Jul 182011
 


I love addicts. I don’t want to be around them though, because they remind me of what I used to be and often still am.

Stubborn, stupid, reckless, arrogant, manipulative, mean, untrustworthy, lazy, bitter.

These are the characteristics of the disease, not the characteristics of the person with the disease. The person gets swallowed up by the addiction, like Jonah in the whale. The WHALE is the enemy. Not Jonah. He’s lost inside, scared to death, but still alive. Still whole, still himself, just trapped.


I’m often asked if I want to use my recovery experience to counsel addicted people and I always say Hell to the NO.

Mostly because I have no idea how to help addicts. When people ask me how I got sober, the only answer I have is, “I stopped drinking.” I can sort of tell them my why – Because Of Chase. I think. But I can never explain how I got sober. How I stopped drugging. How I stopped puking. How I quit smoking.

All on the same day, thank you very much. All on the same day.

Mothers Day. Sunday, May 13, 2002. All done. No more.

I found this poem a few years ago and it’s the closest I can possibly come to explaining my how.


The Worm’s Waking, Rumi


This is how a human being can change:

there’s a worm addicted to eating

grape leaves.

Suddenly, he wakes up,

call it grace, whatever, something

wakes him, and he’s no longer

a worm.

He’s the entire vineyard,

And the orchard too, the fruit, the trunks,

a growing wisdom and joy

that doesn’t need to devour.


That’s what it was like for me.

I didn’t go through a twelve step program. I went to a few AA meetings and loved them, but then I stopped going for some reason and got busy with life. I started living- for the first time, I guess. And I fell in love with life, mostly, except for when I hated it. But love or hate, I’ve lived sober for nine years. I hesitate to write that, because staying sober without a twelve step program is supposed to be statistically impossible. But my life has never made a whole lot of logical sense, so. Maybe my success is based upon the fact that my whole existence is sort of a twelve step program. It is, kind of.

Please, if you are addicted and wondering if you should go to a twelve step meeting, the answer is decidedly, yes. Secondly, if you are wondering if you are addicted, the answer is also probably yes. People who are not addicted to anything generally don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not they are addicted to things. Addiction seems to be one of those Smoke = Fire sort of situations.


Every once in a while I’ll tell someone I’m an alcoholic (usually when a neighbor asks me to drive their kid somewhere and I don’t feel like it) and in response she’ll say, “Oh. Are you sober now?” And I always say: Yes, Nine years. But to me, a truer answer would be: “I’m working on it.”

It’s like when people say, “Are you a Christian?”

I’m working on it, I want to respond. Every day, I’m working on it.

Becoming sober and becoming a Christian seem like the same lifelong process to me. Each requires me to decide not to be a jerk one million bazillion different times. When I am a jerk, each insists that I forgive myself immediately.

Each demands that I sit with pain and anxiety and grief and joy and refuse to weasel out of them with booze or food or gossip or consuming.

Each requires faith that Someone Else is in control and that this Someone loves me. Each insists that I constantly rise above my own ego and hover up there long enough to see that BARELY ANYTHING IS EVER ABOUT ME. Each demands that I stop taking people and life so damn personally.

They require me to forgive myself and others for being human. To accept life and people on their own terms. To tell the truth and listen to the truths of others. To seek first to understand. To let the past go. To let the future come.

Sobriety, conversion, marriage . . . they are based on one single decision, but the more important part is making that same decision again every single day, in every single moment.

So am I sober? Are any of us? I’m working on it. I’m getting sober-er each day. That’s good news. I am very, very pleased with that. That is my life’s work.


Jonah Part Two coming soon.

Love, G






Jul 142011
 




If you follow me on Facebook, you know how much I loved The Bloggess’ chicken post. I made Craig read it, for the same reason that I tell him every time a friend gets in a fender bender or locks her kids in the car or sets her kitchen on fire – to prove that I’m not the only eccentric wife out there. I read a lot of the Bloggess’ posts to Craig, to make him feel less alone. Their marriage dynamic seems similar to mine, and it’s comforting.

Here’s the thing – I’ve been spending too much money lately. It happens to me every once in awhile . . . I get into this yucky rhythm in which I experience these feelings of restlessness and anxiety until I get to a store and buy something. The something is usually a stupid and unnecessary thingamajig for my house. Then after I get home and set up the thingamajig, I feel relaxed and happy for a bit. Then my eyes travel to a different part of my house and I notice something else I “need.” And back out I go for more stupid thingamajigs.

And this cycle turns into large credit card bills. And a worried husband. And Craig drops little hints that make me feel guilty for not having more control over myself and for not being a better partner and for putting my petty imaginary needs ahead of my family’s financial security and our giving. And so I promise myself no more shopping. But then I find myself driving to my favorite treasure store the next day.

For me, not wanting to do something and then compulsively doing it anyway is a Big Red Flag. Because the anxiety that I experience before shopping feels dangerously similar to the anxiety that led me to binge on food and booze. And the temporary feeling of relief I feel after making a purchase reminds me of being high. And then the guilt I feel when the credit card bill comes reminds me of how I felt when the insanity of the binge was over . . . when I sobered up and crashed back down to Earth.

After it’s all over, I feel more anxious and empty and out of control than when I started the whole exhausting compulsive process. For me . . . all three – drinking, overeating, mindless shopping – they are like frantic attempts to fill up on air. I feel emptier and hungrier afterward than I did before I started. Because, of course, you can never get enough of what you don’t really need. Thank you, Bono.

My head knows that…but my appetite has a mind of its own.

After years of experimenting, I’ve learned that there are healthy ways for me to deal with my anxiety. . . large glasses of ice cold water, a long hot bath, a walk outside, meds, deep breaths, exercise, yoga, reading, writing, meditation, a date with a friend . . . but at this stage in my life – there is a certain kind of mindless shopping that is an unhealthy choice for me. Leaves me worse off than when I started. Hurts my family. Makes me feel untrustworthy.

But it’s tricky because as a parent of little ones, there’s plenty of shopping that does have to get done. Shopping’s like food- I can’t avoid it completely. So Craig and I have been talking a lot about Wants vs. Needs – trying to determine which sort of thingamajigs fit into which category.


One evening recently, I decided that I was DONE with my children for the day. I was feeling anxious and I made a conscious decision to relieve my anxiety destructively, by shopping.

I casually yelled to Craig, “I’m going out for awhile,” and I grabbed my keys and started walking to the car. But the sneaky bastard followed me outside, stuck his hot little head in the window and said:

“Glennon. Please don’t come home with a huge metal chicken. Just, please.”

The man has a sixth sense which God granted him to survive his marriage to me. I rolled my eyes as if he was completely ridiculous.

DAMNIT, I thought.


Tragically for him, Husband mentioned nothing about six foot wooden giraffes.



This is Mr. Wardlow. Chase named him after the husband of my friend, Geri. Because Geri’s husband is tall, obviously.

Mr. Wardlow was our friend. We dressed him in tutus and sunglasses and tiaras and purses. I guess Mr. Wardlow was a bit of cross-dresser. We embraced him for who he was. And for three glorious days Mr. Wardlow stood proudly and ridiculously in our foyer and greeted each of our confused guests. Tish hugged him each morning. Chase made him a huge nametag which hung around his long. elegant neck. Forgive me, I didn’t take pictures of him all dressed up because I assumed we’d have more time together for photo shoots.

But it was not meant to be.



Craig returned Mr. Wardlow.



He sure did.



When he got home from The Returning, Craig found me on the couch wearing a black t-shirt and black leggings. I announced that I was in mourning for Mr. Wardlow and could not speak for several days. Craig disregarded my mourning process and spoke to me anyway.


Craig: Glennon. I really thought we were doing better about deciding between Needs versus Wants. Wooden giraffes are definitely WANTS.

Me: Well. In your opinion, I guess they are. I guess they are.

Craig: NO. In EVERYONE’S opinion. NOONE NEEDS a six foot wooden giraffe. That thing was TERRIBLE. AWFUL. Embarrasing.

Me: HOLD ON A SECOND. Let us be clear. ARE YOU INSISTING THAT NOONE NEEDS MR. WARDLOW?

Craig: Right. NOONE. That’s what I’m saying.

ME: What about a GIRAFFE COLLECTOR? A GIRAFFE COLLECTOR would most definitely need Mr. Wardlow.

Craig: What, are you suggesting that you’re a giraffe collector now?

Me: WELL, NOT ANYMORE, AM I????? Thank you for killing my dream of becoming an internationally respected giraffe collector. Thank you. I hope you are satisfied.



So long, Mr. Wardlow. You were a good, tall, wooden friend.



Done forget to vote today! We’re #12!



Love, G

Jul 102011
 


“It is as great a separation from God to take offense as it is to give offense.” –My Grandfather’s Blessings


My purpose in life is to try to see people more clearly so that in each moment I am becoming a more loving person.

That’s all.


My life’s purpose is not motherhood. That could be taken from me. It’s not wifedom- that could be gone in a second. It’s to love myself and my neighbors with growing passion and mercy. Parenthood and wifedom and teaching and friendship and Sisterhood and writing are just the training grounds that God has provided me to practice my purpose. To practice seeing more clearly, becoming more loving. This is what brings lasting joy, I think. Becoming less afraid of ourselves and each other by discovering that we are all One. And then, the lucky thing is that this peace and joy naturally make me a better mother and wife and Sister and neighbor and writer. Magic.


“Now, once again, what God cares about is not exactly our actions. What he cares about is that we should be creatures of a certain kind or quality.” – CS Lewis


Everybody has a love training ground or two or five . . . and this blog is one of mine. This blog is one of the places I practice straining my eyes and heart to see myself and other people more clearly.


I started this blog because I wanted to try to understand other women better. Things felt so contentious and divided and suspicious and harsh sometimes in the real world, like people were always hiding or actively at war. And one day I wondered, what would happen if I put down my guns, peeled off my armor, and came out of my bunker with my hands up? How would other women respond?


My hunch was that other women would be grateful for the invitation to put down their guns, too. They’re so heavy.

My hunch was that if we could just strain our eyes a bit, if we could resist taking offense, if we could listen with our hearts instead of our hurts, if we could quit categorizing each other, if we could laugh and cry together, if we could just try harder to understand each other . . . we would start to love each other. And my hunch was that loving each other would bring us all some courage and peace and joy. And that loving each other at Momastery would help us become brave enough to practice loving our real life neighbors.


This, my friends, is exactly what has happened here. But let us admit – Peace – like pimpin‘ – ‘aint easy. This is why so few people choose it. War is hell, but war is easier than peace. Hiding is easier, taking offense is easier, dismissing each other is easier, suspecting and judging each other is easier.


And even though we believe in peace, we do those things to each other, don’t we? It’s like it’s easier for us to accept that people far, far away are our neighbors. It’s easy to love the Hatians and the Rwandans and the Sudanese. Loving my neighbors is so much easier if my neighbors are those in third world countries whom I will never meet. It’s so lovely and easy when I get to love my neighbors by sending them cash. I just LOVE those third world neighbors.Because they never hurt my feelings. They never piss me off. They never ignore me.


It is easy for me to love them because I am not in relationship with them.


It is harder to love my REAL neighbors. Those people with different styles and mannerisms and opinions than I, with whom I’m forced to be in relationship day in and day out.


It is easy to stand for world peace and choose war in your own heart.


Peace with those around you . . . that’s the hard stuff. Loving your LITERAL neighbors . . . at home and work and in your own family. That’s the real work. Don’t bother working for world peace if you’re gonna treat those around you badly. Think globally, act locally.


And so it goes with this blog. We have become a family here, and we have taken off our armor, which makes us vulnerable.


 


I took a hit, armorless, last week. I wrote a post based upon my feelings about the adoption likely falling through…and someone said this:


 

Anonymous said…If I ever know of a baby who needs a home, there are more than a few couples I know of. None of them already have three beautiful and healthy children of their own. For most of them, the adoption process would leave them flat broke. My advice would be to say goodbye to the baby phase, which can’t last forever no matter how many babies you have. Then, after saying goodbye with fondness, enjoy this next phase of life, knowing that it will bring with it its own unique joy. And then enjoy the phase after that. Three children ought to keep two parents more than busy for the next couple of decades (though truth be told, I hear it never really ends).If it helps, I’ve never known an infant to give a mother 10 hours of sleep in one night.

Not trying to sound callous. But when I think of my friends who went through a decade of infertility and hormone treatments before adopting and when I think of those who can scarcely afford to adopt, well…



And I was so mad. Let me rephrase that: I was so sad. In our family, we talk about how when we say: I’m mad sometimes what we really mean is: I’m sad. But saying we’re sad makes us feel weak, so we say we’re mad to make ourselves feel powerful. But since power is made perfect in weakness, we decided that it’s likely best just to stick with sad. So we say, I am so SAD at you . . . to each other. It’s weird, but it kinda works. It helps take the sting out.

Plus it’s hilarious to hear Amma screaming I SO SAD AT YOU, MOMMY!!!!!! I. SO. SAAAAAAD AT YOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU! in time out. Love it.

So anyway, after reading that comment, I had a sad.




Because them there was fighting words. That was the ultimate criticism for me, in a way I can’t explain. I’ll just assume you get it, since you always do.

And when I read that comment, I wanted to lash out. I wanted attack anonymous. I wanted to make a fool out of her. I wanted desperately to defend myself and my family.

But I didn’t.

Because when one is angry, one’s first reactions are not usually one’s best reactions. So I commanded myself to give myself some time. This was not easy, but sometimes time is love. This thing that was happening needed some time and space. Because the other thing that I know, that I HATE knowing, is that when I am very angry about something that someone has said, it’s because there’s some truth in what she’s said. I know that when I am angry at someone, that person probably has a gift for me, if I can just resist rejecting it.


“Every devil I meet is an angel in disguise.” – Indigo Girls


Now when I take hits on this blog, I usually decide that the loving thing to do is LET. IT. GO. That’s my M.O.: Pray for peace and change the subject. But this time I decided that love doesn’t always mean staying quiet. Sometimes something is so important that love requires speaking up kindly; assuming that there has been a misunderstanding and trying to clear things up.

So I wrote this:


Momastery said…


Dearest Anonymous, If you don’t mind, I’d like to clarify the meaning of your comment so that I can respond appropriately:


Are you suggesting that out of respect for families who are infertile, my husband and I should not have tried to adopt?
Or that I do not have the right to be sad about the loss of my adoption since other people are sadder?
Or that I am trying to evoke undeserved sympathy by writing my stories?
Or that I should not adopt because I need more sleep than I used to?
Or that I should not be sad about losing my adoption because I did not face infertility and I still have some money?
Or that gratitude and pain are mutually exclusive?
Or that that the only reason I want to adopt is a longing to have a baby in my home?

If so, you must not have read much about me or my family’s passion for orphans. You must have missed that adoption HAS in fact…left us flat broke. You must have not yet read about how we’ve used our life’s saving twice to help OTHERS adopt and to help fund orphanages. You must not know about the auctions we’ve held here, right on this blog, to help struggling people finance their adoptions. And you certainly must not know about our dear friends, who are struggling with fertility and how they pray for our adoption while we pray for them to conceive.


There must be a lot you don’t know about me, anonymous, in order for you to judge my motives and dreams and feelings and to simplify my heart and patronize me and my family the way you did… so easily… in your comment. We are not trying to adopt a baby because we like the smell of them. We are suffering through the adoption system again and again because there are babies out there who need people to do so. Even people with healthy, beautiful children at home.


It is very hurtful, anonymous, to be told how to feel. To be told that you don’t deserve to feel the way that you feel, and to be offered unsolicited advice about something so raw, something so deeply rooted in one’s relationship with her God, by someone who doesn’t know her at all.

Is there no end to the things for which we will judge each other?

Anonymous, if you have friends who need a hand in raising adoption funds, you might consider sending them our way. Many of us know how it feels to love a baby you can’t have yet…and we Monkees might be able to help. You just never know, anonymous.

You just never know. Love, G



And then anonymous wrote this:


Anonymous said…


I think you are taking my comments too personally and too much like criticism and I’m sorry for that. I’m also sorry for misunderstanding your motives.

Since this is a widely followed blog, I would expect you to anticipate a wide range of comments. Just so you know, my heart also breaks for orphaned children, especially those in foreign lands. I applaud your efforts to want to help needy children. Since bringing them all here and to other countries is a costly time consuming and somewhat futile effort (albeit a greatly noble one, don’t get me wrong), might I just toss out something else to think about? As long as women are oppressed instead of empowered, there will remain stuffed orphanages in third world countries. As long as religions (and more specifically, the Catholic church) teach women in ALL nations that choices about family planning and birth control are NOT theirs to make, we will continue to observe more of these tragic situations.

As you might be aware, it is rumored that the pope is currently mulling it over whether or not condoms might be acceptable as a means of preventing the spread of AIDS. MIGHT be acceptable. He’s thinking about it. And that’s the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that he continues to refuse to think about it. Aside from out of control population growth and the spread of AIDS (which orphans children), organized religion also often contributes to the idea that men are somehow more valuable then women. And as a result of this idea (again combined with out of control population growth), we see orphanages stuffed to the gills with unwanted “lesser” baby girls.

You seem to be a nice person, Glennon. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. But you also seem to be somebody who wants to bring God into the equation and give him credit in all things. Since you obviously care about orphaned children, I wonder if you think that the very beliefs that enslave and entrap them the most come from God. The Catholic church seems to think this. And you seem pretty Catholic. I commend your efforts but I don’t appreciate being lectured. And I’m sorry for your pain right now. There are lots of ways to help children of all ages and I hope you find one. I hope we all find ways.



And then I didn’t speak to anyone in my house for 12 hours. Truly, I just walked around like a zombie, thinking and thinking and thinking. And praying. Craig was scared.


And all of a sudden I remembered something my friend Beirne taught me the week before. And all of a sudden something moved that was blocking my vision and I could see a little more clearly. And I was filled with joy. I was JUST like the Grinch who’s heart grew TWO SIZES THAT DAY ….




And I wrote this:


Momastery said…

I think I see what’s going on here. We have a BOTH/AND situation here. My friend Beirne just taught me about this. How fortuitous.

 

When I was a teacher, I worked (loved) at a school made up of recently immigrated children. And while I was there, this set of laws was passed called “No Child Left Behind” which was a big problem for schools and kids like mine. The lawmakers started with good intentions, to hold schools accountable for their kids’ progress, but as with much else, things became oversimplified and therefore dangerous. In short, the tests they used to assess students, like all standardized tests, were massively biased against students who spoke English as a second language, students from poverty, and special needs students. So, basically, my whole school. I was angry about No Child Left Behind. My students were brilliant, and I wanted them to be able to show it. My school was filled with sacrificial, intelligent, passionate educators, and I wanted them to be able to prove it. I hated those tests. But I also knew that right or wrong, much of my students’ future success would be based upon standardized tests. And I knew that my job, then and there, was to prepare my 24 students for the real world they’d face, not the world I wished they faced.


So my friend, Amy, and I met and met and talked and worked and came up with some pretty amazing ideas to help these kids learn how to beat standardized tests. Well, my whole school did, but Amy and I got most of the credit for it. And our ideas started to work. Our kids started kicking tail. And schools like ours all over the country started using our ideas, and it turned into a book which still sells like crazy in the educational world today.


And I instantly became an educational “expert.” And people would interview me and say things like “So, Mrs. Melton, how long do you predict it will be until the American educational system catches up with China?” And I’d say… “Um. Seven?” And they say ”Yes, yes, very interesting.” That is a true story. About this time is when I stopped having any faith at all in experts of any sort. We got a lot of praise for our book, Amy and I. But we got a lot of criticism too. Many people said, “You are EDUCATORS. You KNOW how flawed these tests are. Why are you working WITH THESE HORRIBLE TESTS? Why aren’t you fighting AGAINST these tests that you know aren’t good for children?”


And we’d shrug and say: You’re right. We agree with you. But the thing is that we have these students in front of us. And we owe them. They are our job. THEM, not the law changing. We can’t march on Washington because we are in the classroom preparing our students. So maybe we could work together. Maybe YOU could march on Washington and meet with the lawmakers while we teach. Maybe this problem is so big that it takes both kinds of people. People at the capital working on the big ideas and the political structures and THE MAN while we stay on the ground and make sure THESE LITTLE LOVIES don’t fall through the cracks while change is happening. We won’t sacrifice a single one of them. Each one of them is worth more to us than the big ideas. That’s just the way we are, we teachers. We’re short sighted that way. But to solve challenges as big as orphans and fair education we need short sighted AND LONG sighted people. We need BOTH. We need folks serving on the ground and folks lobbying at the capital.


Anonymous, You are Right. I hear you. I agree with much of what you said and I have had many of those same thoughts about the politics of adoption…but as my friend Beirne says…NONE of that matters to the child right now, waiting in an orphanage, for a mommy and daddy to come take him home and offer him a chance at life. None of it, no matter how right it is.

I think it takes both of us, Anonymous. And and both. Love, G


PS. You are also right, I think, about me being a little catholic. I’m not practicing, but I think I still have a little left in me.

 

My friend Kate just sent me a St. Francis medal for Theo and he wears it on his collar and it makes me very happy. I love that St. Francis. I love lots of those saints, actually. I read about them and learn from their lives all the time.


I know and respect lots of modern day Catholics too. My Sister is one, you know. John, too. And his whole wonderful family. And I love the ceremony and majesty of Catholicism. Love the Sisters of Charity. And my grandmother said a novena for me every night when I was a drunk. Coulda been that that saved me, who knows?


It certainly does have its hypocrisies and contradictions and shameful dealings, the Church, doesn’t it? All churches do. They’re made up of people, after all. I hope they have people on the ground and people at the Vatican. It’ll take ‘em both kinds to fix things, I think. And/ Both. Always does. But Anonymous . . . listen. If I ever get a chance to meet the Pope, I promise to slip him some condoms in your honor. Promise. Love Again, G




And then. Miracles of miracles. Anonymous and I finished with this:



Anonymous said…

I’m sorry I said anything because I initially misunderstood the situation and I wasn’t trying very hard to understand.
It really wasn’t my place to say what I said. I tend to look at religion in absolutes. I left my religion for many reasons but the final straw was because I couldn’t tolerate the way they were treating gays. I felt that I had to take a stand. I know other people who try to take the good in it and work with it. I think there’s a place for those people but I couldn’t do it myself. Anyway, I’m sorry my initial post came across so horribly. I didn’t mean to sound so offensive though I can understand now why I did. Best wishes to you and your family now and in the future. I believe life can surprise us sometimes as we’re making our plans.


Momastery said…

Anonymous,

 

I hear your apology and I understand, appreciate, and accept it. For what it’s worth, I am deeply grateful that you said what you said. The journey it’s taken me on during the past three days has been important for me. I’ll explain more later, but for now… I’ve been listening to this song this morning and thinking of you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6qDb-EIokA Love, G



I have to tell you that this was my proudest moment on this blog, ever, ever, ever. Just this little back and forth between me and a woman I’ll never meet, deep in the comments sections.Because remember this? Remember our common Monkee beliefs?



Monkees have no set of common beliefs except these:

Here, we treat others how we want to be treated.

Here, we believe that love and restraint can overcome differences, fear, mistrust and competition among women.

Here, politics and business die. Feel free to revive them as soon as you leave this place.

Here, we agree with Mother Theresa, that “when we judge people, we have no time to love them.



I think this interaction PROVED our beliefs to be true. LOVE WINS. It’s a miracle. It was a miracle to me…here were two people . . . ANONYMOUS people, so hurt by each other, but not giving up, trying to understand each other . . . and discovering- they were on the same team all along, just playing different positions.


Clarity. Joy. Peace.


I think if we want to see miracles like this in our real lives . . . we just need to try harder with each other. We have to be careful with what we say to each other and we have to be careful about how we listen. We have to listen with our hearts instead of our heads. We have to want to understand each other, and we must refuse to be easily offended. We have to stop loving drama and start loving peace. And if we do this, we WILL see miracles in our relationships. We will start seeing more clearly and we will become more loving people. And this will bring us Joy and Peace. I know it. I’ve done the experiment.


And listen to this crazy thing.


Today I was sitting in church thinking about all of this. And I thought: My purpose in life is not to adopt. My purpose is to see myself and others more clearly, in order to become a better lover of people. And this journey, this adoption journey HAS helped me see more clearly. With help from the Rwandan babies and friends like Tara and Isaac and Beirne and anonymous and so many others. With help from you.


This adoption journey has been a love training ground for me. And the outcome might not be a baby. The outcome might be that I am a better lover of people.


HOW FREAKING AWESOME IS THAT?


I can’t stand it.


Love You.


Also, VOTE FOR US! Everyday!


Love, Love, Love

G