The Shifting Definition of Megan Griswold

10 Feb 2021

Writer, designer, entrepreneur — take your pick — Megan’s labels are ever-changing

Winter 2020/2021

Written By: Molly Absolon | Images: Lara Agnew

It’s hard to describe Megan Griswold. What you can say is that she is an experimenter whose life has taken many directions.

She lives in an off-the-grid yurt with Carrara marble countertops because she wanted to see if she could make an affordable dwelling stylish. She’s a fan of extreme athlete Wim Hof (who’s known for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures), so she swims in the Gros Ventre River or bathes in 40 pounds of ice daily. She fasts annually, up to 21 days at a time, to reset her immune system and wears platform sneakers to chop wood. Her design work has been featured in Architectural Digest, she has written a critically acclaimed memoir, and she holds countless degrees and advanced trainings — including a master’s from Yale, a license in acupuncture, and certifications as a doula and personal trainer. She’s funny, smart, talented, and maybe a little eccentric. “It’s not that I don’t want to fit in, but I’m more interested in exploring what I find compelling,” Megan says. “Why shouldn’t you exercise in a ridiculous outfit in the middle of nowhere? If I think it’s funny, I might try it.” And try it she did. Posed on the deck of her yurt in Kelly, she filmed herself performing a routine of leg lifts choreographed by Tracy Anderson, fitness guru to the stars, while wearing in a glittering one-piece disco suit, oversized sunglasses, and a beehive hairdo. The video caught the attention of a Tracy Anderson book club and led to Megan leading a virtual discussion with more than 100 fans. It’s the kind of unexpected twist most of us never experience, but it’s pretty normal for Megan. She sees storytelling — which includes sharing her own and listening to the stories of others — as the thread that weaves her varied career together. “When I worked for NPR in grad school,” Megan says, “I got scolded for my questions being too personal, for being too curious.” So, Megan followed that curiosity into five-element acupuncture, a subset of traditional Chinese medicine. Five-element treatments begin with an in-depth interview, where Megan found she could ask all the nosy questions she wanted. She also learned to observe her patients, taking note of their color, sound, odor, and the emotion in their voice. The information she gathered hinted at who the person was, what was going on with their body and mind, where there might be imbalance, and how she might help. "It’s not that I don’t want to fit in, but I’m more interested in exploring what I find compelling." Megan Griswold That same kind of detective work now informs her career as an author. The shift from acupuncture to writing was a dramatic career change that came about because of what Megan calls a “life blow up.” In this case, that “blow up” was her mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. “Whatever the challenge — a marital crisis, a life-altering diagnosis — it’s an opportunity to ask both what can I do here, and how do I really want to proceed? When my mother got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it became clear to me, as poignant as it was, she wasn’t going to remember what I did or didn’t do in the world. As much as I missed her, my choices felt very much my own.” And what she chose to do was write a book; to make a literary collage of her interests and experiments in hopes of helping fellow travelers through their own challenges. Megan’s memoir, The Book of Help: A Memoir of Remedies, came out in 2019, with a paperback edition released in 2020. The Los Angeles Times bestseller is an insightful romp through the world of self-help that kicks off with the night of her ex-husband’s arrest, although Megan’s journey began years before that pivotal event. She grew up in a quasi-New Age home and, at age 7, asked Santa Claus for a mantra (she says he complied). Since then, she guesses she has had 15,000 hours of spiritual experimentation, which provided the basis of her book. It’s funny, sad, and brutally honest. It also took 10 years to write — and in that time, Megan paid the bills with design work and an Airbnb business, like the true jack-of-all-trades that she is. These days, she’s at work on her second book — and likely dreaming up a few self-reinventions along the way.
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