img Untamed Sue


By Susan Schwartz

In this series of vignettes, reading about the woman who stayed in the hot yoga room, no matter how awful she felt, incited two flashbacks. First, I thought of a sleepover birthday party I went to when I was about 6 years old. The girl who invited me lived in the same apartment complex I did. One of my parents walked me over to her place, helping me carry the gift, plus my pillow, sleeping bag and overnight bag.

I enjoyed the spaghetti dinner that was served, but I didn’t drink the glass of milk that had been set in front of me. I hated the taste of milk. And now the birthday girl’s father was telling me I had to drink it before I could leave the table! What? My mom forced me to drink milk at dinner every night, but this was supposed to be a party! I told him I didn’t like milk, but that didn’t matter to him. I didn’t know this man and I didn’t feel I could argue with him. So, being the only kid left at the table, I gulped it down quickly to avoid the taste as much as possible. 

When I joined the other girls they were in the birthday girl’s bedroom, coloring. I picked out a coloring book and then picked up a crayon. Birthday Girl immediately told me I couldn’t use that color. Then she listed the few colors she allowed.

I was already on edge from being forced to drink milk. Now Birthday Girl was bossing me around about a crayon! Party over! I stood up, grabbed my pillow and overnight bag, opened the front door and stomped out into the dark. The father called out for me to wait a minute so he could walk me home, but I was having no part of that family anymore. I got home before he caught up with me. My parents were surprised when they saw it was me who rang the doorbell. Milk-pusher came running up to our porch and handed my parents my sleeping bag. I didn’t stick around to hear their conversation. 

Looking back, I realize I never had any regrets about leaving that party. I never ruminated about the possibility that I’d hurt anyone’s feelings. I never contemplated I might lose friends over it. I simply had taken care of myself. Little Susie wasn’t smart enough or sophisticated enough to outwit the milk-police, but she damn well wasn’t allowing a kid to tell her what crayon to use! 

Right after that flashback, a second one hopped on the thought-train. The summer before my senior year of college, I met a guy and soon we were engaged. The wedding plans were already going full-steam ahead by the time I graduated. I moved in with him, already knowing he was completely wrong for me, but my self-esteem had been eroded throughout my childhood. My thinking was that I should marry him because I may never again be proposed to. 

I went on with the charade of being the happy bride-to-be, even though living with this guy was a nightmare. What saved me was my maid-of-honor flying out from Michigan to spend a few weeks with me before the wedding. She was a straight-shooter and very soon asked me, “Can you look me in the eye and honestly tell me you’re happy?” I started bawling. I called my parents that night after my fiancé had gone to sleep. “The wedding is off,” I told them. 

In part, I hadn’t called off the wedding sooner because I thought doing so would cast a bad mark on me that I could never erase. Like a scarlet “I” for “Idiot! Why did you agree to marry him in the first place?” Or a “J” for “Jilter!” Six-year-old Susie had better sense and boundaries than my 21-year-old self. 

Yet, as Doyle addresses in the vignette, “Feel”, I have learned that horrible experiences force me to rise to a better understanding of who I am, what I want and how I need to change. Working through pain makes me stronger, and then I can better deal with the next challenge. Not ready to say my first reactions to the next challenge will be “curiosity” and “excitement”, as Doyle embraces. That’s a BIG ask! I’m not that evolved! Most likely I’ll first react with “misery” and “fear”, as usual. 

[I had a chuckle because after I had my almost-wedding memory, the next vignette was “Dragons”, where Doyle writes about her friend getting married, knowing the guy was wrong for her even as she walked down the aisle.]

Were any memories sparked for you from reading this week’s section?


  1. Sue, thank you for sharing the memories you connected to this week's reading. It is fascinating that 6 year old you listened to herself and knew what she needed to do, but that that was lost as you grew up.
    Glennon writes, "When I was a child, I felt what I needed to feel and I followed my gut and I planned only from my imagination…Until I started deferring to others' advice instead of trusting my own intuition."

    When, why, how do we lose our knowing? Why do so many of us define our worth in terms of what others think of us or how others are feeling?

    I have heard a lot about people pleasing. I used to think I wasn't a people pleaser. I didn't over extend myself with projects, responsibilities, extras for the kids. I could say no if something didn't make sense for me to do. Sure, I felt a little bad about disappointing whoever it was, but I went forward and honored my own boundaries.

    But lately, I have been realizing that I have put entirely too much responsibility for my self-worth into the hands of others. I was people pleasing all over the place! I was traveling through my life completely unaware of my own self and letting external factors push me around until I felt completely out of control of my own life. There were times that I felt so stressed that I felt like I was in a pinball machine being bopped around from one obstacle to the next.

    I wonder if I had trusted myself, listened to my knowing, been less inclined to please others, if I would have felt so out of control?

    But then again, pain, tough times, they are a part of life. Maybe I would have still had those "out of control" moments, but maybe I would have paid more attention, rather than wishing/numbing/distracting myself away from it.

    For me, this section of the book not only inspires me to notice the limitations I am putting on myself, but also to expect the tough stuff. Because even if I have created unnecessary cages for myself, the pain will come in one way or another. That is life.

    But, we can listen to ourselves, notice it, and know that we can handle it all. Glennon writes, "when the pain and waiting are here, the rising is on its way."

    So, I don't have regret for the cages that I have let build around me, because I know that at this moment, as I realize and notice, amazing things are happening and will continue to happen for me.

  2. Yes, Melanie! Amazing things are happening, and a big part of that is because we are tuning in to our gut feelings and striving to live an authentic life. (Throwing in a little Brene Brown here!).

    It's good to hear you don't regret the cages you've been in. Sometimes I regret the cages I was in and the pain they caused, yet breaking free was a process of enlightenment that brought me to a place I may never have otherwise arrived at. Except for my early childhood, I'm the most authentic self I have ever been.

    People-pleasing is a big issue for so many women. It's amazing how we get caught up in that without even recognizing it. I love your pinball machine analogy! It's strange how some of us have to arrive at that point before we see the harm we are doing to ourselves. But that can be the wake-up we so desperately need.

  3. Susan and Melanie, such wise observations!

    I've been doing lots of "interior" work during the past couple of years after a near-death experience showed me that it was time to jettison the BS and live life on my terms. I've come to understand that although I thought I was doing self-care it was only surface-level stuff and that I was not addressing the needs of my soul. If any of you follow numerology, I am a life path "7" which indicates a spiritual journey and means that I am at my best when I am in service to others. At the time I was hospitalized I had no awareness of this, but I was living out the shadow side of my life path to the "nth" degree. The needs of everyone else came before my own, and I truly felt guilty "sneaking" off to take a yoga class!

    Since that time I've had a radical shift in my thinking and my self-perception. I've realized that in many ways I am not doing good service for others by taking on their tasks in order to make their lives "easier". My son, who recently turned 21, is the greatest example of my damaged thinking. His life has been made far more inconvenient by my holding him responsible for his own tasks. I don't finish the laundry he started, I don't clean up the mess he leaves behind after a meal, I don't bother to step around the tools he leaves strewn across the garage floor. If something gets stepped on and broken and that makes him unhappy – oh well, next time he'll pick it up to prevent that from happening. We've had a lot of heated discussions about it, but I've also calmly explained that it is my job as a parent to teach him how to be a responsible adult and that my behavior won't change. I don't go out of my way to teach him a lesson, but I also don't pass up the opportunity.

    At 55, I'm almost past caring what other people think. I'm familiar with the "pinball" syndrome and I've grown weary of making sure that everyone and everything is taken care of. I've learned to get still and listen to that voice from inside, and I find myself operating on instinct more and more often. That frequently feels uncomfortable because I am so conditioned to seeking approval from others. How many of us have NOT polled our friends about some decision to which we already know the answer deep within ourselves, but we are looking for someone to talk us out of it because the outcome is going to be messy or a lot of work or disruptive to the pattern of our lives?

    Following instinct often looks like the wrong path when I set out, but it almost always turns out to be the correct decision in the end. The outcome may not be what I anticipate, but I always learn something valuable about myself along the way. I think that's what Glennon meant when she said, "the rising is on the way". We rise to meet our best, most authentic selves when we honor our truth. We confront the issues we need to overcome, we deal with them to the best of our abilities, and often we find ourselves far more capable than we expect.

  4. I hear you, Kelly! Yes to "… often we find ourselves far more capable than we expect."

    When we wind up in a really bad situation, a lot of us might at first say, "I don't know how I'm going to get through this." Or maybe, "I can't deal with this." But, we are stronger than we think! Our badassery comes out by us taking little steps at a time towards getting through horrible times. We strive to be strong, to find joy, to have purpose, to see better days. And once you can look back and see how strong you were, you've got confidence knowing that when life throws you another hard knock, you'll deal with that, too.

    It seems common that a horrendous experience is what catapults us to reevaluate our lives. Kelly, you had a near-deatlh experience. I'm so sorry about that. Me…. my husband died from complications from cancer. Before that, I did not know the true meaning of self-care. But I soon realized that if I didn't take good care of myself, I would be a tight ball of anxiety & depression and spiral down, maybe forever. So I started to treat myself like I was my own best friend, and I started to live in the moment as much as possible.

    Kelly, I agree that going with our instincts is the best way to go. We've been caged for so long, tamed for so long, that some of our natural instincts for self-preservation have been wiped from our tool box. It's a shame we spend such a significant amount of our lives being held down. But now… "I am woman. Hear me roar!"

  5. I love your comment here, Mel. Thanks for sharing. I'm forever amazed at the shades of learning and growing I/we do during these book clubs. For example, I so appreciate your astute observation that you didn't consider yourself a people pleaser for all the reasons you list. But then, over time you realized that you were pleasing people all over the place! Lol..and not, lol. We can so think we've got a handle on something..only to discover it was kicking our asses in unexpected ways all over the place. I'm writing about that (sort of) in my book. That I was determined not to make the same mistakes with Olivia that my parents made with I didn't make them the same way, I just made the same ones in different ways!!!!!!! UGH!! Lol..and not lol.

    Isn't it interesting to the play the, "I wonder what. . ." game? As long as we don't get stuck there. Because I often wonder how my life would be different if I listened to my gut etc, just as you say. Because if we did it doesn't mean we'd be any "happier," per se. There'd be some definite differences…but there are things from my past that I love and would never want to change…so there's that. I'm just glad that I "woke up" when I did and have learned and continue to learn how and where to make my choices from now. And you are sure right that amazing things are going to happen for you..and for all of us!

  6. Wow Kelly..I love this comment, thank you so much for sharing it. I'm not glad that you were hospitalized, but I'm glad that you had your "awakening" and have made all the important changes you made! And there were clearly many! I appreciate you sharing that following your intuition sometimes seems to be the "wrong" decision at the outset, but that by the "end" you realize it was correct. I'm still working on that part in my own life. Getting all the crap out of the way so that I can hear my intuition. It's why I meditate. Why I art journal. I still have a lot of work to do in that department, but feel that I too an moving beyond people-pleasing. A few things have happened recently that really are showing me just how true it is. And man!! What a fucking relief!

    Of course, it can be done, not people pleasing I mean, in a way that is heartless and or cruel, which is NOT what we're talking about here…but in the way that takes ourselves and our health and well-being before anyone else, maintaining good boundaries, and not getting pulled into the fray. Every time this happens to me now I reflect on the deep sense of relief I feel not to be being pulled hither and yon.

  7. What a great post, Sue. Thank you! I can so see little Susie storming off into the night heading back home after being told to drink her milk. And then! Not being able to color with the crayon of your choice!! Not okay. Gosh. I'm in awe of little Susie. I'm wracking my brain trying to remember if I ever did anything like that when I was little. I don't think so. When I was very young..maybe 4 to 6, in there, I was so unhappy about something that I threated to run away from home. I got a stick and a bandana and put a snack in there, and I think a Nancy Drew book. The only part I remember vividly is standing on the landing looking down at my mom and dad, defiant. Dad, fearful I'm sure, made a gamble and said, "You know, if you leave you can't come back." That wasn't true, of course, but I think that was THE..maybe A moment when the real me inside shriveled and thought I better behave or else…Long, long before I turned 10.

    For me, "rules" brought up a memory from not that long ago comparatively. I took a trial spin class at our local gym. I'd never taken one before and had NO idea how intense they were. Five minutes in I wanted to die. physically and emotionally. I couldn't keep up. I couldn't do the workout. Everyone was better than me and definitely younger than me. They were whooping and hollering. You know..the whole drill. I was in excrutiating pain. but I WOULD NOT LEAVE. I wouldn't do the thing that was right for me because I didn't want to "embarrass myself" by leaving the class. I was in so much physical pain for days after that experience. I was perfectly willing to sacrifice my body so as to not look "bad" to people I didn't even know! So fucked.

    This line really struck me, "The moral arc of our life bends toward meaning. . ." Hmmm. I know as humans we are a meaning making species…I wonder about the word "moral" in this setting. I don't have answer answers…just musing. Wonder if it struck anyone else?

    And I for sure LOVED where Glennon, on page 47, identifies the keys to freedom. Because while I am certain working on reconnecting with me intuition, emotions, courage etc..I did not prior to this reading tie them to FREEDOM. A few years ago, when I started my deep learning with Brene and her material, I took an online art journaling class. It didn't escape my notice that I didn't know how I felt about anything. For a while, I had to copy her answers because I didn't have any of my own. Much of my work has been around understanding how I feel and what it means to me. Who knew when we grew up we were going to need to know how we feel about shit. Man. As this point, I'm just glad to be a work in progress!

  8. Awww, Tracey, that's so sad & scary to think of little you being told that if you run away, you can't come back. I can see how that would make you think you'd better tow the line from then on. Our parents we not good with empathy.

    I wasn't specifically struck when reading Glennon's "the moral arc of our life bends toward meaning." Yet, as I think about it now, with the challenges we face throughout our lives, our purpose can be unknown, change and definitely come into question. If our gut feelings and potential were stomped out as children, it takes us longer to find our purpose, maybe. So as we become middle-aged and still aren't clear on exactly who we are & what we want out of life, that arc is bent so taught that it's close to snapping. Whether it just feels taught or whether it snaps, finding out who we are is critcal, and finally we realize it is time to figure this out.

  9. Yes, Tracey, how great it feels to NOT get roped into something! I was a people-pleaser for decades. I remember two instances where so-called friends asked me for a favor when I was just finding my voice. "No", I told them. They were not used to hearing "no" from me. And guess what? They kept at it, thinking I'd succomb to their pleadings. That's not what a friend does.

    I caved in, in the first instance. Yeah, she wore me down, and I finally let her come over to my house at 10 at night, me in my pajamas and the kids asleep upstairs, to use my copy machine. My suggestion of her going to the nearby Kinko's wasn't palatable for some reason. That friendship ended soon afterwards because I realized, for all the things I'd done to help her over the years, "no" was never going to be an acceptable answer.

    In the second instance, a friend called to offer to pay me to bring her kids home from school every day, since I was picking up mine anyway. There were so many ways of that not being convenient for me, but she kept insisting I take the job. I hung up on her. That friendship was over.

    Saying "no" is empowering and it sure can bring out some personality traits in others that are quite enlightening!

  10. It's amazing how we all read the same words and yet they bring us to different places. For me – this series of vignettes was all about the FEELS. The day Glennon realized that it's okay to FEEL it all. We are taught to suck it up and work through the pain. Well feelings are for feeling – even the hard ones. I literally put a sticky note on page 58 that says "OMG ME"

    First the pain, then the waiting, then the rising.

    Why did this strike me as an OMG moment? I know from experience that I can feel good or awful, then the process of knowing there is pain there will be waiting…(or wallowing)…and ultimately there will be rising…or surviving.

    "I am a part of all that I have met, yet through each arch gleams that untravelled world whose margins fade forever where I move." Tennyson

    This has always been my philosophy of life if you will. My high school yearbook quote. Yes, I as that deep in high school.

    IFeel it ALL. Right there on page 58…permission granted.

  11. Wendy, it's great to get those OMG moments! It's like a light turning on in a room that has been in the dark for a very long time. That moment will stick with you forever, and that's a good thing, forvever reminding you that feelings are for feeling. And yes, you sure were deep in high school! : )

  12. Oh…LOVE this Wendy. And I LOVE that quote. And I LOVE all this permission we're granting ourselves to FEEL. Yes FEEL!! And the awakening we're experiencing that says ENOUGH of pushing those feelings into the background! Thank you for this comment. By far, my favorite part of book club IS exactly the fact that we think and experience, and yes, feel, the material differently!

  13. Hello all,

    I have to confess, this is my very first book club. Being a part of this with women who are so authentic, articulate, generous, and supportive has probably created a level of expectation that can't be surpassed. I should also admit that I've been a meditation practitioner, off and on since 1980. Thus, Doyle's "awakening" both deeply resonates with me, and yet some of what you all share as experiences of conformity are a bit more foreign to me.

    My Cluster Headaches became all consuming, and I knew that I was on my own at a young age. During an unexpected attack, I would ultimately be sequestered in my room, on my bed, trying to be motionless except for the tears slipping down my face and staining my wooden floor. I spent an atypical amount of time thinking about my body, and my mind that betrayed me. (Wendy, I was pretty intense in high school, too). However, most of the time, when I did feel well, I was fearless, and I knew myself. On page 21, when the teacher tells Doyle, "It's not hard decisions that mess up kids, it's indecision." Well it's also true for adults.

    My life became messier after I got married and had kids. I wanted to get married and have kids, but I greatly underestimated that starting my own family would take on a life of constant compromise and unfamiliar terrain. Indecision is painful; it's like waking around in a veiled trance of unconsciousness.

    By the time we were a family of four, I had an established career that required travelling around the world. My husband worked at home, so when I was out of town, the boys always had a parent & a grandparent for all the big love moments I might have missed. Wherever I travelled, I brought home for the boys a snow globe. I think the collection was close to 75 snow globes. During those years, I was obsessed about this snow globe collection. Unfortunately, these glass toys didn't interest the boys as much as me. My AHA moment in this section of the book hit when Glendon describes snow globes, and I reflected about what a metaphor they were at that time in my life. And I was clueless.

    She writes, “We’re like snow globes: We spend all of our time, energy, words, and money creating a flurry, trying not to know, making sure that the snow doesn’t settle so we never have to face the fiery truth inside us – solid and unmoving.”

    Suddenly, my 7-year-old son was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, and my 11-year-old son began having panic attacks. We were spit out of our happy lives and dumped into a cold, frightening world I knew nothing about– and most neuroscientists, back then knew little more. My life as I knew it stopped, the snowflakes all landed on the bottom, 75 still, lifeless reminders of how fucked our lives had become. It took me 15 years to find my Knowing, and I agree with Doyle, “We keep ourselves shaken up because there are dragons in our center.”

  14. Dear Faithe! We're so very glad that this is your first ever book club experience! I hope it won't ruin future experiences, but I suppose one never knows. Lol… As to our conformity experiences being foreign to you, how amazing! And somewhat lucky, although certainly NOT lucky because of the reason why. It's hard to imagine you as child, feeling so in pain and afraid and alone. Then, as you grew, to be left to help yourself and not to be believed. I'm furious over it just sitting here.

    And WOW, to the entire rest of your comment. I, too, used to collect now globes for Olivia, who loved them for a short while. I held on to the fascination far longer than she did, and probably for reasons similar to yours. Then, yes. Normal life gets completely demolished. We won't know for a long time where in that demolishing the gifts may lie. And like you say..because there are dragons at our center. Oh, thank you so much for your wise and thought provoking comment.

  15. Hi Ladies,
    My name is Lisa. I was recently in Tracey's art journal class and last week read your comments about the book and felt stirred and got a little teary eyed. I had to ask myself what's with the tears? So I'm ready to dig a little deeper. I just got the book and will catch up by Thursday.
    A little about myself – I'm married (almost 40 years 🙂 ), I have 2 sons, one who lives in Thousand Oaks and one who lives in the Seattle area who is married and has 2 beautiful children. I'm a mimi :).
    Looking forward to joining the book club with you all.

  16. Welcome Lisa! We're so very glad you're here with us on this journey! And..I look forward to hearing more about the teary eyes! I probably mentioned this during class, but if you're not crying I'm doing something wrong , LOL. Welcome!

  17. Faithe, I'm so glad you are here. It's great to have people with different experiences in a book club, especially when reading a book like Untamed. Different perspectives make us think about new ideas and possibilities.

    So interesting that the snow globe metaphor wasn't just a metaphor for you. But I think I understand why bringing them home for your sons, even though they weren't as into them as you were, helped you deal with being away so much.

    If & when our children's health and well-being become an issue, our world gets turned upside down, and like a snow globe that is propped up and not returned to its normal resting position, we remain unsettled until we see they are on the road to recovery or when sense of some normalcy has returned to our lives. When we are open to bettering ourselves in the process, we can learn and grow, and realize that we can handle life's lessons at least a little better than last time!

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