So, while I will be back soon with some new blog posts and to fill you in on the emotional skydiving adventure that was writing, directing, and performing in my own play, for now I thought I'd share some previously secret, super exciting, somewhat nerdy news.
Elizabeth Gilbert, one of my favorite authors and all around human beings, is celebrating the ten year anniversary of her best selling book Eat Pray Love with an anthology of reader written essays on how reading the book impacted their lives. Guess who is over the moon to have her essay titled "Steps" included in the book? Here's a hint: she's got curly hair, a ceaseless hunger for plantain chips, and she's typing at you right now.
Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It, published by Riverhead Books comes out in bookstores and online worldwide on March 29th, and even though the editor already sent me an advance author's copy last week (which a bleary-eyed me greedily tore into at midnight following the tech rehearsal for BIG WORK), I am going to head to a local bookstore later this month just to see it on the shelf. And maybe take a picture. Or a hundred pictures. You know, nothing too embarrassing.
My essay "Steps" focuses on the eight months I spent in bed because of debilitating back pain at the age of 26, during which time I read my weight in books and discovered Liz Gilbert and her wonderful memoir Eat Pray Love. Not too many people know about this time of my life, and writing about it felt both vulnerable and right. Having seen over a dozen doctors over the course of two years, I eventually found myself out on disability from my day job and having had to drop out of my first theatre company that I co-founded in Charlottesville, not to mention sit out from my social life. What I appreciated most about Eat Pray Love was that it wasn't inspired by a perfect life, but instead was a story that sprang from one woman's experience of suffering and her journey to joy and healing. If she had suffered alone and allowed anger to consume her, we wouldn't have the book--and all the lessons that came with it. Thankfully, Liz decided to navigate her own journey through pain by writing and sharing her story with anyone who would listen. Because of that choice, her suffering was transformed from a kind of poison into medicine. Amazing how that works.
Being bedridden for nearly eight months was one of the darkest times I've ever experienced in my life so far, but I am so grateful to have gone through it and that my own suffering did not go to waste. Out of a mess of depression, anxiety, and major financial stress came the best summer of my life when my husband and I married in my hometown, followed by our move to Boston so that I could do my Master's at Emerson. The rest is history, and I know I wouldn't be surrounded by all the amazing souls that I am had it not been for those dark days. That time in my life continues to feed me in the most unexpected of ways. For this, I still say "thank you".
This upcoming book release is a good reminder to myself that my aim in life is not to avoid suffering, but to not let it be in vain. I want to be brave enough to let myself feel despair, anger, and sadness, and from those things, keep mustering the energy to make something meaningful to share with the world. Sharing is powerful, and I feel in debt to the many brave souls who have shared their stories with me in some way. Maybe this is a small way of giving back.
I'm still waiting to hear if there's going to be a book event at a local book shop here with a few other essay contributors that live in New England, so I will keep you posted on that. I've also renewed my vow to continue working on my own book that I began a few years ago--the draft has gone from a day job memoir to a creative manifesto to something that's a mash up of both. With more daylight, unscheduled time, and warmer weather on the horizon, I'm hoping to see if I can put together a final draft of this thing I've been working on once and for all.
To read more about Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It, head over to Elizabeth Gilbert's site. There's also a recent interview that she did in People Magazine where she talks about setting aside a whole day to read the essays. I might have freaked out a bit when I read that.
What about you? Have you tried transforming a difficult time in your life into something that felt healing and meaningful? Do you have a book or film that was born out of someone's suffering that helped you to grow in some way? Share your thoughts in the comments!