Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Gilbert

What do you think they have in common: Success and failure?

A few years ago I was at JFK Airport about to get on a flight, when I was approached by two women who I do not think would be insulted to hear themselves described as tiny old tough-talking Italian-American broads.

0:25 The taller one, who is like up here, she comes marching up to me, and she goes, “Honey, I gotta ask you something. You got something to do with that whole ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ thing that’s been going on lately?”

Patsy Z shared this link
TED. 4 hrs ·

How to find the courage to do what you love, even when failure is likely:

t.ted.com|By Elizabeth Gilbert

And I said, “Yes, I did.”

she smacks her friend and she goes, “See, I told you, that’s that girl. That’s that girl who wrote that book based on that movie.” (Laughter)

that’s who I am. And believe me, I’m extremely grateful to be that person, because that whole “Eat, Pray, Love” thing was a huge break for me. But it also left me in a really tricky position moving forward as an author trying to figure out how in the world I was ever going to write a book again that would ever please anybody

because I knew well in advance that all of those people who had adored “Eat, Pray, Love” were going to be incredibly disappointed in whatever I wrote next because it wasn’t going to be “Eat, Pray, Love,” and all of those people who had hated “Eat, Pray, Love” were going to be incredibly disappointed in whatever I wrote next because it would provide evidence that I still lived. 

I knew that I had no way to win, and knowing that I had no way to win made me seriously consider for a while just quitting the game and moving to the country to raise corgis. But if I had done that, if I had given up writing, I would have lost my beloved vocation, so I knew that the task was that I had to find some way to gin up the inspiration to write the next book regardless of its inevitable negative outcome.

 I had to find a way to make sure that my creativity survived its own success. And I did, in the end, find that inspiration, but I found it in the most unlikely and unexpected place. I found it in lessons that I had learned earlier in life about how creativity can survive its own failure.

just to back up and explain, the only thing I have ever wanted to be for my whole life was a writer. I wrote all through childhood, all through adolescence, by the time I was a teenager I was sending my very bad stories to The New Yorker, hoping to be discovered.

After college, I got a job as a diner waitress, kept working, kept writing, kept trying really hard to get published, and failing at it.

I failed at getting published for almost six years. So for almost six years, every single day, I had nothing but rejection letters waiting for me in my mailbox.

And it was devastating every single time, and I had to ask myself if I should just quit while I was behind and give up and spare myself this pain. But then I would find my resolve, and always in the same way, by saying, “I’m not going to quit, I’m going home.”

you have to understand that for me, going home did not mean returning to my family’s farm. For me, going home meant returning to the work of writing because writing was my home, because I loved writing more than I hated failing at writing, which is to say that I loved writing more than I loved my own ego, which is ultimately to say that I loved writing more than I loved myself. And that’s how I pushed through it.

the weird thing is that 20 years later, during the crazy ride of “Eat, Pray, Love,” I found myself identifying all over again with that unpublished young diner waitress who I used to be, thinking about her constantly, and feeling like I was her again, which made no rational sense whatsoever because our lives could not have been more different. She had failed constantly.

I had succeeded beyond my wildest expectation. We had nothing in common. Why did I suddenly feel like I was her all over again?

it was only when I was trying to unthread that, that I finally began to comprehend the strange and unlikely psychological connection in our lives between the way we experience great failure and the way we experience great success.

So think of it like this: For most of your life, you live out your existence here in the middle of the chain of human experience where everything is normal and reassuring and regular, but failure catapults you abruptly way out over here into the blinding darkness of disappointment.

Success catapults you just as abruptly but just as far way out over here into the equally blinding glare of fame and recognition and praise. And one of these fates is objectively seen by the world as bad, and the other one is objectively seen by the world as good, but your subconscious is completely incapable of discerning the difference between bad and good.

The only thing that it is capable of feeling is the absolute value of this emotional equation, the exact distance that you have been flung from yourself. And there’s a real equal danger in both cases of getting lost out there in the hinterlands of the psyche.

in both cases, it turns out that there is also the same remedy for self-restoration, and that is that you have got to find your way back home again as swiftly and smoothly as you can, and if you’re wondering what your home is, here’s a hint: Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself.

So that might be creativity, it might be family, it might be invention, adventure, faith, service, it might be raising corgis, I don’t know, your home is that thing to which you can dedicate your energies with such singular devotion that the ultimate results become inconsequential.

For me, that home has always been writing. So after the weird, disorienting success that I went through with “Eat, Pray, Love,” I realized that all I had to do was exactly the same thing that I used to have to do all the time when I was an equally disoriented failure. I had to get my ass back to work, and that’s what I did, and that’s how, in 2010, I was able to publish the dreaded follow-up to “Eat, Pray, Love.”

And you know what happened with that book? It bombed, and I was fine. Actually, I kind of felt bulletproof, because I knew that I had broken the spell and I had found my way back home to writing for the sheer devotion of it. And I stayed in my home of writing after that, and I wrote another book that just came out last year and that one was really beautifully received, which is very nice, but not my point.

My point is that I’m writing another one now, and I’ll write another book after that and another and another and another and many of them will fail, and some of them might succeed, but I will always be safe from the random hurricanes of outcome as long as I never forget where I rightfully live.

6:09 Look, I don’t know where you rightfully live, but I know that there’s something in this world that you love more than you love yourself. Something worthy, by the way, so addiction and infatuation don’t count, because we all know that those are not safe places to live. Right?

The only trick is that you’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing that you love most, and then build your house right on top of it and don’t budge from it.

And if you should someday, somehow get vaulted out of your home by either great failure or great success, then your job is to fight your way back to that home the only way that it has ever been done, by putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next.

You just do that, and keep doing that again and again and again, and I can absolutely promise you, from long personal experience in every direction, I can assure you that it’s all going to be okay

Are you feeling the Wrong emotion?

Elizabeth Gilbert.  August 16 at 4:30pm ·

Once I went to visit a therapist because I was afraid I might be a sociopath.

The reason I felt like a sociopath, is because I thought I was feeling THE WRONG EMOTION.

Specifically, my story was this: I was a 30 year-old married woman, and I was supposed to want to have a baby — because that’s what married women are supposed to want when they are 30 years old.

But I didn’t want to have a baby. The thought of having a baby filled me not with a sense of joy, but with a sense of dread.

So I figured I must be a sociopath and I went to a therapist to confirm this diagnosis.

This woman helpfully explained to me the difference between a sociopath and myself. She said, “A sociopath does not feel any human emotion. You, on the other hand, are feeling plenty of human emotion, but the problem is, you believe you are feeling THE WRONG EMOTION. “

That’s why my life was falling apart — not because I couldn’t feel, but because I couldn’t accept my true feelings as legitimate.

I was suffering and falling into depression because I still believed that there is a way that we are supposed to feel about every single life event (some sort of industry standard) and if my feelings deviated from that industry standard, then there was something deeply broken and wrong about me.

I do not believe that anymore.

We are not Dell Operating Systems, people.

We are people, people.

And we are complex and unique and there is no one way to feel.

There is a way that culture teaches you that you are supposed to feel and then there is what you are actually feeling.

And if can’t allow your true feelings to exist, because you’re trying to live within the socially acceptable feeling, then you will suffer, and you will try to cram yourself into the industry standard, or you will try to numb your true feelings with addiction or self-abuse, or you will just stop feeling anything at all (to the point that you almost DO resemble a sociopath.)

Oh, my loves, my loves, my loves…

Have you ever suffered because you believed you were feeling THE WRONG EMOTION?

For years, I have collected so many stories from friends about their experiences with THE WRONG EMOTION.

I have a friend who described her sense of grieving — acute, anguished grieving — on her wedding day.

That’s THE WRONG EMOTION! You can’t feel grief about getting married, when 300 guests are waiting to gaze at you in your very expensive Vera Wang wedding gown! WRONG!

And the shame she felt about that feeling of grief was so awful that her internal hard drive basically crashed for several years. Effectively turning her into a socially-acceptable zombie, because feeling absolutely nothing was preferable to feeling THE WRONG EMOTION.

My friend the writer Ann Patchett recently wrote a brave and gorgeous essay about the tremendous joy she felt when her father finally died. He had suffered from an awful illness for years, and when he passed away, Ann felt not just relief, but joy! Ecstatic joy!

And man, did she take some shit from the Internet for saying out loud that she was happy her father was dead, because that is THE WRONG EMOTION.

And yet that’s what Ann felt — despite, or perhaps because, of the fact that she had adored her father, and been his caregiver.

She felt joy for herself, and joy for him, because they had both reached the end of his suffering. And rather than keeping that WRONG EMOTION under wraps, she brought it out into the daylight and examined it, and talked about it openly, and shared it. Good for her. (That’s how I felt when my dad passed away on Christmas day after several years of miserable life and taking care of him at home. Actually, I was happy that mother will No longer have to constantly take care of him 24 hours a day)

I have a friend who finally said, “I hate Christmas, and I’ve always hated Christmas. I’m not doing it anymore.” WHAT?! WRONG EMOTION! (My sister is starting to hate Christmas and all kinds of holidays: All the work fall on her shoulder and no one is ready to help out in the chores)

I have a friend who doesn’t feel any regret or sadness or ambivalence about that abortion she had thirty years ago. WHAT?! WRONG EMOTION.

I have a friend who stopped reading the news or being involved in activism and politics because he finally said, “Honestly? I don’t care anymore. I just don’t!” WRONG EMOTION!

I have a friend who stopped being a deacon in her church because she finally had to admit that she couldn’t swallow her church’s teachings anymore: WRONG EMOTION!

I have a friend who told me, “You know that expression about how nobody on their deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at work’? Because family and friends are supposed to be more important than work? Well, I probably will be the one on my deathbed saying that I wish I’d spent more time at work, because I love working. I’m crazy about my job, and I love it more than anything! I wish I could work even more hours. My work fulfills me completely. I love my job more than I love my friends — and I find my job so much easier to deal with than my crazy family. Work is where I go for joy.” WHAT?! WRONG EMOTION! (Actually, people flee home and consider work an escape excuse)

I have a friend who thought she was insane because — after her husband left her — all she could feel was relief, after twenty years of a “good marriage”.

She had given everything to that marriage, and she had loved him so faithfully, and then he bailed out on her. She should have been weeping! She should have felt bitter! She should have felt shamed and betrayed and enraged!

There’s a script for how you are supposed to feel when your husband leaves you after you’ve been such a good wife, but she was deviating from the script, because all she felt was pure elation that he was gone and she was free. Her family was concerned about her for her reaction, because that’s THE WRONG EMOTION. They thought she might need to be medicated.

My mother once confessed to me that the happiest era of her life began when my sister and I finally grew up and went to college and she had an empty nest. THE WRONG EMOTION! Women are supposed to hate the empty nest!

Mothers are supposed to mourn and collapse when their children leave home. But no. My mom wanted to dance a freakin’ jig when she dropped her daughters off at college and realized that she was — at last —done with us.

All the other moms were weeping, but all my mother could feel was: “Yahoooo!” But she kept that feeling under wraps, because maternal ambivalence is the single most unacceptable emotion in our culture, and a “good mother” (whatever that even means, God help us) does NOT get to celebrate being free of her children, because: WRONG EMOTION. What would the neighbors say?

And here is the ultimate: A beloved friend of mine, years ago, was diagnosed with a terminal illness.

This man, who loved life more than anyone I have ever met, admitted to me that his first thought — when the diagnosis came — was, “Oh, thank God.” And that feeling didn’t go away over time, either, even as his disease worsened. He felt such deep happiness. He felt like, “Phew, I’m done!” He was dying! He “should” have felt sorrow and rage and pain and loss. But all he could think was that there was so much he didn’t have to worry about anymore!

He didn’t have to worry about saving for retirement anymore.

He didn’t have to figure out how to deal with his most difficult relationships anymore.

He didn’t have to worry about terrorism and global warming anymore.

He didn’t have to worry about getting the roof on the garage fixed anymore.

He didn’t even have to worry about dying anymore, because now he knew how his story would end. He was happy.

And he stayed happy, throughout the whole journey toward his death.

He told me, “Look, life is hard. Even a good life is hard, and I’ve had a very good life…but it’s hard. I’m excited that I get to leave this dinner party now. It’s been a fun party, but I’m tired. I’m ready to go.” WRONG EMOTION!

The doctors told him he was in shock, and kept handing him brochures about grieving. But my friend wasn’t in shock. Shock is when you feel nothing; my friend was feeling something —happiness!

The doctors just didn’t like it, because it was THE WRONG EMOTION. Not up to the industry standard.

But my friend was standing in his truth – his very own truth — and if sixty years of conscious and openhearted living do not entitle a good man to stand in his own truth and feel his own feelings at the end of his life, then what is life even for?

My friends, listen: I want you to learn how to feel what you are feeling — not what you think you are SUPPOSED to feel, but what you ACTUALLY feel.

And I want you to guide your own life based on that, and only that.

I want you to remove the WRONG EMOTION! button from your internal keyboard forever.

I want you to throw away the idea that there is an emotional industry standard, and that you must not deviate from it. My friend Rob Bell told me that he used to ask his therapist all the time, “Is it normal that I feel this way?”, and the therapist would always reply, “Oh, Rob…we passed normal a long time ago.”

I passed normal a long time ago, too. I will not inflict upon myself anymore the shame and suffering of questioning my own reactions to life, or burying my own true feelings because I am not feeling what I’m allegedly supposed to feel.

If I feel joy, then that joy is right and real for me.

If I feel grief, than that grief is right and real for me.

If I love someone, then that love is right and real for me.

If I feel mistrust or aversion to people I am supposed to trust and admire, then that feeling of mistrust is right and real…for me. And if I feel admiration for people I’m not supposed to admire, than that feeling of admiration is right and real…for me.

Nobody benefits when I try to make myself feel ways that I do not feel, and nobody benefits when I try to make myself NOT feel ways that I do feel…and nobody benefits when you do that, either.

Feel what you feel, allow your emotions to be legitimate, fearlessly examine your own reactions to your own life, and live your absolute truth — there is no other pathway to integrity than that.

Anything short of that is truly WRONG. (For you.)

A Happiness Jar?

Those of you who’ve followed this page for years know that I have this sacred object in my life called a HAPPINESS JAR.

Mine is a big old glass apothecary jar that I found at an antique store years ago, but the vessel itself doesn’t really matter. What matters is what’s inside of it.

Elizabeth Gilbert's photo.

Elizabeth GilbertLike Page

Every day, at the end of the day, I write down the happiest moment of my day, and I put it in the jar. It’s that easy. It takes one minute — if that.

I don’t use fancy paper or special pens; I usually just rip off the corner of a bill, and jot down the happy moment somewhere on a blank spot and throw it in the jar. (And the date? and the time of day?)

Done and done.

There is no simpler or less-demanding spiritual practice in my life than this one — when I literally take note of my gratitude for a moment in my day when things felt good, or I felt lucky, or I merely remembered that I was alive.

It’s incredible how consistently tiny and insignificant these happy moments usually are.

There don’t tend to be rock star moments — moments of glory or huge success.

They seem to be moments of tiny human connection, or an unexpected bit of humor, or the glimpse of a cardinal out of the corner of my eye, or moment of peace during a busy day.

My happiest moments are infinitesimally small, but over the years, they have caused this jar to overflow many times over

The other odd thing is, I have noticed over the years that some of my happy moments occur right in the middle of a tough or painful moments.

To be comforted by a friend when you are sad or angry can be a happy moment, right in the midst of a very bad one.

To have just five minutes to sit quietly and catch your breath during a stressful and exhausting week can be a happy moment.

To find a seat on the bus can be a happy moment.

To make the green light at that intersection where you usually have to sit in traffic for what feels like an eternity can be a happy moment.

To have the customer service representative from the bank be nice and patient with you on the phone can be a happy moment.

To have somebody bring you a cup of coffee when you’re tired and pissed off can be a happy moment. Last year, I became ill on a 10-hour flight, and it was just awful — but there was this one stewardess who was so kind to me that it made me feel safe and protected, even as I was afraid and in pain…and that was a happy moment during an otherwise really shitty day.

I have kept up the ritual of a HAPPINESS JAR ever since I returned home from my EAT PRAY LOVE journeys — as a way of doing my part to hold onto the joy and light that I found during that adventure.

When I say that happiness is a consequence of personal effort, this is kind of thing I’m talking about.

I’m talking about showing up, paying attention to the instances of good fortune in your life, putting a spotlight on the small good things, and creating a body of evidence that you are (on ALL days) brushing up against grace.

Look for it, and you’ll find it.

It doesn’t have to be huge, to be hugely important.

I keep up this practice not as protection against dark times or denial of dark times (we cannot protect against dark times or deny their existence; dark times happen, and will keep on happening) but as an act of stubborn gladness and gratitude for the strangely unfolding miracle that is my life.

If you are looking for a new ritual to begin in 2016, may I suggest this one?

It’s a hell of a lot easier than a resolution to lose a bunch of weight, or to run a marathon, or to get out of debt…but it might actually change your life a lot more than any of these other acts.

Go grab yourself a jar (or a box, or even a plastic bag from Walmart) and start today.

And for those of you who have started your own HAPPINESS JARS over the years, can you send photos of your jars, and stories of your own experiences? I love to see what you are discovering.

Have a wonderful, blessed (and yes, HAPPY) 2016, everyone!

ONWARD

Note: I wouldn’t constrain myself with only the happiest moment. Any moment that left a strong impression in my emotions is as valid. A better diary for the end of year.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2020
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