happiness after loss, from "eat pray love" author, elizabeth gilbert


Traveling for Microsoft in the 2000's, there was a long period that I couldn't take a flight without seeing at least half of the female passengers on my flight carrying Elizabeth Gilbert's book, "Eat Pray Love." This book seemed to touch something in people. It created a powerful movement as well as a film. Liz Gilbert's experience in changing what didn't work in her life, set people off on their own experiences changing their lives. Mine included. When you feel lost, you need a North Star. For many people it was Elizabeth Gilbert.

Since "Eat Pray Love," a lot has happened in Liz Gilbert's life. She's written several other books, including "Big Magic" and she recently changed gave up what wasn't working in her life in several areas and embraced what did work. She dove headfirst into love love love. Last week, she did a Facebook Live chat about her book "Big Magic." I happened to be online at the same time. I asked her a question:

How do you choose happiness when you've lost your happy? Do you still believe in happiness when you've felt loss?

Here is what she responded:


Well, I must have ‘cause I stayed. I was actually thinking about this the other day. I was looking-I was with a friend who was packing up her house.  We were reading her old journals. She’s really happy. I think of her as a really happy person. She was just reading through those journals that we have all had in various times of our life and she was saying “Happinness is a treasure that apparently will be eluding me for my entire life.” Apparently I am not going to be receiving that. Apparently it’s not for me and I said to her “But you must not have believed that because you’re still here. You stayed. Why did you stay? You could have left. People leave. You know? Why did you stay? Because something in you, some stubborn deep deep rooted kind of beyond reality sense of yourself was like “unh, unh.’ This is the suck that I am in right now but this cannot be how it is always going to be. You don’t know how you’re going to get from where you are to where you need to be but there is something in you that must believe that because you are still here. Otherwise there would be no reason to say. 

I think that Rob Bell puts it really well, my friend Rob Bell says, his definition of despair is “The mistaken idea that tomorrow is going to be exactly the same as today." When you start to believe that, that is when you fall into despair. When you start to think none of this is ever going to change that tomorrow I’m going to wake up it’s going to be just like this and a month from now it’s going to be just like this and ten years from now it’s going to just like this when all evidence, literally every single molecule of evidence in the universe points to the fact that everything is changing constantly. There is no such thing as tomorrow is going to be the same as today. It doesn’t exist. You’re not going to be exactly the same as today. Five years from now every single cell in your body will be replaced by different cells. You’ll be a totally new organism. The seasons change, the thing’s turning, the whole thing is churning. If you can sort of tap into this idea of paying attention to change and seeing how it’s happening all  around you and being willing to take the risk to step into the river of change that’s the only thing that will take you out of despair.

So, how did I believe it when I was in the suck? I both did and did not believe that my life was going to get better but the part of me that did believe believe it, believed  I guess a little harder than the part of me that was certain that tomorrow was going to be exactly the same as today. So, I would say that you somehow shake that myth. It’s not true. It simply is not true. Look outside. The wind is blowing. Leaves are moving. Everything is moving. This moment is over now. Boom. There is another one and with every new moment comes the possibility of change if you are willing to participate in it.

The suck doesn't stay. As deep into the darkest place of loss as you are, as impossible as it seems that this hard period will end, it does end. It may take awhile to move through the muck. You may need someone to extend that hand that pulls you out of the hole that keeps sucking you back in, but you get out. You get past it. You find your balance again and then maybe you tiptoe towards your life again. Maybe you sprint. The thing is, your propel forward. You just have to understand that you WILL find your happy again. It won't be the exact same happy, but one day you will find yourself smiling and then laughing and then you will know that you are fully out of that dark place.The happy? It comes back. It does. It may sneak back into your life when you least expect it but it comes.You just have to believe that it will.

Elizabeth Gilbert on Twitter and Facebook.