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