Sep 222015

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Last year I accepted a speaking engagement in Idaho. A month after we booked it, Sister called me and said: “G, Elizabeth Gilbert is going to be speaking at the Idaho event, too.”

“Oh, okay. Lovely.” I said. “Obviously — I’m not going then.”

For the next month, I strategized about how to ditch the event. Clearly, if Elizabeth Gilbert was going to be there, I couldn’t go. Because I LOVE Elizabeth Gilbert. I love her. For the past decade she has been a minister to me. She gives me permission to be fierce and bold and goofy and tender and FREE all at the same time. Plus she is just freaking brilliant. Just brilliant. I LOVE her. Obviously, I can’t MEET her. Terrifying. Too much.

It has been said: If you love something, set it free. But I say to you: If you love something — never go near it in the first place.

Neurotic folks like me will understand my reaction completely. The problem is that Sister is not neurotic, so my way of being drives her NUTS. When she loves someone, she walks towards that person and INTRODUCES HERSELF. I find this to be a ridiculous and reckless approach to life. The obvious things to do when you see someone wonderful are 1) Run away 2) Hide ’till she’s gone 3) Send her an email expressing your deep love and terrible regret that you missed her. DAMN THE LUCK!

But my heartless sister would not let me duck out of this event. So I went, scared, like always. Craig came with me to make sure I didn’t run away. It took three flights to get there and at midnight we finally arrived in a teeny little airport in Sun Valley, Idaho. We were the only flight of the night and we waited at baggage claim, exhausted and cranky and dirty and ugh. Then Craig and I stumbled over to find the hotel shuttle guy. We stood around him for a while in a semi-circle with other bleary-eyed ragamuffin travelers. I pulled out my phone to text Sister, mostly to tell her: thanks a lot for sending me to this place so tragically far from my couch that was causing me to stay up three hours past my bedtime and stand in an airport thinking about how tomorrow there is a chance I will have to figure out what to say to Elizabeth Gilbert. Thank you so much, Sister. It is important to send emails about my woe to my sister every few hours so she continually understands how hard it is to be me. For a moment, please consider how hard it is to be Sister.


Kay, back to me and my woe.

So I’m in our little semicircle texting, and I hear someone walk up and join our group. She is standing directly to the left of me. She has a very bright, warm, friendly un-exhausted voice that feels incongruous to the general mood of our cranky crew. I look up, and the person who has joined us and is standing one inch from me is Elizabeth Gilbert. She is the most Elizabeth Giberty Elizabeth Gilbert that can possibly be imagined.

She is tall (she could be 5’3″— I don’t know — tall to me) and her eyes are very, very bright and clear and there are smart black glasses over them. She is wearing no makeup and cool sneakers and comfy, snuggly clothes. Her smile is big and true and inviting. My heart drops to my feet. My first thought is: WHAT IS HAPPENING here? What is going on? Elizabeth Gilbert flew in on our PLANE? Why doesn’t Elizabeth Gilbert ride on a rocket ship?

We were all quiet. She kept smiling and said: Hi everybody, I’m Liz.

And then she looked at me because I was the one standing closest to her. AND I THOUGHT OH MY GOD I AM GOING TO HAVE TO GREET HER ON BEHALF OF OUR ENTIRE GROUP. THAT IS WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE I THINK. And so I stared at her. And then I said the following:

“You are Liz Gilbert.”

Just in case Liz didn’t know that.

It has been said: Leave no stone unturned — But I say to you: LEAVE NO MOMENT UNAWKWARD.

“Yes!” She said. “I am! What is your name?”

And the BIG MAGIC of this moment was that I was so tired and so caught off guard that I forgot to be ridiculous. I forgot to freeze. I forgot to freak out. I just let words come out of my mouth. I told her that her work is very, very important to me. Even though she hears this more often than I hear CAN I PLAY ON MY IPAD, MOM — her face made me feel like my words were an actual gift to her. She looked grateful. Then she asked me where I was from and I said “I just moved to Florida from Virginia. I always dreamed of living near the water: but then I got Lyme disease and almost died and after that I said SCREW IT, I’m living where I want to live. Feels like a woman has to almost die before she gives herself permission to live the way she wants to.”

And then Liz’s eyes got big and she said: “What did you just say?”

So I repeated myself.

And then Liz said: “That is the best thing I have ever heard.”

AND THEN I DIED A MILLION DEATHS OF JOY INSIDE. On the outside I tried to arrange my face in a manner that conveyed: THAT THING I JUST SAID — THAT OLD THING? THAT WAS NOTHING, LIZ GILBERT. I SAY THE BEST THINGS ALL THE TIME. THAT WASN’T EVEN MY BEST, BEST THING. But I kept my mouth shut tight. Because no way was I saying another word. No more things. BECAUSE I SAID SOMETHING GOOD TO LIZ GILBERT THAT SHE LIKED and so we could only go downhill from here. No more words. Shut up, G, Hush. Quit while you’re ahead.

It is so, so exhausting being me. Can you imagine? All of this is what’s happening in my head. This is why I have to go to bed so early.

So then we all climbed into the little shuttle. All the other people stayed close to Liz because why wouldn’t you? I’ll tell you why you wouldn’t. If you ALREADY PEAKED and you want to make sure you don’t screw it up. I sat as far away from Liz as possible.

And I learned a lot watching Liz Gilbert from afar:

She treats everyone exactly the same. Her fans and the other big-time speakers and the women who want to tell her their stories and the waiters serving appetizers…everyone gets respect and a bit of light and love from her. She is kind. She went out of her way to make eye contact twice with our shuttle driver and to offer a true, good thank you. None of the other people did that. Only Liz did that. That’s when I stopped worrying. That’s when I knew Liz in real life and Liz creator were one in the same. It is not always the case. It is not.

Elizabeth Gilbert & Me

Knowing and behaving like each of us is worth EXACTLY the same — of INFINITE WORTH — this is my favorite quality in a person. This is wisdom. All weekend, she sprinkled her BIG MAGIC on everybody who needed some.

Then she gave her speech. Lord, have mercy. She stood up and gave everybody permission to create. To make things that aren’t perfect and send them out into the world — because why the hell not, really? Why shouldn’t we create: we are children of God, so to co-create with God is our birthright. Her speech was an hour-long permission slip. I am not sure I breathed for an hour. You will think I’m kidding — but every ten minutes Craig would grab my hand and say: breathe, honey. And I would breathe.

Look. This is a little embarrassing, so don’t tell anyone.

I’ve told you before that I love and collect trolls, right? They are my favorite things on Earth. I keep them all over my desk to remind myself not be scared of internal trolls or internet trolls. They’re not so bad. It’s just that life is hard, especially when you are so small and have such challenging hair. Tweet: Trolls aren't so bad. It’s just that life is hard when you're small & have such challenging hair. @momastery understand.

Lately I’ve been collecting trolls that remind me of my heroes. They sit on my desk and encourage me. I have a bunch – but here are my favorites.


There’s Liz (BIG MAGIC) on the left, Brene (QUEEN B) on the right, and Me (the warrior) in the middle. See how Liz and Brene are holding my hands? I meant to send these trolls to Brene and Liz — but I feel like I need them more than they do. They never got sent.

Liz & Big Magic

Big Magic by Elizabeth GilbertLook, the point of this essay is that one of my heroes, Liz Gilbert — releases her new book BIG MAGIC today. This book is incredible. I’ve read it thrice. BIG MAGIC is a love letter to creating and creators. It’s a permission slip, the fire you need lit under your terrified tush, a pep talk from a wise, loving brilliant friend. Tweet: #BigMagic by @GilbertLiz is a love letter to creators—the fire you need lit, a pep talk from a brilliant friend.

I’m personally buying and sending out five copies of Big Magic. If you’d like one, please leave a comment answering this question: WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE YOU WERE MADE TO CREATE?



PS. This is Liz with Rob Bell, another of my faves.

Liz Gilbert & Rob Bell

I will stop now, before I scare you. I have a lot of these. For all the people. I am stopping.



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Sep 162015


Sometimes I take the girls to the Humane Society, to visit the cats. On one of our last visits, each girl was immediately drawn to a particular kitten. I had a favorite too. I secretly named her Maleficent because she was dark and regal and full of dignity. Tish, Amma, and I quietly snuggled with our favorites for a while. Then I looked at Tish and said, “Why is that one your favorite? What do you like so much about that one?”

Tish looked down at her kitten and said, “I think because she likes me. She came over and wanted to play with me.”


Then Amma said, “Me too. I like mine because she likes me. She keeps staying close to me and looking up at me.”

Amma and Kitten

Hm. I was surprised. I was expecting the girls to say: I like that she’s fluffy, I like that this one’s striped. I like that this one’s energetic. But they didn’t say that at all. They just said: I like the one that likes me.

So I looked down at Maleficent and thought, Huh. Same here. I didn’t even notice that she was regal and dignified and warm until she came over and sat with me. First, she liked me. Then, I liked her.

I really, really think the secret to being loved is to love. And the secret to being interesting is to be interested.  And the secret to having a friend is being a friend.

Why don’t we want to believe that? We insist that we need to be the smartest kitten or the most interesting kitten or the most successful kitten or the most beautiful kitten to get people’s attention. But maybe we don’t. Maybe we just have to show a little interest . Maybe the surest way to be liked by people is simply to like people.

But that’s a risk right? To openly like someone? To admit to someone: I like you. I’d like to spend time with you today. It’s to risk rejection. It’s vulnerability. It’s brave.

Be brave. Like somebody.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

Sep 102015

Originally published October 2014

This is what happened yesterday.

Yesterday morning I was sitting in my cloffice trying to write words. Every day, from 6 am – 10 am, I try to write words. Then I leave my safe, tiny cloffice and force myself—for the rest of the day—to be part of the scarier real world. This is how I avoid becoming lost forever in my mind world. That is no place to get lost forever. The real world with real people and real animals and other brutiful, terrifying real things is the place to mostly be.

Yesterday when my morning writing time was almost over, I looked at the side of our Facebook page and saw that a reader named Nicole had posted something very special. Nicole’s friend lost her baby boy, Liam, last year. October 3rd—today—is the first of his birthdays that his family will spend without him. Liam’s mama asked her friends to commemorate the day in a couple of special ways. One was a random act of kindness. The other was releasing a red balloon.

I clicked on the link to Liam. I looked at Liam’s gorgeous face and my heart ached for his mama. I immediately remembered Ansley and her precious mom and how she taught us that we need to show up in real, physical ways for those who are grieving. Turning feelings into real, physical, tangible things is important to me. When it comes to compassion, it is easy to get lost in the mind/feelings/ideas world. If I leave it there—if I just “feel sad” for someone and then try to move on, moving on becomes difficult. Sadness without any action is very sticky. I get stuck. And so I often have to take my sadness into the real world and turn that energy into something beautiful. It’s not like this for everyone, I understand, but for me it is. I need my love for others to become real—to be able to see it and touch it and hear it. Otherwise I start losing track of what’s real. I start doubting myself. Do I really love? Do I really hope? Do I really feel sad for others? Do we really all belong to each other? Yes. I know I love and I know I feel and I know we do because I did it and I saw it and I felt it and I heard it.

I have to make invisible things visible so I can keep believing in invisible things.

And so I got in my car and I went to the dollar store to try to turn my sadness into something beautiful for Liam’s mama. And I got home and after doing the beauty I wrote this and posted it.


Dear Liam’s Mom,

My name is Glennon and I’m a mama, too. Your friend, Nicole, posted something on my wall this morning that made me ache. She wrote that you lost your precious Liam last year on October 3. Nicole added that you asked your friends to perform acts of kindness or release red balloons tomorrow to mark this sacred anniversary.

After I read Nicole’s post, I drove to my local dollar store and asked the nice lady behind the counter for “a red balloon for a boy named Liam.” She went into the back and then returned and said, “we don’t have any plain red balloons left. We only have shiny red hearts back there.”

I smiled and that thing happened in my throat—you know when everything swells huge and you can’t talk and you have to swallow hard and then hold your breath for a second? I recovered quickly and said, “Of course. Perfect. I’ll take one. One shiny red heart, please.”

Then I came home and Craig looked at me funny because I was carrying Liam’s shiny red heart. So I told Craig all about your Liam, and I asked him to come outside with me to release Liam’s balloon. We stood together in our front yard and squinted into the light and watched Liam’s balloon float forever through the bright, blue sky. Craig said, “It looks like it’s dancing, doesn’t it?” 

liam's balloon

Liam’s mom, I don’t know you. But I felt your love for your boy today while I watched that red, shiny heart dance toward the sun. Feeling another mother’s pain and love in your own heart is hard magic, but it’s magic just the same. So I just wanted to say thank you for that magic today, October 2nd. Liam Eve.

Thank you, Liam’s mom. I am so, so sorry. Liam was just beautiful.



And then I went to take a shower because I’m trying to do that more often. And also because the whole thing was very, very emotional and I was trying to push the reset button. And then I came back to the computer. And underneath the post I had written there were a million comments pointing out problems with my offering. People were ANGRY for these reasons:

First of all—balloon releases are, apparently, problematic for the environment. People were upset that not only had I released one—but that my action might encourage others to do the same.

Second of all—Liam’s day was October 3rd, but I had gotten confused and done the release on October 2nd.

I sat stunned at the computer. Then I became immediately furious at everyone. I suddenly HATED everyone who cares about balloons and the environment. I suddenly HATED everyone who always knows what day it is. And I suddenly HATED everyone in the whole entire world who has ever used social media. (Embarrassment is a ship that will take you from Love, Love, Love Island to Hate, Hate, Hate island in one second flat.)

I jumped onto the comment thread and broke my only Momastery rule for myself and I STRAIGHT UP LIED. I typed, “I KNOW what day it is. I did this on October 2nd ON PURPOSE.”  Lies, Lies, Lies. When I saw this ridiculousness typed out in black and white, I realized I was out of control. I pictured Jesus covering his sweet face with his hands, peeking through his fingers down at me and uttering, “OH NO, SHE DIDN’T to the angels.

I gathered all my precious hate tight around my heart and I called Sister and started yelling things to her.

“What if Liam’s mom sees all of this controversy about her day? What if everyone hates me for releasing balloons? Why does everyone want me to be all imperfect and then when I am imperfect they want me to be perfect? How come I never know what day it is??? WHAT THE HELL IS THE THING ABOUT THE BALLOONS????? How am I supposed to know everything? I was trying to do something KIND and I screwed it all up and I can’t do this anymore. I can’t I can’t I can’t. I hate everything and everyone.”

Then I started crying, you guys. Of COURSE. And then I went for a walk and said lots of prayers, which basically just means that in rhythm with my steps I said. “Help, Help, Help me make this crap beautiful” again and again with occasional really, really bad curse words laced in between the helps.

And I heard what I ALWAYS hear when my pride is all scuffed up and my heart is darkening and I’m wanting to SHUT DOWN and retreat and lick my wounds forever. I hear: STAY OPEN. STAY OPEN. STAY OPEN.

You guys, that’s the only way to make a mess beautiful. Stay Open. To everyone and everything. All the time. Tweet: The only way to make a mess beautiful is to Stay Open. To everyone and everything. All the time. @momastery I’m absolutely convinced of this horrible truth. The good news is that I know this. The bad news is that Staying Open is the hardest thing on Earth.

Thank God We Can Do Hard Things.

So I came home and walked back into my cloffice and sat down at my computer and took a deep breath. And I clicked on one of the anti-balloon links. And there I saw pictures of baby birds and all kinds of animals that had been killed by fallen balloons. My open heart took that in. I got a little squirmy. Squirmy is how you feel when your open heart starts to get a little bigger without your expressed permission.

And I thought: Could this be an AND/BOTH situation? Could I AND the anti-balloon people be acting out of love? Could we both be doing the best we can to heal the world?

Yes, damnit. Of course that’s true. (Additionally- damnit again, for good measure.)

I’m not going to release any more balloons, ever. And I don’t hate you, anti-balloon readers. I love you. I get it. I understand. I didn’t know. We do the best we can and then when we know better we do better. (Dr. Angelou, of course)

Also, sorry about all the lying. Please forgive me. I had no idea what freaking day it was. I don’t have a calendar.

All the magic in the world happens when we undig our heels. We gotta be fluid. We gotta be more fluid. We gotta be willing to be MOVED if we want to feel moved.

Liam, in honor of you and your mama, I stayed open. I learned something new. I made some mistakes but then I tried to make my mess beautiful for you.

Originally published October 2014

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

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