Like many women looking for the key to happiness and life’s answers, I read Eat, Pray, Love. It’s been some time — maybe seven years or so and I’ve not kept up with Elizabeth Gilbert and her other books since then. Frankly, I was in the mire of a different sort altogether.
I came upon her Facebook page recently and thought that might a good way to keep up with her recent writing and such. I saw her on Oprah back when the book came out and wasn’t overwhelmed by her personality. Maybe it was me not liking the truth she was telling… But I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the lessons it imparted upon me. I hit “like.”
I recently joined a “creativity” bootcamp filled with inspirational women: artists, writers, poets, photographers etc. All of us in different stages on our creative paths and lives. The primary reason I decided to join is I know the woman who created the group through blogging and my friend Shalagh urged me to join as well. I knew there would be a large Irish contingency too so I clicked “join.” One of my best clicks in a long time, I must admit. The other reason I wanted to join is I need a swift kick in the creative rear end. My blog underwent a makeover at the beginning of the year and it didn’t go very smoothly. As a result, I lost my mojo. “What am I doing here anyway?” This group and its abundance of ideas and support has pushed me over the brink.
Elizabeth Gilbert posted on Saturday that it was the birthday of her dear friend Richard who she met in India during her inspiration for Eat, Pray. Love. For those who have read the book, he is fondly remembered. Sadly he passed away five years ago but Elizabeth continues to honor him and his wise words that helped put her on her proper path. She talks about a particular morning, after a particularly tough night, that she didn’t share in the book.
“No jokes that morning from Richard. No cute Texas witticisms. Not even any teasing nicknames. I just remember how his face softened with such deep empathy, and he said, ‘Liz, what are we going to do about hard you are on yourself? What will it take for you to stop hurting yourself like this, and just forgive yourself for being human?'” This clutched me by the heart, my cold, perfectionist heart. Yes, dear, when will you stop holding yourself up to an impossible standard? No one, I repeat no one, is perfect. I often remind myself that if I ever saw into other people’s homes and lives that I would want mine all the more. We’ll take the problems we’re dealt, right?
He then said to Elizabeth, “It’s as if you won’t allow yourself to be at peace, because you don’t think you deserve it.” He said, with such sincere tenderness: “When will you begin to understand the preciousness of your own life?” Oh Richard, how did you become so wise? Or is just that we are able to see what is good for others more easily? I know I need to stop being a perfectionist. There is no such thing. Breaking myself out of that quicksand is tougher than I imagined.
Then, not five minutes later, this fantastic article by Elizabeth Gilbert was posted by two of my friends. It’s from February but singing that same tune of why do women beat themselves up? Why aren’t we doing more with our lives? The perfectionist fairy strikes again! Immediately a few of us commented with “Amens” and such but some began to doubt themselves by comparing themselves to the other achieving women in the article. It’s what we do and I won’t lie: I did the same thing. Even in a “safe place” amongst friends we wonder why we aren’t enough. I’d like to take a pledge with Elizabeth and all the women who read that article. No more judging, comparing and beating each other and ourselves up. Who’s in?
With all of this fresh in my mind I was listening to a great podcast over the weekend, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, with the fantastic Carol Burnett. She talks about her famous show and how she and her husband Joe were both “in charge” (co-producers) but when Alec asks if she really was in charge, “You’re a woman. It’s your show. Were you treated the way you wanted to be treated? Or was it yeah, yeah, honey, put Joe on the phone?” Burnett immediately answered, “That’s about right.” She often played down that role by being self deprecating to her writers, “You know guys, I’m not doing this too well. Can you help me out with a different line here.” Not like Jackie Gleason and Sid Caesar, “I would have been a bitch.” How far have we really come along? How many women worry about this today?
I’m going to try to remember this the next time (could be later this afternoon) I’m beating myself up for something. And I’m not going to stand down when I have an opinion or something to say. You know that! I hope you do too. We are quite precious, you know.