Dear You: Letter to a muse

Dear Glennon Doyle Melton,

Can I call you Glennon? Glen? G-Mizzle? After all, even though you probably don’t know it yet, we are the best of friends, so although I refer to you as Glennon Doyle Melton when I speak about you to others, in my head you’re just G. After all, that is how you sign all the things you’ve written to me. Because you’re totally writing to me. For me. I have spent a lot of hours with you in the past several months, via Carry On, Warrior, nearly 7 years of Momastery archives, Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, and that is the conclusion I have reached: all these words are for me. Just for me–and your billion other best friends. All of our shared experiences and life responses rise up like frayed, loose threads and work their way into your own experiences like some crazy sewing circle where the process sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the end product is so simultaneously terrifying and beautiful that we can hardly talk about it.

But that’s the thing–we talk about it anyway. The frayed threads and the mismatched colors. The sewing room–my God, it’s loud in there sometimes–and the thing we’re working on (is it a quilt? a tapestry? an never-ending pair of crazy socks? I don’t know!)–we keep going there again and again, because in a world of perfectly edited family photos and expectations (personal, familial, societal) no one can ever live up to, we are drawn to your authenticity. We are desperate to be seen, heard, understood. We are dying for connection, sometimes literally, wasting away in so many different ways because sometimes that’s the easiest thing to do.

You, though. You did hard things. You said we could do hard things, too. And even though we all have different experiences, inside of us, in our hearts, the feels are all the same. It doesn’t matter how I came to be ashamed or lonely or bitter, or where her anxiety originated, or why you fight depression every single day. The hows and whys aren’t unimportant, but they are secondary. They are not the stuff of “OMG, me too,” and “I thought it was just me.” I don’t know what it’s like to hit the cold, hard rock bottom of drug addiction or live with the effects of a chronic illness. Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to watch your dad hold a gun to his head and decide not to pull the trigger, or what it’s like to lose a child, or the feeling of the fist of someone who says he loves you landing hard against your cheek. But the resulting fear or emotional paralysis or heaviness or self-loathing or paranoia or anger, or some combination of all of these, or the infinite list of things I didn’t even mention? OMG, me too. I thought it was just me.

We are bombarded daily with the assertion that there are so many things we don’t understand. The same social media outlets that serve as our glorious virtual quilting bee are also the everlasting riot of voices screaming and hands tearing and feet crushing. Every Instagram post, every Tweet, every Facebook status update is an opportunity: we can lift, leverage, love, or we can lay brick after brick of a wall that forms an insurmountable line between opposing forces who really aren’t that different at the end of the day. There is such a thin, thin line between the two. If everyone practiced your approach, G, I can’t help but wonder how quickly the bricks would start to form a path that connects rather than a wall that divides. If everyone asked before clicking the publish button, “Will this post/news article/link/photo/quote/statistic help people see how very alike they really are, or will just it spotlight the stuff that looks so different?” I have never known abject poverty, but I know the feeling of loss and emptiness. I am not familiar with physical addiction, but I know very well the desperate desire for hope. I will never know what it’s like to be a black woman, but I know what it’s like to be broken. What if that’s where we started? In the places we are alike, not all the places we are different. What if we lead with, “Hey, tell me your story” instead of “Let me tell you something….”?

The answers to these questions are not really a mystery. You answer these and more every day, my friend. You show up wearing your insides on the outside, rallying for all of us to do the same, encouraging us to carry on like the life warriors we can be, to hold each other up and listen at least as much as we talk, to put our hearts into connection rather than division. You have answered these questions through love flash mobs and small gifts and huge undertakings, and maybe most of all, through allowing millions of warriors to say, OMG, ME TOO. I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST ME. I know you know how hard this is sometimes, but you keep doing it, and I hope you know how much that makes me and the rest of this tribe want to keep doing it, too. Keep listening. Keep creating. Keep giving ourselves to each other. Keep looking at the insides, even when they are obscured by the outsides. Yours, hers, theirs. And our own. Especially that.

I have always quietly called myself a writer, but until I started reading Momastery and before I read Carry On, Warrior, I allowed my awe of other writers to cast a shadow of doubt on my work. If you could even call it work. I took the beautiful words of people like Elizabeth Gilbert, Anne Lamott, Catherine Newman, and Jen Hatmaker and turned them into Reasons Why I Could Never Be a REAL Writer. I am pretty sure some or all of them would assure me I was missing the point, but that is…not my point. My point is that I let myself get wrapped up in the reality that I could never do what they were doing. And then you came along and told me I needed to do what I was supposed to be doing. Jen Hatmaker is already doing Jen’s best work. Liz Gilbert is already blowing up the Liz Gilbert arena. Anne Lamott is perfectly, brilliantly Anne Lamott. And you, Glennon–you are killing it over there. Killing it. The thing is, you seem to think we can all kill it in the places where we live and work and create, too–and maybe it’s the way you are so simultaneously vulnerable and honest and I-Won’t-Back-Down resilient, but I believe you. At the risk of sounding like I am writing an essay on your collected works, something in your message gave me a perspective I was lacking. Some things you said forced me to look at my writing (or lack thereof) through new eyes. I owe you big time for that, because for me, writing is so much better than not writing, so–thank you.

And if I ever see you in person, say, in a small airport in Idaho, or more realistically, a church in Atlanta where I am coming to hear you speak in a few short days, I will–well, let’s be honest, I will probably either become mute and run away, or I will say something ridiculous and then run away, because that is what we do when we are face to face with our great inspirations, right? Nah. I’ll work up my nerve to hug you and thank you for speaking truth into my life with your writing, and for the incredible beauty of oh, me too, me too…I thought it was just me.

 


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