Untamed book club
By Melanie Speros
“'Even if it’s not true enough, maybe it’s good enough.’ But good enough is what makes people drink too much and snark too much and become bitter and sick and live in quiet desperation until they lie on their deathbed and wonder: What kind of life/relationship/family/world might I have created if I’d been braver?”
These words, on p. 74, came out and shook my shoulders. It was my aha. My OMG. Mindblown.
How often do we live with what is good enough? How often has our knowing been quieted and our imagination lost so that our cages remain intact? How often have we been too afraid to acknowledge the feelings? Too afraid of the pain or the difficult stuff that we just push it away and distract with tasks, eating, drinking, shopping…etc. Or maybe we just don’t even know what we are feeling. We were never taught to recognize our feelings and let them be.
Social emotional learning has become a really important topic in education today, even before the pandemic, but now, even more so. One of the important components of that framework is “self-awareness”. Defined by CASEL as “the abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts.”
How many of us never grew this ability? With my third grade students, we explore emotions and different words to describe them (ex: Was the character annoyed, frustrated, angry, furious…). We discuss it in the context of our fiction stories, but we also bring it to ourselves. So many kids identify as happy, sad, mad, but do not get more specific. Often they are just reacting to their feelings and do not even necessarily articulate them. Does this sound familiar?
It does to me. I think Glennon’s “keys” to freedom are so beautifully wise. We need to feel it all and not be afraid. We need to trust ourselves. No polling. No internet searching. Just listening to intuition/God/yourself. Then we need to imagine something beyond “good enough.” Having the courage to do that brings you to what is true and beautiful for you.
All of this resonates so much for me but is so incredibly difficult. I believe I have lived in a bit of a haze, not really paying attention to my feelings, my knowing, or my imagination. As Tracey says, I have been “shoulding” all over the place. Beginning to pay attention is scary. It is hard to trust myself. It is hard to know what I “know.” I have not really experienced what Glennon describes as “warm, liquid gold” when she acknowledges her knowing. I still doubt myself, have a lot of questions, and am really confused.
What I do know for sure is that the time has come to pay attention, even if it is scary. Even if I am unsure. The time has come to listen to myself and what I need and know. The time has come for me to imagine something true and beautiful. And then, let the old burn so that freedom can come.
What resonated for you in this section?
My poor little pea brain is spinning. There are so many comments I want to make about this section. I will try to be articulate and not bounce from one subject to another like the pinball machine that was mentioned in last week's comments!
I am mid-way into Knowing. Good enough has not been good enough for a couple of years, but it's taking me a long time to move through the swamp. There are so many obstacles to avoid or overcome. My family is content with good enough. They are comfortable with good enough. They don't desire anything greater. They don't understand the path I am traveling, the path that makes me stop and question what has always been. It makes them uncomfortable and provokes a lot of squabbles as they push back against the unfamiliar. They fear my Knowing, and I don't blame them because part of me fears it too.
I was the primary caregiver for my father-in-law (Fil) before he passed away last summer. He and I never got along, so it was weird that I ended up in that role. But in the year since he's been gone, so many revelations about that experience have floated to the surface, and one of them is an understanding about Knowing. Until dementia robbed him of capacity, Fil lived in the Knowing. He was fiercely independent; almost militant about it. Fil lived alone, he bucked convention, he did what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it, and he didn't give a damn about "the rules" or what anyone thought of his lifestyle.
I think that a large part of my dislike for Fil was born from fear. He was in the moment; he lived his truth. He didn't always make great decisions – he abandoned two families – but in my current state of being, I see that Fil tried to comply with what society expected of him and he simply couldn't make it work. That was not his truth, and trying to fit in was slowly killing him. So Fil created a lot of drama (perhaps unconsciously) to get out from under his obligations. He followed his Knowing. The instinctive part of me always understood this, and I feared the part of him that was so strong that it refused to settle for good enough. I think that I also secretly admired it.
As I stand on the precipice of following my Knowing, I now see that the drama comes not from the person complying with their Knowing, but from the reactions and responses of those around them who don't understand. It comes from the ones who are content with good enough. They don't like it when we break ranks. It creates confusion; it causes them to question the validity of the chosen path. It provokes uncertainty.
I like the phrase Melanie uses: It is hard to know what I "know". It's like being in the eye of the storm. It is calm here in the Knowing. There is certainty, there is peace. But all around us, the wind whips others into a frenzy because they don't know what we Know. Within the haze of good enough, there isn't room for questioning; there isn't space for "what if?"
The pull of good enough is strong. It's difficult not to get sucked back into that vacuum, even when Knowing has made it clear that good enough is no longer the right path. We want to belong, and oftentimes Knowing creates distance between us and others. But I am coming to realize that the distance can be bridged. We can stand apart in our own truth while at the same time reaching a hand out to those who choose to remain in the realm of good enough. Some people will not understand, and there may be outright rejection. But we will find other people who are attracted to our Knowing like moths to a flame. Because when we live our truth it gives others permission to do the same.
I think that is the purpose of this book. Glennon is giving us all permission to follow our Knowing and live in our own truth. That might sound silly, but the fact is that most of us, myself included, don't understand that we are allowed to do that. We've been fed, "You should [fill in the blank]" all of our lives, and we've followed that advice because we've forgotten that we are supposed to live our own truth. Perhaps many of us never knew that in the first place. If we were raised by parents who accepted good enough and taught that to their children, following an individual path was likely never an option. So maybe Glennon's words are providing an "a-ha" moment of clarity. Whatever the case, I'm grateful that she has provided this reminder that we are allowed to give ourselves permission to step into Knowing and own it.
I think I just preached a sermon (it is Sunday morning, after all). Sorry about that, Self-Care Sisters. Clearly, I am passionate about this topic. Thanks for giving me space to express my point of view. I'm looking forward to reading your comments about the book.
Love this dialogue ladies!
I am the quintessential 'good enough' glass half-empty existential kinda gal. Learned from dad rather implied from my dad. I was very very close.
Reading these chapters for me literally had me bawling.
She's 13 and going to therapy. 'trying to be fine' (sic) "Maybe trying to be fine isn't the right goal"
"…she's talking about the Ache.
Glennon was 10 when she discovered the Ache. The impermanence of things.(Don't get too attached to anything. It won't last) p.80
It's visceral, the Ache. but it keeps her/me/us prepared, distant – fine.
What really got to me was the vignette about losing her grandma after years of dealing with the Ache. The scene on the bed holding the papery thin hand of her grandma brought me back to my Tuesday with Morrie moment with my dad. I held him and told him how much I loved him and thanked him for being my best friend. He said "I am not ready to say goodbye to you yet" and those were the last words I ever heard him say. I was so deep in Ache…shriveled up next to my once vital handsome father. I came to learn after his passing that he thought of all the 3 kids, I would have the toughest time watching him go…so he went without me.
And as Glennon writes on page 85…This Ache is not a flaw. It is not a warning..to say this ends so leave. It says this ends, so stay.
And I found myself using this in an advice kind of way when talking to my daughter. You can do hard things Emily. You know that you this will pass and you will be okay.
Whoa- I'm wiped out just going through my sticky notes.
What a wonderful post, Mel. Thank you. So thought-provoking, as is G's source material. I am with you. I was not taught as a child to experience and allow the full range of emotions. I was taught to be a good girl, cooperate, etc, as almost all of us were. And for sure I was not allowed to be mad. Ugh. What a travesty.
Certainly, I did grow up with thoughts and feelings like, I'm going to be different/do different than my parents did. But not in the way G educates us on in terms of the knowing. If you're not told as a kid to trust your knowing, you don't even know you have a knowing! I had the aches, though. I had the aches down to my core and even deeper. My aches' messages were different than G's, but they have been with me from my earliest memories onward. God. I wish there was a way someone could have told me as a kid to reassess my thinking around my "aches." To think that my aches were trying to guide me into myself. To "drop down" as G says. Hmmm. If I could have dropped down, spent time with them, learned how to assess them way back when, maybe I wouldn't have had to spend so much time learning how to do it as a grownup. Now, I wouldn't trade. Meaning, I wouldn't give back what I've lived through to learn back then what I've learned now because the journey is the journey, but I just wonder…is it possible to help our littles view what's happening inside them in ways we never could? Like the incredibly important work you're doing Mel, with the kids in school and teaching them about emotions. What would happen if all the parents suddenly knew how to talk to their kids about all of it…??? Whoa
And I am with you, also, about being afraid and confused. Like you, I haven't experienced the certainty that Glennon seems to have around her knowing. I am fearful…when she talks about it all getting burned down. Yikes. What for the people who can't or don't want to burn it ALL down? What for them/us/me? There seems to be no middle ground…and I'm left LOVING her keys, totally understanding that it's a process and a journey…but what if you can't or don't want to go ALL the way…Hmmm. So much left to think about.
I was, however, COMPLETELY taken with the section on knowing and further into Imagine ..especially the whole way she wrote about our need to stop doing to be able to start knowing. I lived that in my experience over these last few years..and it will be in my book. Real change started when I stopped chasing..chasing the elusive perfection, chasing even imperfection (as she identifies) when I got quiet, started meditating, and learning to rely on myself. I have such a long way to go. But what she says about taking pen to paper. WHOA again. And here I don't mean writing, even though that is an activity I engage in. For me, art has been the method of pen to paper that is opening me up and allowing real me to engage with my intuition. What is true and beautiful? How to break the indoctrination. Well. A first step, as "silly" as it may sound, is regaining the freedom to color that tree purple or the cat green. Who the fuck gets to say but us what our world should look and feel like. Regaining this part of myself through art has been an instrumental part to regaining parts of me in other areas of my life.
I can't wait to keep going. Here. Inside. And beyond.
I LOVE THIS comment Kelly!!!!!!!!! Nothing you said was silly. We met when you were in the throes of dealing with FIL. I remember well sitting together in Starbuck's and you mentioning some of what was happening with him in between all the rest of your life that needed your attention. Reading your thoughts on him now. Wow. What a gift, I think, this change in perspective is for you. That yes, maybe he didn't always make the best decisions for others, but he was making the best ones for himself. Your points about the effects on others is spot on. This is as you say part of the fear, for them and ourselves. It's one thing to read about SOMEONE else walking away from their entire life almost and everyone they knew..but doing it MYSELF. Well. That's an entirely different matter. Expectations. Permission. I experienced so much around these things in the last decade and continue to learn how much further I seem to have to go. Thank you for this comment. There's so much to consider about ACCEPTENCE of people, and curiosity, when they "don't seem to living up to our thoughts, expectations, and values." Hmmmm.
LOVE this comment Wendy. Got some chills reading it here…I'm with you re: daddy's leaving. Mine left without me too. Yes..as you said, the ache says this ends so stay. HOLY SHIT. And I'm with out about writing myself notes and figuring out little ways to say these same things to my girl. She does hard things every damn day and never gives herself credit. So much of this is a change in thinking. From It's hard so leave to It's hard so stay. It's not like you can go out and dig a ditch and learn this. Ugh. I don't know what I'm trying to say other than yes. I "feel" you…I feel what we want for our girls and I feel how difficult and confusing this learning is. I'm so glad we're sharing this together.
And further. I'd like to point out that 2 out of 4 of us, 50%, used the word silly in connection to what we wrote. DAMN IT TO HELL. Enough. Here on and forthwith, no one is allowed to use the word silly in connection to what she is/has written!
Constitutional Amendment forthcoming.
I am so loving this book and the conversations we are having! Melanie, I love your post! It made me think about my transformation from "good enough" to "good enough is not enough." My initial realization that I needed to bring about a major change was when my daughter was about 2 years old, and my son was 5. From a fishbowl perspective, my life looked great – a great husband, 2 healthy kids, a nice home in suburbia… But something was missing. On & off, I had lived with mild depression for years. My mom and my brother had been on antidepressants for years, yet I staunchly believed I had a much stronger emotional constitution than they did, and I could make my life beautiful without outside help, and I certainly didn't need a pill for it.
As an adult, I'd been told by my parents that they "did the best they could" in raising me, given that my brother, who had special needs, demanded so much of their time and energy. I was neglected throughout my childhood, and though I had food, clothing and shelter, them doing their best wasn't good enough for my emotional development. I can remember the exact moment I realized that "doing my best" wasn't good enough. I vowed then that I wasn't going to be like my parents anymore, who tried to remain afloat in their storm while I was drowning. And I absolutely understood that if I didn't get help, I would not be the best me I could be. And if I wasn't the best me for myself, I surely wouldn't be the best wife or mom, either.
So I got myself into therapy. It helped a lot. My therapist recommended I consider antidepressants, but that was a bridge I wasn't ready to cross. Unfortunately, I didn't understand then that I had a chemical imbalance in my brain, as did my mother & brother. And I felt there was a stigma with needing antidepressants. But after being in therapy for about a year and a half, doing much better than when I'd began, I decided I had to try medication. The summit of being the best I could be was still out of reach. I was referred to a psychiatrist and wow… the first medication I was put on was a miracle for me!
Life has certainly thrown many challenges my way since then. But still, even in the midst of them, I have momets of joy and contentment that otherwise may never have been possible. Feeling joy and contentment isn't a goal to reach tomorrow or next week, etc. It's realized every day with the life I live, with mindfulness and gratefulness.
You know Sue, no matter how well I know your story, I'm always so grateful when you share it. I never tire of reading about your strength and the learning curve you went through and how and when you took control of your life. It's such an inspiration! Any one of us could live and remain in the state of victimhood. This isn't a judgment. It's a statement of fact. It is really hard for people to see the role they play in their own state of affairs/mental health and overall general well-being. I wonder what makes some of us able to see more clearly that if we are going to live the life we want we are responsible for making it happen. It doesn't absolve any of the trauma we faced or give people a pass. It's us saying, "No more. I'm in control of me." Thank you again.
The vignette that stands out the most for me is Aches (and Feelings but I think that was last week). I’ll never forget the phone call I received from the doctor asking “Where is your son right now? He needs to return to the hospital. His follow up MRI shows not one but four tumors in his brain.” Christopher had just been released from a 4 week stay in the hospital dx with meninge encephalitis. This couldn’t be happening. He survived; he was a miracle. The ache/pain was unbearable. I hadn’t finished or even started working through the experience of the last 4 weeks. As we continued through our 18-month journey, I didn’t want to deal with the pain. My pastor gave me book about pain and loss and it said you can’t go around it you have to go right through it. So I went through it and made it. (my son did too) but it was really hard. For a long time I believed that if I can make it through my sons brain cancer, I can make it through anything. But this season has been hard as I’m sure it has for everyone. Why now am I trying to avoid the ache and pain? Glennon reminded me when she says “I hope the pain will pass soon, but I’ll wait it out because I’ve tested pain enough to trust it.” “The ache is not a flaw. The Ache is our meeting place It’s the clubhouse of the brave.” I need to be brave enough to go right through the pain and trust the past and myself.
Lisa, thank you so much for this wonderful and honest comment. I'm so sorry you went through that with your son, but so glad and relieved to know he is doing well now. Yes. How many of us can relate to learning that we can't avoid the pain? I know I do. I spent most of my life avoiding pain until the pain was so unbearable it knocked me to my knees and then ran over me with a dump truck. What a wonderful quote you chose about trusting pain. Hmmm. I glossed by that the first time. Isn't true? In terms of emotions and trust..pain seems to be spot on. Wow. Yes. The state of affairs in the world does indeed seem to be calling us to be our most true and our most brave…trusting ourselves to do what we know we need to, how and when is right for each of us. Wonderful comment Lisa. Thank you again.
Kelly, thank you for sharing your story and experience with your father in law. It is so interesting that his "knowing" was difficult to deal with at times, but also inspiring, especially when you look back on it. I agree that following your knowing can be scary and even isolating, depending on how the people around you respond. But, other people, maybe new people, will be there, ready to join you on your new, more authentic journey. The "eye of the storm" is a great analogy. Finding that inner calm amidst the external chaos is so important, but also so difficult!
Yes! We can all do hard things. I have been noticing my language when talking to my friends, my kids, even myself. So often, I have been used to soothing and trying to make it better as soon as possible. Learning to sit with it, learning that we can do hard things, and get through hard times is huge!!!
Kelly, I love that you wrote "I now see that the drama comes not from the person complying with their Knowing, but from the reactions and responses of those around them who don't understand." I hadn't thought of it that way before, but it rings so true. If I lived in a vacuum, I could do anything that felt like my truth without fear of hurting or disappointing others. Without fear of looking like a fool.
If my truth was the only thing that mattered, I would have severed ties with that ex-fiance way sooner. I would have set boundaries with my husband's mother. Heck, I would have even set boundaries with my mother long before I actually did.
I cared too much about how other people might feel or what they might think. I was definitely afraid of what their reactions would be. I didn't care enough about what that was doing to my psyche. It's quite amazing how much psychic pain we have been willing to bear to prevent others from emotional upset, or just the possibility of emotional upset. But I was brought up to ignore my feelings and not buck the system. But I'm listening now and will buck the system if and when I have to.
And, btw, I'm wondering if "Fil" was your father-in-law's real name, or just used here in a public forum? (F)ather (i)n l(aw). It'd be funny if Fil was your f-i-l…
Oh, Lisa! What a horrific situation you and your family have been through! I'm so sorry to hear this. And so happy to know Christopher is fine now. When the health of your child is at stake, I know the depths of fear it can bring one to. Several years ago, my daughter had a mental health crisis. She lived out of state. I flew out to see her and was utterly frightened at what I saw. I didn't know how I could even breathe with her in such a state, let alone ever smile or find joy again. On my flight home, I was so distraught I couldn't keep tears from flowing. I don't like to fly. I fear a crash. And I actually told myself that if this was the flight I would die in, while it be would tragic for my family to have to live without me, it would relieve me of the pain I was in.
Several months later, my daughter was doing great, and I had found a NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) support group. The group leaders and participants not only helped me get through the anguish, they also helped me realize how strong I'd become. I knew that if ever faced with a similar situation, I could face the pain, walk the path of mortal fear, do what I needed to help my family as best I could, and take care of myself at the same time. What a huge metamorphosis!
So now, Lisa, yes, trust the pain and walk through it. All these experiences that challenge us make us stronger. We will still have ups and downs because we are not machines and we have to navigate through many factors. But I believe that the trajectory we are on is pulling us upwards.
And by the way, my daughter is thriving, and has been since that episode seven years ago.
I love this post, Melanie. Especially how you describe Doyle’s distinction between “good enough” – acquiescing, sublimating Knowing versus the courage and the journey towards discovering Knowing. Sometimes a situation or a result is just “good enough”; but “good enough becomes a problem when it breaks your heart, your mind, your soul. Good enough is societal speak when one is worn down by systems, or divides that marginalize so many. It is a tremendous weariness “I can’t fight this anymore”.
When you describe your students’ ability to identify as “happy, sad, mad,” they are just adjectives without insight. Yes, this is very familiar to me with my own kids, and myself. Melanie, when you ask, “How many of us never grew this ability?” I would say most of us were never encouraged because those who thought for themselves were viewed as outsiders, quirky geniuses. Thinking for oneself put us outside the norm.
Lisa, I’m so sorry for the torment you experienced with your son. Thank gd you both survived. I had a similar experience with one of my sons, and after many years, I know that the only way out is to lean into the Ache. Name it, acknowledge it, feel it in your body, recognize it, tell it that it too, can be here. This is by no means accepting the pain. Once I stopped fighting the Ache, I swear it lost some of its power over me. I felt free, and strong, and powerful. I was able to hold this experience too in equanimity, with all of the good experiences that have come and gone. “I’m learning to embrace both the 10,000 sorrows and 10,000 joys of human life in the whole of our existence.” (I learned this from Jack Kornfield, but not sure where this teaching is from.)
I want to comment on “the warm liquid gold.” It’s the embodiment of our connection to our soul, our most authentic self, our beauty, our confidence, our freedom. We all have this inside, and for me, it has taken a lot of meditation practice to tap into it. It always helps me to put my hand on my heart, to feel the warmth inside.
Faithe, it is so comforting to hear that the "warm, liquid gold", that you describe as the connection to our soul is there for all of us and that meditation has helped you tap into it. Among other things, I am just beginning my meditation practice and working on acceptance. Ironically, when you accept yourself as you are, that is when your knowing comes AND when you can most easily grow and change. Or so I hear! 😉
Thank you for sharing with us.
It was incredible to hear your story of survival. The survival of such intense pain. I am so glad to hear that you and your son made it through that. Your pastor was right, there is no way to go but through that pain. Even when it is horrific and unimaginable. I am glad that Glennon's words are reminding you of your own strength and how you can get through anything (then and now). It reminds me of something Brene Brown says in Rising Strong. I am not quoting her here, but she talks about how we all love a good survival story. But we forget that in order to get to the other side, we had to go through all the hard parts. Those can be messy, impossible, ugly, painful, and full of aches. Thank you so much for sharing about your ache and helping us remember that there is no way to go but through it.
Wow, Sue! Thank you for sharing your journey beyond "good enough". I am so glad to hear how you had the strength to do something and not just live with good enough. There are so many blocks in our society about therapy, medication, mental health. It is so harmful to all of us! I am sure there are so many people that can relate to your story and not have the same outcome because they didn't take that brave step. I know that I can relate. It took me too long to get myself to therapy and it caused things to go from "good enough" to not good at all. Happy that for me things have begun turning around, but I am definitely still in the muck of it. I am learning to be more open about therapy, medication, and owning whatever I am going through. Grateful for my therapist and my Lexapro at noon. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story!
Tracey, yes! Loved your post!
You are so right…we need to be taught to recognize that ache, to recognize our knowing, and to honor it always, not just after we have been through a bunch of life without doing it.
I wonder if it is possible to start off with these ideas, to embrace self care, to love yourself, or do you have to falter along the way?
I like the way you talk about it as a journey, and that even though there have been hard times and lessons learned, you wouldn't want to undo any of that. Because without those lessons, what else would you not have? That is pretty crazy to think about!
P.S. Yes, on the Constitutional Amendment! We apologize for and criticize ourselves way too much! I have been trying to reframe my tendency to say, "Sorry to be going on about this" to "Thank you for listening." It is a small shift, but we need to stop with the apologizing and negativity!
Melanie, you'd heard that when one can most easily grow and change is when the knowing comes. Yes, I believe this! I think there comes a time when one's life situation feels so bad that one knows a change is necessary. It's akin to hitting rock bottom and realizing there is nowhere to go but up. Oftentimes, we float through life without paying enough attention to our feelings. Life's obligations get in the way from having a heart-to-heart talk with yourself. But when something major upsets your day-to-day life, you know you need to make big changes to not only get through the pain, but to thrive on the other side of it.
I was married for almost 30 years when my husband died in 2016. Once I began coming out of the fog, I entered a period of tremendous personal growth. My push was simply that I had to take good care of myself and not fall into a long depression that would be hard to get out of. So I started to be very nice to myself (no mean girl allowed in my head anymore) and tried to live in the present.
Before my husband died, Tracey & I had signed up for an art journaling class. Still in a fog, I decided to go to the first session, just a week after becoming a widow. It was enlightening. I realized I could find moments of contentment while creating art. I'd created art throughout my life but had given it up 3 years earlier when my husband was diagnosed with cancer. Spending time creating art at that point seemed frivolous. But during this first art journaling class, I realized art could be the key to finding peace, contentment and joy again. And it was!
I threw myself into creativity, big time! I got rid of my living room/dining room furniture and turned the entire space into an art studio. Of course, I had to buy more art supplies, too! I got rid of the furniture in my adult children's old bedrooms and redecorated those rooms, including repainting the walls myself. At the same time, I was getting better and better at being present and being nice to myself.
That was a time of intense creativity and being open to finding ways to make my life better. There will always be tragedy in life. The best we can do is find a way to thrive, instead of simply exist.
You have this. Stay with your meditation practice. And it is a practice. Think of it as a gift you’re giving yourself. Practice loving kindness, really getting deep in your body. What has helped me gain confidence is “resourcing” before you meditate. What people, spiritual figures, or special places in your life make you feel safe and supported? Feel those resources that remind you about your strengths, the unique, beautiful skills that make you feel confident, that remind you about how awesome you are, and how much you have to contribute. If it helps, put your hand on your heart until you feel the gold. Each day when you meditate you can make your daily intention to feel your warm gold. It’s there waiting to be discovered.💞🙏🏻
wow Faithe, thank you for this. YES to what you clarify here about the "warm liquid gold."
Yes, Mel. Exactly…acceptance is key, not only of self, but of whatever is happening around you. That does not mean inaction if action is necessary. As Faithe says, and as I also learned the hard way, it is to no longer fight against what's happening. Such a "small" shift with such a huge impact.