Jan 062014

Happy Ever

My friend Fawn, over at Happy Wives Club asked me to answer this question for her:

G: What do you believe about marriage?

Um, WOW. Well, a lot of things. Here are five:

  1. If neglect or abuse is present in your marriage and you are being hurt – get the hell out. If your church tells you to stay, get the hell out of your church. Any decent church will promise you that God loves you more than any institution God made for you -  including marriage and including church. If you are telling yourself that you are staying for the kids- tell yourself to leave for the kids so you do not teach them that love is pain. If you have no one to help you get out of an abusive, neglectful, hurtful marriage- start here.
  2.  If you are not hurt or neglected, but you’ve “fallen out of love” and so you are disillusioned about marriage- join the club. All the married people in the whole world are in the club. Being disillusioned is good. It means you’ve stopped believing a lie. The lie is that marriage is like it is in the movies and that everyone else is having hot love affairs while you are cleaning up smelly socks and trying to get someone to actually listen to you instead of pretending to listen to you. The truth is that cleaning up socks and trying to get someone to really listen to you IS marriage. It’s less sweep you off your feet and more sweep the kitchen four times a day. Like everything good in life- it’s 98% backbreaking work and 2% moments that make that work worthwhile. So- just get ready to sweat. Despite what the movies tell you- you’ll sweat less often in bed and more often in therapist’s offices, in front of the clothes dryer, and in line at the grocery store while the children lick used gum off the floor and you silently curse your partner for existing. I’m actually surprised more of us married folk are not constantly dehydrated from all the sweating.
  3.  Happily Ever After IS NOT A THING. We are all trained by Disney to believe that the wedding is the finish line – but the wedding is JUST ANOTHER STARTING LINE. In light of this fact- we should quit the huge, fancy, debt-inducing weddings. When I asked my parents to help pay for my wedding, they said they’d give me a little bit and then if Craig and I made it to our ten-year anniversary, they’d give us some more to throw a big party. “THAT’s the time to celebrate,” they said. My parents were right.* Celebrate AFTER hard work, not before. Young people: marry simply, start your life, and party later. THINK OF HOW MUCH BABYSITTING FOR YOUR FUTURE COLICKY BABY YOU COULD BUY WITH THAT WEDDING BUDGET. THINK OF HOW MUCH MARRIAGE THERAPY YOU COULD BUY. Invest in your marriage, not your wedding. Spending all your money on a wedding and leaving nothing for marriage is as irresponsible as foregoing health insurance for your baby so that you can throw her a kick-ass birthday party. It’s as backwards as circling the stadium with your arms in the air –  waiting for applause before you start the race. Sweat a little, then celebrate. And don’t forget the good news/ bad news – there is no finish line. Marriage starts over again every.single.day.
  4.  Sex is really, really freaking confusing. No one talks about this, which is a shame. I’ve been married for eleven years and my husband and I are still trying to figure out how to make sex enjoyable for both of us. Right now sex is a source of all kinds of confusion and resentment and shame and pain for us. But we don’t think this means that there’s anything “wrong” with us or our marriage. We just assume that our confusion means that we’re normal people who’ve been paying attention to the world’s mixed, dangerous sex messages forever and so we have some unlearning to do. When our kids were young – we knew we were stuck when it came to sex – but we couldn’t find an extra hour or dollar to spend figuring it out. Now that the kids are older, we spend hours a week in therapy muddling through this stuff. It’s annoying and painful and expensive and necessary. Mating comes naturally, but healthy sex lives don’t. They take work.
  5. Marriage is still the best chance we have to become evolved, loving people. We live in a transient, disposable world that teaches us that if we are uncomfortable, we should change our surroundings and people instead of ourselves. I do it all the time. New friends, new house, new church, new, new, better, better. It never works, because wherever you go, there you are. If you keep swapping partners because the ass is always greener, you’ll just end up – poorer and more exhausted – but with all the same issues. We are like butterflies who want to keep moving, keep flitting around and be free- but freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose (thank you, Janis). What we want even more than freedom is to be loved, and we can only be loved when we are truly known. It takes a lifetime of tears, laughter, arguments, loss and conversation with another human being to be truly known. We have to be patient. Marriage is dogged, determined patience. It’s also one of the only ways we’ll ever truly know ourselves. Because to know ourselves we have to stop flitting and face our demons in the face of another person who serves as our mirror. Who reflects the best and worst of ourselves back to us. Sometimes I feel like marriage is more a constant relationship with myself than it is with Craig.  I’ve learned to quit listing things he could do to be a better partner and ask myself instead what I can do to be a better partner. If I get stuck in comparison induced self-pity and start feeling like others have better love affairs than mine- I don’t need to look for another person to love, I just need to start actively loving the person I already have. Because love is not something to wait for or hope for or look for –it’s something to DO. Do not measure your marriage by how much love you feel today- measure it by how much love you’ve offered today.  When you don’t feel love – DO LOVE. Feelings follow doing, not the other way around. Lasting, True Love is not about being swept off your feet. Sometimes love is just sweeping the kitchen and being grateful that there is a kitchen and a partner who is contractually obligated to share it with you forever.   

*Hey! Dad! Where the Sam Hill’s our ten-year money, Bubba?!? Well-played. 


Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Dec 312013

tish beautiful

Tish and I were walking together on the beach last week. She stopped to look out at the water so I did, too. She put her hand in mine, looked up at me and said, “Mom, am I pretty?”

Luckily, I’d been thinking about that word for a couple of decades, so I was ready.

I sat Tish down in the sand, took a deep breath, and dove in.

“I think you’re pretty, Tish. I think you are very, very pretty. But pretty is a weak word, because it means different things to everyone. You really don’t have much control over whether folks think you’re pretty or not. Spending a lot of time asking the world if you’re pretty – it’s just not a strong position to take. You will have to keep changing yourself for everyone you meet, and eventually you won’t know who you are. I know because I used to think pretty was really important, so I felt confused and weak a lot.

What I want you to be, Tish, is beautiful. Beautiful means “full of beauty.” Beautiful is not about the appearance of your outsides- beautiful is about what you’re made of. Beautiful women are women who spend time discovering what they love – what sings to them –what their idea of beauty on this Earth is. Then they make time each day to fill themselves up with that beauty. They know themselves well enough to know what they love, and they love themselves enough to fill up with a little of their particular kind of beauty each day.

That’s why we’re here today, honey. I was feeling a little empty this afternoon and so I brought you here to the beach to fill myself back up with beauty. This place is beauty to me. So I come here to fill up with the Gulf of Mexico. With the sound of the waves rolling in and the sight of the pelicans fishing and the feel of the cool sand on my feet. When I leave here I feel really beautiful. And I brought you with me because you are beauty to me, too, Tish. When you smile at me – I am beautiful .

Many of the things you see me do each day, honey – I do them to be beautiful.

It’s why I take time out to spend with good friends.

It’s why I read and look at art and always have that music I love playing in the house.

It’s why I light candles in every room.

It’s why I watch you climbing those Banyan trees in the front yard.

It’s why I roll around on the floor with Theo and Meadow and why I’m always smelling the top of your head.

It’s why I drag you to sunset and to church every week.

I’m just filling up with beauty- because I want to be beautiful.

Tish, you will meet plenty of people in your life who are pretty but haven’t yet taken the time to be beautiful. They will have the right look for the times- but they will not glow. Beautiful women glow. When you are with a beautiful woman you will not so much notice her hair or skin or body or clothes – because you’ll be distracted by the way she makes you feel. She will be so full of beauty that you will feel some spill onto you. You’ll feel warm and safe and curious around her. Her eyes will twinkle a little and she’ll look at you really closely, Tish- because beautiful, wise women know that the quickest way to fill up with beauty is to soak in another human being. Other people are beauty, beauty, beauty. So you will notice that the most beautiful women take their time with other people. They are just filling up.

Women who are concerned with being pretty think about what they look like, but women who are concerned with being beautiful think about what they are looking at. They are taking it all in. They are taking in the whole beautiful world and making all that beauty theirs to give away to others.

Does that make any sense, baby?”

And Tish said, “I think so. It’s like, when you first wake up, mom. You look really,really bad. Your hair is messy and your face looks weird. But when you see me, your eyes get twinkly. Is that because you think I’m beauty?”

“Yes, baby. I’m filling up with you. Because I want to be beautiful.”


Friends – in 2014 let us decide to be beautiful women. Let us take the time to discover what in this world is beauty to us –  and fill up with it daily.

Being beautiful is a strong position to take.

Love and Peace and Beauty for all-



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Dec 282013

I used to live inside my head, but now I live beyond it. This move likely saved my life.

You see – I’ve got voices in my head. These voices are so intense, incessant, distracting, loud, rude, judgmental and afraid that at several points in my life I’ve truly, truly understood  - deep in my bones –  that folks kill themselves to finally get some peace from the voices. Because the voices are that bad. The voices are hell. But yoga and meditation and lots of reading about Eastern philosophy taught me another way to find peace from the voices. We don’t have to wait for heaven to find peace- which is freedom from the voices. Christians need to do a better job of teaching each other about this here and now way instead of just telling folks that things will get better when they die.

Jesus told us over and over that the Kingdom of God is not later or out there  – but now and inside of us. He tried to show us how to access His Kingdom by retreating from the voices and into meditation and prayer several times a day, but we don’t concentrate on that part of Jesus’ life much. Instead of learning to meditate to detach – we Christians tend to identify with the voices in our heads and in the world and choose sides– which is likely why people think of us as judgmental. We don’t have to choose sides. We don’t have to be judges. God is the judge and God doesn’t need our help. We should have faith that God’s got the judging thing under control and let go of all of that. If we let go – we would be less tired and more joyful and that would be much more attractive and true to the world than all the yelling.

Even though I know all of that – the voices in my head still go at it all day. They bicker about who sucks and who is awesome and who is good enough to us and who doesn’t treat us right. They endlessly muse about what we want and what we hate and what we plan and they do all they can to revisit and nurse every past grudge we’ve ever had. The only thing they like better than criticizing others is criticizing me. They talk all day about why I’m the worst or the best or why I’m never going to be good enough. One of their favorite things is to try to get me all riled up – they love trying to make me afraid or mad.  It’s like living inside of a nasty debate all day, every day. I used to think that my job was deciding which voice in every debate was righter. It was up to me to judge- to decide which voice was the least crazy and then base my life decisions upon whatever that voice said. That’s what I did, all day everyday forever.

But one day in yoga class I was getting frustrated and my teacher looked right at me and said: “Fire the judge and hire the witness.”

Judge not, lest ye be judged. I used to think that scripture was just about not pointing out other people’s flaws. Maybe, but I think it’s also about not deciding between the crazy debating voices in our heads- about not offering them any validity by judging one saner than the other. The truth is that we don’t know who or what is good or bad for us or for others. We suck as judges because we just don’t have all the information. This is why god is the only decent judge- because God is the only one who can see the whole picture.

And so through these realizations I learned that my mind is an eternal boxing match and instead of ducking from punches and protecting my face and choosing sides – I can just step outside of the ring. My job in my life is not to get involved with all of the arguments that happen in my head. BECAUSE NONE OF THE VOICES IN MY HEAD ARE REAL.

I am the witness. I am the one noticing those voices. Sitting somewhere beyond them, smiling patiently, undisturbed, letting them fight it out if they must. Peace is not a bird resting on a still pond- it’s a bird sitting snugly and gently and securely in a nest above a raging waterfall. The waterfall is your mind but you can separate from it, sit in this nesty spot above it, and watch it rage by- knowing you are safe. You can find the nest by taking a deep breath and remembering that you are not in the drama. You are not in the play- you are just in the audience – curious about the plot turns but knowing you don’t have to control the actors and that you’ll make it out of the theatre regardless, eventually.

This seismic life shift is how I “handle” all the criticism and praise that is involved with the work I do. Because after I figured out that I don’t have to decide between the voices in my mind- it followed that I don’t have to decide between the voices in the world. Because the whole world is like one giant mind, right? And the debate and talking points and outrage are incessant and endless and intense and also- just noise. They are NOT REAL. What is real is the love and fear behind the voices and that makes us all the same because we are –  each and every one of us –  giant balls of fear and love. So I just try to see past the actual words people say to the energy behind the words people say- the fear and love  - because when I see that I can always smile in recognition: Namaste. I am fear and love, too.

Last night I stumbled across a site that was hosting many comments “about me” and one said: “when she dies, they should put her face down in the coffin” and the one right below said “she is the most amazing woman on Earth.” I just smiled because don’t these sort of dramatic voices sound familiar? I hear them all day internally. Don’t they sound like the ridiculous things we tell ourselves all day? You suck. You are better than the rest. You’ll never be good enough. These voices- whether they are inside or out- they are the waterfall. Let them rage by but don’t jump in for God’s sake- that’s suicide.

There is only one voice that is real and that is the voice of God. God doesn’t speak to me in words or voices, usually. God presents Godself to me with a deep knowing. I come back to that knowing again and again in yoga or meditation or church or in the middle of a deep breath or at sunset or when my kids are asleep and I brush their soft, soft cheeks with my lips gently.  I think this is the place that Jesus refers to as the Kingdom of Heaven – where all is well and that is just understood. Where the debating voices are silenced because I have transcended the waterfall and found myself in the nest  – looking lovingly down at my people and myself and the whole brutiful world in all its messy glory.

I love you.

With unbearable compassion,


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