Sunday, January 15, 2012

Elizabeth Gilbert: Thoughts on creativity... and marriage.

A friend shared this with me, and I love it.

As a side note, I never read Eat, Pray, Love, but I did read Committed (the follow-up to her freakishly successful book), and I loved it. I read it when I was first trying to define relationships and love... She gave me a ton to think about. She thought outside of the box I was raised in, which helped me to really decide what I thought and what I felt.

I find myself repeating ideas from her book often.
"There is hardly a more gracious gift that we can offer somebody than to accept them fully, to love them."
The following is a quote at the end of the chapter where she talks about Marriage and Expectations. She was interviewing the Hmong women. She asked them a ton of questions about their husbands and marriage, and they didn't understand her questions. One woman finally told her that there was no such thing as a "good husband" or a "bad husband"... There were just husbands and wives and marriages. Everything just is.
"We Americans often say that marriage is 'hard work.' I'm not sure the Hmong would understand this notion. Life is hard work, of course and WORK is very hard work - I'm quite certain they would agree with those statements - but how does marriage become hard work? Here's how: Marriage becomes hard work once you have poured the entirety of your life's expectations for happiness into the hands of one mere person. Keeping that going is hard work....
This is exactly what I myself have expected in the past from love and this is what I was now preparing to expect all over again with Felipe - that we should somehow be answerable for every aspect of each others' joy and happiness. That our very job description as spouses was to be each others' everything.
So I had always assumed, anyhow.
And so I might have gone on blithely assuming, except that my encounter with the Hmong had knocked me off course in one critical regard: For the first time in my life, it occurred to me that perhaps I was asking too much of love. Or, at least, perhaps I was asking too much of marriage. Perhaps I was loading a far heavier cargo of expectation onto the creaky old boat of matrimony than that strange vessel had ever been built to accommodate in the first place."
This second quote is a BIG one for me. WHY is marriage (and love and relationships) "hard work"?
Because we have so many expectations of what the other person should be. Because we have so many expectations of how the relationship should look. Because we want that other person to be everything for us, so we put our happiness in their hands, and they put it their happiness in ours... It's a lot of work to be responsible for someone else's happiness.

It isn't nearly as hard to be responsible for my happiness... To take care of myself... and then to just enjoy time spent with those I love. No expectations. (I always need to say the following though, because sometimes when I start telling myself not to have expectations, I think that means take whatever shit the other person dishes out... But that's not what I'm saying... There is always the ability to redefine and change the relationship, and even leave it behind if it is not a healthy place to be.)

I don't think relationships are hard work... unless the hard work is that everyday I seek to know and love myself... to learn all that I can about me... that's hard. That sucks sometimes, but it is so much easier than the "hard" I experienced in relationships in the past... Being abused and hurt and trying to control others, which in turn hurt them... THAT was hard. THAT hurt.

This wasn't exactly where I was planning on going with this post... I just really liked watching the video of Liz Gilbert, and that got me thinking about the book, and I wanted to share what I'd learned from it... I think it's way cool that I read the book years ago, and many of the thoughts she expressed have now become a part of me. That is the awesomeness of books!


  1. Many of the things that you have learned from this book and you have internalized have become a part of so many others who have had the pleasure of closely associating with you too, especially me. I know that as you grow and share the things you learn and your experiences it helps me to expand my thinking and to learn and grow in ways that I may not have ever thought of before. You are an inspiration and I appreciate your willingness to share yourself with the world. You are an example of ideal living to anyone who knows you...some of them just don't know what ideal living is. And that is the awesomeness of Jen!

  2. Wow. Thank you.
    I think that is what meant so much to me about her video... I love the idea of inspiring and lifting others... I don't want to be an international best-selling author, but I do want people to see me and feel inspired.

    I loved the idea of just showing up... and whatever else happens is not up to us.

    And it sure feels nice when others appreciate my "showing up".