by Glennon Doyle
Published March 2020 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: checked out from my local library
This is how you find yourself.
There is a voice of longing inside each woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good partners, daughters, mothers, employees, and friends. We hope all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful, hiding our discontent—even from ourselves.
For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. But she soon realized they had come to her from within. This was her own voice—the one she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living.
Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. It is the story of navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and discovering that the brokenness or wholeness of a family depends not on its structure but on each member’s ability to bring her full self to the table. And it is the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honor our anger and heartbreak, and unleash our truest, wildest instincts so that we become women who can finally look at ourselves and say: There She Is.
Untamed shows us how to be brave. As Glennon insists: The braver we are, the luckier we get.
I don't really know why I requested this book from my library, which should tell you that I had no idea what it was about when I requested it. Fiction? Nonfiction? Short stories? Literally, no idea. Imagine my surprise, as someone who reads very little in the way of what might be called "self-help" books to find that this, then, is what I was reading.
I'll be honest; it took me a little while to get into this one, even though Doyle certainly has a interesting story and, for the most part, I enjoyed her writing style. Oh heck, let's just get the stuff I didn't like out of the way while we're here. The first thing is that I couldn't quite tell if this was a series of articles or writings that happened organically or if Doyle sat down to write the book straight through, which wouldn't be a big deal except that there were what I would call, for lack of a better phrase, a continuity problem. In one chapter, Doyle would continually refer to her wife and in the next chapter she would call her by name; there was very little point in saying "my wife" so often after that (unless she still just loves to hear that, which she might). That's a little thing, just a niggling annoyance. But what I liked less (and it's a problem I often have with this kind of book), was the "I've got it all figured out and my way is right" impression I often got from Doyle. The thing is, there's plenty here to suggest that she spent a lot of years getting to this point and made a lot of mistakes along the way. Maybe what I want is something along the lines of "I screwed up a lot but here's an example of a time I feel like I got it right and maybe it would work for you, too."
All that said, I liked this book overall. I liked it a lot.
Having an addict in the family has made me appreciative of what it takes for a person to overcome their addictions. I guarantee that Doyle doesn't get us the full story of how she recovered. It's certainly possible to wake up one day and decide you're going to get clean but it doesn't keep happening without struggle and we don't see that. But that's not what the book is about so it's ok and I can understand how that may have influenced the way she lived after that.
As a person who knew early on that I wanted to be a mother, I often find it annoying when people make it seem that being devoted to your children is also killing your true self. On the other hand, when I was a stay-at-home mom, it didn't take me long to realize that I needed more and I had to find a way to make that work. Doyle makes it clear that deciding that she needed to live for herself as much as she lived for her children didn't mean she loved her children less or mothered them less.
Doyle writes a lot about feelings and how we need to allow ourselves to feel all of our feelings and to listen to what they are telling us; "...being fully human is not about feeling happy it's about feeling everything."
"Feeling all your feelings is hard, but that's what they're for. Feelings are for feeling. All of them. Even the hard ones. The secret is that you're doing it right, and that doing it right hurts sometimes."
In other words, it's ok to be sad. Or angry. But also, spend some time with those feelings and find out why you are sad or angry. It's an opportunity to learn something about yourself and a chance to do things differently to try to avoid being sad or angry for that same reason again and again.
"Consumer culture promises us that we can buy our way out of pain - that the reason we're sad and angry is not that being human hurts; it's because we don't have those countertops, her thighs, these jeans. It's a clever way to run an economy, but it is no way to run a life. Consuming keeps us distracted, busy, and numb. Numbness keeps us from becoming."
I highlighted a lot of passages about bravery, raising girls and boys and how we are programmed from an early age, revolution, mental illness, and helping people. But where Doyle really grabbed me and convinced me that she was someone that I will keep following, was when she wrote about racism and religion. You know by what I've been reading (and especially if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram), that I've been working hard to educate myself about racism and to change my ingrained thinking. Again and again, I've seen black people tell white people to ask their white friends that know more than they do how they can help. Doyle feels like that person, the one you can turn to who will help you understand and do better.
I've been struggling with religion for years and about a year ago, I had all but given up on it entirely. But my daughter, who has learned through her recovery to believe in a Higher Spirit which is not necessarily God, has always kept me thinking about that idea. But I wasn't sure how that worked for me. Doyle, who does believe in God, gave up on organized religion a while ago but writes extensively about her faith. "In fact, my favorite idea of faith is a belief in the unseen order of things." Doyle's ideas about faith spoke to me. Before I return this book to the library, I'll be reading those passage again and will be taking notes that I can refer back to when I need it.
So while I may have had some problems with this book, there was so much that felt like Doyle knew exactly what I needed to hear. She's not a writer, or a person, for everyone. But Doyle is ok with that. She's worked hard to get to that point in her life.