Glennon Doyle Melton’s new memoir, Love Warrior — like her first, Carry On, Warrior — might remind you of a time back before everyone had blogs and social media, when friends wrote heartfelt, candid emails to one another and then forwarded them to other friends, creating lengthy threads headed with lines like, “Read this — she understands.” They are the sort of books you can imagine women passing to one another and saying, you need this. (In fact, we’ve done just that with the early copies we received.)
When not writing about her personal life and offering it up for public contemplation, Melton also keeps tremendously busy with two philanthropic and social change organizations she helps lead. The grassroots movement Together Rising arose from Melton’s blog, Momastery, and rallies readers to offer small donations that add up to big gifts to help schools, communities, mothers and children, and others who need a hand. Then there’s The Compassion Collective, a fundraising initiative spearheaded by a group of authors and entertainers including Melton, Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Gilbert, Rob Bell, and Brené Brown. Its goals, among others, are to feed, clothe, and shelter displaced Syrian refugees and homeless American youth. No small undertakings here.
We wanted to find out how Melton’s doing now that Love Warrior is about to be released and her other projects are building momentum. So our Musing editor, Mary Laura Philpott, spoke with her in advance of her event in Nashville on September 8, 2016. Here’s their conversation.
Love Warrior begins, in the preface, with a scene from your wedding to your husband, Craig. Now the book’s coming out, and you’ve just announced your divorce. You’re obviously not in the same place in your life as you were when you finished the book. How are you a different person now?
GDM: Oh, God. Well, you know, it’s important to me that the book not be considered “a marriage book.” It’s about how I learned to trust myself. It’s about self-trust — a woman learning how to trust what she knows to be true, and acting on it. It took me the entire journey of living out that story and then writing it and then examining it all to get here. I was in such crisis during that time, just surviving. I didn’t have the capacity to figure out what it all meant at the same time I was writing it. That’s why writing is so amazing. You can go back and examine all of it and make sense of it after you write it. It took me the entire Love Warrior process to figure out how to trust myself, and that’s what made me able to know when it was time to go.
It took me until now to believe myself and do this even though it was hard. Craig’s infidelity was, in many ways, my catalyst to go back to therapy, and it’s in therapy that I figured out all of my body stuff, too. I’m healthier now, and so is Craig, than we were before. So I guess I feel more free, and I feel braver and more whole. And scared again, too!
You talk a lot about “becoming” and “unbecoming” in this book. Which are you doing more of now: becoming or unbecoming?
GDM: I think I’ve gotten to a point of unbecoming. I figured out there’s a part of me that is truer than the name wife and the name mom and the name writer, and now I’m ready to figure out what that is. That’s where I am right now.
Back when I got sober, I immediately became a mother and a wife. I never had a sober day as an adult without all of those things on me. So now I get to figure out what I am underneath all those labels.
What do you want the book to accomplish out there in the world?
GDM: I want it to help women understand why they feel bad and angry, if they do. I do these events and hear from thousands of women, and there’s a pervasive theme of disconnect and exhaustion and not being enough. A lot of that is purposeful in our society, and it’s so pervasive that we don’t even know we’re hearing it. We feel bad and we don’t know why, and there are very real reasons — economic reasons and patriarchal reasons, and we hear it from advertisers because the best way to make women buy more is to make them feel less than. So it’s a book about marriage, but it’s also a book about being a girl and a woman in our culture. What does it mean to be a big, strong girl in a culture that wants us to stay small and quiet and beautiful?
You have so much going on these days. Together Rising and the Compassion Collective seem to be absolutely exploding. How does writing still fit into your day?
GDM: I get up and write at 4:30 in the morning.
GDM: Coffee. There is nothing I love more in life than coffee, Mary Laura. Nothing.
There’s something for me that feels like those dark hours before anyone gets up are the only time I can think and be me. Because, you know what happens, people wake up and everyone goes back into their roles… mom, businesswoman … the truly creative stuff has to be done in the morning before everyone wakes up.
I hear you. Let’s talk more about your nonprofits. These organizations are doing a lot of good for other people. What positive changes have they brought into your life?
GDM: Honestly, the people. The team. Getting to work with my sister and the amazing women on the Together Rising board is a dream. And the friends I’ve met through my writing, like Liz Gilbert and everyone in the Compassion Collective. These are people I treasure and would never have met if it weren’t for this work. It comes down to people.
What’s your plan for these programs — where do you see them going next?
GDM: We’ve been so focused on fundraising for domestic needs and international things — refugees, children who have been victims of sex-trafficking — but right now a lot of Together Rising’s energy is going toward the effort we launched this week called We Stand With Love. It’s a group of influential spiritual leaders who are banding together to take a stand against fear and hate, whether its in our country or elsewhere. It’s going to be special and important.
It all started after my friend Amy watched a Trump rally. It made her so depressed. Afterward, she called an African American friend and she was like, “I’m sorry. I’m just so sorry all this hate is happening. What can I do?” And her friend said, “I wonder two things. One, what is everyone so afraid of? And two, where is everybody?” Amy came over to my house and we talked about this for hours: Where are all the people who are standing up against this hate? We started writing and contacting organizations, and now five months later we’ve got non-denominational churches joining with us, spiritual leaders across faith boundaries. It’s going to be a landing place for people who have been screwed and scared for their families because of Trump and the things he says.
At least until after the election, I don’t know what else could be more important right now.
Talking points for sanity!
GDM: Yes! Talking points for love. Like, let’s say there’s some anti-Muslim thing that comes out from the Trump campaign. Instead of railing against it, we’ve now got in our archives all these stories of incredible, powerful, peace-loving Muslim leaders that we’re ready to put out the second those smear campaigns start. It’s a Michelle Obama thing: when they go low, we go high.
Unfortunately, what we’re learning from all this Trump stuff is that there are a lot more people than we realized who think this way. But the majority of people are sane, good, loving people — but they’re not as loud. They’re busy having a life and doing things. We’ll have talking points pre-packaged and ready for them, so they can easily make their voices heard.
You put a lot of positive energy out into the world. Where do you draw positive energy from?
GDM: Wow, that’s a good question. Right now, I’m so tired, I’m trying to remember… when I have energy, where does it come from? [laughs] I’m a raging introvert, so for me, energy comes from either being alone or being with my small group of people. What gives me energy is my normal downtime, like a walk on the beach or a walk with my dogs or puttering around the house. Big speaking events energize me, too.
Really? Those don’t drain you?
GDM: Shockingly, no — getting on stage in front of a bunch of people actually fits introverts really well. There’s a separation. It’s a performance, and then you leave. It’s kind of like writing: I’m going to prepare this thing; I’m going to deliver it; and then I’m going to go. It’s not one-on-one engagement.
Well, we’re glad you’re coming to Nashville with Salon@615 and Parnassus. What’s your favorite thing about bookstores?
GDM: My dream is to work part-time at Parnassus and part-time at Thistle Farms. I mean, what’s not to love about bookstores? Talking about books… reading books… and all the people who work in the store are so interesting and cozy. I think my favorite thing is that coziness. Plus, the people who read books enough to want to spend time in a bookstore are awesome people.
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