Oct 262014
 

My teacher and me

That’s My Teacher and Me 

Did I ever tell you about the time last year when I decided to become a minister, spent a month applying to seminary and got accepted?

That happened. And then I wrote to Mrs. Yalen to tell her. Mrs. Yalen is my eighth grade social studies teacher.  She is the best teacher to walk the face of the Earth ever in the whole history of the world. Twenty years after she braved the fumes of my AquaNetted bangs to reach me and teach me – she still comes to my book signings and sends my kids homemade cookies in the mail. She is brilliant and deep and strong and hilarious. She is a SHOW-ER UP-ER. I love her. I really, really love her.

And so I wrote to her the day after I received my seminary acceptance and I said:

“GUESS WHAT, Mrs. Yalen?? I am going to be a minister! I am going to serve  a real live community with flesh and blood and WALLS. And I am going to tell them all that God loves them just as they are and they are going to BELIEVE me because I’ll be ordained!! Isn’t this the best thing that ever happened??”

And then I waited for her to write back and be so happy and proud of me. She usually writes back immediately, so I was surprised when it took her a few days. And I was even more surprised when I opened her reply. Which said something like this:

Dearest Glennon,

I don’t understand this. You are already a minister. Of thousands of people who read your work who, by the way, are made of flesh and blood. You are already telling them that God loves them just as they are and they already DO believe you. And for the last two days, as I’ve been considering your plan- all I can think is: WALLS? The LAST thing this girl needs is WALLS. The power and beauty of your work, Glennon, is that it’s WITHOUT WALLS.

I’ll try to get excited about this if it’s really what you want. But taking your time and heart and mind away from your ministry to start a ministry doesn’t make sense to me. Can’t you see that you already have what you want? Can’t you see that you are already doing the work you’re here to do?

Love,
Mrs. Y

I didn’t go to seminary. I just asked God to help me serve you with as much heart and mind and soul and love and ferocity and gentleness that together we could muster.

I’ve been thinking about this all morning. We are all so obsessed with creating lives of meaning and service and joy when most of us already have them.

All the experts tell us: Get started! BEGIN TODAY! Your life awaits! START!

Maybe the experts should be saying: Look! You’re already started. Your life is beautiful. Well done. Carry On!

I talked to a lady at a book signing recently who told me that she feared she was wasting her life- she wanted to live BIG, to love big, to GET STARTED, but she felt stuck because of her job.

I said: What is your job?

She said: “I’m a first grade teacher.”

Now, you guys  know that I try to listen without judgment – but this time I couldn’t help but let my mouth hang open at her. I said: But you are already the BEST THING. You’re the best thing already. You are already doing it. There is no job with more meaning than first grade teacher. Nothing. That’s IT. You are IT.

And she looked at me surprised and then she started crying and we had to hold the line for a long while. Because she knew that was true. She knew that was true. She just forgot for a minute. She already had what she wanted. She was already the best thing.

Most people who have a deep desire for lives of meaning and purpose and love are the kind of people who already have lives of meaning and purpose and love.

Just for a moment today- put on your perspectacles and look at your own life. You’ve probably got someone to love, some good work to do, some people who count on you, something beautiful to look at. If you have all that and a little bit of chocolate, too- you’ve already got it all.

That’s it, you guys. Life need get no “bigger” than that.

Don’t become so concerned with creating a life of meaning that you forget you already have one.

Because What if Your Life is Already The Best Thing?

Love,
G and Mrs. Yalen



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Oct 232014
 

Begin Again

On Tuesday, I told you that I could hear depression knocking on the door this week. Since then I’ve heard back from hundreds of you who hear the knocking too, and in response are turning up the music and banging pots and pans and singing loudly and doing all manner of things to drown out the stupid knocking. I love you so much, you incredible warriors.

Some of you have asked me for advice: What do I do when I feel like giving up? How do I begin again when everything sucks?

Here’s the best I’ve got. And just so you know? You’re not alone. EVERYBODY is beginning again, every single day. Folks who don’t know that are missing out on the terror and beauty and power of a fresh start.

LOVE,
G

*******************************

Dearest Drunken Friend,

It’s Day One. I have been where you are this morning. I’ve lived through this day. This day when you wake up terrified. When you open your eyes and it hits you . . . the jig is up. When you lie paralyzed in bed and shake from the horrifying realization that life as you know it is over. Quickly you consider that perhaps that’s okay, because life as you know it totally blows. Even so, you can’t get out of bed because the thing is that you don’t know how. You don’t know how to live, how to interact, how to cope, how to function without a drink or at least the hope of a future drink. You never learned. You dropped out before all the lessons. So who will teach you how to live? Listen to me, because I am you.

You are shaking from withdrawal and fear and panic this morning, so you cannot see clearly. You are very, very confused right now. You think that this is the worst day of your life, but you are wrong. This is the best day of your life, friend. Things, right now, are very, very good. Better than they have ever been in your entire life. Your angels are dancing. Because you have been offered freedom from the prison of secrets. You have been offered the gift of crisis.

Kathleen Norris reminded me last night that the Greek root of the word crisis is “to sift.” As in to shake out the excesses and leave only what’s important. That’s what crises do. They shake things up until we are forced to decide and hold onto what matters most. And what matters most right now is that you are sober. You owe the world nothing else. And so you will not worry about whether the real you will be brave or smart or funny or beautiful or responsible enough. Because the only thing you have to be is sober. You owe the world absolutely nothing but sobriety. If you are sober, you are enough. Even if you are shaking and cursing and boring and terrified. You are enough.

But becoming sober, becoming real, will be hard and painful. A lot of good things are.

Becoming sober is like recovering from frostbite.

The process of defrosting is excruciatingly painful. You have been so numb for so long. And as feeling comes back to your soul, you start to tingle, and it’s uncomfortable and strange. But then the tingles start feeling like daggers. Sadness, loss, fear, anger, all of these things that you have been numbing with the booze . . . you start to FEEL them for the first time. And it’s horrific at first, to tell you the damn truth. But feeling the pain, refusing to escape from it, is the only way to recovery. You can’t go around it, you can’t go over it, you have to go through it. There is no other option, except for amputation. And if you allow the defrosting process to take place, if you trust that it will work, if you can stand the pain, one day you will get your soul back. If you can feel, it means there has been no amputation. If you can feel, you can hope. If you can feel, you are not too late.

Friend, we need you. The world has suffered while you’ve been hiding. You are already forgiven. You are loved. All there is to do now is to step into your life. What does that mean? What the hell does that mean? This is what it means. These are the steps you take. They are plain as mud.

Get out of bed. Don’t lie there and think – thinking is the kiss of death for us – just move. Take a shower. Sing while you’re in there. MAKE YOURSELF SING. The stupider you feel, the better. Giggle at yourself, alone. Joy for its own sake . . . Joy just for you, created by you – it’s the best. Find yourself amusing.

Put on some make-up. Blow dry your hair. Wear something nice, something that makes you feel grown up. If you have nothing, go buy something. Today’s not the day to worry too much about money. Invest in some good coffee, caffeinated and decaf. Decaf after eleven o’clock. Read your daughter a story. Don’t think about other things while you’re reading, actually pay attention to the words. Then braid your girl’s hair. Clean the sink. Keep good books within reach. Start with Traveling Mercies. David Sedaris is good, too. If you don’t have any good books, go to the library. If you don’t have a library card, apply for one. This will stress you out. You will worry that the librarian will sense that you are a disaster and reject you. But listen, they don’t know and they don’t care. They gave me a card, and I’ve got a rap sheet as long as your arm. When practicing re-entering society and risking rejection, the library is a good place to start. They have low expectations. I love the library. Also church. Both have to take you in.

Alternate two prayers – “Help” and “Thank you.” That’s all the spirituality you’ll need for a while. Go to meetings. Any meeting will do. Don’t worry if the other addicts there are “enough like you.” Face it – we are all the same – be humble.

Get Out Of The House. If you have nowhere to go, take a walk outside. Do not excuse yourself from walks because it’s cold. Bundle up. The sky will remind you of how big God is, and if you’re not down with God, then the oxygen will help. Same thing. Call one friend a day. Do not start the conversation by telling her how you are. Ask how she is. Really listen to her response, and offer your love. You will discover that you can help a friend just by listening, and this discovery will remind you that you are powerful and worthy.

Get a yoga DVD and a pretty mat. Practice yoga after your daughter goes to bed. The evenings are dangerous times, so have a plan. Yoga is good for people like us, it teaches us to breathe and that solitude is a gift. Learn to keep yourself company.

*When you start to feel . . . do. For example – when you start to feel scared because you don’t have enough money….find someone to give a little money to. When you start to feel like you don’t have enough love. . . find someone to offer love. When you feel unappreciated, unacknowledged . . . appreciate and acknowledge someone in your life in a concrete way. When you feel unlucky, order yourself to consider a blessing or two. And then find a tangible way to make today somebody else’s lucky day. This strategy helps me sidestep wallowing every day.

Don’t worry about whether you like doing these things or not. You’re going to hate everything for a long while. And the fact is that you don’t even know what you like or hate yet. Just Do These Things Regardless of How You Feel About Doing These Things. Because these little things, done over and over again, eventually add up to a life. A good one.

Friend, I am sober this morning. Thank God Almighty, I’m sober this morning. I’m here, friend. My son is eleven. Which means that I haven’t had a drink for just about twelve years. Lots of beautiful and horrible things have happened to me during the past twelve years. And I have more or less handled my business day in and day out without booze. GOD, I ROCK.

And today, I’m a wife and a mother and a daughter and friend and a writer and a dreamer and a Sister to one and a “sister” to thousands of readers… and I wasn’t any of those things when I was a drunk.

And I absolutely love being a recovering alcoholic, friend. I am more proud of the “recovering” badge I wear than any other.

What will you be, friend? What will you be when you become yourself? We would love to find out with you.

 



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


Oct 172014
 

Recently I was asked to speak at an event on this topic:  “What Do Strong Women Have in Common?” This assignment was troublesome for me because I don’t really think of certain women as stronger than others. I think we’re all pretty strong for remaining mostly vertical in the midst of all these ridiculous freaking circumstances. I am usually pretty amazed by everybody. Plus, I don’t really think any of us is much different than another. If I’ve learned anything leading this community- it’s that we’re all made up of the same stuff.

But the longer I thought about it, the more I had to admit to myself that some women in my life seemed to have more PEACE than others. More confidence. Extra doses of a  passion and tenderness and openness, maybe. And that made me curious – so I  started studying these women with “extra.” At first they seemed to have NOTHING in common. They were of all different races, ages, religions, careers, politics, etc.  As a matter of fact, I didn’t find a single commonality until I  examined these women’s daily lives.  When I did that, the craziest patterns started to emerge. I found that the common denominator was not who these women ARE, but what they DO each day.

I have come to believe that a woman’s character is not just formed by the roles she plays or the job she has or where she’s from or what has happened to her. A woman’s character is most profoundly shaped by the daily habits she keeps. And this is hopeful to me, because it’s never too late to adopt a habit or two from a woman we admire.

Here is the first of my five-part series with Danisha Danielle Hoston and the #OWNShow on the Five Habits Every Strong Woman Keeps. Click on the links underneath the video to see the rest of the series.

You can see the rest of the series by clicking on the links below, or find them all on Oprah.com. Let me know which are your favorites!

What are the daily habits that keep you strong, open, and brave, kind and sane(ish)?



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