I’ve been feeling out of sorts today. Listless. Cranky. Unsettled. At first I thought it was this late summer weather. You know, heavy. Thick with moisture and regret. Sticky and uncomfortable. But no, the weather it is not. After a full day of full-on malaise I have rooted out the source of my discontent and I know exactly where to place the blame…
Elizabeth Gilbert. My friend.
Okay, that’s not true. She’s not my friend at all (although she did once respond to a post I offered on Facebook, which I thought was lovely). But she has been a big part of my life. In some ways a life-altering part of my life. Because yes, like 10 million other people I read “Eat, Pray, Love”. I romped through Rome with Liz, gobbled pizza, gained weight and practiced her “word” attraversiamo (which means “let’s cross over”) until I could almost say it like an Italian. I studied yoga, meditation and learned to calm my inner voice(s). And I still dream of Bali and ocean breezes and romantic, unexpected foreign love (my beau is British so I’m almost there). I’m also one of the seven people who bought and actually enjoyed her follow-up “Committed”. Liz’s path was so eerily similar to my own I thought perhaps she had been snooping. Not the worldwide adventure path, but the path away from an unsatisfactory marriage to a truer, more authentic life.
I was delighted to then find her on Facebook, and there she was enthusiastically interacting with fans and making us all feel like friends. Yes, I was never foolish enough to think it was just me. I just figured she was the coolest chick ever and secretly wished we could one day wine and dine with our men, toasting our mutually successful journey to new and happy lives.
And then she announced that she and Jose (the swoon-worthy Felipe in her books) were divorcing.
Excuse me Liz, but no, that is not allowed. You gave me a fucking happy ending and now you are NOT ALLOWED to take it away.
That was several months ago and yeah, I got over it. She handled her announcement with such grace and honesty, how could I be mad for long? That’s our Liz, always raising the bar for pure enlightenment until the rest of us mere mortals become midgets.
Hard to believe as this may be I got on with my life and hardly gave LG another thought.
Then there was this morning. This morning I learned that Liz’s marriage bit the bullet because she realized, in the wake of a tragic medical diagnosis (her friend’s, not hers), that she not only loved her BFF but she was in love with her. And she couldn’t bear another moment of not standing up to the world in that truth, knowing that the time left to live this love was minuscule in measurement. She was going to be brave and real and celebrate this love to the word! Her Facebook post was once again eloquent and heart-wrenching. Honest and heartfelt.
And that’s where I got messed up. Because quite honestly I don’t care if Liz (or anyone else) loves women, men or donkeys. As long as they love her back, I truly don’t care. But I took it personally anyway because I take Liz personally. The way we all take celebrities or sports star or politicians personally. They live in our faces and we feel that we know them so whatever they do, we take personally. I don’t care that dear Liz loves her friend and is now apparently a lesbian. I care that she no longer loves Jose in that happily-ever-after fairy tale that was her book. The book that changed my life and set me on a new path along with 10 or so million other women, special chicks that we are. This turn of events is one I took personally … all day long.
Until it hit me. Before I even had one single glass of wine, hard to believe I know, but it hit me. Elizabeth Gilbert did not do this TO ME. Whatever choices she has made she did it FOR HER. Her life, her love, her heart, her choice.
Seriously, who the heck was I to think I should get involved?
And then the other thing hit me. The thing about my own life and the dissolution of my own marriage over twelve years ago. And the memories flood back like it was last week and I’ll tell you I’ve spent twelve years putting those suckers to bed and their intrusion today wasn’t exactly welcome. But then again maybe it was. Because when I left my husband twelve years ago because I fell in love with another man I didn’t do it TO ANYONE. I remember my girlfriend H calling up two days later and the first words out of her mouth were “What the fuck are you doing?”. I’ve known H my whole life and that’s all I got. So I hung up on her and waited. Half an hour later she called back and said “I’m sorry”. And I replied “H, I have walked you over a thousand coals and never once judged you. Why are you now judging me?” And she answered that she just couldn’t believe it. She thought hubby and I had the best deal going. She loved coming to visit us in best-deal-land. How could I walk away from perfect? How could I do this … and the unspoken words here were TO HER?
Well honey, it looked perfect. But it was not.
Other friends chimed in in much the same way. How could you? You’re crazy. It’s a mid-life crisis. Blah blah blah …
And then one by one they ditched me. Not H bless her loyal and loving heart but many of the others just plain ditched me. Because I had upset the grand order of our (their) lives and ventured out onto a frightening and uncharted path, one which did not suit their happily-ever-after plans for us all. I did so because because I HAD TO. FOR ME. To live a lie in a “perfect” life was no longer an option. Twelve plus years later and I would choose my imperfect life over and over again because it is a life I dwell in authentically every moment of every day. And I would say to all those friends who ultimately abandoned (my) ship – I’m sorry you don’t get it. That is the only thing I’m sorry for. That you don’t get it.
My darling ex-husband is a lovely man. Probably much like Jose/Felipe is no doubt a lovely man. Even in real life. But I didn’t do what I did to B. I did what I did because I had to move forward and I could not do that with him. Mine was a journey that he would never understand, lovely as he is. And so I left FOR ME.
Obviously I have no clue what the current status of dear Liz’s relationship with her ex is. Knowing her (but I really don’t) it is loving and kind. But you never really do know how a broken heart will react, do you?
Here’s the thing. As the sun goes down on my weirdly restless day my realization is this: Liz Gilbert has done nothing TO ME. She has soldiered on fearlessly in a life that is her own and if she owes me anything (and I’m pretty sure she does not) it is simply an honest accounting of that life. And that she has provided time and time again with her genuine voice and poet’s magic. She has reminded me time and time again that her life and her choices are not mine. Mine are not hers … or yours. They are mine. And hers are hers.
And as the saying goes, until you walk a mile in my shoes …
Dearest non-friend friend Liz, I am thankfully now awake and aware. You’ve done it again, damn you (I utter gratefully). I wish you and Rayya unexpected miracles and eternal love. I wish the same for Jose (have him call me, I have a lot of awesome Canadian girlfriends).
Actually, come to think about it (because you dear Liz always make me think) – I wish the same for us all.