Book Review -- Carry On, Warrior
Glennon Doyle Menton is a truth-teller who writes passionately about her theory that life is both beautiful and brutal. It's brutiful. I first stumbled across her blog, Momastery.com, a few years ago, and while I am not a mother, many of her stories resonated with me on multiple levels, just as they've done with her many readers.
First, Glennon offers refreshing honesty no matter the subject: her children, her marriage, her past struggles as an alcoholic and bulimic. She's tried it all, and her I've-been-there-so-let-me-tell-you attitude resonates with anyone who has experienced similar difficulties. Glennon advises, "Since brokenness is the way of folks, the only way to live peacefully is to forgive everyone constantly, including yourself. . . . Sharing life's brutiful is what makes us less alone and afraid. The truth can't be stuffed down with food or booze or exercise or work or cutting or shopping for long. Hiding from the truth causes its own unique pain, and it's lonely pain. Life is hard--not because we're doing it wrong, just because it's hard. It's okay to talk, write, paint, or cry about that. It helps." (Carry On, page 7)
Her writing style is warm, thoughtful and emphatic. Her uncanny ability to poke fun at herself, her tendencies and mistakes and perspectives, shows her strength. This is a woman who has hit rock bottom, climbed back up and discovered she still had a lot of work left to do. She wants to be the best mother, spouse, friend, writer and woman that she can be, and she's clear about how hard those efforts can be. She notes one common female attitude: "I'm a people pleaser, a dancing monkey, always concerned with how everyone is feeling about me." (17) She discusses her elusive search for happiness, and how it never quite goes away: "I start feeling empty and restless, and instead of remembering that sometimes life is uncomfortable and empty everywhere, I decide that bliss is just a new house or town or state away. It isn't. Wherever you go, there you are. Your emptiness goes with you. Maddening." (22)
Carry On is chock full of these little anecdotes, and Glennon is quick to share what she's learned with humor, wit and candor. One particularly enjoyable story involves her efforts to practice yoga for "quiet and peace and stillness," but every time she arrives at the studio, a loud, smelly, fellow yogi places his mat right down next to her. She concludes that maybe yoga instead teaches her "how not to be bothered by things that are out of my control." (55) Glennon, an open Christian with no denominational ties but a strong passion for social justice (as shown by her community of Monkees), also includes mini-letters to her young son: how to treat the shy outsider in his class, what would happen if he decided to be gay, why certain things are important in life. While she references religion and God multiple times, I never got the sense that she was trying to convert her reader; she's merely sharing her worldview with lines like, "Much of the Bible is confusing, but the important parts aren't. Sometimes I wonder if folks keep arguing about the confusing parts so they don't have to get started doing the simple parts." (140).
And throughout the book, Glennon consistently explicates the value of optimism and contentedness based on the present moment, as well as her view that life is a ride with all sorts of surprises. She writes, "When your miracle doesn't happen the way you planned, it becomes important to look for peripheral miracles. Peripheral miracles are those that aren't directly in front of you. They're not the one on which you've been so damned focused. You have to turn your head to see peripheral miracles." (261)
I advise potential readers to first check out Glennon's blog, and if her style and content appeal to you, then read the book. I pretty much love everything she writes, but I can see how she may not be for everyone, and she isn't trying to be a "serious" writer in the traditional literature sense (I mean that in the best way possible). But in Carry On, Warrior, Glennon offers up her life stories with a lot of heart and humor. I felt like I was talking to a friend, and I so enjoyed the conversation.