“I’m here because — all those things that scare me? I do them anyway.”
That quote from writer Luvvie Ajayi is just one bit of inspiration that caught my attention during Together, a live storytelling event that’s touring the country right now. At the show’s Sept. 21 stop in Seattle, the women onstage told tales of failure and success, happiness and heartbreak, and shared some amazing wisdom.
Designed as an intergenerational, intersectional night dedicated to helping people find and/or refine their life’s purpose, Together left me reflecting on who I am as a mother and who I aspire to be. Here are six lessons in parenting (and life) I heard that evening that stuck with me, from six impressive women.
“Purpose is contagious.” — Jennifer Rudolph Walsh
It’s possible that you’ve never heard of Together Live founder Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, but trust me, in the literary world she’s a behind-the-scenes giant. As a literary agent and vice president at William Morris Endeavor, Walsh represents some of the biggest names in books and the culture at large: superstars like Brene Brown, Sheryl Sandberg and Oprah. Walsh’s career has always revolved around storytelling, but with Together, she hopes to reach an even broader audience and to encourage people to make positive changes in their lives and in the world.
Her statement that “purpose is contagious” reminds me that the best thing I can do for my children is to set an example with how I live my life vs. trying to nudge and prod them into charting a course before they’re ready.
“Don’t use motherhood as an excuse to not be the woman you were meant to be.” — Glennon Doyle
Author of two New York Times bestsellers, founder of Together Rising, a non-profit that serves women and children in crisis, and co-founder of Together Live, Glennon Doyle looks pretty unstoppable on paper. Onstage, however, the mother of three opened up about her struggle to exit a long, tortuous marriage to pursue a new, promising relationship with a woman (who just happened to be soccer superstar Abby Wambach).
My joy will be my kids’ pain, Doyle feared, until a friend reminded her of Carl Jung’s contention that nothing has a greater impact on a child than a parent’s un-lived life. She took the leap. Today Doyle and Wambach are happily married; her ex-husband and their children are thriving. While most of us live lives far less tumultuous than Doyle’s, as parents we’re all forced to weigh the cost of our own dreams and desires against the needs of our children. Sacrifice is part of the parental job description, but making space to be true to yourself is vital too.
“If I can get through today, I’m alright.” — Bozoma Saint John
In her nearly 20 years as a marketing executive, Bozoma Saint John's varied career has taken her everywhere from sports to fashion to digital music and entertainment, and most recently to her role as chief brand officer at Uber. This woman oozes energy and confidence. She’s also a widow, raising her 8-year-old daughter alone while holding a high profile and uber-demanding job.
Onstage at Together, Saint John confessed that like every mom, she feels overwhelmed sometimes. She quells the anxiety by focusing on the present, and asking herself “What do I need to do today?” — a simple yet profound approach that any parent, or any person, can use.
"Breathe deeply, reach out, make some noise." — Latham Thomas
In an evening overflowing with powerful words, wellness guru Latham Thomas brought the action. Named as one of Oprah’s Super Soul 100, this “maternity maven” and doula led the Together audience in a breathing and meditation exercise. After coaxing more than 2,000 people onto their feet, Thomas convinced each of us to throw an arm around the friend or stranger in the next seat and hum. The rising thrum of those collective voices sounded exquisite and powerful. I wasn’t eager to join Latham’s guided meditation at first, but by the time the exercise finished, I felt great.
Note to self: claiming a few minutes each day to breathe deeply and focus your attention is guaranteed to make you a more relaxed and patient parent.
“If we all existed in a world where we felt more protected, we would thrive.” — Luvvie Ajayi
Luvvie Ajayi is a New York Times bestselling author and the woman behind "Awesomely Luvvie," the frequently hilarious blog about pop culture. Although Ajayi refers to herself as a “supreme side-eye artist,” she’s also a committed activist who co-founded The Red Pump Project, a nonprofit that educates women of color about HIV.
The youngest speaker on the Together stage, Ajayi is not a parent, but her words about how feeling protected allows people to thrive caught my attention as a mom. Nurturing my children and ensuring they feel safe at home is the surest way to protect, prepare and empower them to face life’s challenges out in the world.
“Our job is to completely accept ourselves; that’s the path to acceptance from others.” — Abby Wambach
Soccer fans already know Abby Wambach: Two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion; 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year; and the current international world record holder for goals scored in competition by any player, male or female.
Wambach is a legend, but a 2016 DUI arrest pushed her to admit that she’d become dependent on prescription drugs to deal with sports injuries and alcohol to deal with fame. Although she never tried to conceal her sexuality as a public figure, growing up lesbian in a conservative Irish Catholic family added another layer of pressure in childhood.
Today, Wambach is retired from soccer and devoting herself to activism. She’s also sober and married to Glennon Doyle. The two met on the 2016 Together Live tour, and at this year’s event, the pair recounted their love story on stage. Wambach’s message of self-acceptance is powerful. As parents, I think our job is two-fold: to love and accept our children unconditionally and to model healthy self-acceptance.
The Together Live 2017 tour continues through Oct. 26, with stops in Austin, Washington, DC, Nashville, Minneapolis, Chicago and Philadelphia. Ajayi, Doyle, Wambach and Walsh will speak in every city, joined by a rotating roster of special guests.