Saturday, June 15, 2013

Book Therapy: Carry On Warrior

Currently Reading: Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach and The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Never underestimate the power of book therapy. After writing this post last week, I spotted a book sitting on the new shelf at work that was on my list but not on my "in-the-near-future" list. On a whim, I grabbed it, thinking it might be just the thing to heal me and give me some answers. Don't tell me God doesn't find a way to put the perfect book in our hands, right when we need it. He's done it for me before and He did it again.

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I've been reading Glennon Melton's blog at for almost a year now. She is funny, witty, sharp, inspiring, and downright relatable. Her blog, unlike others I read, is not about sharing perfect pictures or adorably cute stories about her perfectly dressed kids. It's real and raw, a memoir of sorts, highlighting the beautiful and hilarious alongside the difficult and challenging. Her newly published book, Carry On Warrior, is all of that times twelve. She writes about herself, but in a way that makes you feel like she is writing about you. A former drug addict, alcoholic, and bulimic, Glennon found her healing in writing, in expressing the real and the honest, in being true to her own voice. Hers is a fresh voice, one I had heard in my own soul but not in many other places. But as I've found through the book and in connecting with readers through her blog, we all carry a similar but unique voice within ourselves.

Momastery and Carry On Warrior are like that, a place to go to understand that we are not alone, that we all struggle and mess up and have bad hair days. It's no judgment, it's acceptance, it's community. The words at the top of the blog's page says, "Momastery is where we practice living bigger, bolder, and truer on this earth. Where we remember what we already know: We can do hard things, Love wins, and We belong to each other." Holy amen. That is exactly how I want to live my life and my faith. Faith and living are not solitary endeavors. As both the book and the blog prove, when we accept others, when we share our problems and difficulties, connecting over the funny and the hard, when we all start admitting that we are not perfect, there is no more pressure. Because we realize we are all perfectly imperfect. We can concentrate on the real things in life, not the unimportant things. We can tell the truth about ourselves. We can open ourselves up to each other. We can be honest to the person we are. We don't have to pretend to be someone we're not. In a world where the pressure mounts daily to do everything just so, and to be a certain type of person, this book and Glennon's blog is a refreshing wake-up call. Life is about MORE. More than fitting into a mold or hiding who we are. Life is about finding our passions and being there for each other and teaching our kids about Love and finding the God inside ourselves and each other.

Some of my favorite essays in Carry On Warrior discuss faith and our responsibility toward others. Like me, Glennon holds some beliefs that would probably get us both thrown out of some Bible studies. We are hard-core Christians, and we define ourselves as such. But we also love gay people and believe they go to heaven too. We believe that all religions follow the true God, just in different ways. We believe following Jesus goes above and beyond following the Bible. Do you know how long I've wanted to write these beliefs but have been too scared to do so? I suppose I had good reason, since anytime I have ventured to voice my faith, I have been knocked down. By God-fearing family, no less. But guess what. I'm not hiding anymore. (Even if I'm a teensy bit nervous about posting everything I just wrote.) Reading Carry On Warrior, I realized I am not alone. And isn't that the biggest blessing of life, the biggest gift God can give us? He gave us each other. I loved Glennon's discussion of the meaning of Namaste, which Mother Teresa used to repeat to anyone she met. It means, "The divine spark in me recognizes and honors the divine spark in you." We all have God in us, baby. The God in us allows us to connect with the world, with the people around us, because God is in all of them too. In the last week alone, that sentence, that Namaste, has changed the way I react to people. In a good way, in the greatest way. I am still traveling down this faith-and-life journey of mine, but now I can see that I always will be. I will never have it "figured out." But that is something to embrace, not fix. I don't have a "life plan" but I do have a goal now, one that involves working on running into my life and not away from it. The feelings from last week aren't necessarily gone, but I feel less alone in those feelings than I did.

Carry On Warrior is rejuvenating. I want to stand on the highest peak I can find and shout out my heart, because this book reminded me that it is safe and wise and OK to do that. By sharing my heart and my thoughts with others, I could get burned. I could be judged. I have been before. But more likely, I will just find better, deeper connections with God and with other people. And that will be a glorious, holy thing.

If you decide to read it too, let me know. I'm dying to discuss this book.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Writing What I Cannot Say

Currently Reading: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters and Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

*Full disclosure: I did not want to publish this. I wrote it as a cathartic outlet. But I am posting it because in order to be brave, sometimes we have to put ourselves out there. Which is not easy. I probably won't want to talk about it. I really didn't edit it or rewrite it. Stream of consciousness, from my mind to my fingers.*

I am a person in waiting. Waiting for my life to start, waiting for something to change. Waiting. I recognize this side of myself and I try to fight it. I breathe, deep and slow, centering myself in the "here", in the "now", willing myself to let go of the mind-images I carry with me of an undefined and unguaranteed future because it has become more than a hope or a dream, it has become baggage, weighing me down, dragging me back from my potential now, right this minute. I don't want to be the girl Incubus sings about, waking in the morning and realizing my life has passed me by. I hear the warning. Like Thoreau, "I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life.....” So how can I get from here to there?

For me, this perspective is a relatively new development, one that has only manifested in the past year, after difficulties and disappointments have made it hard to focus on the silver linings. I started noticing it when I found myself becoming reticent to talk about myself to others. Friends, acquaintances, family coworkers ask me how I am, whether out of politeness or real interest, and I find myself not wanting to talk about how I am. I don't tell my stories, I don't share my thoughts. I tell other people's stories- I talk about what a friend is up to, what my sister has planned for the summer, the weddings and events coming up in the lives of those around me. I discuss the books I read, because they allow me to express my deeper thoughts without talking about myself. But I don't talk about me. I don't want to live in my life, I don't want to talk about it, because, I reason, there's nothing to talk about. I work. I go to school. I wait. I read to escape it all, because I need other stories besides my own. I listen like a fiend to those around me, mostly because I'm a good listener, always have been, but also because I find myself desperately clinging to their stories, to their lives, because it feeds something within me that my own life does not. Now I find that I don't write about myself either. My journal lies untouched, my blogs and essays focus on my books. I delete myself from the equation, if I can. My life feels like it is nothing but the wait. And I don't want it to be so. I want to be myself again, to live uninhibited, satisfied to be in the moment, like I used to. I'm trying to figure out how to get to that point, but something is hindering me. I am hindering me.

Today, I'm using this space to say it all. Which is terrifying, because I am a bit unfamiliar lately with sharing my deep stuff with those around me. I'm better at hiding it, not exposing it, or focusing on the fluff instead of the meat of my life. But I am trying to fix this, and maybe this is the way to do it. To write what I cannot say. To be honest, to be a truth-teller. It feels so good to let it spill out, to pull it up and dump it out. I know and I feel that it's time to wake up, to be brave, to change my perspective. I want to be happy. I want the little things in life to be enough. I want to live big, even when my world is small. The biggest challenge is figuring out how to do it. On that, I am stuck, searching for a way but not really finding anything that works. But I'm trying. I have that.

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