Reading Glennon Doyle’s memoir, Untamed, is diving into an adventure of what we can become. We collectively grow stronger as we are more willing to ask hard questions.
Doyle wants to know, “Where did my spark go at ten? How had I lost myself?” She ponders and worries about her own daughters and how to help them never lose themselves.
The book begins at the zoo thinking about being restless and frustrated like a caged animal. Have we as women forgotten our wildness? She wants to yell, “You are not crazy. You are a goddamn cheetah,” to Tabitha, the cheetah at the zoo—but also at everyone else.
Many of us feel locked into our roles and say to ourselves, “I should be grateful. I have a good enough life here. It’s crazy to long for what doesn’t even exist.”
But, the “fenceless, wide-open savannas” do exist, Doyle tells readers, and maybe we can learn to reject our taming and “sleep under an ink-black, silent sky filled with stars” where we can create our own realties and break out of our cages.
Doyle knows about feeling caged, as her “childhood bulimia morphed into alcoholism and drug use, and [kept her] numb for sixteen years.”
In her first book, Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, Doyle reminds us that people are messy. And in Love Warrior, after she discovered her husband’s infidelity and her marriage crumbled, she kept walking forward when she did not know what to do next.
Now in Untamed, she brings us into her new life and love with Abby Wambach.
When I chose to leave my marriage and the continent I was on, many people called me brave. I found it challenging because I did not feel courageous—and in fact looked both words up in the dictionary, often trying to understand what they were telling me.
Doyle asks us, “Will we be brave enough to unlock ourselves? Will we be brave enough to set ourselves free? Will we finally step out of our cages and say to ourselves, to our people, and to the world: Here I Am!”
As a travel reporter, this section particularly resonated with me:
“I understand now that no one else in the world knows what I should do. Because no one has ever lived or will ever live this life I am attempting to live, with my gifts and challenges and past and people. Every life is an unprecedented experiment. This life is mine alone. So I have stopped asking people for directions to places they’ve never been. There is no map. We are all pioneers.”
On assignment, I am often in new places, constantly consulting a map and guidebook to make sure I wring as much as possible out of every moment on the road. I take that persistence into my personal life, and I want that same intensity all the time. I believed in the past that someone else knew better than me what my next steps were. But this strategy did not work out for me—and I am not sure if it does for anyone else.
In order to live a different life, Doyle asks, “How can we begin to live from our imagination instead of our indoctrination?”
She tells us that “imagination is how personal and worldwide revolutions begin.”
“I have a dream,” said Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning,” said Gloria Steinem.”
What do you dream?
Doyle explains that she abandoned the should‘s, the rules and the memos from the world about what life was supposed to look like. She asked herself, “What kind of life/relationship/family/world might I have created if I’d been braver?”
I loved when she wrote,
“I quit buying the idea that a successful marriage is one that lasts till death, even if one or both spouses are dying inside it. I’d take this vow to myself: I’ll not abandon myself. Not ever again. Me and myself: We are till death do us part.”
I found for myself in my marriage that both my spouse and I were completely on his side, with neither of us on mine. I could no longer tolerate living that way abandoning myself again and again.
One of the most powerful lines in Doyle’s book was:
“Being human is not hard because you’re doing it wrong, it’s hard because you’re doing it right. You will never change the fact that being human is hard, so you must change your idea that it was ever supposed to be easy.”
If we are looking for the easy way, we may miss our best lives. It might be terrifying to go after our dreams—but worth it.
Doyle also outlines the issues with how we train children to be brave—and how this must change.
“We tell our children that brave means feeling afraid and doing it anyway, but is this the definition we want them to carry as they grow older? That is not the understanding of brave I want my children to have. I do not want my children to become people who abandon themselves to please the crowd.
“Brave does not mean feeling afraid and doing it anyway. Brave means living from the inside out. Brave means, in every uncertain moment, turning inward, feeling for the Knowing, and speaking it out loud. Since the Knowing is specific, personal, and ever changing, so is brave. Whether you are brave or not cannot be judged by people on the outside. Sometimes being brave requires letting the crowd think you’re a coward. Sometimes being brave means letting everyone down but yourself.”
When I chose to leave medical school and become a preschool teacher, many people told me I was making the wrong choice. However, I listened to my inner voice, and it turned out to be the right path for me.
As Doyle says, “Brave is not asking the crowd what is brave. Brave is deciding for oneself.”
I did not take a poll or follow along. I knew I had to make a change and I was scared but I believed it was going to work out.
Often we are told as little girls, “that our loud voices, bold opinions, and strong feelings are ‘too much’ and unladylike, so we learn to not trust our personalities. Childhood stories promise us that girls who dare to leave the path or explore get attacked by big bad wolves and pricked by deadly spindles, so we learn to not trust our curiosity. We were taught to believe that who we are in our natural state is bad and dangerous. They convinced us to be afraid of ourselves. The only thing that was ever wrong with me was my belief that there was something wrong with me. Do with your Self whatever it is you want to do. You can trust your Self.”
I hope that we can change the story telling for ourselves and other little girls. It is okay to be who we are. I can trust my personality and my curiosity and follow my dreams.
Doyle now tells her children, “I see your fear, and it’s big. I also see your courage, and it’s bigger. We can do hard things, baby. We are fireproof.”
What would our lives look like if we listened to Doyle?
She wonders, “Maybe Eve was never meant to be our warning. Maybe she was meant to be our model. Own your wanting. Eat the apple. Let it burn.”
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