiative is knowing that people wanna hear from you and they want you to invite them into their lives and vice versa. You know, I know that, I imagine as beautiful as your connections are, that there probably have been some challenges that you've had to work through in your relationships. I think a key point about your chosen family is that you aren't all carbon copies of one another. You don't necessarily have all the same beliefs or the same politics or the same life experiences, yet you chose to be family. And I'm curious, have you ever had moments of conflict or challenge between you and how have you navigated those?

Ashley Judd

Well, one of the things I think we do really well, and I'd love to hear from the others as well, is we hold difference really well. We're able to hold complexity and paradox with a lot of grace.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

And how did that come to be?

Logan Raines

I think it's kind of the foundation, is that we get curious about things instead of making a snap judgment or assumption or thinking we know what the other might be thinking or feeling or what their thoughts are. And I think we just have that understanding that even if we do not see things the same way, that we have a mutual respect for each other's lens in which they see the world. And so when we get curious about that and say, "Oh, well, you know, tell me more about how you experienced that," or, "Tell me more about how you came to that belief." I think we're just able to hold space for both ideas.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

And, Logan, how did that come to be? Did it evolve to a point where you were able to sit with difference and do so comfortably? Or was it naturally that way, or did you have to build up to that and have conversations about it over time?

Logan Raines

I think it was a buildup, you know. I think ultimately, you know, it being able to question myself and say, you know, "I see that this is something I think I believe," and why do I believe it and being able to kind of understand myself a little bit better, then I can open that up a little bit more to a wider, you know, frame of reference to what other people are thinking or feeling. But I think it's just been over time. And the more that I get to know each woman and the more respect we have for one another, I can respect what they see and the way they view things as well.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Mm.

Ashley Judd

And we talk about things. It's not like we just sweep things under the rug or sidestep or avoid like, "Oh, I know we have a difference there, so let's just be mute." We really talk about things. Like the Raines came up here and we went to Maine for Thanksgiving last year and it was around the time that the Black woman at the University of Kentucky was assaulted by a drunk white dorm resident, and we just unpacked that from every angle that we could think of, you know. It's not like we just don't talk. We really talk.

Heather Raymond

Yeah, we use opportunities to learn from each other and about ourselves as well. That's part of the foundation of our connection.

Heather Raymond

Mm-hmm.

Samantha Andros

Yeah, one thing I think we have in common, I mean, I want to include myself in this, is that we welcome challenges, you know. These are women that will, you know, run out their front door at five a.m. and do triathlons and run across the country and, you know, obviously travel the world and take on social justice issues. So when we come to a place in our relationships, I think, where there's a challenge, we find safety in the fact that we know each other is not going to, you know, give up or walk away from it, that we'll meet the challenge because we matter to each other that much.

Ashley Judd

And we presume goodwill.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Yes. That's very powerful. I think especially for you all to say this and to demonstrate this example at a time when we have so much division, like in our country, and so many people increasingly feel like they can't have conversations with people who have different beliefs than they do. This notion that we can create friendship and strengthen friendship and have deep friendships despite these differences I think that's a really powerful example for the country to see.

Ashley Judd

I mean, I remember once, Logan, we were talking and you said you had a friend who couldn't believe that you could be friends with me. (Ashley chuckles)

Logan Raines

Yes, yes. It was a neighbor. It was a neighbor that asked me that question. And I said, "Well, I guess you kinda would have to get to know her before you could make a judgment about somebody," so.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

And, Logan, tell us a little bit more about that. Like why did your neighbor say that to you? Where was that coming from?

Logan Raines

I would assume that it came from their own assumptions about what beliefs they think I hold or, you know. We live in a little bit of a bubble of an area where there's a lot of similar belief systems and, you know, sometimes challenging that seems a little bit wild and radical to some. But I really think goes back to the idea of their own assumptions about what I do and don't believe, but I prefer it this way. I prefer having a diverse set of friends, you know. I think it would be very stagnant if everybody thought and believed the same way and there would not ever be any challenge to your thought system or, I think it's healthy.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Yeah, I couldn't agree with you more, Logan. And I think all of you are such great examples of the fact that we, all of us, without exception, are so much more than a single belief that we may hold or an affiliation that we may have. And you've created a space where you've allowed yourselves to understand the full complexity of one another and to not only appreciate that, but to grow from that, and I think that's what we need more of, certainly in the world. There's one other thing I wanna ask you about, which is about accountability in friendship. I have these two very close friends, who, we actually recently did a podcast episode together for this podcast. And they're two dear friends, Sunny and Dave, and they're in a way like my chosen family. And one of the things that we do, of the many things we do for one another, is to actually help keep each other accountable on certain goals we have for our health, for our relationships, even decisions we may make about like our professional lives, like we try to keep each other honest. But I know that this notion of accountability in friendship can be treacherous. And some people worry that, "Hey, if you try to hold a friend accountable, that can create conflict, too." So how have you managed and navigated accountability in friendship without necessarily creating conflict?

Ashley Judd

I'm very grateful for the ways in which my chosen sisters hold me accountable. And immediately Heather comes to mind in terms of her very strong and tender faith. And when we spend time together, Heather's a really good one for coming over to my house in the morning for coffee and just this wonderful visiting time. And we talk about our shared faith, we talk about the God of our understanding, we talk about scripture. And it's just a natural part of who Heather is, to weave in these tenets into everyday conversation and I feel that that holds me accountable to my spiritual practice, you know. It reminds me that it's the weft and weave of who I am, and how I do something is how I do everything, And that I'm a spiritual being having a human experience. Yeah, these are not separate things. Like I don't pray and meditate in the morning and then get up and go about the rest of my day. It's like once I was at church and the preacher said, "You are now dismissed into the presence of the Lord," at the end of the service. And Sam holds me accountable to my inner child because I would love to, like, outsource the care of my inner child to somebody else sometimes, like especially my partner 'cause he's so good at it. And she just is always reminding me that I have to hold my own hand, you know, and fundamentally be there for myself and take responsibility for loving and nurturing that sweet part of me that really needs me. And Logan is just a woman of such high principles, values, and ideals. She's such high integrity. That Logan calls out that integrity in me and holds me to this, and I mean I hold myself to that high accountability standard because I wanna live up to the kind of integrity that she has, and it's like this mutual accountability. Like I was gonna be at CGI speaking and, you know, I love and adore President Clinton for many things and I've got some challenges with him as well, and I say, "I feel like I'm cooperating but not affiliating, what do you think," and, you know, she was the perfect person for me to ask. And she had a very good straight answer that I had not considered, right? Which she was just the perfect foil, the perfect intellectual and character building foil for that question.

Logan Raines

Thank you. (Vivek and Logan chuckle)

Dr. Vivek Murthy

What a beautiful tribute to the chosen family. So much you said there that really struck me, this notion of being a spiritual being, having a human experience as opposed to the other way around, that really resonates with me, Ashley, and I think it's a really powerful frame shift. I also think this idea of having friends who can hold you accountable to care for and pay attention to yourself and be responsible for yourself is important. And I think this hits close to home for me 'cause I realize, I think I'm realizing, as you're talking, that I think I have been guilty in my life of looking to other people sometimes to take care of me and not taking care of myself, but that's a place where I need to take more responsibility and focus on, caring for myself and not necessarily rely entirely on others. So these hard truths, I think, are important for us to hear, and who better to hear them from the people who love us, who we can trust. So I wanted to ask, you know, for people out there who are thinking or listening to this conversation and thinking, "Hey, I wanna have a chosen family. How do I create my own chosen family?" I'm curious how you would advise people to go about thinking about creating their own. And if they have friends, for example, who they want to be a chosen family, like how does one start that conversation with your friends?

Logan Raines

That's a great question. But I think, you know, most importantly, there needs to be an honest foundation and transparency and the ability to be truly authentic. I think those are the foundations that I would look for, you know, if I were starting a new chosen family or adding to a chosen family. I would want all of those things to be there and to be established and to have that sense of comfort that we have with one another.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Mm, I like that.

Heather Raymond

Yeah, and to add to what Logan says is vulnerability, of course being willing to be vulnerable.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Yes.

Samantha Andros

You know, I initially wanted to say, look for people that don't wear shoes. (Vivek and guest speakers chuckle) And I think I've seen Heather and Logan barefooted plenty of times, too, to reinforce that, you know, I've got a great family here. I think knowing that, you know, I have a heart commitment to these relationships and being willing to invest in that commitment, you know, even when it's not convenient, even when we live in different places, you know. I moved away from the town where I met Heather and Logan and Ashley, and so there was this heartbreak that occurred and some of it I didn't even expect, you know. I just longed for these Sunday afternoons, you know, running around with everyone's children and eating fried chicken and, you know, being silly or being whatever we are when we're together, And I really faced a difficult place where I had to just wrestle with the missing. But we have been committed to the relationship, so we've made it work. We've met in various cities, and I travel home to my, you know, to my chosen family as often as I can. And people come to me, you know. It's really great. I would say, choose those people that you can commit your heart to. And that just kinda came, for me, from that safety that we talked about earlier, that feeling of safety told me that, yep, these are the people.

Logan Raines

And I think also to add to that is it will take time. There's no like, poof, magic, chosen family, you know. I think it evolves over the course of time. And you have to be patient with that time, too, because you can't rush it. You can't force a friendship. There's a lot of it that's just natural, but you have to give it time just to develop and to experience actual life things with one another.

Ashley Judd

I think I have something that I would add about, you know, putting wheels under it, in practical terms. I mean, first of all, when Sam said she travels, You know, when planning an activity with someone who's a candidate, think about really co-creating it so that it's a shared experience and letting go of the control of being the sole designer of what the picnic, the supper, the outing, and do different things, like we had someone come teach us how to make pie crust. And, you know, one of the things that we really like to do is ask everyone what their magic wand activity is for the time that we're together. What's the one thing you really wanna do to make a memory, to make sure that everyone gets to do that one special thing? And everyone shares like the thing that they really have to do. Last Thanksgiving, Luke wanted to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. (Vivek and Ashley chuckle) And Martin wanted to be able to go on a run with Logan. I said I needed to take a nap every day. And that way everyone avoids disappointment and isn't just going along with group think. So to co-create and co-design and to have your individuality, that's also supporting common welfare, you know. And to cook together and not just have one person do all the work, and then to play these little games, and we could maybe throw this up on your website, but to play these little games. And then, you know, when you're winding down, share what your favorite memory was, like what was most special to you. And we had this great experience where there was a windstorm, was rattling the whole house, and I said to Martin, "I think everyone is wide awake," so I sent a text to the whole group with whom we were staying, and it was the kids who wrote back were terrified. And so I said, "Come downstairs to the kitchen," and I made hot chocolate for everybody. And when we were leaving and we were sharing what our favorite memory was, for the kids, it was like hot chocolate at 2:30 in the morning. You know, so be spontaneous, be open, just be natural. Let go of the control of what a perfect experience is gonna look like so that the possibilities can unfold.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Mm. Oh, that is such great advice. And I was actually thinking that whether there was like a set of guiding principles that you'd have for your chosen family. And you've already mentioned a number of them, which I thought were powerful: honesty, authenticity, vulnerability, commitment, flexibility, as you were saying, Ashley. Are there any other sort of principles that you feel helped guide your chosen family?

Ashley Judd

I think sharing the space, you know, and rotation.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Mm, yeah.

Logan Raines

And I think also, you know, I don't know if it falls under a principle, but something that I find to be important is allowing my children to contribute to the group in whatever way they see possible, and that looks differently for each one of them, you know. The one scenario that keeps coming up to mind is, you know, when we all showed up for Ashley, Drew was nine at the time, and we knew that everybody probably needed to eat after being at the hospital all day, and Drew said, "I know Ms. Ashley likes Whole Foods rotisserie chicken." And so that's what he showed up with, you know, at nine years old, like that was his way to contribute. And so I feel like each person, not just us women, but each child, each spouse has a contribution and it's all unique and different depending on, you know, where they are and what stage of development that they're in, but that we give them the space to do that. I feel like it's super important.

Ashley Judd

That participation is the key to harmony. Participation is the key to harmony. You know, this has been such a wonderful conversation for me in particular, just to be able to reflect on the nature of your friendship, to be able to see what you have created, which is something so beautiful at a time where so many people are struggling with loneliness. We know that there's loneliness epidemic that's happening in our country, but also in many other countries around the world. And the ways that we can rebuild our friendships with one another, and you've done it so beautifully through your chosen families, I think this is how we're gonna get through this very difficult period that our country is going through. You know, as we wrap, I wanna ask you just one sort of fun question here. If you all could, without any travel, logistics or any other barriers involved, if you could pick one place in the world where you would have your chosen family reunion, where would that be?

Samantha Andros

Well, I think I would probably choose Ashley's house in Tennessee. (Sam and Vivek chuckle)

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Okay, so Sam would choose Ashley's house.

Samantha Andros

It just accommodates us all so well.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Great.

Heather Raymond

It's either Ashley or the Smokies. We'd go back to the Smokies.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Smokies, okay. I like that. Logan, how about you?

Logan Raines

Yeah, both of those sound great. But then, you know, I could also just maybe say Switzerland 'cause I got to see, when I was on the phone with Ashley, Martin's parents' home and I believe maybe grandparents' home in the picture and it looked beautiful.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Mm, Switzerland. That's gorgeous. And, Ashley, how about you?

Ashley Judd

I'm so honored that you said Chanticleer because that just indicates to me that there's a lineage there, you know, that we've got that history there from our picnics and with mom and pop and Uncle Roy 'cause we didn't have, we didn't really have the opportunity to get into this, that it's really generational as well with my mom and pop and Uncle Roy being the elders of this gang. And, you know, one of the things that I think this group does well is wonder, you know. We all went to New York City recently, the whole gang, when I was being given some very lovely distinctions, including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Lifesaver honor. And so the ladies and I packed up and Audrey, Heather's daughter, came, too. And we just have a sense of appreciation and gratitude and honor. And so Switzerland would be amazing to experience that together. Sam has been. And Heather knows Austria. And it would be incredible to show you that. But honestly, what came to mind was Tahiti. (chuckles) And why, I cannot say. But I just think that the kids would be so, and my first little job was to file brochures at a travel agency and I was besotted with the idea of Tahiti when I was 15 years old. So something about my inner child is like, "I wanna take my sisters to Tahiti." (Ashley and Vivek chuckle)

Heather Raymond

I'm in.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Well, I will say this to your chosen family, it sounds like you have some travel ahead.

Ashley Judd

Yes, yes.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

This'll be great. You know, finally, Ashley, maybe one last question for you as we close, which is, Ashley, you have traveled the world and seeing so much of the suffering that people are contending with in their lives, for so many reasons. And we read about it in the papers every day, we hear about it on the news. But when you look at the future, whenever I talk to you, I feel like I leave with the sense of hopefulness because I feel like you inside feel hopeful. And I'm curious, what gives you hope when you think about the future?

Ashley Judd

I do believe and experience that feeling safe, known, witnessed, validated in my reality, and loved makes me feel hopeful. And that's what these women give me. That's what these women give me, you know. Just to be known in my reality and validated is, it's so humane.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Mm. That's so beautifully put. Well, Ashley, I wanna thank you, and Logan and Sam and Heather for this wonderful blessing of this time together and this beautiful conversation, for sharing this powerful example of what you have all built in your lives, which is inspiring, but also I think instructive as we think about how to build greater connection and reduce suffering in the world. You know, I've always believed that there are three things that all of us need regardless of what cultural background or region of the world we hail from: we all want to be seen and understood for who we are, we all want to know that we matter, and we all want to be loved. And in your chosen family, you have given those three gifts to each other in such a powerful way. So, thank you for sharing that with us today. I'm so grateful to all of you, and certainly look forward to the next time our lives intersect.

Logan Raines

Thank you.

Heather Raymond

Thank you so much.

Samantha Andros

Thank you.

Ashley Judd

Thank you for having us and for who you are and what you do. Peace be with you.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Peace be with you, too. Thanks for joining this conversation with Ashley Judd and her chosen family. Join me for our next episode of House Calls with Dr. Vivek Murthy.