Elizabeth Gilbert and the Future of Hope

I have been on crutches for over two months now from a serious knee injury I have mentioned in previous posts. Ten days ago I was given the green light from my doctor to ditch the crutches and begin weight-bearing around the house.  Sadly, after 3 days the pain returned.  Instantly I went from hope to a state of despair.  How much longer will I have to endure this?

By “chance” I tuned into an episode of the OnBeing podcast called the “Future of Hope” an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, who happens to be one of my heroes.  During the interview by Pico Iyer, Gilbert speaks of how she navigated the pandemic and also the death of her life partner, Rayya from cancer.  Here are two excerpts from that interview which I needed to hear…

“if there is one thing that I, if I had the chance to do it over again, could’ve done differently, would’ve been to walk into it in a stance of surrender — arms collapsed, no clipboard, no agenda, no cherished outcome — and to have almost gone limp into it, which is not the same thing as hopelessness, but it is a very powerful stance to take in the wake of something that is bigger than you are.”

“And a friend of mine gave me a tip: to lower my standards of gratitude, to lower the bar and to catch the low-hanging fruit so that it’s not — it doesn’t have to be these huge, epic, grandiose gratitudes. The more physical they are, the more I felt it in my body. My gratitude for these slippers that I have that have an insole that you can put in the microwave and you can warm up your feet, that’s on my gratitude list almost every day. And I feel it neurologically. Even when I say it, I remember how comfortable those slippers feel, and remembering that doesn’t necessarily send me into despair over the state of the world, and it starts to kind of rewire my brain.”

Such good advice in tough times be it a pandemic, death of a loved one, or an injured knee.

Surrender

Gratitude

Every day I have to relearn those lessons.

I highly recommend listening to this episode.

Continue reading “Elizabeth Gilbert and the Future of Hope”

Reclaiming Your Spark: Elizabeth Gilbert On What to Do When You’ve Lost Your Passion

After traveling for over half of September, I have returned home to find I’ve lost my creative mojo.  It’s there but it’s not ready to come out of hiding.   Writing? Art?  I am just not motivated at the moment and despite my best efforts- it’s not happening by forcing it. After reading this piece by Elizabeth Gilbert today I’m taking a different tack.  I’m off to clean out the shop building so the right side of my brain can sort itself out.

Reprinted off Oprah.Com

201004-omag-liz-gilbert-949x534“I’ve always considered myself lucky that I do not have many passions. There’s only one pursuit that I have ever truly loved, and that pursuit is writing. This means, conveniently enough, that I never had to search for my destiny; I only had to obey it. What am I here for? No problem! I’m here to be a writer, and only a writer, from my first cigarette to my last dying day! No doubt about it! 

Except that two years ago, I completely lost my life’s one true passion, and all my certainties collapsed with it. 

Here’s what happened: After the unexpected success of Eat, Pray, Love, I diligently sat down to work on my next project—another memoir. I worked hard, as always, conducting years of research and interviews. And when I was finished, I had produced a first draft that was…awful. 

I’m not being falsely modest here. Truly, the book was crap. Worse, I couldn’t figure out why it was crap. Moreover, it was due at the publisher. 

Demoralized, I wrote a letter to my editor, admitting that I had utterly failed. He was nice about it, considering. He said, “Don’t worry. You’ll figure it out.” But I did worry, because for the first time in my life, I had absolutely no passion for writing. I was charred and dry. This was terrifyingly disorienting. I couldn’t begin to know who I was without that old, familiar fire. I felt like a cardboard cutout of myself. 

My old friend Sarah, seeing me so troubled, came to the rescue with this sage advice: “Take a break! Don’t worry about following your passion for a while. Just follow your curiosity instead.” 

She was not suggesting that I ditch my passion forever, of course, but rather that I temporarily ease off the pressure by exploring something new, some completely unrelated creative endeavor—something that I could find interesting, but with much lower emotional stakes. When passion feels so out of reach, Sarah explained, curiosity can be a calming diversion. If passion is a tower of flame, then curiosity is a modest spark—and we can almost always summon up a modest spark of interest about something. 

So what was my modest spark? Gardening, as it turned out. Following my friend’s advice, I stepped away from my writing desk and spent six months absentmindedly digging in the dirt. I had some successes (fabulous tomatoes!); I had some failures (collapsed bean poles!). None of it really mattered, though, because gardening, after all, was just my curiosity—something to keep me modestly engaged through a difficult period. (At such moments, believe me, even modest engagement can feel like a victory.) 

Then the miracle happened. Autumn came. I was pulling up the spent tomato vines when—quite suddenly, out of nowhere—I realized exactly how to fix my book. I washed my hands, returned to my desk, and within three months I’d completed the final version of Committed—a book that I now love. 

Gardening, in other words, had turned me back into a writer. 

So here’s my weird bit of advice: If you’ve lost your life’s true passion (or if you’re struggling desperately to find passion in the first place), don’t sweat it. Back off for a while. But don’t go idle, either. Just try something different, something you don’t care about so much. Why not try following mere curiosity, with its humble, roundabout magic? At the very least, it will keep you pleasantly distracted while life sorts itself out. At the very most, your curiosity may surprise you. Before you even realize what’s happening, it may have led you safely all the way home.”

 

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