It’s a Thursday evening, at dusk.
The residential street I’m walking down is lovely. Cozy homes snuggled into hilltops. Vibrant red and yellow leaves scattered beneath cars, aside curbs.
The brick sidewalks are uneven, so my companion and I are in the middle of the road.
“I’m worried about you right now…” Annabel says playfully, as my boot laces slap the gravel.
“We’re not stopping to collect your teeth.”
“That’s fine,” I reply, stopping to tie my favorite brown boots. “We can go to the emergency room after we see Elizabeth Gilbert.”
But honestly, I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had ended up face first on that street.
The previous few weeks had been difficult. Everything that could go wrong, did. It only seemed fitting that I end up losing a few teeth as well. I don’t recall a time of more serendipitous misfortunes and experiences, of all shapes and sizes.
One of the largest of course, saved for last – getting a debilitating cold/flu the day before leaving for Asheville.
Annabel and I had been eagerly awaiting this weekend. Despite the streak of bad luck, I was like a child on Christmas Eve leading up to it. I couldn’t wait to get to Asheville High to see Elizabeth Gilbert, in person, for the first time.
Of course, I’ve seen her conduct Ted Talks, listened to her audio books. I’ve read articles authored by her, saved quotes stated by her, and have received solace in those things during challenging seasons of my life. I don’t feel like I know her per se, but I feel that I understand her.
I imagine that her inspiration, her magic is on the same mystical level as Santa Claus or Dumbledore.
Her experiences have changed so many lives. Her dedication to creativity, kindness, and self-exploration is nearly unmatched by any other individual I’ve heard of.
I didn’t care how close I got to her that night, or if I even got the chance to meet her – even being in the same room as her was enough. I was lucky enough to find out about the reading in the first place, ironically enough, during another Asheville visit with my friend Claire the month before.
From the moment I saw the flyer at Malaprop’s Bookstore in September, to the moment I arrived on that street in late October, I hadn’t had an easy go. It backed up what I laughed about with Annabel as we walked to Asheville High.
Sure, the universe would let me see Elizabeth Gilbert, but it wouldn’t make it easy.
I didn’t lose any teeth. But within minutes, Annabel and I realized we were going in the wrong direction. Alas, we finally arrived at Asheville High, secured seats on the balcony of the auditorium, and spent the next two hours listening to Liz.
The moment she walked out on stage and said hello, Annabel and I, unbeknownst to each other, got choked up.
It seems impossible to sum up everything she said. Many topics, of course, came from Big Magic – about creativity and fear.
Like a queen bestowing rare gifts, Liz also touched on additional life experiences, beyond the creativity in Big Magic. Some resonated more with me than others, and I imagine that it was the same for everyone else. I think everyone in that room walked away with a little something, a small snippet of advice or insight that they felt was just for them. A special gift from Liz.
Annabel and I spent the rest of our time in Asheville recharging. Typically, I’d be disheartened that I didn’t do or see more, but I was too tired to care. Too exhausted to hold myself up physically, let alone hold myself up to my typical sky-high travel standards.
I won’t speak to Annabel’s state, but it’s something I desperately needed. I needed to sit on a porch and just marvel at the fall foliage. I needed to play 20 questions with Annabel, which varied from what countries our co-workers should vacation to, to would you rather scenarios that made us both laugh hysterically.
I needed to lie in a hammock, and taunt Annabel, who felt sea-sick from the swaying. I needed to say “You’re not sea sick, you’re tree sick!” in a ridiculous voice. I needed her to groan at the pun, and then throw pine cones and sticks at me until she hit me.
(Well, maybe I didn’t need that, but she did it anyway.)
It kind of goes back to something Liz touched on – about being kind to yourself. She talked more about that kindness on her Facebook page today. Amongst everything she said, this stuck out to me the most:
“Even if you are lucky enough have people in your life who are kind to you, that is not quite enough. You must also practice self-kindness. Because other people’s love and sweetness is not enough to save the troubled and anxious animal who lives within you. Because nobody else (except you) can reach down into your heart as deep as it goes, and offer it the specific tenderness it most needs.”
Isn’t it funny how much harder we are on ourselves, than we’d ever be to anyone or anything else? It reminds me about how responsible I feel after I come home from a trip. I feel committed to sharing everything I did, anywhere I went, even if I don’t enjoy sharing it.
Then I always just end up posting what means the most to me, anyway. What I learned, who I saw. How it made me feel. But then I feel guilty for not being, or seeing more.
I think about all of the other writers, explorers and photographers who do it better. I feel like I should do it better. But straight from the pages of Big Magic is the realization that it doesn’t matter how much I do, or how well I do it – as long as it’s because I love it.
It’s why a weekend with Annabel, with just some good food and conversation, had the ability to restore me. It’s not something a week in a major city, or a couple days at the beach could have done. I needed quiet. I needed space. I needed to make tea in a quiet kitchen, and sit on the front porch and watch the mist roll in over the mountains.
Some self-love, and a little bit of Liz’s magic.
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