Glennon Doyle Melton doesn’t just offer glimpses into her life, she offers a front row seat. She took her experiences with addiction and heartbreak and put them into words to which thousands of people could relate. For some, it is her battle with addiction and bulimia that are relatable. For most, it is her day-to-day struggles with marriage and motherhood — both the brutal and the beautiful. Glennon’s truth telling began on her blog, Momastery, and it continued in her New York Times bestsellers, Carry On, Warrior and Love Warrior. Fandom spread far and wide for her honest experiences and her philanthropic work. We’ve read her books and feel like we know Glennon, but we still have questions, and thankfully, she has answers about honesty, philanthropy, divorce, her recent engagement to U.S. women’s soccer star Abby Wambach and her love of really, really nice sheets. Welcome Glennon Doyle Melton as today’s FACE of the South!
On Momastery and in your books, you cover personal experiences with intimacy, drugs, heartbreak and pain. How did you find the courage to publicly address these topics?
The courage for anybody to tell the truth is really just the belief that we are really just all the same, that the details of our lives are different but the feelings and the love and the shame and the pain and the triumph are universal. In order to tell the truth, you really have to have the belief that you really aren’t that special. There is a Maya Angelou quote that I love so much: “I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me.” This is the idea that if I felt something, many, many, many other people have too. It is the belief that we are all the same, and also the belief in the strategy. My strategy for being a sober person was hearing people be really, really honest about the things they weren’t allowed to talk about in everyday life. I thought, why is it the case that we can only do that in basements, in private? Why can’t we just be really honest about our lives on a bigger scale? So that is where I get the courage. When you get down to it, there is nothing that shocking to share. What is shocking is sharing it, right?
You focus a lot on honesty and truth-telling. Why do you think people struggle with speaking openly?
We have created a system in which we are only allowed to share one side of ourselves. For whatever reason, it is easier for everyone to hear that we are fine and everything is perfect and our families are perfect — especially for women. There is not a lot of room for the other half of humanity, which is that we do get angry, doubtful and fearful, and we don’t have it all figured out. Since it is not as accepted to show that side of ourselves, few people do. And it is always scarier to do something when other people aren’t doing it. I was a little girl who learned early that little girls don’t hunger, and they don’t desire, and they don’t get angry. It was acceptable for me to be small and happy and polite, so I had to find this other secret world where I could be all of the other things.
What’s next for you?
Well, I am going to get married, and I am over-the-moon excited about that! And I am most excited about Together Rising, our non-profit. We have raised $7 million for people in need internationally and domestically, and that is really the work that is my heart. I am an artist and an activist, and both are important to me. In the next few years, I will be putting most of my energy into finding ways to empower people to become activists in their communities. We need to get more women running for office and more women in leadership positions. I have been involved in philanthropy for so long, and now I am starting to look at the institutions. There is an old saying that you can pull people out of the river forever but at some point, you have to look up the river and see who is throwing them in. I am very interested in both the service and political side. I will continue to serve people while taking a wider look at the institutions and figuring out how we can create leaders and policies that will promote more equality and justice.
Tell us a bit more about your non-profit, Together Rising. What projects are you focusing on?
Together Rising is based on the truth accepted internationally and at home that the way you get communities, cultures and families on their feet is by helping women. If you help a woman get on her feet, everything good trickles down to her people. Domestically, we focus on getting one woman rising at a time. We think of ourselves as first responders. We trust women and believe that every woman knows what she needs. We respond to people who write into us and help assess their situation and get them the help they need. This giving goes on every single day. Our larger domestic project is putting an effort into the homeless community in our country. We learned that the largest growing demographic within that community is kids, and within that is LGBT kids. We put effort towards buildings and mentoring programs and are looking at kids who are already affected. We also need to look at the institutions that are creating atmospheres where these families think their children need to be kicked out of the house. We want to offer a different way of thinking for them.
Internationally, we have been knee-deep in serving refugees for the past two years. We have been on the ground in Aleppo and Syria and in Iraq. The tagline is, if they can’t come here, we will send America’s love to them. We partner with really wonderful, nimble, fiercely brave organizations on the ground over there. We have our food program that is feeding 2,500 people a day. We have refugee efforts with my friends who created The Compassion Collective. They help me raise the money for Together Rising. All of these communities band together with the idea that regardless of our politics, we can agree that hungry children should be fed and that sick children should be healed.
What living person do you most admire?
Right now, I would say the leaders of the Women’s March, Carmen Perez, Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland and Linda Sarsour. If you want to know how to lead in this time, the best thing to do is look at women of color and how they have been leading forever. They have been leading the march so tirelessly and beautifully.
What’s the best piece of advice you have received, and from whom?
My friend Nadia Bolz-Weber always says, “Write from your scars, not your open wounds.” And I think that is important. The way I write, people think that I am writing everything in real time. Oftentimes when people do that, it comes off as a cry for help and not art. We have to let what happened to us sink in to get truth out of it, then serve it back to people.
My other favorite piece of advice that I got recently was from my friend Liz Gilbert. I called to ask for parenting advice, which is so funny because she doesn’t have any kids. But she said, “Your family is in an airplane and there is a lot of turbulence right now. What do we do when there is a lot of turbulence? We look to the flight attendant. And if they are freaking out, we start to freak out, but if they look calm, you feel calm. So your kids are looking at you on the plane right now. You need to keep smiling and serve some freaking peanuts.” Since I have been steady throughout this time, my kids believe that despite the turbulence, we will all be okay.
Is there something people would be surprised to know about you?
I feel like all of the surprises are out of the bag! I think I have surprised people enough lately.
What books are on your bedside table?
I am just finishing This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. It is an incredible, gorgeous book. The other is Worth It: Your Life, Your Money, Your Terms by Amanda Steinberg. I always try to have one fiction and one non-fiction. I think of fiction as my break and non-fiction as my learning
What little luxuries do you enjoy?
I have really nice sheets, I love my couch and I love Netflix. I feel like if I had a shadow life where I didn’t have to do any hard things, all I would do is sit on my couch and watch Netflix, then go to my nice sheets. I guess I am really lazy at heart.
Thank you, Glennon, for always sharing with openness and honesty!
Read about more inspiring women from around the South in our FACES archives.