Oct 082015

What happened is that I went on this trip across the south last week. I met so many women with such brutiful lives. The loss and triumph and love and pain and sorrow and joy in these rooms is stunning.














See this baby? Her mama read Carry On, Warrior while she was pregnant and it moved her so deeply that she named her baby Glenn. This little angel is named after me. But she does not have my genes. So I have SO MUCH HOPE for this little g.



I hugged these women and they kept telling me impossible things. This precious warrior lost her baby—she told me that the loving words from me and all of you on this blog help her through the pain daily. How can that be? How can it be that this little place we made together is a healing place for our sisters? The miracle of that never really sinks in for me. I’m shocked by that news every time one of you delivers it to me.

After the Alabama event, Sister and I stayed up late in the hotel talking about the fact that here on the blog, I’ve been writing directly from my heart less often than I used to. I think I just started putting weird pressure on myself. This place has gotten so big, and over time I convinced myself that everything I wrote needed to be shiny and shareable and big and amazing. So I started writing essays instead of love letters. Meh. That’s not what we need all the time is it? We just need to show up for each other. Tired, full, broken, sparkling heart to tired, full, broken, sparkling heart. I am not here to prove myself, I’m here to serve you. Biggest difference in the world. Proving ourselves is full of angst and fear and striving and exhaustion. Showing up is just: Hi. Here I am. There you are. This is what I have to offer you today. Nothing more, nothing less. I want to work from a place of service, not ego. Shift, shift, shift. Better. Truer.

Showing up > Showing Off.

So anyway, here I am. I’m going to write directly to you once a week. Nothing fancy. Just: Here I Am. Also sometimes I won’t. No problem.

This is what I want to say today. It will make some people upset. I’m sorry about that, but I’ve thought about it for a week and I still think it’s important to say. If it helpful for you, keep it. If not—please reject it and hold onto whatever understanding brings you comfort.

One night I was in the hugging line and a woman came to me and she held onto my arms and she got very teary. She said:

“G: my friend killed herself. I can’t get over it. I can’t understand. I miss her so much. I went to a therapist about it and the therapist seemed kind of angry and she said, ‘Suicide is the ultimate selfish act.’ And that felt like a knife in the heart. I left hurting more than I came in. Can you say something to help the hurt?”

And I took a deep breath and silently said: God NOW. Help me NOW. This is what I say hundreds of times a night in those lines: when you trust me with your fragile, indomitable hearts. And then I said something like this:

“Sister. You know how so much of our country is angry at the Syrian refugees? Calling them ‘not our problem,’ calling them selfish, calling them other?

And you know how in response to this—Warsan Shire wrote that insanely beautiful poem—the one that goes…

You have to understand…no one leaves home unless the water is safer than the land.

That’s suicide. No one leaves unless leaving feels safer—an end to the pain. We can’t understand suicide—we can’t understand needing to leave—because we live in relative health, sanity. We can’t understand putting our families in teeny floating boats and pushing off into the churning sea—because we live in America. But mental health and severe depression are as different as America and war-torn Syria.

I love you for caring so deeply. I love you for not getting over things easily. Soon you’ll be able to lay you friend down, let her go—so you can both be free. In the meantime—let the pain be. It’s likely making you even more beautiful.”

We cried together, and she said: thank you so much. That helps. That helps. Then she walked away.

I love you. I hope you are not hurting too badly today and if you are—I hope you remember that you are loved. Wildly and completely. Tweet: If you are hurting badly today—I hope you remember you are loved. Wildly & completely. @momastery http://ctt.ec/Pfu8B+ You are being held. Carried. You are—all evidence to the contrary—perfectly safe.

I want us all to stay on land: together.


Photo credits: Amy Paulson Photography, Momentous Institute

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Sep 302015

It’s 5:45 am and I promised myself I’d write to you for one hour and then hit publish no matter what—like I used to. I’ve been a little quiet lately because I’ve been trying to take very tender care of myself. But I miss, miss, miss you. I miss when I used to just sit down and write you letters instead of essays. So anyway—here’s just a little letter.

So this is what happened. About a year ago I went off my medicine. I was just feeling so goodish and normalish and I decided it was time to try life again without meds. It’s a good decision sometimes. Sometimes medicine can be used as a life boat to get you from drowning to solid ground. I thought I was on solid ground. So anyway, I went off and had some good months. But then—do you remember this? Well—I kinda went downward from there, you guys.

When I slide back into anxiety and depression—well, it’s hard to explain, but I’ll try. You know how—when something scary or really hard is about to happen—you feel fluttery and wired and nervous until it’s over? Anxiety is a little bit like that, except “the thing” is never over. The thing is life. And the constant fear/jitters/whateveritis makes it impossible for me to enter the moment. This is the best way for me to describe it—I am never ever landed. Never relaxed. Never present. On stage in front of thousands or in my kitchen talking to Amma about her day—I am not THERE. You can look at me and see me but I am not THERE. I am not feeling the feelings that one might be expected to feel in a given circumstance because all my energy/thought/emotion is going to calm my nerves and soothe myself. Anxiety is like a shaky hovering.
Good times.

And depression is like putting a heavy, itchy blanket on top of anxiety. It’s like pouring spilt pea soup all over fear. It’s like a sucking out of the soul. It’s a disappearing act, really. It takes all the colors that a person is and bashes them all together until no color is left at all and all the person is or feels or reflects is gray, gray, gray. There is no LIFE anymore, just existing.

And I know this. I KNOW THIS. But it doesn’t matter.

When anxiety and depression first set in, I assumed I was tired. That lasted a week or so. I got extra rest. Then when I didn’t feel better, I switched up my diet. Less sugar usually helps me feel better. I committed to yoga and exercise. I was very, very tender with myself. I spent a lot of time in bed, just babying myself. I read my comfort books. I upped my therapy. I spent a lot of time snuggling my people. Curling up in a ball on Craig’s lap. Reminded myself that there are gifts inside these times.

And then, after a couple of months—I was sitting on my couch and I’d just finished snapping at Craig and the kids for the millionth time and I realized I was just gone. I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t remember why I loved life or what was special or good about me or what the freaking point of trying was. And something about “what is the point?” made me remember something.

Remember when I told you about how I write notes from my down self to my up self to help me with therapy? I also write notes from my Up Self to my Down Self. To remind myself who I am.

So I ran to find my note. This is the one I found.

Note to myself

Don’t be afraid. Remember.

So I called my doctor and got back on my meds.

A few weeks later I was sitting back on that same couch, folding my kids’ laundry and watching some stupid Bravo show and my incense was lit and my house was quiet and I felt a wave of joy. I love this life, I thought. I love the smell of that incense and I love making these teeny piles of clothes and I love trash tv and I love being alone in this house. And OH MY GOSH! Wait, what? Joy? Is that joy I am feeling? I’M BACK, BABY. I’m back. So I called Craig and then I called Sister and then my parents and then Amy and I said I’m sorry I was gone for so long. I’m back. I’m back now.

So now I’m in the returning part, which has its own challenges. I feel so grateful. But I also feel fresh—new—baby-like, vulnerable, exposed, skinless. Like a soft shell crab that has outgrown its previous shell but hasn’t quite found a new one to wear yet.

For me, these depression times are exactly like an eraser. They come and stay and when they leave they take everything with them. The only way I can describe it is that I feel totally new—like I’ve forgotten all the wisdom I learned before. Like I’m starting over. It’s a little distressing for a writer. I don’t know anything again. It’s like spiritual amnesia. I am Dory from Nemo: Wait! Where are we? Hold on: Here I am and I SWEAR I KNEW some things yesterday! What were those things! Oh, who cares! Look! A whale!

I hate it a little bit. I feel untethered. But when I talk to God about it, when I say to God: What’s the deal with all the erasing? God says: Honey, take heart. I am doing a new thing.

And when I say: But I worked so hard to know all those things, God. And it’s my job to know things. People line up to hear me say things I know…

God says: Silly. You know nothing. You don’t teach by knowing, you teach by loving. You can do that. They don’t come to hear what you know, they come to hear your awe. And awe comes from having childlike eyes. Fresh. Post-erased eyes.

Beginners mind, they call it. Depression leaves us no choice but to begin again and again and again with beginners’ minds and eyes and ears and hands. Depression leaves no room for pride. What a brutiful gift. Tweet: Depression leaves no choice but to begin again w/ beginners' minds—no room for pride. What a brutiful gift @momastery http://ctt.ec/3R_12+

Okay. 6:45. Gotta wake the kids and start a day. A day where at least a few times I will LAND and see some magic and feel some joy. You too, okay? Carpe Kairos. Life is hard. We can do hard things.

I love you. Thank you for doing life with me.



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Sep 242015

Use Your Words

Last week I told my therapist that even though I’m too busy, I continue to say yes to new responsibilities. In my head, I mean nope — but I say okay, because I feel on the spot. I panic. Every time.

She and I talked about how in the absence of a plan, even intelligent humans don’t know what to say under pressure. We aren’t great at thinking fast – at considering all the consequences of our decisions in the midst of a loaded moment. When put on the spot, we tend to say whatever we think will please the other person, even if it means going against what we know is right for us. So together we decided to create a non-committal response that I could pull out and use – as a space saver, a time buyer – whenever a new request was made of me. We needed a phrase that would allow the pivotal moment to pass smoothly without making me feel compromised or the other person feel rejected. Together we decided on: “Thank you so much for considering me. Let me think about that and I’ll get back to you.” I’ve said this seven million times during the past week. Even when my kids ask for breakfast. I feel drunk with time-buying power.

Yesterday I was on the phone with a friend whose teen daughter is one of my favorite people on Earth. My friend was beside herself because her precious girl had come home drunk the night before. My friend wailed to me: “How many hours have we spent talking about alcohol during the past decade? And the first time she’s offered beer, she takes it. She TAKES IT!” I said: “Crap. What was her excuse for taking it?” My friend said: “All she could come up with is: ‘Mom — I DIDN’T WANT TO SAY YES — BUT I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO SAY.’” My friend thought this excuse was a load of crap. I wasn’t certain about that. It sounded quite familiar to me.

You know, Just Say No sounds good in theory. But it implies that saying no is as easy as saying yes. It’s just not. In practice, saying no begs an explanation and saying yes doesn’t. Just Saying No makes for an awkward moment, which makes it an unhelpful suggestion to teens (and people pleasers like me) who often care about avoiding awkwardness even more than they care about their own well-being.

My friend and I talked about this fact: Yes, we spend hours talking to our kids about WHY to say no, but we don’t tell them HOW to say no. When they are put on the spot, they don’t have hours to explain their decisions to their peers. They have a split second. And while our teens and ‘tweens want to make the right decisions, they often want to avoid awkwardness even more. In the absence of a plan, they’ll likely default to yes. Just like we so often do. Maybe they’re not saying yes because they want to rebel – maybe they really do say yes because they don’t know what else to say. They need help knowing, preparing. That is where we come in.

When our babies are little, we help them understand and navigate their world by giving them language. We point and name: “Look. A Bird! A BLUE BIRD!” And we help them make sense of who they are in relationships to others by modeling appropriate communication. “Say hello to Mrs. White, Jimmy. Hello, Mrs. White!” When our kids become adolescents, their world changes so much that sometimes it feels to them that they’ve landed on a new planet. They are babies in this new complicated world of teen-dom. And so we need to start over, because a more complicated world calls for a more complicated language. We need to point and label: “Look. A beer! A whole keg of beer!” And we need to model the new language they’ll need to find their way. If we want teens to use their words — we’ve got to provide some words for them that they can keep in their back pocket and pull out at the right moment. Because we’ve taught them how to get along with others, but now we need to teach them how to get along with others while also taking care of themselves. On their OWN. That’s new.

So my husband and I sat down with our ‘tween and we talked about how he was going to be put in LOTS of awkward situations in the coming years. We told him that being a teen can feel like one long experience in being put on the spot. We told him that he was going to be asked to make big, important decisions under intense pressure and even though his heart and brain are huge, he’s human — and humans make bad, people-pleasing, status-quo-keeping decisions under pressure. We told him that he’ll find himself in situations in which his heart will be screaming NO but his head and voice will have a hard time keeping up. We told him that things aren’t all good or all bad. For example, a GOOD, KIND, WONDERFUL friend could ask him to make a BAD, DANGEROUS decision. Sometimes it can seem to us like the best idea to keep peace and keep our friendship is just to say yes and hope for the best. But we talked about how wisdom is knowing that peacekeeping and peacemaking are two different things. We talked about how people pleasing is often a human weakness, and how wisdom is making a plan in advance to work with our weaknesses. Tweet: People pleasing is often a human weakness. Wisdom is making a plan in advance to work with our weakness. @momastery http://ctt.ec/8_b52+

So the three of us dreamed up inevitable awkward situations, and together we thought of sentences he could say that would buy him time but not alienate him from his friends or make anyone feel like he was judging them. We also tried to weave in humor to make sure his responses would be in keeping with his personality.

Here are some we decided upon together:

When you notice a lonely kid: Hey! Here’s a seat for you. Come join us.

When someone offers you a beer: No, thanks. I’m allergic to alcohol. Totally blows. (Then go fill up a cup with water and nurse that all night to avoid 40 million more questions.) Note: Alcoholism runs rampant in my family and partly on Craig’s. The genes my kids have been passed down are loaded with danger when it comes to alcohol. We have been explaining this to our children for a while now, and we’ve researched how to explain this to them in ways that are developmentally appropriate to their age. “Allergic” is not the perfect word to describe how the bodies of many of my family members (including me) react to alcohol, but it’s close. And it is, in Craig and my opinion, a perfectly acceptable way for Chase to explain the unique danger to HIS body alcohol presents. It gets his VERY IMPORTANT point across without the embarrassment he’d experience by having to explain about our family’s alcoholism. You & your kid will know the best line to use for your family—this one works for us.

When someone offers you weed:  My mom used to smoke pot when she was younger and now she can smell it from a mile away. She checks my clothes every night. Can’t do it, man. (That’s the one that won, but I liked: HEY! How about we put down these joints and go volunteer at the dog shelter! He liked the first one. Whatever, his show.)

When someone starts texting while driving: Hey, I just saw a movie about a kid who got killed because he was texting and driving. I don’t want you to get killed because I plan to ask you for many, many rides in the future. Pull over if you need to text – I’m not in a hurry.

You find yourself in a sexual situation you’d prefer not to be in: Hey, I like you too much for this to go down this way.

A kid is being teased by another kid in the hallway: Hey. I don’t want anybody to get in trouble here. Why don’t you follow me out of here? I’ll walk you to class.

Someone is about to drink and drive: Don’t risk it, man. My dad’ll get us home- no questions asked. He’d rather pick us up here than in jail.

I don’t know if my ‘tween will use these life preservers we made together. But when that moment comes he will know that they’re available if he wants to save himself. And when he leaves the house in the evening and I say to him, just like when he was two, Use your words tonight — I know he’ll have words to use.

Me and My Boy

Originally published June 2014.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

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