|See? This is how excited I was to get my hands on the book.|
I often suffer from feeling that I'm not doing it right. Life, that is. Sometimes I feel like everyone on the planet has a secret, one that I'm not in on, and when I try to go about my day pretending like I know it too, and trying so desperately to conduct myself accordingly, everyone just smiles over my head and nods knowingly at one another. Like, "Oh, look, isn't it cute that she's trying so hard?" mwahahahahaha. I realize that this is a paranoid, delusional fantasy...OR IS IT? No, it is. I think. I'm pretty sure.
Anyway, this is part of why I love Glennon Melton's writing so much. She makes me feel reassured, like there really is no right way to do it at all: love, parenting, relationships, family, work, happiness. Reading her words, I feel like I'm doing my life the only way I can do it, and that the way I do it...is okay. Is better than okay, actually, is a gift to the world that only I can give. And maybe that reassurance is a simple thing, but it's also the most important thing.
From Glennon Melton's Carry On, Warrior:
We're not often permitted to tell the truth in everyday life. There is a small set of words and reactions and pleasantries we are allowed to say, like, "I'm fine, and you?" But we are not supposed to say much of anything else, especially how we are really doing. We find out early that telling the whole truth makes people uncomfortable and is certainly not ladylike or likely to make us popular, so we learn to lie sweetly so that we can be loved. And when we figure out this system, we are split in two: the public self, who says the right things in order to belong, and the secret self, who thinks other things.
AMEN, sister. Seriously. Melton's paragraph sums up much of the struggle of my adolescent and adult life. Right there.
I've always had a really hard time creating and maintaining a suitable public self. When I was younger, I refused to have a public self at all. I tried to crawl into corners and cracks, shrink into the side of my mother's clothing or her purse. The world seemed like too much. Too much loud, too much complicated, and way too much required of me to navigate it. As an adult, I ping pong back and forth between silent retreat and copious oversharing. When a colleague passes me in the hallway, and says "Hi, how are you?" I either point my face toward the floor and mumble a meek "hello," or I stop in my tracks and say something stupid and wildly inappropriate like, "Actually, I was just wondering how long I'm going to unintentionally punish my current partner for my ex-husband's mistakes," or, "If you want to know the truth, I'm terrified that I seem incapable of being alone."
Telling the whole truth, does, indeed make people uncomfortable. I have noticed that. But I've never learned to lie sweetly. Well, that's a lie. I CAN lie sweetly. I just don't like doing it. I'm not good at it. It hurts. It causes a psychic crack in me that aches. There's a fault line across my Self and when I smile sweetly and nod and say to another kindergarten mom a meaningless, pre-approved, innocuous line like "Oh, yes, WE are REALLY enjoying PHONICS," the honest soul deep inside me rumbles and rolls over and the shaking rises to the surface and bits of the fault line crumble and break off and fall back down into the crevice.
What I really want to say, so badly, is more like, "My son told me this morning multiple times that he hates me, and I forgot to make him brush his teeth, and I'm afraid he's going to grow up to be just like his father, only with gum disease, and I wish just once, ONCE, I could manage to feed him breakfast AND get him to school on fucking time. Do you ever feel that way?"
I think this impulse is just a yearning for approval, acceptance, and love. It's a need for connection, a reaching out. It's a need for someone, somewhere to acknowledge that parenting is HARD and that I am doing that hard job as well as anyone can be expected to do it. That LIFE is fucking HARD, and I'm doing it just fine. That I'm not the only one who sometimes feels like she's doing it all wrong. That as long as I keep breathing in and out, and putting one foot in front of the other, and getting out of bed in the morning, I'm doing it right.
I want someone to let me in on the secret. I want to find out that the secret, all along, has been that it is hard for everyone.
Because in keeping that secret, we only make it harder for each other.
And that's why, when I cracked the cover of Carry On, Warrior and saw this epigraph:
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." --Rev. John Watson
"Including you." --Glennon
I knew this book was written for me.