A few weeks ago, after back-to-back meetings in Manhattan, I found myself book emporium Barnes & Nobel in Union Square waiting in line for the cashier and clutching Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. As I handed the book selling stranger a fistful of dollars she smiled at me. Catching my eye as I reached across the counter to collect a few cents change, she placed her hand on mine and whispered in a soft New York accent ‘Trust me, you’re not stuck in eternal winter’. We stared at each other, her kind eyes looking into my tear filled ones, in a moment of silent solidarity.
I remember the publication of this seminal quarter-life memoir, sometime in the early 2000s and the insurmountable press coverage ricocheting it’s author to literary cult status. It became a word-of-mouth best seller, passed from woman to woman like the secret of life. One woman’s search for everything struck a chord with millions. Although i’d heard only great things about the true tale of Elizabeth Gilbert i’d never felt the desire to read it or to watch the film starring Hollywood royalty. I mean what did I have in common with a thirty-something woman who on the surface had it all – the career, the social life, a world of opportunity – yet still had a lingering feeling of ‘what’s this all for?’
Fast forward to current day New York and realising i’d become a cliche. *Insert eye roll emoji here.*
There is something truly disorientating about not being able to harness your emotions. I thought I knew myself well, yet life shocks had made me hesitant about a whole host of things. There was my life as it looked on the outside and actuality what was going on in my head. You really can’t run away from what’s going on inside. I’m someone who has always used my feelings as a compass for living but now my feelings were confused what was I supposed to do?
When I prayed to the Universe to bless me with a Carrie Bradshaw-esque life – Manhattan adventures, a creative career path, professional recognition, unbreakable friendships – I never in a million years thought when I actually achieved it all, it would be quite so literal. The Universe had granted me all of my wishes AND Carrie Bradshaw style heartbreak. I should have thought it through more and been specifically selective. Lesson learnt!
I guess a bit of trouble is the side effect of a fun life?
Never one to waste an opportunity, even a great crisis, I realised I needed to put my heartbreak on ice and to invest in my life while I still cared about it. ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ would be my starting point. Surely if the book resonated with so many women it would resonate with me? I figured it couldn’t do any harm. As I walked down a freezing cold 6th Avenue from Union Square, through Greenwich Village and into SoHo, a host of prayer shaped questions swirled around my head and I knew there would be no happiness without action.
I retreated from the clamour of city life in Sanctuary T and started reading. The opening pages had me gripped immediately. Elizabeth’s unashamed honesty about love, loss, healing and self-discovery gave my own heartbreak, which was dangerously simmering below the surface 24/7, a welcome distraction. Reading about her story made me think less about my own.
Elizabeth’s global galavanting is a lesson in the necessity of bravery, courage and most importantly action. Her ultra personal writing snapped me out of survival mode and into first gear. She made me see I didn’t need to have it all figured out to move forward. I simply needed to make a move in the direction I thought was forwardness. I needed to learn what would fix me. It was right there and then, in New York, the city which holds much of my history, I realised I can’t control my life, only shepherd it. The uncertainty is part of the fun. I rediscovered a glimmer of light, snatched my power back and the game began to change. Life wasn’t going to change so I needed to.
I have always believed in some kind of higher power even though i’m very uncertain about who or what this is. This belief gives me a a sense of hope and freedom to keep hoping and dreaming even when I don’t see the result immediately. I held this idea tightly on that cosy dark evening Sanctuary T, while all of New York lived around me. I was grappling with the idea of sliding doors and the concept of multiple lives. Logically I know there is a time when all of this will be a distant memory but right in that moment in New York, the place where i’d always felt most alive, I didn’t feel most alive at all and everything felt painfully present. I needed to follow Elizabeth’s lead and trust the healing process, even when it was lonely, drawn-out, uncomfortable and awkward.
The honesty of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ made me take an honest look at my life. I slowed down and tuned into what was actually happening. I was beginning to have faith in the idea that one day this struggle would all make sense. It dawned on me my life was genuinely thriving and although I was sad and disappointed I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, I was working hard and creating so much beauty and success in the space left behind from heartache. I wasn’t letting my emotions overpower my intelligence. I’ve learnt from past life tests and trials is best to get a grip of yourself, on your own, without the reliance of anyone else. Life is a constant process and no matter how many times you feel you get it together, it drifts again. The thing is the come back is always stronger than the set back. It’s forever ‘deja new’.
I began to wake up curious about my life and to trust in what I love and continue to do it so it will take me to where I need to go. The journey is so far turning out to be amazing, exhausting, emotional, transformative and above all life changing. You really do find yourself when you’re in the grief of heartbreak.
I’ve discovered when you love life, it loves you back. No life is only made of ups but rock bottoms will teach you far more than mountain tops ever will. When things don’t go as expected, trust the reroute. Some of the best days of your life haven’t happened yet, such a divine thought.
There is one thing i’m certain of, you don’t find a happy life, you create it.