I am the Mona Lisa and other revelations while reading “Untamed”

I’ve had these words rolling around in my head since I read Glennon’s passage on the Mona Lisa and I needed to get them on paper.  

“Mona Lisa and her husband lost a baby. Sometime later, her husband commissioned this painting from da Vinci to celebrate the birth of another baby. Mona Lisa sat for Leonardo to paint her, but she wouldn’t smile during the sitting. Not all the way. The story goes that da Vinci wanted her to smile wider, but she refused. She did not want the joy she felt for her new baby to erase the pain she felt from losing [one prior]. There in her half smile is her half joy. Or maybe it’s her full joy and her full grief all at the same time. She has the look of a woman who has just realized a dream but still carries the lost dream inside her. She wanted her whole life to be present in her face. She wanted everyone to remember, so she wouldn’t pretend.”[1] 

Ron and I were on an airplane our way to our honeymoon when I was able to sit and read “Untamed”.  Tears flowed freely as I read this chapter.  Each word landed and stuck with me.  I often feel since Reagan’s death that I am stuck in the space of grief and joy.  Joy that we have Julia.  Julia who has helped keep us where our feet are.  Julia who was a miracle pregnancy and loved by her big sister Reagan as soon as she found out about her.  One of my favorite pictures is Reagan spontaneously kissing my pregnant belly.  I feel joy with Julia and I feel like I have to keep moving forward for her.  

I also feel stuck in my grief, full of disbelief that Reagan really is gone and that she is not coming back.  There is a tremendous void in our lives without her here - each day we are forced to remember that fact and each day we continue to push forward towards joy.  I can understand how Mona Lisa didn’t want people to forget her grief, as it likely was a tremendous weight on her - balancing grief and joy is like being tethered to two different places simultaneously and not knowing which way you are going to be pulled.  

I learned early in therapy that the definition of guilt was to do something with malice or ill intent.  We don’t move towards joy with malice or ill intent, but yet there is a constant grappling with guilt - guilt that we are going on.  Reagan would want us to go on and not be tethered to the space of grief.  I have to remind myself of this often, at least several times a week.  

For now, after reading “Untamed” I will allow for my smile to be half grief and half joy and I will be okay with that.  It is after all, the truth of where I am today.  

“You will see my life’s brutal and beautiful right here on my face”. [2]

Reagan’s favorite song was “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley and the Wailers.  We used a verse from it on the back of her mass card for her wake.  When the time came and Reagan was in hospice, after all was said and done, I looked at the ceiling of the PICU and the ceiling tile had 3 birds on it.  We all took it as a sign that Reagan was at peace….finally.  

While reading “Untamed”, Glennon had an interesting take on that phrase.  Glennon said “she’d replace the phrase ‘Every little thing is Gonna Be Alright’ with Buechner’s, ‘Here is the world.  Beautiful and terrible things will happen.  Don’t be afraid.’”[3]

I have a tendency to future trip myself and worry about what “may” happen or what “could happen” - as Ron tells me, that is anxiety and takes away from today’s joy.  I often worry what we are going to say to Julia about Reagan’s death when she gets to the point to ask “Where Sissy went?”.  This phrase made me exhale a bit, we can be honest with Julia that sad things happen, and that we do not need to be afraid.  

I loved Untamed.  It make me think and re-think my approach in several different areas.  I loved learning about how she fell in love with Abby and the life that they have created as a blended family.  It all resonated with me - we all came together, Ron, myself, Ashley and Kyle to make sure that Rea was living her best life - just as Glennon, Abby and Craig have done for their children.  

Untamed is an easy, but through provoking read.  Glennon has a journal that she is releasing in November that will be available at Merc Collective.  

If you haven’t listened yet, Glennon has a podcast - “We Can Do Hard Things” that I listen to on Spotify.  She gets deep with her Sister (Amanda) and Abby makes guest appearances from time to time. 

Link here for “Untamed” —> https://merccollective.com/collections/books/products/untamed

[1] Glennon Doyle, Untamed, (New York: Dial Press, 2020), 96

[2] Glennon Doyle, Untamed, (New York: Dial Press, 2020), 97

[3] Glennon Doyle, Untamed, (New York: Dial Press, 2020), 142