Feb 102015
 

On Envy

Dearest Glennon:

I’ve been writing this letter in my head for a while now. See, I write a lot in my head. I used to write a lot on paper too, but then the monster came back. The one that tells me “You can’t. You’re not good enough. You’re not WORTHY of making a mark, much less leaving one. Be small. Be pleasing. Be other than who you are.”

You see, I think we’re sisters. Not Sister, I know, but kindreds in this life; in grief, in joy, self-loathing and self love. When I read your work, I see the work I could/can do when/if I’m brave enough. If I could give the monster a public F$#% YOU instead of private pleadings and begging bargains. At first, I’ll admit, I wanted to dislike you. Because I am envious. Envious of seeing you thrive knowing our monsters are kindreds too. That you can keep yours at bay enough to brave the world. And mine, despite all the work I’ve done, still keeps me from acting. When is the work enough, I ask?

My first exposure to you was after Robin William’s passing. That entry of yours was lifted straight from my soul. My husband said almost the exact same thing to me that night that Craig said to you. And I had the same reaction. I tried to make him feel better (because that’s what I do) but inside the monster smiled. “See,” he said, “I’m never really gone. This respite is a gift I’ve given you – not anything you’ve done for yourself. And you are mine to claim when I decide the time is right. If I can take Robin, I can certainly take you.” But when I saw your post, I knew. Knew the monster was lying again, as he’s wont to do. But why, why do I believe him anew? How do you keep from believing yours?

And then you offered the amazing parenting workshop with Susan Stiffelman. Which was beautiful and perfect in timing and content. Somewhere between those two connections I decided that jealousy would not win. That I could love you and the piece of the pie you’re claiming, knowing I will not go hungry. I know that in 85% of the areas in my life, I am fat and full. But in the space where my desire is strongest–writing–I forget. I get sad and solitary – both of which strengthen the binds that tie my tongue and block my flow.

But I KNOW that your success is my success and that of all of us. So thank you for being one of my lighthouses – for your work, your light, your honesty and your grace. Thank you for speaking my words and heart when I cannot, and for putting yourself out there so that those of us whose doors are darkened from time to time by the monster can see that we can prevail, though the victories may be small and daily. Because when you rise, I rise. We all rise.

If you have the time, I do have advice to ask. How did you get brave enough to do this work? To quiet the monster, write and write some more. How did you make this less scary? How do you claim your truth and purpose? I’ve tried everything I know – bought every book – read every blog.  In almost every other aspect of my life I’ve banished him. But this is the most mushy, truthy part of me and this is where he’s taken up residence and is stubbornly refusing to leave despite my wanting him gone. I want the sweetness that permeates the rest of my life to fray the edges of fear in this area and I want to be brave – today – tomorrow and beyond. I want to be big. Big like Glennon.

Again, thank you sister. Thank you kindred.  Thank you G.

xo
N

Dearest N,

I’m not going to answer your questions. I’m not going to give you advice, because you already know everything. Whatever the hell enlightened means, I think you might be that. You are my absolute favorite kind of person. Because: You wrestle with monsters and WIN.

Depression and envy — those are two of my monsters — so I know how tough they are, how slippery and sneaky and nasty.

Do you know how many people allow envy to keep them from love, connection and their work?  Do you know how many people just dance on the edge of envy? They see it there on the floor of their heart but they turn their back on it. They pretend: “I’m not envious.  As IF.”  They roll their eyes. They join some others to snicker and snark. What they are doing is giving up. They are giving up on creating and settling for criticizing. I know what they’re doing because I’ve been one of them. We are afraid to look at beautiful things because we are afraid we are not beautiful.

You are different.

You saw the envy on the floor of your heart and you acknowledged it there. Then you dove in. You swam around. You found the gifts below envy’s surface — which are gratitude and the path to what you were made to do.  Two true things about envy, N:

1) Envy is just unexpressed admiration. It’s respect holding its breath. Tweet: Envy is just unexpressed admiration. It's respect holding its breath. http://ctt.ec/o8bM2+ @momastery
2) We are only envious of those already doing what we were made to do. Envy is a big flashing arrow pointing towards our destiny.

Why do we run instead of follow? You didn’t run. You dove in and swam around and claimed envy’s gifts and then you climbed back out.

AND THERE — still dripping from your swim — you saw the monster waiting for you. He laughed at the gifts you were holding. He told you to hide them. He told you not to write a letter, nobody’d read it. It’d never be good enough to touch another heart. And what did you do? You refused to engage the monster. You just slipped on by, clutching the gifts from the water , insisting they were real.  He didn’t follow you. He can’t. Movement is his kryptonite. Depression and envy are  like toddlers — they can only win if you stand still and argue with them.  Tweet: Depression and envy are like toddlers- they can only win when you stand still and argue with them. http://ctt.ec/qaU0E+ @momastery

And so, soaking wet and still clutching your gifts, you side-stepped the monster and you sat down and wrote this letter. You wrote like a girl who knows she HAS A GIFT TO SHARE. And I, sitting in a lonely hotel room, read it. And N – I just think this letter is one of the best damn things I’ve ever read. So true and kind. Gorgeous.

You’re done, my dear. You beat the monsters today — and the thing about monsters is that once you know how to beat them once, you know how to beat them every time. Monsters are persistent but not at all creative. Just not at all. Over and over again we say to them: Ah, yes, I see you there. Now if you’ll excuse me – I have to go do my work.

N, sometimes I look for my sunglasses for twenty minutes before figuring out that they’re on my head already. This is like that. You are looking for courage and freedom and BIGness and your problem is not that they are elusive: your problem is that they are already on your head. You are already those things.

Sister Warrior: You are already free.

N, I’ll end this letter with something that you  know already. My bet is that you’ve known this since you were nine years old:

YOU ARE A WRITER. So just keep writing. If you don’t know what to write, keep writing letters like this one. Just write letters to people you love. Tell them what you love about them and what you’re afraid of. Turn the letters into a book. Turn them into the story of you. You are a really good story, N.

 All my love and respect and admiration,

Glennon

P.S. N: Please write an essay called “Fat and Full.” I’ve never read a woman who uses those words to describe herself at her best. You claimed those words – fat and full – and when you did I held my breath and reread and reread and reread that sentence. And then you ended your letter with “I want to be big.” You want to be big, N. I want to want to be big – but small is how I know to be loved. So the truthiest truth is that I still want to be small. Tell us how to WANT to be BIG AND FAT AND FULL and loved, too. Go there. You know that and we need to know that. Love you forever. I’ll be here in Naples, cheering for you — with a houseful of kids and a mindful of monsters, doing my damn work anyway.

Jan 302015
 

I believe that life starts when we stop running from pain and instead surrender to it. We can’t remain on the lam from pain forever. The running and deflecting and numbing always cause more trouble than the pain would have. Healing begins when we stop running and turn ourselves in. We say: here I am, pain. I give up. Have your way with me. All that stuff really happened. I’ll let myself feel it now. Then I’ll tell the story and let other people feel it, too.

This holy self surrender happened to my friend, Laura recently. And so when she sent me this essay  – about turning in her grandfather for sexually abusing her and the beautiful policeman’s reaction – I read it without breathing. I posted it and your responses, as always, were real and brutal and true and holy and I read every single one and sat and cried my way through the pain and beauty of you. While I was reading, Amy texted me and said, “What can I do? How can I help you through the trauma?” She knew what I was doing and how I was feeling because she was in her house reading and feeling, too. I called her and we sat on the phone quietly for a while. And then I said – “You know, what strikes me is how desperately we all need to know that we are seen and heard. We don’t need our lives to be different, or easier, we just need someone to see the pain. To know what we’ve faced and overcome.  To say: Yes. I see this. This is real. We don’t need a magician to take it all away – we just need a witness.” Tweet: We don’t need life to be different or easier, we just need someone to see the pain. We just need a witness @momastery http://ctt.ec/d9XdR+

And Amy said, “I think that’s right. That’s what you’ve always needed, too. They are your witnesses. They read your stories and they say: yes, we see you, Glennon. And we not only see you but we see us in you. And that means that we are not alone. We might hurt, but we are not alone.”

The next day I had to leave to speak at some wonderful events. One was called C21 and it was magical. When my turn to speak came, I just told a love story about this place, about you, like I always do. I am a traveling lovestoryteller. It’s a good gig.

Not kidding

*Long Lovestory. Tell ya soon, promise. Hint: this is what God says to me most often.

My friend Colby Martin spoke at C21 too. He was fantastic. Colby and his wife, Kate are holy rascals from San Diego. They kept getting kicked out of churches for loving the wrong (right) people, so they finally just started their own church. Now they’re free to love whomever they want to love, which is everybody. They lead Sojourn Grace Collective and it’s a beautiful place. Every Sunday they get in a circle and hold hands and chant: “Be brave because you’re a child of God, be kind because everyone else is, too.” I’m taking my kids to their church next month because I really want to stand in that circle.

After the first day at the conference I got back to the hotel, changed into my jammies and then went to the lobby to get a candy bar (which is healthier than a real bar so: yay me). Colby and his friend Mathew were there. They told me that the Sunday before, they’d used our “Whatever, I’m Fabulous” post as a springboard for a special church project at Sojourners. They read the essay and then asked their folks to write letters to people who’d hurt them so they could be witnesses for themselves. So they could pull out their pain and bring it out into the light- where it’s always less scary. Colby and Matthew and Kate wanted the Sojourners to write their pain and name it and face it. We are all afraid to do that. We want to pretend we’re not hurt- but admitting we actually are is our only hope. Colby said people wrote and wrote and wrote and stayed and stayed and curled up into balls and some cried and Colby curled up with them and cried too because that’s Colby. Colby and Kate are really, really good witnesses. Loving witnesses. They listen closely.

Loving Witnesses

Colby said, “It was awesome, G. Amazing. Thanks for writing that. So now I’ve got this trunk-load full of letters and I’ve got to figure out something special to do with them.”

And I said, “You have them with you now? Well, let’s go in the parking lot and burn them.”

Colby said: “Burn them? Now?”

And I said, “Yeah, Why not?  Let’s go burn all that pain into ashes.”

Okay, let’s go. Colby said.

This is us. We did not get burned or arrested and the only explanation for that is that Jesus loves us both very much.

Burning 1

I think since Colby is a preacher and a husband who should not be objectified we should probably not notice or mention how ridiculously good looking he is.

Actually, let’s just spend a moment not noticing or mentioning that.

 

 

Well done, Very mature guys. We are growing up, I think.

Burning 3

Burning 2

Anyway. This is what I want to do. I want to be your witness. I love you and I want to fix your pain but I can’t do that and I shouldn’t do that because like joy, pain is holy and it should not be snatched away from people. I won’t do that to you. I won’t be a pain snatcher. But I will witness for you. This is what I do. This is my work. I make space in my heart for other people’s stories: I let my heart break open for you – that is the greatest honor of my work. It’s not the writing, it’s the reading. It’s not the speaking, it’s the listening. Did you know that every single day I wrap up in this prayer shawl some Cincinnati Monkees weaved for me and read your stories?

Your letters

This is what’s changing me. If I am getting kinder and wider and more forgiving and closer to being love- it’s because of your stories. It’s because to really know humanity is to deeply and fiercely love humanity.

And so here is what Amy and I would like to offer you. If you would like to write down your story, your hurt, your pain, your past – if you would like to get it all out and put it on paper and send it to us- we would love to read it. I know it’s scary. Remember: scared and sacred are sisters.

Write it down. If you are like me, that will be the start of your healing. Put it in an envelope. Send it to: Momastery, PO Box 7294, Naples, FL 34101 and on the back write: Can I get a witness? Amy and I will collect these letters for a month. Then we will take them to the beach and we will read them carefully and prayerfully and we will open our hearts wide and let your story in and we will SEE you and say YES. I see you. I believe you. This happened to you. You survived this. You did. And we will sign your story. We will make ourselves your official witnesses. And then we will burn your story. We will turn it into ashes which is to say that we will not destroy it- nothing can ever be destroyed- but we will use fire to transform it into something else. Something different. Something new. If it takes us ten nights to read and sign the letters, that’s fine- but we’ll wait to burn them all at once, so that all our pain and triumph will be mixed together into one pile of fire –  then smoke  – then hot ashes –

then cool ashes.

Cool ashes can’t burn us.

 

That’s what I can do. I can be your witness, as you have been for me.

I love you. I love us.

Amy and I will be waiting for your letter with broken-wide-open hearts.

 

Jan 292015
 

Originally published February 13, 2010

Speaking of TishMothers always whisper to their babies how special, how beautiful, how brilliant they are, how there has never been another baby in the history of the world as perfect as they are. I certainly whispered all these same things to my babies. Chase took them with a grain of salt, like most babies do. I’m sure he thought “Aw. So cute. Mom’s in love.” Tish, on the other hand, believed every word I said. When Tish heard me whisper these things into her teeny ear, her reaction was: “ YES. Exactly as I suspected. It seems I am some sort of GODDESS. Fan.damn.TASTIC.” And no one has been able to convince her otherwise since.

I’d like to offer an example. Several months ago my preschoolers were doing a project involving mounds of glitter, or “sprinkles,” as Tish calls them. Glitter, as every preschool teacher knows, is absolutely essential and absolutely impossible to clean up. It sticks to everything. So after this particular project, I decided to shake all the excess glitter into the toilet. That seemed to work, so we finished cleaning up and called it a day.

Later that evening, Sister came over for dinner and she was in the middle of a story at the table. Tishy interrupted her and said the following:

“Scuse me. I have to tell you guys something important. Today, I was pooing, and sprinkles came out of my bottom.”

We all stared, quietly.

Tish looked around at us, one at a time, and realized we were lost.

So she clarified. She said, “YOU GUYS. I POO SPRINKLES.”

None of us had any damn idea what she was talking about. That night in bed I burst out laughing when I figured it out.

When I told Bubba and Tisha the story, they had these mugs made.

Sprinkles mugs

My wish for you today is that you will regard yourself so highly that you too, start believing that sprinkles come out of your bottom. Tweet: My wish for you is to regard yourself so highly that you, too, believe sprinkles come out of your bottom. http://ctt.ec/qHeCU+ ‎@momastery

That is all.

Invest 2 seconds & get your first G-LOVE email in your inbox NOW!!