“I was loved. If love could prevent pain, I’d never have suffered.”
If honesty had a name, I would call her Glennon Melton Doyle. She is not only the author of her autobiographical book “Love Warrior” but also of her own remarkable life. This month’s book review is about the heartwarming story of a brave woman and her struggles to find her way back to normality and, ultimately, to herself.
1. Beauty warms people. Smart cools people.
Little Glennon is a beautiful child. She is so beautiful that people can’t help but stop and stare in amazement, giving her a precious gift called attention. But quickly Glennon learns that the approval and admiration she constantly receives from her surroundings have nothing to do with who she really is.
“They wanted to adore me and I complicated things by inserting myself into their experience of me. I begin to understand that beauty warms people and smart cools people. I also understand that being loved for beauty is a tenuous situation for a girl. Years later, when I become less beautiful, I wonder how I’ll ever be worthy of offering or receiving love.”
At the age of ten, Glennon notices something about herself that will stick with her for a lifetime: She feels different than the other children her age who play together “but playing requires a loss of self-consciousness and togetherness requires a sense of belonging. I have neither, so I can’t join them.” This sense of unbelonging and loneliness is too sad to bear and so “bulimia becomes the place I make for myself, since I don’t know how to fit into the real world.”
2. Be thin. Be pretty. Be quiet. Be invulnerable.
From that day on, Glennon finds herself separated into two different personalities: On one side she is the secretly binge-eating and vomiting person. On the other side there is her smiling representative that walks into the school-hallway “like a superhero in a cape.” The main messages she receives about how to matter as a girl in high school are:
“Thinness is beauty. Beauty is power.
Power is being chosen by the boys.“
For years, Glennon continues with her self-destructive habits until one day during her senior year she rushes into the school office, sits in front of the secretary and says: “I’m so uncomfortable. I think I’m going to die. Call my parents. I need to be hospitalized. Someone needs to help me. That afternoon I am driven to a place for people with broken minds.“
3. Lessons from the Mental Hospital
“By the time we landed in the hospital, most of our families considered us insensitive liars, but we didn’t start out that way. We started out as ultrasensitive truth tellers. We saw everyone around us smiling and repeating “I’m fine! I’m fine! I’m fine!“ and we found ourselves unable to join them in all the pretending. We had to tell the truth, which was: “Actually, I’m not fine.“ But no one knew how to handle hearing that truth, so we found other ways to tell it. We used whatever else we could find – drugs, booze, food, money, our arms, other bodies. We acted out our truth instead of speaking it and everything became a godforsaken mess. But we were just trying to be honest.“
Very soon after her release, Glennon falls back into her old self-destructive patterns. For the next 18 years, she hides behind alcohol, drugs and bulimia until, one mother’s day, she finds herself “on the cold bathroom floor, hungover, shaking and holding a positive pregnancy test.“ Despite her messy and hopeless life and against every rationality, Glennon decides to eventually do the right thing: Giving birth to this child and sobering up.
It’s a long and hard way to normality and sobriety. It’s a path full of progress and fallbacks, but Glennon will learn to deal with that. She will learn to do the next right thing – every day, one step at a time.
“Sobering up will be like walking toward my own crucifixion. That’s what it will take, though. That’s what it will take to rise.“
4. Sharing is healing
Glennon starts to find new ways of dealing with her pain instead of numbing it with alcohol, bulimia and drugs. She learns that life is nothing but a constant cycle of ups and downs, of beautiful and brutal: “Life is brutiful.” Our job here is to live it in all its facets, not just in the good ones. Life is about finding comfort in the uncomfortable instead of desperately numbing it. And one way of finding this comfort, is doing what Glennon did: Sharing it with other people.
Glennon starts writing about it, publicly asking herself: “Will anyone read? Will anyone understand?” What she gets back is a rash of messages from old friends and strangers all saying essentially one thing:
“Many messages are from people I’ve known for years, but I’m discovering that I never really knew them. We’ve spent time together talking about everything but what matters. We’ve only introduced each other to our representatives, while our real selves tried to live life alone. We’ve never brought to each other the heavy things we were meant to help each other carry. We thought we were alone.“
5. Personal thoughts
This book is about a life most of us would consider “crazy” and “hopeless”, if it hadn’t turned out to be the story of the difficulty of being human in a complex and demanding world. It’s about the effects of shame and pretending with which we desperately try to hide our vulnerability instead of embracing and welcoming it into our lives. It’s a must-read!
The best Viennese Coffee House to read this book in
Have you ever wondered if there is a place in Vienna offering delicious cakes, wonderful coffee and probably the most open-hearted people in the world? Yes, I found this place and I fell in love with it. The Pure Living Bakery in the 7th district of Vienna is a good coffee house for almost anything you need to do in life: Being by yourself, reading a book, having deep conversations with your friends or just marvelling at the beauty of this home-like coffee house!
Image credits: TJ Alshemaeree