Merriam-Webster defines the term “idol” as a greatly loved or admired person, which essentially sums up what Elizabeth Gilbert is to me. While I have amazing women that I look up to in my everyday life, I think that it is perfectly acceptable and expected to also resonate deeply with artists who touch our souls through their work.
My friend and I both read Eat, Pray, Love back in December 2011 and together, we fell in love with this inspirational woman. At the time, I was going through a particularly trying period in my life as I had just ended a five year relationship. My friend was also going through some heavy emotional things in her own life and so we found commonality in this memoir where Gilbert was also aboard an emotional roller coaster. Her story deeply resonated with both of us, but it was her vulnerability in sharing this story and her determination and positive attitude going forward that truly inspired us. For me, the book profoundly changed my life and it is a treasure I will hold onto forever. Just seeing it on my bookshelf gives me comfort whenever I need it because I know that our soul friendship is tucked away in those pages. So, when I found out that Liz was going on a book tour for Big Magic, I was ecstatic, especially when I saw that one of her stops was in the county next to mine. Immediately I bought two tickets before even asking my friend if she wanted to join me because I instinctively knew what her answer would be. When I text her about it later, she replied with, “Heck yeah! This is like Christmas morning!” And it totally felt like Christmas morning to me as well.
Our date was set, the tickets arrived in the mail shortly after, and this past Monday we finally got to be in that concert hall as Elizabeth Gilbert walked out onto the stage in front of us, only four rows away. Surprisingly, two other girls that my friend worked with were also going, one of whom already lives down in Miami, so she was able to get there first and she snagged a killer spot on line for us, hence the amazing fourth row seats. But I digress. When Liz came out, I felt like a blubbering madwoman. My tears of joy and gratitude and love were unstoppable. This was a moment that was put into my life for a purpose to let me know that my journey onward and upward is the right one for me. Here I was sitting a few feet away from one of my idols and the positive energy in the room was palpable. When she began talking, the first things out of her mouth were to say how self-conscious she felt about her outfit. That the dry cleaner didn’t get her clothes back to her in time so she had to wear her travel clothes. This made me laugh and appreciate this person even more because not only was she completely adorable in person, even more so than I’d ever imagined she could be, she also was entirely real now. She goes through the same annoyances in her day to day life and has insecurities like any other person and that alone is incredibly comforting and humbling. We aren’t so different after all.
Later in the talk she reflected on meeting your idols in person and how she generally doesn’t want to meet hers because she fears that in doing so she might lose the magic of who they are in her mind. Her favorite poet, Jack Gilbert (no relation), was someone that she idolized and even has a tattoo inspired by his work on her arm that says “Stubborn Gladness,” but when someone tried to tell her once that he wasn’t the man she thought he was, she shut the conversation down immediately. Damaging her soul friendship with her poet laureate wasn’t going to happen. (You can read more on Liz’s views on Jack Gilbert’s writing and the impact his work made on her life here. When I read the article, it was so amazing to see that her love for this man is exactly like my love for her. Maybe someday someone out there will feel the same way about me. What an incredibly moving thought.)
This revelation made me grateful that although I was that close to her, she still remained my personal champion because the bond we shared was an emotionally soul driven one untainted by anything else. I am sure that I would love her as much as I do now, if not more, should we ever meet officially, but I am also sure that I am completely content with things the way they are. Hearing and seeing her speak in her openly vulnerable way, seeing the charisma exude from her like beautiful golden honey dripping off the comb, it was an experience I will cherish forever. And, for the rest of my life, I can also say that I got to sing with Elizabeth Gilbert, because I did. We all did. As a giant group of like-minded women (and the five guys who were sprinkled into the mix), we belted out John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads as a farewell to an enchanting evening of big magic and love…
Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong,
Mountain mamma, take me home
Take me home, country roads
Take me home, country roads
[I was swept up in the moment so this video isn’t the best, BUT it’s still awesome to hear it.]