I read Eat, Pray, Love before the movie was even a “thing”. In 2006, I broke up with a boy that I had dated for a long time. Then again, as a “kid”, a long time is an inadequate measurement. But we had been dating since I was in high school. It was time.
Although it was my idea, I still wallowed for a bit. I may or may not have gotten teary at work the next day….
“We were suppppppposed to have a future.” I may or may not have wailed.
Because when you’re an “adult” (kid) and you’re still in college, “the future” seems like a long way off. (It isn’t by the way. Get a helmet.Buy some elbow pads. Wear a seatbelt.)
As usual, I found (and still find) solace in a bookstore.
Eat, Pray, Love looked at me from the nonfiction/memoir section like a lighthouse. Eat? Yeah, I like to eat. Pray? I believe it in the infinite power of prayer. Love? I love love. What else did this book have?! It was what I wanted to do! Maybe this book, this light, will help me!
It did more. It became a “go to” book. I was Liz. I was trying to figure it all out too. And although I was born an adult, I still had so many things to think about. What was I going to do with my English degree? Graduation was still a year away, but face it, I am a planner. Or, plan-her. Plan her life. Plan it and plan a back up. Just in case.
I wanted to teach. Not high school like I originally thought. No… Something else. What did I want to do? I wanted to write. I wanted to read. I wanted to teach and inspire. I wanted to live in a world of academia.
I was reading Eat, Pray, Love for the second time when I applied to grad school. And I made it.
You see, I find inspiration in women that build up others instead of tearing them down.
I often “go to” the book when I need a creative boost. When I am, for whatever reason, feeling like my path has turned into a cul de sac.
I stopped writing for myself for awhile. I focused so much on writing research papers and writing about teaching that I didn’t write anything about myself. I was hiding behind research because of a set of fear “isms” that I picked up along the way. And I’m a very.good.researcher. I am good at writing about teaching, because although it sounds arrogant, I’m good at it. And I enjoy it.
But where was I? I was telling my students to write, and teaching them how to like what they produce. Where was my writing?
So, I began writing for myself again. And what did I do? I visited Liz again. And like an old friend, but with new words, this time in the form of Big Magic, I rerouted my writing.
Elizabeth Gilbert has been a creative guiding light for a decade now.
And today, I saw her in person.
And she made me break out of my comfort zone.
I wrote letters to myself from my fear. I addressed my enchantment. I visited with my persistence. I gave myself permission and wrote to my highest creative life. And last, but ultimately most importantly, I wrote to my divinity.
I learned things about myself in three hours than I hadn’t realized in the last three decades.
There are pieces that I have written that will never see eyes that aren’t mine and the very few people that I trust implicitly. It’s not that I don’t want the pieces read, and they reflect a truth that I know is universal, but they reflect a truth that I need to write but it doesn’t need to be published.
My fear told me this today:
“I am your fear. And we both know you are a writer. You’re even a good writer. But I am here to tell you that if you write your truth about some people, they won’t like you anymore. And we both you want to be liked. If you write your truth, you might make people mad. They might be shocked at the way you see them. “
And Liz Gilbert, in her way, called me out on my crap.
So, after today, I will write my truth. If it gets in the way of someone else’s version of me, that’s fine. I can only be my one authentic self.
Anne Lamont, another writer warrior goddess says, “you own what happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
So I will write my truth. And the truth that needs to be shared, I will share. The truth that just needs to exist, will exist. And I will focus on the other parts of me that direct my creative destiny. I’ll listen to enchantment more, and I promise not to feel selfish when I take time for the work that make me, me.
If I am not wholly authentic, I’m not living the creative life that I desire.
And I deserve to life that life.
My plan, my path, is one that is shaped by my truth alone.
And like Liz said, I might lose friends. I might disappoint. And I might make people mad, but for every one person that can’t see me for who I am, two others will. And although I don’t have a very tall shadow, I can cast a lot of light.
And every time I teach memoir writing, I pull out my battered copy of Eat, Pray, Love and say, “when I was a kid, I broke up with a boy….”
And then we write.