Glennon Doyle, UNTAMED

Glennon Doyle, UNTAMED

Zibby Owens: I had the best time interviewing Glennon Doyle. Oh, my gosh, I’m such a fan of her. Getting to talk to her was such a thrill. I’m afraid I was a little overly obsequious or too complementary, so excuse me for all my gushing during the interview, but I just love her. Anyway, Glennon Doyle is author of number-one New York Times best sellers Untamed, a Reese’s Book Club selection; and Love Warrior, an Oprah’s Book Club selection; as well as the New York Times best seller Carry on, Warrior. An activist and thought leader, Glennon is the founder and president of Together Rising, an all-women led nonprofit organization that has revolutionized grassroots philanthropy raising over twenty-five million dollars for women, families, and children in crisis. She currently lives in Florida with her wife and three children.

Thanks, Glennon, for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” This is such a treat.

Glennon Doyle: Best podcast title ever, so funny.

Zibby: Thanks. At least there’s that nod of recognition for the many of us who don’t have enough time to do hardly —

Glennon: — For anything.

Zibby: For anything, yes. It’s so true. Fortunately, I, along with a zillion other people, made time for your book, Untamed, your most recent one which is of course taking the world by storm and was so good and open and honest and amazing.

Glennon: Thank you. It’s a weird time. It was a very weird time to release a book. It’s been amazing, the world’s reaction to it. It’s really been something.

Zibby: I think there’s just nothing like the authenticity that you showed in the book, and especially in relation to — I know the title of this podcast does have to do with moms, but your whole giving up the martyrdom of motherhood and discovering yourself, it’s just so empowering. Like you, I got a divorce over five years ago. I had so many of the thoughts that you had about leaving your family in a way and having to find your sparkle. When I read your words, I was like, oh, my gosh.

Glennon: How old are your kids?

Zibby: My kids, I have twins who just turned thirteen. I have an almost-seven-year-old and a five-and-a-half-year-old.

Glennon: Oh, my gosh, you’re all over the place with the ages. Woo! You’re in it.

Zibby: How old are yours now?

Glennon: My oldest is seventeen, which is so wild. He will be a senior in high school. We are doing the whole college thing now, which is very strange because he was just born like last week. I don’t understand how that’s happening. Then I have a daughter who is fourteen and then another who’s twelve.

Zibby: Which is the daughter who loves polar bears?

Glennon: The middle one.

Zibby: I also have a polar bear-loving daughter. We have giant polar bears all over the house. I’m going to this whole section.

Glennon: Really?

Zibby: Yes.

Glennon: Tish is the fourteen-year-old. Then Amma is the twelve-year-old, our little one.

Zibby: If you don’t mind, I’d love to talk a little more about your falling in love with Abby and how you dealt with having to tell your kids about it and the decision you made to listen to your inner voice and go for it even though that came with so much risk, almost, and indecision and the bravery that accompanied that. I was hoping I could just read a little passage when you decide that the worst part is letting your kids be the reason for your unhappiness, which I thought was so important. You wrote, “What a terrible burden for children to bear, to know that they are the reason their mother stopped living.” Then you also said, “I quit using my children as an excuse to not be brave and start seeing them as my reason to be brave.” At the end you said, “I divorced Craig because I am a mother and I have responsibilities.” Just take me back there. Tell me a little more about that time.

Glennon: Lord have mercy. I fell in love with Abby while I was on a book tour promoting Love Warrior, which was very tricky timing because Love Warrior was being touted all over the place as this epic marriage redemption story. It’s interesting. A woman’s life, people like for things to be clear cut and black and white. That wasn’t my experience. I guess in a way you could say that my marriage was redeemed because we had worked really hard to forgive each other. We were making it work in the way that families who keep showing up for each other do. The problem was that I was just pissed off all the time. I was trying to make it work. I was waiting for forgiveness to just fall from the sky and stay. I had this low-level river of rage that just never went away. We were dealing with a lot of things. We were dealing with infidelity. That is what a lot of Love Warrior was about. Some of my rage was about the infidelity. I don’t even like leading with that anymore. I feel like I’ve annoyed myself recently because I find myself leading with that. Yeah, so my husband my cheated on me. I think it’s a way of, as a woman, framing things that it’s okay for me to do what I wanted because I had this get-out-of-jail-free card. You can honor my decision. You can say it’s okay. You can say it’s okay for her because she deserved to leave, but I don’t want women to think that. I don’t want to women to think you have to have a get-out-jail-free card to honor yourself.

The truth is that while there was the infidelity, Craig and I were never in love with each other. He would say the same thing. We’re dear friends now. We got married because I was pregnant. Looking back on that time now, so much of this I put in Untamed, I just steamrolled us, man. I was, blinders on, I am pregnant. I am getting sober. This is my last chance to be a good girl. I’m going to have the family. I had this idea in my head of what a family looks like. What a family looks like is a mom and a dad, and so Craig was going to have to get on board. In my family, we call my controlling nature just leadership. . It’s strong. The force is strong. Looking back on it, I can see that all kinds of mistakes were made. Not all of them were on Craig’s side, for sure. Many of them were on my side. I just had that river of rage. I also had this deep wondering, this curiosity, this longing that was like, I wonder if there’s something that’s more beautiful than this. On my good days, I could dismiss real romance as just Disney crap. It’s not real. This is as good as it gets. I did wonder. Is this as good as it’s ever going to be? I have this one life. Is this as good as love gets?

Then I’m in the first event to promote Love Warrior. I look over in the doorway, and Abby is standing there. Listen, it was the weirdest moment of my life. All of me just was like, there she is. This is it. I had never even kissed a girl. I had no context for this experience at all. It just was not part of my — so Untamed is about what happened next. What happened next after that night is we spent twenty minutes together at that event with those other writers in front of a thousand librarians because it was a librarian convention. That’s a sexy way to meet your person. Then we went back to our lives. She went back to Portland. I went back to Florida. Neither of us were ever the same. We started talking to each other on email and the phone and letters. We just fell deeply in love. It became this question of, not really love. It wasn’t like, do I love Abby or do I love Craig? Will I break up my marriage or will I stay? It wasn’t like that. It was like, will I abandon myself or not? It was very deep. It was an identity thing. It was like, oh, there she is, I think was me. Something rose up inside of me that was my real self, that was the self that I was before the world told me who to be. It was very clear to me that my decision about whether to follow that self, to lead with that self, to rock the boat, to do the things that that self was requiring me or not was a decision about whether to truly live with any authenticity this one wild and precious life we’re given, or not, or just not rock the boat, go back to my life.

I almost didn’t. I was so afraid, not necessarily because of the world or my job or my public life. All that was there and scary, but it was the kids. It’s always the kids. I just felt like, I can’t hurt them. My job is to make sure that they don’t get hurt, so I can’t do this thing. That’s why we have to really think about these things we tell ourselves about what our jobs are because that’s actually not a parent’s job. Protecting your child from all pain is not a parent’s job at all. In fact, I think a parent’s job is pointing their children towards the necessary pain of their life and just walking them through it over and over and over again. When we teach our children that they can’t handle any pain by protecting them from it, they become afraid human beings. What we inadvertently teach them is that they cannot handle the pain of life, and they become people who suck. People who avoid all pain are sucky people. We don’t need any more of those kinds of people. We need people who have walked through the fire over and over and over enough times to learn that they’re fireproof so they don’t have to avoid fires.

One day, I’m just slowly dying inside after having decided I’m going to let this love go. I’m going to just abandon myself again. I’m looking at my daughter. She looks at me and she asks if she can do her hair like mine. There’s something about the way she asked that I realized, oh, my god, this child, every time she looks at me, she’s asking a question. How does a woman do her hair? How does a woman love? How does a woman live? I am staying in this marriage for this little girl, but would I want this marriage for this little girl? If I wouldn’t want this marriage for her, then why I am modeling bad love and calling that good parenting? That’s what so many of us do. We got this memo that parenting, that motherhood is about murdering yourself, that what a mother should do is just bury herself, bury her needs, her emotions, her personality, her desire, all of it, just bury it, cease to exist, and do that in the honor of her children, which is a terrible legacy to pass down. I can’t tell you how many friends I have right now who are currently wanting so badly to give themselves permission to live fully. What they’re struggling with is the fact that their mothers were martyr mothers, so they can’t free themselves to live because their mother has passed down this legacy to them that that’s not love. Women of our generation also who were raised by martyr mothers are battling this idea.

What is love? Is love to disappear for the beloved? Or is love actually never ever requires a disappearance, that love always requires the full emerging? The deeper the love, the more we fully emerge. We don’t bury ourselves. We don’t disappear in honor of love. That’s really when I figured out, what would I tell my daughter? If my daughter came to me and said, “I’m slowly dying. I have this chance. I’ve come alive for the first time. I have this chance to have this beautiful love,” what would I say to her? I would say, get the hell out. Do it with grace. Do it with truth. Do it with honesty the whole way through, but do it. A lot of Untamed, it’s just what Walt Whitman said to do. Reexamine everything you’ve been taught in books, in school, in the world, and just dismiss whatever insults your own soul. The idea that a mother, that women in any area, should slowly die to be successful or should disappear to be successful, it just insults my soul. I’m not going to do it anymore.

Zibby: Then of course, that’s when real success happens, when you get in touch with who you are really are. The world can tell when you’re faking. I feel like women are very good at thinking that they’re pulling off this act, but everyone else is a little wiser than I think they give credit for.

Glennon: Everyone else is acting too. That’s why I named it Untamed. We have two selves. We all have two freaking selves. We have our tamed self that goes out into the world. People say, how are you? We say, fine, everything’s fine. We do the script. Then the untamed self is the self that’s inside, that’s wanting to say the real thing, wanting to tell the truth. I think it’s never going to fully happen for anybody, but I do like the goal of living with integrity. To me, integrity has nothing to do with right and wrong. Right and wrong are just made-up constructs that are different for every culture, every group, every religion, every whatever. I love the word integrity meaning integrated, that your inner self and your outer self are as close to one thing as you can get them. That, to me, is freedom. That’s the opposite of slowly dying inside. For women, what that means sometimes is the willingness to rock the boat. We are so used to just swallowing, to silencing our untamed self and just saying the script and keeping the peace because there’s such a cost to telling the truth. It causes discomfort. It causes upheaval. It causes chaos.

What we haven’t yet examined is that there’s a price to pay for not doing it too. The price of avoiding outer conflict is constant inner conflict. The price of constantly making other people comfortable is that we are never comfortable in our own skin. The irony of all of it is that our strategy isn’t working. In our desire to make other people comfortable, they are never comfortable because what our people know from us is that they can also never rock the boat, that they can also never allow themselves to say the thing. One of the most beautiful things about untaming is we think, I can’t do that thing because it’ll hurt my people, but in the long run, it serves your people because all anybody needs is the permission and freedom to be fully themselves. That’s all anybody needs. When we as parents allow ourselves to live fully even when it makes other people uncomfortable, what our people learn is, oh, I get to do that too. The freedom is a ripple effect. That’s why they say there’s no such thing as one-way liberation. When we as mothers free ourselves, we are automatically freeing everybody in our vicinity. Even our strategies don’t work. Even our make-everybody-happy strategies make nobody happy.

Zibby: It’s so true. Yet we’re so used to doing that. It’s second nature. It takes a lot to break free from that habit, if you will. I love how you said when we were born or our mothers had us in another generation, the dictate was, go take your baby, make sure they’re fed, make sure everything is well, protect them, whatever, and how you want to say something totally different to your kids. You wanted to say, “Here is your baby. Love her at home, at the poles, in the streets, let everything happen to her. Be near.” That was amazing. I want to find it more easily than I just did right now, but I also want to post it and put it on my bathroom mirror the way you had your expression on your bathroom mirror just as reminder that we can’t solve our kids’ problems ever. It’s not even helpful. Like you say, all we can do is be close and be supportive and just be there. It doesn’t have to be so much more than that as long as you love them.

Glennon: I know. We just got such bad propaganda for our parenting generation, man. They told us, your job as a parent is just to protect your child from everything. Never let a drop of rain fall on her head. Make sure everybody likes her. Make sure she wins every single competition. Make sure she’s every teacher’s favorite. Make sure that everyone’s her friend. Make sure she never loses. Then we wonder why we’re neurotic as parents and we feel like failures all the time and our children suck. Listen, people who do not suck are people who have lost. People who do not suck are people who have felt unkindness, so they don’t want to pass it on. People who do not suck are people who have been allowed to fail, felt the sting of failure, and learned for the next time. People who do not suck are not people who have never overcome anything. They’re people who have overcome and overcome and overcome. Because of this bad memo we got about parenting being protecting our kids from pain, we are grabbing from them the one thing that will allow them to become the people we’ll dream they’ll be, which is people of wisdom, of courage, of resilience, of kindness. All of those things, those characteristics we want for our kids, they all come from pain. They all come for overcoming. It’s not just that our memo, that our false ideas, our false beliefs about parenting are making us neurotic, because they are and they’re annoying, but they’re also causing harm. The helicopter generation, the lawnmower generation, we are stressing ourselves out. We’re creating kids who are not ready to be human and who don’t know their own strength and don’t know their own power. We protected them from so much that they’ve never had to figure anything out. I did that. Oh, my god, my first two kids, bless their hearts. Good luck. I didn’t figure it out until the third.

Zibby: I know. I feel like third kids have it — the world is their oyster because by the time we get there, we at least know what we’re doing and can be like, all right, whatever, I messed that up. That’s a sunk cost.

Glennon: Sunk cost. You, child, are a sunk cost.

Zibby: Yeah, sorry about that.

Glennon: like pancakes. You screw up the first one, but the rest turn out okay. This is sad for the first ones. Also, do you notice about the more you have, the less neurotic you are? That’s why I think my third is, she’s wild in the way that I always mean wild, which isn’t necessarily louder. Wild, to me, means what you were born to be. Your wild is your truest self. Our middle child, Tish, her wild is actually quite cautious and quiet. When people pressure her to be louder, that’s when she’s moving out of her wild. That’s when she’s acting to please other people. Amma, the little one, oh, my god, I don’t know if I just didn’t take the time to teach her how to act. She’s just herself all the time. She has created this self of hers. She is well-pleased with herself. Her wild is loud.

Zibby: This goes back to what you said at the beginning, though, that you showed her who you really were. She had more time, more percentage of her life with you being your authentic self versus any sort of facsimile of what you could have been. She’s responding to that. It’s like you’re proving your own theory.

Glennon: Thank you. We’re going to go with that. We’re landing there.

Zibby: Tell me for just a second more about Together Rising and all the amazing stuff that you’re doing. It’s unbelievable. I watched your video even today on loving and the fighting, the twelve-minute video, the one on Instagram, which is amazing, giving your platform over and all the things you’re doing in every way trying to help everyone in the world like Mother Teresa. It’s unreal. It’s amazing. You’re doing it too. It’s not like you’re trying. You are doing it and affecting change. Tell me about that part of your personality and that mission of yours.

Glennon: Listen, I think it’s all the same thing. When women start to honor their discontent — that’s how I want to say it. I feel like we are trained to be grateful all the freaking time. We are trained that if we ever want more, if we can ever imagine more, that we’re not being grateful enough. If we’re ever angry, it means there’s something wrong with us, not that there’s just something wrong in the world, which is what it usually means. We’re too emotional. These are all just ways to shut women up. I think that when women start to honor their discontent in their relationships and they’re like, actually, this isn’t working for me anymore and this is what I’m going to need, and then women as mothers start to say, actually, this whole thing I’ve bought into as what it means to be a mother, it’s not working for me, it’s killing me, so I’m going to do something different, then those women start to do that out in the world. Women look at institutions and are like, actually, I’m not crazy. This shit is crazy. Women, what we want is really good. My job is to listen to women.

I’ve been listening to women for a decade. What women want is rest. All women I talk to want rest, a good freaking night’s sleep, a little less to do, a moment to breathe, connection, purpose, peace and justice and fairness for their children, and peace and justice and fairness for other people’s children. When women start to honor what they want in their relationships and in their homes and in the world, amazing things start happening. That’s what Together Rising is. It’s just a bunch of women who have decided, actually, we’re not crazy. We’re goddamn cheetahs. Enough with the gaslighting. The reason why we’re angry is because there’s a lot to be angry about. The reason why we can imagine more is because we were meant for more. The reason why we’re brokenhearted is because there’s so freaking much to be brokenhearted about. Since angry, brokenhearted women are the only people who have ever affected change in the history of the world, it is wise to gather them together and to start confronting systems and institutions that are forgetting the same people over and over and over again and serving the same people over and over and over again.

What Together Rising is is just an iteration of continuously becoming untamed. In the last seven years, we’ve raised twenty-seven million dollars for women and children in crisis, domestically and all over the world. It’s the great honor of my life. I think it’s what every podcast, every book, all the stuff that I write about is really about Together Rising. I think that’s the trick of the universe. The universe gives you this talent that you feel so good about. You’re like, I’m so good at this thing, this is my gift. Then you do the thing, and then it’s really all just a hook to get you into service. It’s like, thanks for coming, now we’re going to need you here. We’re going to need to use that talent for this thing. I just hope to be doing that work. I get to do it with my sister. I get to do it with a lot of dear friends. I have found that I’m not a socially normal person. I’ve never been able to keep friendships. I don’t know how to do it. It feels so overwhelming. I don’t know how to keep texting back or remember birthday or have baby showers. I do know that the bonds that you create with people that you’re doing world-changing work with is my jam. The fact that I get to do this work with the women I’m doing it with is probably the real gift.

Zibby: That’s amazing, so inspiring. I feel like you should be the one running the country. You should be up there spreading this message in more ways than just this. That’s just my two cents. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? I know you made fun of your little gift, which is really a gift, not to be overly complementary and weird. Do you have any advice to aspiring authors having written best-selling books and number ones and all the rest?

Glennon: I do. First of all, my first piece of advice is to keep your computer plugged in because I’m about to lose you. Okay. The first thing I would say is that if I could tell you the amount of people that write to me every single week and are like, “I think I might be a writer, but I don’t know. How do you know? I think I might be a writer –” This question reminds me of when I first started going to AA meetings. This sounds weird, but it’s going to come back together. I used to sit in these circles in the basements of these churches. We always had these brochures, “You might be an alcoholic if…” People would sit down and take the quiz. Am I or am I not? I used to always look at us and think, why do we have to take a quiz to find out? We’re here. We’re in a circle having come to an AA meeting. People who do not have drinking problems don’t end up in these basements. The jig is up. People who are not alcoholics don’t constantly wonder if they’re alcoholics. People who are not writers don’t constantly wonder if they’re writers. This I know. If you are a human who wonders often if you’re a writer, then to me that means you are for sure a writer. That’s your clue, wondering if you are, having a hunch that you are. Then the other thing that I would say is that I guess it depends on a person’s desire. If the desire is to be an author, which to me means a person who has published books that other people have read in some capacity, to me, that’s different than being a writer. Being a writer is what I hold the most dear. I have friends who are writers who happen to have become authors. I have friends who are writers who have never become authors and are the best writers I’ve ever known. I have friends who are writers who became authors who are not that good of a writer, for real.

If what you want to be is a writer, and by that I mean you just want to experience the world deeply and then experience it twice by going to your computer and trying to make sense of it through words and communicate it to other people and you feel anxious until you can do that — this is so random, but I feel like for me it’s like having to pee. You get an idea. That’s in the beginning when you kind of have to pee a little bit. Then you keep thinking of it. Then it’s like, now I have to pee or I’m going to die. I can’t believe I just described it that way. I feel like if that’s the kind of feeling you have about writing, then you have to write. It almost doesn’t matter what comes next. I had to write to nobody for ten years before anybody was like, “Do you want to write a book?” You have to be willing to do a hell of a lot of time that nobody might ever see, which means that if you really want to be a writer, you kind of have to not be able to live unless you write. It has to be something that you can’t not do. Then I just think in order to be a writer, tragically, you have to write. I haven’t found another way around that. I think what you have to do is sit down for an hour every single day and promise yourself that you’re not going to move from the chair for an hour whether you write one good word or four hundred, that you are not going to abandon what you know about yourself. You’re going to honor that by giving yourself an hour a day.

Zibby: I love that. Glennon, thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” Thank you for all of your amazing, authentic sharing in all of your channels. Thanks for being such an inspiration.

Glennon: Aw, thank you. This was so fun. I loved every minute of it. Thank you for having me.

Zibby: Good, I’m so glad. My pleasure. Take care. Bye.

Glennon Doyle, UNTAMED