A Morning With Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery
This morning I sat in a room full of women, most of whom had come for the opportunity to see Glennon Doyle Melton, the blogger behind Momastery who recently skyrocketed into the blogging stratosphere when The Huffington Post picked up and ran her blog post Don’t Carpe Diem on January 14, 2012. Between that noteworthy day and now, she has gained tens of thousands of fans on Facebook and countless more have been reading her blog, devouring and sharing each new post with the zeal of a fanatic. She had publishing companies battling for the rights to publish a book of her work and life story — which is due out next April, and is even in talks about turning her blog into a TV show. I think most of us in the room felt pretty lucky for having the opportunity to share a space with Glennon knowing full well that a year from now she’ll be able to fill a colloseum with thousands of women looking to connect with someone who deals in such raw honesty, revealing all sides of her authentic self and making us feel one step to being more comfortable doing the same.
After being introduced, along with her sister Amanda who can easily be called her life-line, Glennon, by virtue of being Glennon, began by confessing her nervousness about her new role as “public speaker” which was being put to the test for the first time on this occasion. But even when admitting her nervousness, and professing her preference for one-on-one chats over coffee (though she only drinks tea), her presence was very natural and relaxed as she sat, dressed in a cute top and jeans, cross-legged in her chair at the front of the room, holding a microphone and speaking casually about her outer self, her Facebook self, the self everyone sees on the outside, and her inner self — the side that makes her who she is and the person we read about and love precisely because it is so incredibly flawed.
Glennon talked about the outer self that some people know and choose to only see — the outer self that is a cute petite brunette who appears to have it all: a gorgeous husband (and if you don’t believe me, check out Momastery and see for yourself!), a beautiful family, a loving sister and parents, and the quintessential suburban life. I met one woman who is good friends with Glennon and admitted that when she first met her, she instantly hated her precisely because of what I just described. After all, how could someone who has it all (and was so thin!) possibly be nice? Well, there are two myths embedded in that belief, and yet so many of us would have jumped to the same conclusion. The first myth, of course, is that someone who has it all — ok, let’s be more specific, a woman who has it all, especially the looks, must be a bitch. Perhaps we like to think that because it makes us feel better about not being them. But of course, the second myth is that she didn’t — doesn’t have it all, and in fact, nobody does.
And then Glennon went on to break down that myth at least as it relates to herself by talking about her inner self. This included details about developing an eating disorder at the age of eight and spending the next couple of decades throwing up ten or more times daily. It included her foray into substance abuse which walked hand in hand with her eating disorder. She talked about blacking out through much of her college experience, and spoke with almost disbelief that she was actually able to graduate. She described her marriage to her husband and how they barely knew each other before she accidentally got pregnant, and walked down the aisle crossing their fingers, hoping for the best. She admitted honestly that while there are many good times, the bad times are there too and was not afraid to talk about being in counseling with her husband to get through the turbulent (though wonderful) events that have recently been thrust upon their entire family. She talked about her wonderful children and how she didn’t always love being around her wonderful children. She talked about her Lyme disease and the toll that takes, not just on her body but on her family and how they function as a result of her decreased energy levels.
And when she was done revealing her inner self, she opened up that inner self for questioning and with each answer she provided, the honesty and courage to say what she knows and, more importantly, what she doesn’t know came through over and over again. Being in the room and seeing how she interacted so lovingly (Love Always Wins!) to each person, taking the time to respond thoughtfully to each question and afterwards take pictures and hug everyone who wanted a little piece of Glennon to take with them, was a little like watching Momastery come to life.
What struck me as much as the power of Glennon to connect with the women in the room was the need of each of those women to find that connection, and I started contemplating what it was that made Glennon’s writings resonate with so many women. Of course, she’s a talented writer, able to combine the reality of the world, all that is brutifal as she likes to say, with a dose of humor that makes it easier to swallow.
But it goes much deeper than that, deeper than just connecting and relating to the things Glennon writes about — things people don’t often talk about but want to. And as I looked around this room, hearing one woman openly talk about her own ongoing struggle with sobriety and looking to Glennon for the answers, another woman worrying that as a middle aged 35-year-old woman (her summation, not mine!), she hadn’t found her “thing” as Glennon calls it, and what could she do to find her thing, I sensed this emptiness around me. An emptiness that’s calling for something to fill it and hoping that Glennon would be that something, or at least guide them to it. Of course, to a certain extent, Glennon does fill a void — a void that comes from the silence we live in when a person asks us “How are you doing?” and we respond “fine” when what we really want to do is scream at the top of our lungs about how frickin’ hard life is. But that “thing” Glennon referred to so frequently today is about that something that gets you out of bed each day, the something that keeps us excited about life, the something that we feel good about at the end of each day. And that “thing” is not to be filled by another person but by something from within. For Glennon, of course, that something is writing, and Momastery and all that it has become. Judging by the whispers around the room as Glennon talked about each person finding her thing, it seemed that perhaps Glennon is in the minority in having found hers.
So where does this emptiness come from? Well, that’s a big question and if one asked Glennon, I’m sure she would quickly admit to not having an answer. But if we are going to fill it, we need to understand it. My husband and I frequently talk about happiness and contentment and how it seems to be so far beyond the reach of most despite every attempt at achieving it by buying the next car or the next house, redoing the kitchen, getting the next promotion, losing those last 10 pounds, or twenty or fifty or one hundred, because, as Glennon pointed out today, we are always looking to the next thing to make us happy, sure that what we already have isn’t enough. She described a school assignment her 8 year old son had brought home in which he had to describe the moral of the story he had read in school. It was something along the lines of “life isn’t going to get any better so you might as well be happy with the way it is now.” Ah, from the mouths of babes. While one perspective on that statement might be a pessimistic one, another way of looking at it is that happiness, or more importantly, contentment, is always there for the taking. Happiness is a feeling and we can choose how we feel about things. And if we feel that it is the next thing that will make us happy, we can be assured that the happiness will be fleeting until our sights are set on something else.
I don’t have the answers, any more than Glennon does, but I think her rise to notoriety indicates a willingness — no a longing — to start dismantling the myths about what makes us happy while figuring out what our “thing” is if all that we thought it was turned out to be a farce, and search for deeper meaning and connection in life. After all, as Glennon quoted from Mother Theresa, “If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” So as you carry on in your day, remember that we are all connected and that life is brutiful.