I know that I haven’t posted a blog for a week… but I have been writing! My next book, based on Questions & Answers, perhaps with a different title, is deep in production now and I spend all hours of the day taking more Upper Dictation; asking more questions; and digging deeper into the answers given for the original book, back in 1998. So, please forgive my silence.
But I did take last Thursday off to drive over to Tampa and hear Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the wildly popular book: Eat, Pray, Love, which has now been translated into thirty languages and has sold seven million copies and counting. Can you blame me for wanting to hear her? Oprah called her a rock star author and she certainly is. But, she still acts like her natural self and is funny and very, very candid, telling stories on herself all over the place.
This was a luncheon put on by the Tampa Chamber of Commerce, called Women of Distinction, and there we all were, hundreds…maybe a thousand…of us, looking nicely polished up, standing in the book-buying line and chatting with each other in the lobby; waiting to rush in and claim a seat at one of the many round tables laden with lovely lunch. Liz Gilbert has a natural grace and beauty and she was less doozied up than many of us, but looking great on the two big screens blowing up her image, so that we in the back could see, as well.
Just as has been happening while I read along, on my second time through Eat, Pray, Love, here will come a refreshing zinger of philosophy, right out of the blue, in the middle of the funny stories. One which came out during this speech was her comment about the historical, new place that women find themselves in now. Only in the past seventy-five years, she reckons, have we been faced with real choices about what to do with our lives. Her grandmother never got conflicted about the career choice she made, while she was tending eight children on a dirt farm in the midwest and just, basically, struggling to make it through the day. Choice was never hers to begin with.
Gilbert can write authentically about being conflicted in life, because that’s what set her off on the year-long journey around the world to “find herself” at age thirty-four. That’s what makes the book so popular, and I’m sure that a great majority of her readers are women. She’s also kind of an unredeemed klutz and doesn’t mind saying so. She opened her talk with a confession about having loused up grandly on a simple flight to Santa Barbara to give a speech at the university there.
Being the good daughter of a Swedish mother, she got to the San Francisco airport four-and-a-half hours early to be sure to catch the flight, and to write her thank you letters during the wait. She sat in the proper boarding area, right near the door leading to the plane. But, got to woolgathering about a “deep” moral dilemma caused by the request of her nieces and nephews to buy them nerf guns and plenty of ammo. They had just been to a neighborhood so-much-fun party across four adjoining back yards and it was all-out war. Now, they wanted to throw a war for their friends.
Problem was, Liz’s sister is Quaker and Liz was feeling very conflicted about being the favorite aunt gun supplier here. She even mulled over the finer points of the machine gun nerf weapon, versus the hidden pocket pistol, and how much ammo was too much ammo. Meanwhile, her plane was boarding and leaving, and when she finally came to, she was alone in the silent airport seating area. Panic time! She ran around, agitating everybody, as well as the woman who was supposed to meet her at the Santa Barbara airport. No more planes flew there and the talk was set for five o’clock that very afternoon.
All she could do was run across the whole terminal and jump on a flight to L.A., requiring the poor woman to drive all the way there and get her, then drive back to Santa Barbara at some unlawful speed on those horrendous freeways. It was mighty frosty on that drive and she was half-an-hour late to her talk. She had lost her notes and her hairbrush in all the hubbub. Just another day in the life of a rock star, apparently.
Someone in our audience asked how that nerf business turned out in her family and she reported the happy ending. Her mother gave counsel and the green light to arm the kiddies, and they all had a lovely massive family War not long ago, during which her 57-year-old husband, (the famous “Felipe” of the book) thought he was James Bond and did a stunt roll from behind a tree, planning to come up shooting. He hurt his hip and still limps a little. So, she allowed as how War might be a wee bit dangerous, at that.
Here’s a woman, on her way to becoming another J.K. Rowling, and she talks about the heavy difficulty of writing her next follow-up book and being expected to repeat the phenomenon. Everyone wants more of the same, only better, and even more confirming and exciting. She spent two-and-a-half years writing a 500-page manuscript, only to realize that it wasn’t any good. It didn’t reflect her “voice,” which is one of the reasons that Eat, Pray, Love is so universally-loved.
That failed manuscript had been so very influenced by the specter of her millions of fans’ expectations and she had stiffened up in the writing of it. Her publisher had already paid for this second book and had announced its publication. Can you imagine the big pressures at such a high level of that business?
The thing was finished and it was due NOW, but she scrapped it and went out and planted vegetables for six months. Just dug in the dirt and got entirely away from writing. At last, one day, the first sentence of her new book came floating into her head and she ran inside, wrote it down, and retired to her room for three months to write the one which does contain her voice again. It will be about marriage, ironically, since that’s what had sent her over the edge at the beginning of her first book.
She and Felipe had vowed never to marry, but she said Homeland Security made them do it. So, she calls it a shotgun wedding. He is Brazilian and it probably has a lot to do with visas. She is now very happily married and has a lot to say in the appreciation of the institution. Knowing this woman’s fearlessness about saying it just like it is, I think we’ll all learn more than People Magazine could ever tell us about what goes on inside of this well-known, and highly-admired couple’s, personal life. Plus, we’ll learn a whole lot more about spirituality and confliction-resolution. Can’t wait to read Committed. That’s the first word of the new title, which used to be Weddings & Evictions, but has changed to Committed…..something or other.
She is a rock star author, with lots of blogs about her. Google her name and you will see. She’s also now “fabulously wealthy,” by her own amazed description. Another Rowling look-alike point. We all love a rags to riches story and she has invited us to come along on hers.
On October 8, just next Thursday, I will drive over to Tampa in the morning and become a member of the audience at the Women of Influence Luncheon featuring Elizabeth Gilbert as the speaker. The ticket for this event was my birthday present from my son, who knew how much I loved reading the fantastic and wonderful, very entertaining best-seller, Eat, Pray, Love, which had been a birthday present to me from my dear friend, Fawn Germer, a few years ago. If you haven’t read it yet, you are out of step, because everyone else on the planet has, by now. This is her fourth book.
So, instead of trying to decide what to wear to the event, to be attended by hundreds of swishy women…all of them Women of Influence… I am re-reading Eat, Pray, Love, just to refresh my memory. It’s surprising what you notice on a second read-through and I want to share part of it here, which I should never have forgotten reading the first time around, but I did.
Liz Gilbert is a person after my own heart and we share a certain characteristic, which I once…in my lack of exposure to other people’s autobiographies… thought was a rare occurance. That is: talking directly to God or to The Holy Spirit, as the case may be; and getting verbalized answers back. Not that strange! Not that crazy! Not that odd as a subject to admit publically in writing!
Yesssss! This will help me immensely in the writing of the manuscript I’m currently working on about my extensive Barbara Walter’s-type of interview with The Holy Spirit, a few quotations of which I have shared in this blog.
Anyone who has read Eat, Pray, Love, remembers the famous “bathroom floor scene.” Julia Roberts is currently filming this story in a movie to come out in 2011. She’ll do very well in this anguished episode where Liz is collapsed at 3 a.m. crying away in the bathroom of her new and fancy house for the 47th night in a row, because she doesn’t want to be married any more. Sort of accidentally, as a last resort, she began to pray, repeating a runaway entreaty of “Please tell me what to do”
Imagine her shock and wonder when she received a verbalized Voice in her head wisely saying, “Go back to bed, Liz.”
That became a turning point in her life, which helped her to extricate herself from an unhappy marriage and to cry her way through the speedbumps of the next three years of her life. At last, she begins her year-long journey to find herself and is in Italy, studying Italian and eating her way through the delights of Italian cooking, when her old foes, Depression and Loneliness show up to hound her. By now, she keeps a most private notebook to record her conversations with God:
“I need Your help.”
“I’m right here. What can I do for you?”
After she explains, she writes His Words in her notebook:
“I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. If you need the medication again, go ahead and take it – I will love you through that, as well. If you don’t need the medication, I will love you, too. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.”
Now, this is what I’m talking about. This is what happens to me and probably to millions of others of us who are all keeping our most private notebooks. A really and truly, constant give-and-take with the Unthinkable God or the Unthinkable Holy Spirit, Whom all of us feel must surely be far too busy and far too high to be talking directly to us about our own lives and concerns; and cheerfully available to answer any of our questions. But, I’ve been doing it, long and strong, for many, many years.
It’s time we came out of the closet! Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert for helping to regularize this claim.You stand right up there with Dr. Raymond Moody in making it okay for Near Death Experiencers to discuss what happened to them while they were (unthinkably) dead.
Though it’s not exactly on the same subject as a personal and private prayer conversation with the Almighty, here is a speech that this author made about the muse in the Creative Process, in which she deals with the subject in a very scholarly way.
I especially loved the way she described the experience of a ninety-year-old poet, whose poems had been “coming at her” since childhood. It’s the idea of an outside presence which shares the act of writing or any creative endeavor with a direct and personal involvement. Voices in the head are, apparently, much more prevalent and more important than most of us realize.
So, I continue to prepare myself to sit at the feet of this charming genius of a writer by re-reading her literary phenomenon. Plus, I already know what I’m going to wear to this swishy event. It’s my new Chico’s tunic, a birthday present from my daughter and her family.