Jan 082014
 

messy beautiful

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

Dear G: I read your essay about marriage yesterday and found it quite negative. Don’t you think with a platform like yours you should be encouraging people about marriage instead of talking about all the negative parts? People put you on a pedestal- I really think you should use that pedestal more wisely. And as a Christian, I find your cursing offensive. Christians should not go around cursing.

In Him,
Friend

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

Dear Friend:

Ah- the platform and pedestals conversation.

In my opinion, anyone who has a platform and truly wants to use it to encourage others must refuse to be put on a pedestal. She must just refuse that crap. And when folks put her up there anyway- she must continuously step down and off. If she wants to really connect with folks instead of just preach to them -every day she must use her platform to step down, step down, step down.  Hot air rises and the higher you go the thinner the air gets and so it’s hard to breathe on a sizable pedestal. The writer’s life and the spiritual life and all of life, really is about downward mobility. Down is where the love is. I don’t want a pedestal that separates me from people- I want to be IN IT with people. I don’t want to be envied, I want to be understood. I don’t want to be a teacher- I just want to be a student alongside other students and talk about all the cool and hard stuff we’re learning and how brutiful life is and how terrible and gorgeous we and other people are.

Also, I am a writer, not marriage’s public relations rep. As a writer, my job is to notice how things actually are and write about it- not dream up how things should be and write about that. There is no place in my life or writing for should. Should is dead to me. Should is an imaginary cage that many people spend their entire lives in and No, Thank You to that. I’d rather be confused and free than certain and caged.

Also, here’s the thing. Let’s play this out together.

Pretend you’re a blog reader. Chances are, you’re going through some hard stuff in your marriage. This is a safe bet since at some point, we are all, if we’re honest. You had a big fight with hubby last night and just took the kids to school and you sit down at your office already exhausted and tired and stressed and you read two essays. The first essay is a flowery description of a lovely, picturesque marriage with-I don’t know- what do lovely picturesque marriage consist of? Maybe lots of wine and perfect kisses and squeals and I don’t know- trips to Paris. How do you feel after reading that essay where ALL IS WELL AND SHINY AND LOVELY AND PEEERRRFECT. Do you feel encouraged? Don’t you actually feel DISCOURAGED? Doesn’t that essay make your heart sink because you get that feeling that you’re not doing it right? That you’re missing out? That everyone else has it better than you? And isn’t that kind of a dangerous thing to do to folks? To paint an unrealistic picture that people measures their experience against and inevitably find their marriage lacking since theirs is REAL and three dimensional and messy and the one on the screen is …well, it’s just NOT? It’s dangerous. It’s setting folks up for sadness and failure, I think. It’s like promising folks the moon when all they really need to do is learn how to find regular, old, ordinary Earth beautiful enough.

I feel like what we have here, sister, is a failure to communicate, and so I’m trying to find the disconnect.

Maybe it’s this: maybe the two of us have different ideas of what beautiful is. Because I have to tell you that the essay you found negative – I thought it was beautiful.

My marriage is messy as all hell. That’s true. But listen, friend. Here’s the thing: I LOVE IT THAT WAY. I LOVE MY MARRIAGE. I do not find messy and beautiful to be mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact- I ALWAYS SEEM TO FIND THEM TOGETHER. Messy and beautiful hang out together ALL THE TIME. Messy and beautiful are Like Laverne and Shirley or Joy and Pain or Love and Loss or peas and carrots or Family Picture Day and Nervous Breakdowns….THEY GO TOGETHER. Messy and beautiful are inseparable.

So what I’m saying about parenting and marriage is not:

Marriage and parenting are messy. They suck. Don’t try them.

And it’s not:

Marriage and Parenting are Beautiful. They’re easy! JUMP IN NOW!

What I’m saying is:

Marriage and Parenting are the messiest and most beautiful things I have ever done in my life. I’ll take them both because the beautiful is so damn good that it makes all the messy in the world worth wading through.

One last thing:

Whether we “should” or not – I have to tell you that actually, lots of Christians swear. As matter of fact, I have noticed with great amusement and adoration that when my most Christiany friends (the ones running orphanages and delivering babies and adopting people and being insanely brave and kind in normal, everyday ways)  and I get together, we swear MORE than my non-Christian friends and I do. I think it’s because we are afraid that people think we’re goody- goodies, so we throw swears around to show how edgy and totallywhatever we are. It’s a funny thing. Maybe it’s also that we feel safe enough together to finally let loose. Shit, I don’t know.

I really do love you and me and the messy, beautiful work of trying to understand each other.

Grace for all.

Love,
G



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


Jan 072014
 

avocado

*This is part of the BOM 2013 – Best Of Momastery 2013! I chose the essays that you loved and shared the most. Enjoy!

One of the questions folks ask most often is:  G, I’m drowning in the mommy wars. How do I escape from all the mom-petition?

My answer is always this: If you need it to disappear, stop believing in it. Competition is just like shame. It only exists for people who believe it does.

I used to believe in mom-petiton so strongly that it left me more than a bit paranoid.

I remember sitting in the food court of the mall one afternoon when my three kids were very young. I was cutting cardboard pizza and life-threatening “chicken” into itty bitty pieces, wiping up a million sugary spills, sweating, sweating, sweating, trying to figure out if I could be arrested for leaving my kids’ side for one hot second to refill my coke, praying no one would have to pee because: THREE KIDS WHO LICK EVERYTHING IN A PUBLIC RESTROOM and just, well, UGH.

Out of the blue this women sat down at the table next to me with her quiet child.  The child wore a matching top and pants. With a matching bow in her braid. In her BRAID. Someone had BRAIDED this child.  While I stared and looked back at my ragamuffin children who sort of looked like nobody loved them – the woman pulled out a high chair cover. To protect her child from GERMS, I think. And then. And THEN. She pulled an avocado out of her bag. An avocado AND A SPOON. This woman had packed a spoon. And she used that spoon to start feeding her well-groomed child food that came from a TREE. Or the ground? I don’t know – where do avocados come from? I don’t know but I’m pretty sure it’s not from the food court.

And this SHOW made my face start burning. I felt as if this woman had materialized for the sole reason of making me look bad. I am telling you that I decided right then and there that this mother was feeding her child avocados AT ME. And that also she had matched her child’s clothes that morning AT ME. And also that she had likely disciplined her child effectively for years AT ME. And that as icing on her (likely homemade and gluten-free) cake she was enjoying a lovely, peaceful, well-planned, healthy lunch AT ME. I felt judged. I felt like her approach to parenting was maybe developed solely to shine a big old spotlight on my “not good enough” parenting.  She was parenting AT ME, I tell you!

For years I lived in world in which people lived AT ME. For example:

Craig worked out AT ME while I tried to enjoy the couch. So aggressive.

People discussed natural child birth AT ME because they could sense my previous sixty epidurals.

People attempted ATTACHMENT PARENTING AT ME. ( I still don’t know what that really is but it certainly doesn’t sound like something behind which I’d rally.)

People threw Pinterest parties AT ME.

People trained for triathalons AT ME.

People refused to eat carbs after 8 pm AT ME.

I was constantly under attack with all of these judgy people living AT ME.  I was living in a hostile world.

But after spending the last five years reading thousands of letters from mamas and the last year on the road hearing stories from every different “type” of mama –  I live in a different world. I believe differently now. I know that nobody’s parenting at me and nobody’s living at me. Feeling judged by other people’s decisions is an insanely ego-centric way to live. Like my dad always says, “Glennon, nobody is thinking about you as much as you think they are.” Everybody’s just doing the best she can, mostly.

Other mamas are just weaving together families using what the unique gifts and challenges and interests they have. Just like I am. They are much too joyful and scared and fulfilled and empty and tired and inspired and busy living their brutiful lives to concern themselves too much with what I’m doing.

I mean, after five years – I’m ready to consider the possibility that avocado lady might not have even known I was going to be in the food court that day. It’s not likely – but it’s a possibility.

What we seek we will find and if we’re looking for a world full of judgmental mamas –  we’ll find it. Parenting is the most important thing to many of us and so it’s the place we’re most vulnerable. But even when we’re scared  – we can still choose. We can choose to see each other as competition or as fellow warriors – fighting the same fight on the same team. One goal – many paths. We can learn from each other. We can even ENJOY each other.

I live in a world where women do that now. It’s cozier. Better. More peaceful.  And much more interesting.

And if you have a friend who makes you feel competitive or less than- just remember that it’s likely not because she’s bad or you’re bad – it might just be that she still believes, so she’s living in a different world than you are. But you don’t have to enter every world into which you’re invited.

Stand your ground. Stay in your world. Stop believing.

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

A Folk Tale About Worlds

A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment.

“What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

“They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”

“Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town.”

Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.

“They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”

“Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”

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

 PS. I still think you marathoners are running at me. Cut it out.

 



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


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. 

HWClub_BlogButnA_400x100



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