Entertainment

Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach Want You to Know We Can Still Do Hard Things

Sitting down with Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach feels like taking a deep breath. Whether they’re discussing the intentional, politically driven design of separating queer existence from faith or reflecting on the “radical” act of transparency that comes along with discussing mental health, these two—both as a couple and as individuals—are devoted to candid, collective, and just storytelling. Wednesday marks one year since that devotion fueled the launch of their podcast, We Can Do Hard Things. In it, Doyle, Wambach, and Doyle’s sister Amanda (known as “Sister”) bring on guests like ALOK, Chanel Miller, Megan Rapinoe, Gabrielle Union, and Tarana Burke to tackle stories of identity, activism, sex, navigating trauma, and everything in between.

Vanity Fair chatted with the duo about the show’s evolution, vulnerability, and systemic oppression. They also give a glimpse at one of their upcoming projects: the TV adaptation of Doyle’s novel Untamed.

Vanity Fair: It’s been a year since you launched your podcast, We Can Do Hard Things. How do you feel?

Glennon Doyle: I feel really grateful. I can’t believe I get to do this with my sister and my wife, my two favorite people on Earth; from my couch, my favorite place on Earth; doing my favorite thing, exploring ideas and being a bridge between interesting human beings and my community. It’s a lot of freaking work and I take it really seriously, because it’s a big honor and privilege to tell these people’s stories. I’ve never done that before. I have only messed with myself, so it feels heavy sometimes.

Abby Wambach: You know, I was so nervous about retiring from soccer. There was so much purpose inside what I was doing. It wasn’t just about me, it was about that little girl or boy in the stands. We were activists who didn’t necessarily know it all the time. We were playing sports, but really what we were doing was revolutionary in many ways. I didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to replicate that feeling of purpose for the rest of my working life—obviously having a family and being a wife has its own sense of purpose. This year has made me understand that what I did on the soccer field gave me a platform to be able to do this work.

Doyle: Also, writing a book is very lonely for me. It’s disappearing from my life. And I finally love my life. Writing another book did not feel like what I wanted to do, and social media sure didn’t [either]. This was two years ago. It was a serious time in our country. We needed nuanced, in-depth conversations. We needed another medium where we could have more gray fixations and more immediate conversations.

And how do you decide which stories to tell?

Doyle: In the very beginning, we asked our community—we call them the pod squad—who do you want to hear from? I think we had 13,000 people on a spreadsheet from 17,000 comments. We had a treasure trove of people—from people with 10 million followers to brilliant minds with six. If you want to know how we do it, there’s a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth. I sit with [each interviewee]. I have days where I’m like, Okay, today’s the day I get to think about Chanel Miller—reading everything she’s ever said, going for a walk and only thinking about her. I feel like I’m spending a week with each person.

Wambach: I’ll walk into the room and she’ll be reading someone’s book and I’m like, “What are you doing?” And she’ll go, “Oh, I’m just hanging out with so-and-so.”

The podcast strikes a balance of being incredibly vulnerable, candid, and intimate on a very public platform. How do you exist within that fine line?

Doyle: It would feel difficult if that’s not how [our platform] was built. But I started writing right when I got sober after being lost to food and alcohol addiction for a very long time. I found the magic of recovery: We don’t have to be ashamed of anything. We can talk about all of our hard things. We live in service of others. That was how I built relationships and a career.

Wambach: It’s one of the things that was such a draw, for me, to you. I came from a world of women’s soccer. I had a bit of fame, but I didn’t really tell the world who I was, which was the downfall in my addiction to alcohol. When I met [Glennon], I learned that I actually just needed to be honest about sobriety. That’s it; that’s all I needed to be. And on the podcast, it’s still a little nerve-racking when you’re about to divulge personal information publicly.

One time, I was going to talk about my experience of walking into public restrooms and getting mistaken for a man—which happens about 95% of the time. I felt like sharing it would have been embarrassing, because it’s embarrassing in the moment. But the response that I got from people who present like me, that have had this exact experience, has made my experience walking into public restrooms completely different.

You know, I lost my father to suicide. And he was also unfaithful in my parents’ marriage. And I am vocal about it, but other people sort of trip over their words when I bring it up. But tiptoeing over your own experiences, that is more terrifying.




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