I just got home from a Glennon Melton Doyle event (of the crazy popular blog Momastery) and I am still reeling from the experience.
Not just from her talk – which was THE perfect combination of hilarious and heartfelt – but also from the whole exhausting event of getting there in the first place, and then having to leave early to come home to my crazy banshees.
But first, Glennon. I don’t know how or when I first came across her blog. Maybe it was via my other favorite heartfelt blogger Rachel Macy Stafford (what is it with the trifecta of names? Do I need to start going by Dana Heather Schwartz?!) but regardless, it only took one post to be hooked.
At first I was a tiny bit worried about the name, Momastery, clearly a riff off monastery. Would it be too Christian for me, a lapsed and mostly atheist Jew? Nope. That’s the beauty of Glennon. She’s all inclusive when it comes to love and hope and spreading the light.
Also, she’s hilarious. But the best kind of funny, because it’s not at anyone’s expense, it’s about the absurdity of life, and our absurd expectations of ourselves, of each other, and how she shatters it with her blatant unstoppable honesty.
When I was a kid, I had a lot of big feelings (not so unlike my own children). I was very sensitive, tender-hearted, basically a bruise waiting to happen. I still am, but there came a turning point in my childhood, maybe on the cusp of adolescence, when I started to feel a sense of shame about my emotions.
I started to express them more cautiously, or at least, less vocally. I also started to hesitate when asked for advice. Before this, if you asked me for help, I took you VERY seriously. I’d think through my answer, go over it in my mind as if I were composing a speech or writing an essay. Then I’d present you with my findings, totally guilelessly.
I still do this. If you ask me a question about celiac, writing, grief, death, I will compose you the best response I can and from the heart. But there was a period of time when I stopped. Because it didn’t feel safe or acceptable to be so open, so honest.
I started to feel foolish for thinking that people who asked for the truth actually wanted it.
So instead of lying, or editing my response, I stopped talking so much. I second guessed my instincts. I swallowed my words. Better to say nothing at all than to look like a fool.
I wish I had known Glennon all those years ago, or had a friend like her, one who was as honest and guileless as me, who spoke straight from the heart without censoring or softening or smoothing.
I love the stories she tells about being brutally honest, whether during her kid’s play date, at church, or online, and then being faced with a wall of silence, with gaping mouths, bulging eyes. Basically horror that she had the gall to be real.
“Oh,” she says, her hands up in mock defeat, “we’re not doing THAT here, are we?”
Tonight I took notes on my program and ticket because I forgot my notebook.
Then about halfway through the event, I snuck another peak at my phone. It had been quiet for a while, but suddenly I saw 3 messages and knew there was trouble before even opening it up. Staying out late, especially mid week, is not something I usually do. Because I can’t.
I’m about to get honest here (without going into too much detail in order to protect my family’s privacy). Spending an hour in Glennon’s presence inspired me to tell my truth. So here it is.
Many other moms I know have no problem saying yes to evening events. They easily arrange girls’ nights out, join book clubs, see movies, get drinks, etc after their kids go to bed. Some even host these events at their house (!). But I don’t. I can’t.
My kids don’t go to bed – well, not very amiably. Not without me. They honestly never have. It’s a thing. It’s our thing. But still, when I saw the opportunity to go to Glennon’s speaking event, I leapt. I arranged things with my husband and my dad, took the kids to swimming first, switched out my son’s car seat, prepped my daughter with the evening’s plans, and then drove away, arriving with only minutes to spare.
I listened with my whole heart and took notes and felt moved and seen and understood by a woman who sat on a stage way too far away to see my face in a crowd of hundreds, but I felt understood all the same.
Then the texts came. Come home, now, from my husband and my daughter. I wrote back, On my way, even as I sat in my seat, soaking up a few more moments. I was disappointed, but not surprised. I looked around. The rows were packed and leaving was not going to be easy, but I made my way out of the aisle as best I could and took one last look at the vibrant woman on stage before pushing open the door.
On my walk to the car I thought about how I could decide to feel. I could be pissed, which I kind of was. I could feel all victim-y, which is another one of my go-to places, why do MY kids need ME so freaking much? And finally, self pity, what is wrong with my mothering that my kids are so abnormally dependent on me?
Then I read another one of my daughter’s desperate texts, and my husband’s, which was along the lines of please answer your daughter’s desperate texts. So I did. With hearts and loving words.
Right now my kids DO need me more than most kids’ their age. For whatever reason. But one day they won’t. One day I’ll be able to attend events every night of the week and they probably won’t even notice because they’ll be too busy with their own lives. One day they’ll grow up and leave me behind, which is the goal. But I’ll still cry. I’ll still remember the times like tonight when I was needed so much and so desperately that it felt like being strangled.
I drove back home listening to Pandora, and I heard the opening bars of a song that made me think of another song, one from my college years. Sarah McLachlan’s Hold On. I sang what I could remember:
hold on to yourself
for this is gonna hurt like hell.”
And I thought about what Glennon says about pain, what I already know about pain, and that is you have to feel it, you have to go into it, not away from it.
“Pain is NOT a hot potato.”
I laughed so hard at this, because it’s so so true. You don’t get to toss it away. You get to hold it. That’s a gift. Pain and grief is the price you pay for loving.
I thought about what she said about parenting, about how many parents want so badly to protect their children from pain, but they need pain and suffering to learn wisdom and kindness and compassion.
“You can do hard things because you are a warrior.”
I thought about how hard life can be – how hard life will continue to be – for my anxiety prone, highly sensitive daughter, and how I will take these words like a gift and offer them to her, and to myself, again and again.
I’m heading off the bed now, but I’m taking one last cue from G and hitting “Send” before editing this (except for spelling and grammatical errors, because come on, I was an English major for crying out loud). But I won’t try to make it prettier or smoother. I won’t try to make it safer, or easier to swallow.
In a few weeks I’ll receive a copy of her latest book, Love Warrior, and I cannot wait to read every word of it.
*Some G for anyone who’s interested, she gives a great podcast
Magic Lessons Podcast with Elizabeth Gilbert
Beautiful Writers Podcast with Linda Siversten
I hear you. My daughter’s really dependent on me as well. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with our mothering. Just give it time…they won’t need us. Then, we can cry together.
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Thank you for this. And I’ll take you up on that offer in (omg less than!) 10 years.
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As a woman who just left her grown son in another state for college, I can say unequivocally this time of their dependence will pass and you will have more freedom than you can remember ever having before.
I didn’t join book clubs or writing groups until my kids were old enough to be left home for several hours alone. Bill’s job has odd and unpredictable hours and I didn’t ever want to hire a babysitter only to have to cancel if he were able to be home. And if he was home, I wanted my family together. It’s as simple as that.
“Not even once a month?” friends would ask.
And the months passed, then the years. My kids love me but they don’t NEED me with them now.
Enjoy it while you can. This is the good stuff, as hard as it seems sometimes.
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I thought of you writing this post, Julie, and all the other mothers whose children are leaving their nests, because I know it will be upon me in a blink of an eye. Thank you for making me feel less alone in my smothered mommy-world. It really seems at times that every other woman I know has so much more freedom and (seeming) ease than I do… I know it doesn’t help to compare, but it’s hard not to. I wrote this with an open heart wondering if I would hear any “me-too’s” and I did, turns out, from some of my very favorite writers. xoxo
I’m so happy you got to see G for however long it lasted. My youngest is similar to your kiddos in that she needs me for so many things that my older two do not. Sometimes it’s exasperating, to be sure, but the truth is, I need her too. Whatever all the reasons are for this bond, this need, right now, I know the biggest, loveliest one is love and yes, I will miss it all when it’s over. We all will. Thanks for these beautiful, unedited, honest words Dana. xo
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Thank you for chiming in, Lisa, and for letting me know that I’m not alone in this. I feel that way about my youngest, too, because I know he is my last little, but it can be hard when both kids are tugging at me with such force. And yet, what is the alternative? No one tugging. And so I’m grateful even as I struggle.
Love your honesty here. Glad you wrote about your experience and just published it like that. I’ve been over thinking a great deal of what I’ve been writing. I may need to make some subtle shifts there. Oh, and this totally made me want to go wake up my own daughter for some cuddles!
Thank you so much, and I look forward to reading your subtle shifts, whatever they may be 🙂
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Dana, I’m so happy you went. And I get those frantic texts, too. Granted, my youngest is still a baby, but I can’t be out past bedtime. If I’m even a little late, I come home to one of two scenes: the baby, having cried herself to sleep on a very exhausted looking daddy, the boys passed out in couches, or the baby having cried herself to sleep on exhausted daddy while boys rip the house apart.
Anyway, so glad that she is inspiring so many to live more authentically. I listened to her Magic Lessons podcast the other day and was actually going to write you about it! The first part of the podcast answered a struggle I’ve had with my blog. Who am I writing for? I’ve felt a split personality there…is this a writing blog or a parenting blog? She says “serve the platform you already have”. And the platform I have responds most to my honest posts about life and PPD and my journey as a parent. I’ve been going through one of my “thinking about blogging” phases and I feel inspired by Glennon and Love Warrior to just do it!
Phew. Sorry for the long and rambling comment!
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Tara, you can ramble on for as long as you’d like! I wish we could meet up for tea or maybe better yet, a beer 🙂 Thank you SO MUCH for your commiseration on the neediness of children. I have returned to scenes very much as you describe, utter chaos. Glenn is very inspiring and seems very authentic even on a big stage with bright lights and clearly her “on” persona, but I laughed so much. You really feel like you’re in a room with her, chatting away even as you nod from a distance. I LOVE that you have begun to discover your blogging path and that the podcast helped clarified things for you. It makes sense! I always enjoy your writing.
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I love this. You inspire me with your embrace of what IS right now, no matter how difficult or not-as-we-wanted it is. I’m trying to do the same at this moment with a reality that’s different than I expected this fall to look. I can’t wait to read Glennon’s book. xox
Lindsey, thank you. I am trying, and it’s not easy, to be present and open, even when life feels like it’s doling out sucker punches. I haven’t read your most recent post about gratitude for friends who are there for you in need, but I will, because the headline resonated for me. Yes, we all need casseroles and friends who will sit in discomfort and chaos with us. I’m so glad you have that. xo
Honesty in writing is my favorite. Not alluded to honesty, but the real details. And you’ve done that here when you describe your night, the ups and downs of it all, yet still with an eye on the future where there will be more flexibility and freedom on your end. What optimism, something that is hard to find in the daily grind sometimes. Love that you were able to do it. (And I have more to say about bedtime woes, but I’ll do that offline…I, too, was in your shoes not too long ago. So, I get it.)
Ah Kristen, my kindred spirit in writing and spirited girls who struggle to sleep 🙂 Thank you so much for reading and your kind words. It’s funny you mentioned optimism, because that is definitely not my go-to place and something I am really trying to work toward. Nice that it seems to be shining through.
First of all holy cow, you got to see Glennon!! I am such a huge fan of hers and not surprised to hear you are as well! And also, kudos for sharing this vulnerable post. It’s hard to push publish on those pieces. I personally was relieved to hear I am not the only one who has a sensitive kid who has lots of needs at bedtime. It can be really isolating, feeling like you are the only parent on the planet who has this ridiculously long and difficult bedtime routine. Thank you for for sharing and letting me know I am not alone! Carry on warrior! ❤
Thank you so much! It is hard to publish these kinds of pieces, and I am definitely more of a polisher and smoother, but Glennon inspired me to let go of some of that, at least online 🙂 I always admire your posts and feel they are honest and raw and from such a genuine place. Thank you for making me feel less alone in the drawn out bedtime routines that can feel deeply isolating. Carry on indeed!
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My goodness, thank you for the compliment. I try to be vulnerable and raw and sometimes I am, sometimes I am not. But the more I do it the less scary it becomes. In fact I have a post right now I am sitting on…afraid to hit publish because it feels extra scary. Here is to supporting each other as we take creative leaps! 😀
I also think it’s okay NOT to always be so raw and authentic online, but there are times when it makes sense. And times when the words are simply your own, and don’t belong to anyone else. Do what feels right to you! But yes, here’s to mutual support for those leaps that feel right 🙂
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I couldn’t agree more. I am a fan of tiny leaps – not overshares, but small risks you know you are ready for but might still be a little scary. And sometimes a blog just isn’t where it belongs either. I have a host of drafts that are going into an imaginary future book I am writing… 😀
I came over here from Julia’s blog, where I comment from time to time (and enjoy reading your comments as well).
Thank you for this post and for sharing so honestly! As someone who doesn’t go out at night either – for a variety of reasons that include my child – it’s so nice to know I’m not alone.
I’m glad to have found my way over here and look forward to reading more. 🙂
Kerri, I am touched that you came over to my blog. I love Julia’s words, and I recognize your profile from your comments over there. Thank you for sharing your “me-too” moment regarding not going out at night. I was just explaining to my husband how much this blog post has helped me feel less alone, and how being honest and authentic can have such benefits. Like meeting you! xo
I adore that whole Sarah McLachlan album actually. “Hold On” is a good one and I think I remember what it’s about.
We have so much in common – with being little kids with BIG feelings, and now we’re adults with BIGGER feelings – and we have to write them out and compose specific responses. For pretty much anything.
I’m glad you got to soak up some moments. Your secret is safe with me. We don’t have that one, at all, (seriously.. could they need me even a little??) but we all have our own things.
Sometimes everything is fine at home but I’m too anxious to go out.
Oh, that album is SO SO good. I have a feeling we share quite a few favorite albums 🙂 It’s tough for me to witness my kids’ big feelings and to somehow attempt to manage my own. Which I don’t always do well. I know you can relate. Thank you Tamara, we certainly do all have our own things!
So glad you hit “send.” It will all work out. It won’t feel that way, it will feel dark and smothering. And then one night when they are all grown up, they will call you and spill out their heart to you, because you showed them your heart and were there for them. And they will bring their friends who are hurting to you and sometimes their friends will move in for however long they need to because you listen and love. But right now the days and nights are so very long for you, be good to you.
Thank you Terri. I love how you shared your heart and home with your sons’ friends, and I will absolutely do the same. The days and nights are long, but I try to remember to hold them dear. xoxo
I love how you outline the details of what didn’t go well this night and how you tried to embrace it with grace and measure. I am not always great at helping gracefully, but your piece reminds me of how important it is to recognize circumstances, accept that sometimes life’s challenges are unfair and to move forward in the best way that we can. Thank you.
Oh, thank you Rudri. I struggle with this sort of thing, and it’s a hard practice. If I hadn’t just been at a Glennon Doyle Melton event, and say, hanging out with a friend, I may not have been able to manage the same kind of grace. But it’s worth the effort, and I will keep practicing. xo
This was such a raw, excellent post, and a perfect companion to seeing Glennon. I”m seeing her speak in a church in Minneapolis in November. I cannot wait. I devoured her first book and eagerly await her next one. The way you faced the texts and made a decision about how to react rather than just reacting (in your mind, I mean) is something I really admire. Somehow I think I’d be mad at my husband in this scenario, but that probably wouldn’t do any good. Good for you for rising above that!
Also, why is Sarah M so perfect? She really just is.
Thank you so much Nina. (Sorry for the belated response, hope you see this!) It wasn’t easy choosing the path of not immediately reacting, and instead weighing my options. Honestly, if I hadn’t just seen Glennon and listened to her, I may not have! But I know my kids, and I know how tough they can make things, esp at bedtime, even for my husband, so I tried to take the higher road despite my disappointment. And yes, Sarah M is magnificent! Did you read her recent interview in the Lenny newsletter?!
I’ve never heard of Glennon before, but I’ll be sure to check her out after learning of your experience with her. So happy that you were able to be uplifted like that. I feel like it was an extremely positive force for you to experience and I’m glad for that. Bravo on the post. It’s difficult to let your heart out like that and I commend you. I’m inspired by your courage. And I’m also kind of jealous that your kids need you that much!
Thank you so much Holly, it was truly inspirational. And thanks for writing that last line, I remind myself to be grateful to be needed this much, right now, because I know I won’t always. xo