Tuesday, March 4, 2014

'Carry On, Warrior - Thoughts on Life Unarmed': The best girlfriend you will ever have

Sometimes in life we find exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.  That's what happened to me when I found 'Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed' by Glennon Doyle Melton. I've never read Glennon's wildly popular blog Momastery.com.  Instead, I first encountered Glennon's ideas while searching for TEDTalks about Mental Health and Mental Illness for Stageoflife.com's latest writing contest.  In Glennon's TEDTalk called "Lessons from the Mental Hospital" she shares her truth about how she learned to feel her feelings and then share those thoughts with others when she had a mental breakdown and spent time in a mental hospital.  She explained that she sees her feelings as the guides in our lives and said, "I honor my feelings as my own personal prophets . . . I've learned to be still and receive the gifts." Although her voice quivered while she spoke from nerves and emotional energy, her ideas worth spreading resonated with me.  Oddly, the day before I happened upon Glennon's TEDTalk, I just picked up her book from the library - I liked the title and the bright lettering on the cover (whatever, I know you pick books by the covers and titles, too).  Serendipitous perhaps? I'm not sure.

I do know that since I cracked open Glennon's book which is a collection of her most loved blog posts from Momastery.com and other material not previously printed, I have already recommended Glennon's book to three of my friends.  Before I get into what I took away from the book there are a few things about Glennon you need to know:
1) She had a pretty messed up life before she got pregnant with her first child.  Drugs, alcohol, bulimia, self-loathing, depression . . . she is very upfront about this fact, and explains how those low moments shaped her.
2) She talks a bunch about the role of religion in her life and the presence of God.  For some, this might be a complete turn off or make them squeamish. For others, it might make them like her even more, but just be aware that God talk is VERY present in this book.
3) Glennon makes no excuses for the person she used to be or the person she is now.  She is flawed (for example she doesn't know how to cook - she doesn't even own pans NOR does she clean.  Her vacuum seems like an alien to her, but she taught her daughter to use it as a baby carriage, so her daughter now vacuums the house).

Because I didn't know anything about Glennon other than watching her TEDTalk, I approached her book with an open mind, and it was the first time in awhile that I laughed out loud while reading a book about parenting (right now I'm reading 'All Joy and No Fun' by Jennifer Senior and it is depressing the heck out of me).  When Glennon talked about her trips to Target and the officer telling her girls that they were disturbing the peace, I felt validated for those not so great mom days in grocery stores or retail store check out lines.  We've all been there, but when we see other people going through it, we generally turn the other way or feign superiority.  Why do we do that?

I also wrote things down in my journal about her deep connection with her children.  She doesn't really give advice, but her stories of her own life are so open and honest, that it helps.  One of my favorite chapters was "Don't Carpe Diem" where she explains the two types of time.  Chronos time is regular time. "It's ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, four screaming minutes in time-out time, two hours until Daddy gets home time.  Chronos is the hard, slow-passing time we parents often live in." The other type of time is Kairos time which is "those magical moments in which time stands still." Like when you really see your children for the beautiful human beings that they are.  You actually see the length of their eyelashes or the curve of their cheeks.  It's the Kairos moments that Glennon tries to hold onto throughout the Chronos days of parenting and living.  "Carpe a couple of Kairoses a day. Good enough for me." I've been calling my awareness to those Kairos moments when Raina and Story hug each other and say, "I love you, baby" just because they felt like it, or how beautiful Story is when she sleeps.

She also offered this tidbit which I wrote down on its own page in my journal: The most important job as a parent is "to teach my children how to deal with being human." I guess I never thought of it like that before, but I am glad that Glennon wrote it, and glad that I'll remember it.  Being human isn't easy, so teaching my children how to deal with life is an important job.

Mostly Glennon's book reminded me to offer myself grace and kindness.  To forgive myself and know that life and parenting are permanent do overs.  If you screw up one moment, the next is a do over.  And that is okay just like not liking vacuuming or having a really bad afternoon with your children is not the end of the world.  My biggest take away lesson is to "embrace being human rather than fight against it." "Carry on, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed" was exactly what I needed to read at the exact right moment in my life because Glennon's truthful thoughts on her life helped me find truth in my own life.  To me, that's Chronos time well spent - reading a book that validates being messy and being human.

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