I made a commitment when I published my book and started this blog to tell the truth, even if it was uncomfortable or made me look messy. Now I wish I’d added some disclaimers, like …except when I have my period, or …not including times that I’m an asshat. Because recently, I’ve been a real asshat, and I don’t want to tell you about it.
Alas, full transparency is the game here, so let’s roll.
Last week, my BFF, Judi, and I got dolled up and went to Philly to see Glennon Doyle’s “Together Tour.” Glennon is the author of the bestsellers “Carry On, Warrior” and “Love Warrior,” the latter of which hit the #1 NYT slot. This was around the time Oprah crowned Glennon as her literary golden child and anointed her with magical Oprah fairy dust.
I might be slightly bitter about this.
So the “Together Tour” featured a selection of women that Glennon had hand-picked for their talent, activism, and authenticity – including Glennon’s wife, soccer star Abby Wambach. Judi and I had read Glennon’s books and appreciate authentic women, so we figured we would make a night of it.
(Also, since I am darkly jealous of Glennon because she has my dream career, I thought I might feed it with a little self-torture. Because I’m really healthy.)
The event was held at the historic Academy of Music, a gorgeous theater straight out of “Amadeus” with red velvet seats, gilded balconies and cherubs painted on the ceiling. There was lots of “Together Tour” swag for purchase, including a table of books from smart, witty women writers like Glennon. None of them was “The Cape House.”
It only went downhill from there.
The show began, and a group of stylish, glowing, fabulous women took the stage and charmed everyone with their obviously rehearsed yet revealing stories. To Glennon’s credit, she took a backseat to the other women, avoiding making herself the centerpiece of the evening. Instead, a firework named Luvvie Ajayi, creator of the Awesomely Luvvie blog, took the stage, and completely blew me away.
Luvvie talked about how she had always planned to be a doctor – until her first chemistry course in college. Quickly, she abandoned that dream and worked in marketing, beginning a blog on the side. Wickedly funny, Luvvie attracted a bigger and bigger audience, but never allowed herself to acknowledge that she was a writer – to her, writing seemed too insecure a profession. Instead, she kept working and doing what she called “the blogging thing,” until the day she saw that Shonda Rhimes had tagged her in a tweet. That was when she acknowledged to herself, “I AM A WRITER.” From there, everything took off. Now her new book was a bestseller and she was touring the country with other powerhouse writers to inspire women with her story.
I assume that everyone else in that room was inspired by Luvvie, because how could you not be?
But all I could think was, That should be me.
I am a writer and a speaker with just as much talent and insight as Luvvie (though I concede that her wardrobe is better). I have also had that burning-bush “I AM A WRITER” moment, and have been busting my butt to make it happen ever since. So why was I not on that stage?
That was when I went to the dark side.
Judi and I left at intermission so I could bitch to her and wallow in self-pity on the ride home. She encouraged me, as a best friend should, and reminded me that “The Cape House” only came out 9 months ago. These women have been working at this for years, even decades. My turn would come soon enough.
That’s nice, I thought. But I want it now.
The next day was a disaster. I woke up cranky and yelled at the kids. I ripped my husband a new one for no reason, apologized, then ripped him a new one again. It was perfect timing, too, because he was taking the kids for the entire weekend so I could go on a yoga retreat.
I stuffed my cannibal soul into my husband’s car and drove to the retreat, which was held at my friend Bracha’s house in Rockland County, NY. Allow me a moment to tell you about this house. The place is gorgeous. There are a million bedrooms, a spacious dining room for lots of guests, cool art and Jerusalem stone on the walls, a dream (kosher) kitchen, and, oh yes, Bracha’s own yoga studio downstairs. Bracha and her husband designed the house themselves, infused the place with warmth and spirituality, and constantly welcome guests of all stripes to enjoy it. So I can’t hate Bracha, because she’s sweet and spiritual and from South Africa. But I can want her house more than I want oxygen.
Here’s the thing about me and houses. I grew up in a big one with a lot of traffic: friends and guests constantly streaming in and out for play dates and parties, my mother’s challah-baking classes, Shabbat dinners, and holiday meals. Not only was there more than enough room for everyone, my mother’s design sense also made the place both stylish and comfortable. It was a home where you could come as you are and always be welcomed. And it was gorgeous. The same went for The Cape House, where my mother worked her magic again. I’ve always wanted a house like that.
It hasn’t happened yet, though. Our house is small and run-down, and our family of seven is pushing at its seams. We can have guests, but only so many, because there’s not much room. We don’t have many nice things, partly out of budget and partly because buying anything of real value for my three wild boys to destroy is comparable to setting a $100 bill on fire. Half of the time, this doesn’t bother me; it is what it is, and we are lucky to have a house of our own. The other half, I am on Trulia, ogling houses I can’t afford.
So visiting Bracha’s house, while a pleasure, is also the sweet torture Brian Krakow must have felt every time Angela left him to make out in the boiler room with Jordan Catalano.
I gave myself over to the weekend, hoping for some peace or clarity or acceptance. Some of that did come my way, but the feeling that I was missing out on something, that things I truly want will never happen for me, still simmered beneath them. They finally boiled over in a wave of tears at the end of the retreat, and I shared my longings with Bracha.
She told me that what I saw in front of me, the gorgeous house with its own yoga studio, was over 20 years in the making. She, too, had lived in cramped apartments and modest houses. But things changed. It just took time. So it would be for me.
As for my career, wasn’t I already doing what Luvvie was doing? I am speaking around the country and inspiring people – maybe not on the same scale, but maybe because it’s not time for that yet; I still have little kids at home who need their mom. I have also written a book, which I did to honor my mother and to prove to myself that I could do it. Would I love it to become a bestseller? Sure. But that isn’t the point. Even if it never made a single cent (Thank God, it has), the point has always been that I did it. Where it goes from there is not mine to decide.
I found myself breathing easier. Calm came in. Clarity, too. What all this came down to, really, was fear. Fear that if God gives what I want to someone else, there won’t be enough left over for me. But when I looked back, everything else I’d ever deeply wanted, I’d gotten: Recovery. A husband. Children. A home of my own. A community where I feel a part. God has given me everything. But my sick mind likes to convince me that this one, this dream is the one that’s too big for God – even when all evidence points to the contrary.
Who knows if I will ever be up on a stage like Luvvie or welcoming people into a big, lovely house? Today, I am gearing up for a book tour in Florida, where I will be speaking for four different audiences nowhere near as large as the one at the “Together Tour,” but whom I have the chance to inspire. As for my house, it may be modest, but I learned from my mother how to create a safe space where everyone is welcome to come as they are. The writer, the speaker, the mother, the hostess: that should be me.
And, Thank God, it is.