Category Archives: Creativity

Eat, Pray, Love

One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia
By Elizabeth Gilbert
@2006, 12 hours, 49 minutes.
Audible version read by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Back in 2008 a coworker said, “You really gotta read this book!” She described it to me fairly accurately, and I didn’t think it would be for me. I didn’t want to read about some blond lady’s spiritual journey. I didn’t want to read about her travels across Italy, India, and Indonesia. Eating? I was on a diet!

So it’s fair to say it took me a little time to get around to this book, but it kept showing up here and there. People kept trying to give it to me. And I don’t really know what my problem was. It seemed, well, so “girly.”

The first book by Elizabeth Gilbert I “read” was her Audible version of Big Magic, and I probably would not have listened to that if it hadn’t been for her 2009 TED Talk on Creativity (which hit me like a ton of bricks) and yet another coworker sending me her podcast on Magic Lessons.

OK already, I’ll read your damn book!

Which wasn’t too bad. You know, I liked it. I like Liz’s openness to well, everything. Liz is engaging and interesting and sweet and supportive. You get the feeling that she’s the kind of person people seek out—all the time. Like she never has a free Saturday night. And this puts me off a little. It’s my issue, not hers.

She begins her book talking about how many people she’s going to offend by discussing her search for spirituality and healing, and I get that. I can easily think of people in my own life who would be terribly offended by this book. Liz looks for God on her own terms. She isn’t too sure about marriage or having children. She wants to claim space for her creativity, her own writing. She puts the breaks on her life and focuses completely on herself.

My mother-in-law would hate this book. In fact, she hates all books except for the Bible. If you’re reading a book that isn’t the Bible, there’s something wrong with you. If you can relate to my mother-in-law on the topic of books, Eat, Pray, Love may not be for you—-and, of course, you should definitely read it.

I’m not so easily offended. People can believe things radically different from what I believe, and it doesn’t upset me at all. I just think, hmm, that’s interesting. Wonder how they came to that conclusion? Liz does talk about one thing that I think, gee, why Liz? Why did you want to talk about that. TMI. TMI!

That said, Liz has a great reading voice. I think this book was probably better listened to than read.

So, yes. This was an interesting book. Liz’s problems are not my problems, though, so I wasn’t saying, oh yes, I really get you. Rather I marvel at this woman’s life. I marvel at her success and her freedom. I marvel at her ability to travel and her ability to pursue her dream because my dream has always seemed so hard to pursue. The small issue of money has always presented a barrier to me. I am only just conquering it, and even as I say this I’m not terribly sure that’s true. I mean “future me” probably is going to hate “past” and “present” me.

But Eat, Pray, Love. Should you read it? Yes, I think so. I think it is an important book of our time. I think it taps into women’s issues and gives a picture of the female condition that is very accurate for a large number of people. I think it’s historically and culturally significant.

Plus, Liz’s contemplation of meditation and yoga is very interesting. Yoga and meditation are becoming more important to me lately. My husband got some really bad news back from a test the other day. His ability to concentrate was judged to be under the 20th percentile with his working verbal memory measured just above the 1 percentile. So yes, I’m talking a range from 1 to 100. Does this mean dementia? We still do not know. But it does confirm brain damage. Well, duh. The 40 plus lesions on his MRI told us that. I mean really, what do we pay these doctors for?

But—I digress.

The point is this. Meditation could help my husband improve his cognitive function as long as he doesn’t have dementia. It can help with focus and concentration. Meditation is simple the practice of focusing your attention, of paying attention to what’s happening, right now. The act of bringing your mind back once it starts wandering is like lifting a weight and your ability to control your mind becomes stronger just as weight training makes your muscles stronger.

And as Liz discusses, there are all kinds of ways to do it because meditation has been explored by ancient cultures like India for a very long time. And by a long time, I mean for more than five thousand years. These cultures have the information, in other words.

Liz’s accounts of her heartaches rang true, but her account of her love story in Bali, while I get her excitement, seemed like she was holding back. So I think Liz nailed the “Eat” part of her story as well as the “Pray” part. But the “Love” part, I think she didn’t quite do it. I felt empathy. I felt relaxation. I felt her peacefulness. But I didn’t feel love. Love being a very complicated topic indeed.

Liz laments constantly: was Eat, Pray, Love her greatest work? Is her best work behind her?

Here’s my advice to her. Explore the concept of “love” and I mean this exploration to go beyond the Western one-word “love.” Explore love in Greek terms. Explore love in Middle Eastern terms.

As if I should be giving advice to Liz Gilbert! I should be giving advice to myself! Where’s my advice? Where’s my journey?

But alas, I have a gift for seeing what others must do, and Liz, your best work is not behind you. Best work does not equal most recognized work. Is your most recognized work behind you? Well, that’s anyone’s guess.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

By Elizabeth Gilbert, @ 2015; Audiobook read by the author,

I’ll just cut to the chase. I loved this book. I can think of four people I want to buy it for, and I want to re-listen to is as soon as possible. Yes, it was that good.

That said. I’m totally freaked out,and I’m sitting here at 1 a.m. on a worknight eating cheese and drinking a leftover green drink made of spinach, kale, and other assorted goodies.

I loved the idea of living the creative life and of the blurring of the sacred and profane and of the trickster and of embracing curiosity when inspiration flags. I love it all. And I love that living the creative life is enough and the goal, not recognition or publication or any other of the other ego-gratifying things we tend to aspire to. I love the idea that this is all about feeding the soul. Yes. Yes. Yes.

That said. I’m totally thinking about eating more cheese. Totally. What’s wrong with me?

The election? The violence? The media? The news in general? My husband’s brain? Or his doctor, who I really like, but who is starting to seem like any other doctor. He actually asked me if I read. Really? Or is it the recent development that my therapist is leaving for Thailand and Vietnam to pursue “my dream” of travel and teaching ESL? While she tells me that I’m not stuck and that I have choices.

I’m sitting here literally cringing. Awake. Unable to think or to sleep. I’m supposed to see a lawyer tomorrow about advanced directives.

My husband seems to be doing better in some ways. He’s controlling his anger. He doesn’t seem as violent. I think this is because he’s started taking pottery classes. His doctor thinks it’s because he’s started taking Alka Calm. Regardless, I welcome the change. He’s still in his own world. He’s sweeter, but still distant. He wants to buy buy buy, and has no realization of what things cost or of trade offs. And I’m feeling so unequipped to deal with any of it. My life has turned on its head.

But speaking of creativity. Music has exploded for me. I just sit down at the keyboard and play, almost without thinking. My thinking is directional and spatial, but nonspecific. I don’t think in terms of notes and now, not even in terms of chords. However to expand on my creativity, I bring my focus back to chords and how I might alter them slightly. Rhythm isn’t my strong suit at the moment. And everything I play sounds classical. Ideally, I’d like it to sound Cuban. Planning to work on that.

Elizabeth Gilbert says that her way of coaxing creativity applies to everything, not just writing, but even scientific discovery. And I’ve been having these crazy ideas that match her description of inspiration, but around neuroscience, and I think wow, is this idea asking me to bring it into the world? Me? I’m not a scientist. But then I think I’m not doing science, merely reviewing literature and noticing patterns, which then lead me to questions. And then I think I know people who could help me if I need it. I know chemists and physicians and microbiologists. I have a collection of friends who speak languages that span the entire globe. There’s a rag tag team there waiting to be created and interrogated. If only I didn’t want to run away so very badly. Bali sounds nice this time of life.

Gilbert says that when an idea confronts you, you can say yes or no. She proposes that ideas roam the earth looking for humans to bring them out of the ether. It’s magical thinking. And while my sense of logic dismisses magical thinking, I also wonder if it’s merely the terminology that is throwing me and it’s simply a mystery we don’t understand. Why not embrace it?

Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert. Thank you for such an excellent book and for bringing this great idea into the world. Thank you. And now I will have to go and think about all this for a while and perhaps I’ll start drawing brains and tau proteins and tangles and microtubules and such. And maybe it won’t come to anything, but the act of doing it will be interesting, and diverting, and maybe I won’t have to move to Bali, or maybe, just maybe, I’ll set forth a plan to do just that.