Five years ago, Glennon Doyle Melton decided she was going to "live out loud." Although a shrinking violet in a flowerbed littered with broken hearts, addictions and pain, she found that when she wrote about and shared her struggles, all that ugliness blossomed into something that others found to be beautiful.
She calls it "brutiful" - brutal and beautiful.
In response, she founded Momastery.com (like "monastery"), where she blogs with "reckless" honesty and raw humor about her messy life, her quirky characteristics - she avoids vacuuming, cooking and what she calls "hostressing" - and her daily discoveries of love and kindness in the world. Her post, "Don't Carpe Diem," a backlash against people with grown children who tell mothers wrangling their whiny tots in the checkout line to "cherish" these moments, went viral last fall.
Glennon Doyle Melton
Her garden is growing rapidly. As of Friday, she had 70,215 Facebook "likes" up several thousand from two weeks ago. The day her first book of essays, "Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed," was posted on Amazon for preorder, it hit No. 4 in sales across all categories. The book will be released tomorrow.
What makes this recovering alcoholic and bulimic so attractive is her constant assurances to today's harried women that even when things aren't OK - when your marriage is falling apart and you're diagnosed with a debilitating disease (she has Lyme) and your kids are screaming and your best friends are suffering broken hearts - you're not alone and you can get through it.
These are her mottoes, emblazoned in rainbow colors in the top right corner of her website and as the cover photo for her Facebook timeline: "We Belong to Each Other." "We Can Do Hard Things." And most of all: "Love Wins."
On her biography page, she puts it this way:
"When it comes to God and faith and religion, I have some hunches, but I only know two things to be true - 1. I am God's beloved child. 2. So is everyone else."
In a phone interview from her Florida home on March 22, the 37-year-old mom of three and Virginia native said she spends half her work day reading every Facebook comment, blog comment and email she receives, and half the day writing.
"That's the key to Momastery, is all that reading, because I know the women so well," said Melton. She used to respond to every email and comment, but with sometimes hundreds of comments on one post, that has become impossible. "I consider every new post as a response to everyone," she said.
Negative comments are a rarity on her blog and Facebook page, not because of any behind-the-scenes monitoring, Melton said, but because the community she has built is based on love and trust.
"In five years, I have blocked two people. ... That doesn't mean there's not snarkiness in the comments or a zinger that takes my breath away. That always happens. ... The only thing I can attribute (the lack of negativity to) is there is an energy that sort of attracts" kindness. She also made the decision from day one never to engage in defending herself or respond to a cruel remark on her blog. "That has made all the difference," she said.
It's love ... winning.
Love, writes Melton, is another word she uses for God. Melton is a Christian who discovered early in life that she had what writer Anne Lamott calls a "God-sized hole." She writes that despite growing up in a comfortable, suburban Washington, D.C., home with parents and a sister who loved and cared for her, she tried to fill this hole with food and ended up becoming a bulimic - at age 8. Later, she added alcohol to the tab. Drugs and sex disappeared into the hole, and she still felt empty.
Then one day, strung out and alone, a drug-store test revealed she was pregnant with her first child. That day, she decided to ask God for help and to get clean. She married the baby's father and starts her life over every day.
But the "hole" is still there. She tries to fill it by shopping too much and moving a lot. And she still gets tired - very tired from the Lyme disease - and frustrated.
She writes: "My experience has been that even with God, life is hard. ... If there's a silver lining to the hole, here it is: the unfillable, God-sized hole is what brings people together. I've never made a friend by bragging about my strengths, but I've made countless by sharing my weakness, my emptiness, and my life-as-a-wild-goose-chase-to-find-the-unfindable."
Those "friends" include her Momastery followers, called Monkees. From their mutual outpouring of support, Monkee See-Monkee Do was formed. The nonprofit raises money for various causes Melton and the volunteer board decide to support.
The Monkees hold online Love Flash Mobs, in which they describe a need and ask for donations of $25 or less. Last month, the Monkees raised $100,000 in 48 hours to house a teen mom with a 4-month-old in Indianapolis.
That kind of "love in action" excites Melton and she marvels that she gets to sit back and watch it all unfold, while wearing her yoga pants in her living room. This week, however, Melton has embarked on her book tour. She can't be her naturally introverted self and no yoga pants. She hopes through the tour she can bring awareness to the vast number of needs and inspire people to action.
She started with the NBC "Today" show this morning and will travel to seven states from coast to coast in the next two weeks.
For information, visit www.Momastery.com.