“And that’s when I realized that the better part of my life had already begun.”
- Elizabeth Gilbert, “Confessions of a Seduction Addict”
I don’t even know where to begin. But I suppose I will start at the beginning as any good teacher would suggest. If I were to start at the beginning this story started in the winter of 2007. At the time I had a loved one who was in the hospital dealing with some very serious medical issues, issues of life and death actually. While unable to help her out as much as I wanted to, I tried to find ways that would entertain and comfort her. While she was far away in Connecticut, my life in New York City went on, which left me on jury duty at that moment. Yep, it’s as much fun as you think, especially during stressful times.
On my long breaks from court, I would walk around the neighborhood and often find myself in Barnes and Noble. Oh how I love a good book store! I’m the first one to admit how much I loathe most technologies (except my DVR and DLSR camera) especially when it comes to the written word, something I cherish as a writer. I am the kind of woman who loves the feel of a New York Times in one hand and a new book to read in the other. When I enter Barnes and Noble it’s as if life outside ceases to exist. I am surrounded by so much I want to take it all in. This feeling always shows up too when an order of new books arrives from Amazon.
On one particular day as I tried to focus in on what I “should” buy, I thought of my friend. Being in the hospital for long periods of time takes its toll and I wanted to alleviate that burden as much as possible. I thought a light distracting read might be in order. That was the moment that I picked up “Eat, Pray, Love”.
However my friend already had a copy. She wanted the one I purchased to be mine. Thus my fate was sealed even though I wouldn’t crack it open until the next year.
In early spring 2008 things were finally on an upswing. My loved one was well and home. We were planning a celebratory trip. It was there on a lounge chair in “the” Turks and Caicos where I met Liz. Prior to opening that book all I knew about Elizabeth Gilbert was that she was a writer who went on vacation and then wrote a book everyone in the world seemed to love. I do not typically follow the masses but I already had it and had dragged it with me on my vacation. It seemed like a good fit. I had absolutely NO idea the ride I was in for.
As the comedic acts of a water aerobics class surrounded me, I found myself heavily engrossed with my new book. I flipped through the pages faster and faster. Before I knew it I was no longer in Turks and Caicos but had been transformed to Rome, then India, and finally Bali. You cannot imagine my surprise as the sun was setting when I looked up and realized where I was versus where I had been taken.
Since that magnificent trip, both the one I was really on and the one I had been transported too, everything has changed. I was on the path of finding what my true passion was (as I had several close calls) which is when my blog came along. Since that day my blog began in 2011, I too have realized the better part of my life had begun.
This realization was magnified when I saw the movie version of “Eat, Pray, Love” (book is better, always is). When Viola Davis (congrats!) is showing Julia Roberts (aka Liz) the box of baby clothes she keeps under her bed waiting eagerly to have a child of her own, Roberts says: “I have the same thing under my bed only it is full of the places I want to travel to”. This sentence made me see a flash of my house where there are two huge plastic containers filled with folders and books of my “To Do List”. Susan Sontag said it best: “I have not been everywhere, but it’s on my list”. I couldn’t agree with her more.
Ever since the prospect of meeting Ms. Gilbert presented itself I have been staring at it on my calendar, actually for a couple of months already. I was calmly counting down the days. Since her new book, “Big Magic”, was being released she would be at Barnes and Noble to read excerpts and take some questions. This was the first day of a long book tour and to preserve her health she had previously signed books for purchase. That made me happy. I knew I had one automatically. I got there early, got my book, and took a seat. I knew it would fill up fast and I couldn’t have imagined how far back people were packed in, some even standing.
Even though Liz wasn’t posing for individual photos I wasn’t upset about it. I think a large part of that was because I felt I knew her already. In person she is amazingly funny, honest, realistic, and inspirational in such a colossal way. While technically we haven’t met she has become like a girlfriend, life coach, and mentor to me all through this book.
I think it would be great fun if she and I sat around having endless cups of coffee and glasses of wine talking about literally EVERYTHING. But then I wake up and remember I have to share her with the world. And honestly she's too amazing not to share. To say spending an hour or so in her company, in that room, was a gift is an understatement. That talk fortified what I would feel as I read this new book. It is now cemented in my mind.
Ms. Gilbert gives me strength in a soothing way. Even in her company I didn’t feel the nervousness I usually feel anticipating a celebrity meet and greet. Something was connecting us in a larger way. It was nice that the room was filled with people who felt the exact same way.
I read “Big Magic” quickly, very quickly. The only time I put it down was to highlight and flag all of the information I knew would help me pursue my creative life. It is now completely filled with these markings. I could barely read more than a page or two without flagging another great piece of advice.
Within the first few pages I felt the juices flowing. I was overcome with an urge to write unlike anything I have ever felt before. The words began to pour out of me faster than I could write them down. I almost felt like I had left my body and someone else is guiding my mind and hands. I was merely a host. Seriously who or what is writing this?
Liz has and her “Big Magic” has become my muse. Simply flipping through the pages is enough to relax me and bring a wave of calm and steady stream of writing I can’t stop, not that I want to. I feel clearer about everything. I don't know how to explain it exactly. Her talking points have opened a gateway that my mind had been blocking. It’s not that I want to be her, although I wouldn’t hate it, it’s that I want to be living my authentic life (such a popular term now) both on the inside and outside.
It has alleviated the stress of day-to-day life and now this steady stream of writing has even calmed that anxious but excited pit I feel way down deep in my stomach. It is a feeling I only get when in the midst of doing what I am passionate about. It is like I have been possessed and blessed with words at the same time. I don’t know how I haven’t broken a nail typing so fast, yet.
Sometimes this feeling can also get in the way of me sitting down to do the actual work. The high I get from the thoughts streaming in my mind go by so fast I can’t even get then down in time. Some I try to memorize but others vanish into thin air and all that I am left with is the blank page staring back at me.
“If you can’t see what I’m already getting out of this, then I’ll never be able to explain it to you…. When you do it for love, you will always do it anyhow.”
- A friend of Liz’s, an aspiring musician
My only remaining problem is that my head writes on topics that I am not ready for on the schedule. Usually I shut that down but if it’s too good I have to go with it. Hopefully then I can return to the original piece and make it even better. Unlike a novelist I am working on more than one thing at a time. As I prepare to move forward I will have to implement that way of living for longer periods of time. But I had been rusty, not inspired, and distracting myself instead of just sitting down and typing. But all at once here I am again typing away. Suddenly the TV, my phone, the world disappears so I can retreat within myself and my thoughts. My “Big Magic” moment had returned.
In this short amount of time Liz Gilbert has changed my entire world for the better. I read “Big Magic” faster than any other book ever! The guidelines she provides, as well as the examples, has liberated most of the fears that I sometimes allow to consume me thus blocking my creativity. I want to write. Writing allows me to communicate with the deep part of my soul. It is all done purely for me. These thoughts will remain so even as I choose to post and share my private world. Then it is out in the abyss and I no longer think about it. I don’t usually care what people think of my work but if I am particularly in love with a piece I hope that I have conveyed those matters properly.
Going forward I am giving myself permission to indulge in this activity much more. I will have to make time for writing and thinking in my life not unlike what I have to do when dealing with my chronic migraines. I have finally learned to take the time to heal and now I will have to make the time to work without allowing others to distract me with things I would rather be doing at the moment. I have always known that this scheduling enforcement was about due but hearing Liz confirm it has made me a believer. Like she said Tuesday night, “If I have to stand here handing out permission slips I will”. I will have to give myself permission that it is okay to take the time I need to work when I need it. For further inspiration along these lines you need to check out the poem, “Advice to Myself” by Louise Erdrich (link bolded below). That was the last thing Liz read and it is genius, of course.
If there is anything else in this world I want besides eating, praying and loving, it would be to write while living in the places that make me feel whole. It is there where I find my passion, peace, and productivity. I am living the life I am imagining while I simultaneously working towards it.
Since reading “Big Magic” I feel like an entirely new person, like the most authentic version of myself I have been in my last thirty-three years of life. The weight I previously carried has been lifted and what remains is a new outlook and a more driven passion than I have ever felt before.
Big Magic is definitely at work here to ensure that one day my manifesto will be sitting next to Elizabeth Gilbert’s on the shelf at your local Barnes and Noble. Don’t worry, I will sit for photos.
“I am fine. I am better than fine, I am free”.
For More Information:
For Even More Inspiration:
For the Beginning of My Blog:
“Thus I am writing this not only for myself but also for those who also want to follow along and know what’s what.”
“To borrow from the great travel author Patricia Shultz I have “1,000 places to see before I die.” Although I am sure by now that count is way higher.”