Earlier in the week I was certain that the title of this post was going to be “Do You Believe in Magic?” Can you hear it? Do you have the song in your head yet? How about now?
Do you believe in magic?
In a young girls heart
How the music can free her
whenever it starts
And it’s magic
if the music is groovy
It makes you feel happy like an old time movie
I’ll tell ya about the magic
It’ll free your soul
but it’s like trying to tell a stranger ’bout rock n roll
You can thank John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful for those lyrics and me for the fact that you will now be singing that song for the rest of the day…
The idea had come to me as I drove to work thinking about my last post anxiously awaiting the next moment of inspiration to drop by and say hello. I had planned to write about this concept of magic and creativity or as Elizabeth Gilbert refers to it – “Big Magic.” I am halfway through her latest book titled, conveniently enough, Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear. In this book, Gilbert explains her theory, her idea as to where inspiration comes from. I won’t give away the details – you must buy the book. Trust me. If you have any sort of creative pull at your heart or deep in your gut (which we ALL do by the way, just manifested in different forms) – you should buy her book. Not only should you buy it, but you should read it. Simply put, it in itself, is magic.
My thoughts then turned to the author herself as I think SHE is magic and a huge source of inspiration to myself and many others. I learned of Elizabeth Gilbert about five years ago as I watched the movie Eat, Pray, Love for the first time. A movie, I knew absolutely nothing about, that I decided to watch one Saturday night at home because one of my most favorite actresses, Julia Roberts, played the lead role. Needless to say I loved the movie. Then I learned that the movie was based on a memoir by none other than Elizabeth Gilbert. Huh. I was intrigued and had to discover for myself just who this Elizabeth Gilbert was.
So, I did what anyone does when they want to learn more about someone. I googled her. I went straight to Wikipedia to learn all I could about this woman who left a marriage that wasn’t working, ate and drank her way through Italy, prayed and meditated her way out of India only to end up falling in love in Bali. I was in awe of her. Of her courage and her strengths and her weaknesses. Her determination to not only to push on for her own personal truths but then to turn around and share it with us, the entire world. Wow. I bought the book Eat, Pray, Love. I read the book Eat, Pray, Love. What a gift.
Fast forward two years or so to when I received yet another gift from Gilbert. I actually met her. She signed three books for me. But the signed books weren’t the gift. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely treasure these autographed books, but the gift I received that day I have no physical record of. Only a memory – a moment of time – a moment of inspiration.
Late one summer afternoon, I drove from the office where I work in the suburbs of Chicago to a Milwaukee bookstore where Gilbert would be speaking about her latest release at that time, The Signature of All Things. I had to go. I was tired. It had been a long day. But I had to go. The little voice inside my head demanded it – you must go. You must absolutely go and see this fascinating woman and author. So I listened to the voice and I went.
I arrived just as the event was beginning. The room was packed – not a seat to be found. “Great,” I thought to myself, “where in the hell am I going to sit.” I found a seat on the floor off to the side and rested against a bookcase. The room was full of mostly women and some men holding their copies of her books in their laps watching and listening in a manner much like my boys do when something fast and loud and violent (think Lord of the Rings battle scene) comes on television. I sat and watched – she was so gracious and poised and funny and kind. Sitting there, on the floor off to the side resting against a bookcase, I couldn’t help but think of the scene in Eat, Pray, Love where she is lying on her bathroom floor basically paralyzed in sadness and despair speaking to God for the first time. “Is this really the same person,” I thought, “Do the people in this audience even realize that this person they are here for was at one point in the not too distant past lying on her bathroom floor asking God for help?” To me, it seemed to be a moment of such raw intimacy. The level of detail that she had shared with her readers led to this profound moment of realness. It still kind of blows my mind when I think of it today.
After the talk, the crowd stood in line for book signing. Most women were there with girlfriends or sisters or neighbors – or at least appeared to be as they chatted with one another while waiting in line. I was there by myself, not chatting with anyone, feeling quite alone in my world. It just so happened, that at that time, I was in the midst of my own personal crisis, lying on my bathroom floor at night begging God for help. For direction. For anything. As I stood by myself in line, I decided I wanted to tell Liz thank you. Seeing as I was standing in line at a book store and did not have a proper thank you note, I took a business card from my purse, flipped it over and wrote something like “thank you” on the back. When it was my turn, I apologized as I handed her three books because I thought asking her to sign three was too much. She replied with a laugh and said that there was no need to apologize for buying her books. She finished signing the third and as she slid the book on the table toward me I slid the business card toward her and said something like “I just wanted to give you this.” I just wanted to thank her. Thank her for sharing her story in Eat, Pray, Love. Because that story made me feel less crazy. It made me feel that I wasn’t wrong for second guessing the path my life was on, especially when my life appeared to be somewhat “perfect” to those on the outside. Whatever the hell that means. It made me feel that it was okay to stop – right in the middle of my life – and question everything around me. She looked at the card – then up at me. And very much to my surprise she stood up and asked, “Can I give you a hug?” I nodded yes, not able to speak as my eyes welled with tears. She reached across the table, she wrapped her arms around my shoulders and said, “You take care of yourself.” I cried the entire walk to my car. I cried as I sat in my car. And I mean I cried. The type of cry that leaves your eyes swollen and heavy and you exhausted yet relieved. She saw me. And by me, I mean the doubt and sadness and anxiety and fear that was consuming my being during that time. That was the gift. She saw me. That damn voice in my head knew what it was talking about all along. It always has.
Now two years post questioning it all, analyzing this and that, tearing apart preconceived notions, and breaking down those parts of myself that were so badly in need of attention, I find myself receiving new gifts from Gilbert in the form of magic. The magic that she speaks of in her new book, realizing that this magic has always been with me, calling me my entire life. I’ve never quite known how to describe it or put it into words – those ideas that float in and out of my head and heart. But she did it, she put it into words. Words that have not only inspired me but have made me believe that I can and deserve to pursue the creative side of life. Did you read that? Did you read what I wrote? I believe not only that I can do it, but I believe that I deserve it. And guess what my friends, so do you.
So go forth and find your magic. And, Liz, once again – I thank you. For what it’s worth.