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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What I'm Reading Now: Big Magic

It started with this sentence "The most important thing to understand about eudaimonia, though --about that exhilarating encounter between a human being and divine creative inspiration--is that you cannot expect it to be there for you all the time." I read it again. It struck a nerve and I got the message that I needed to hear. Until that moment, I had assumed my creativity would be lost forever, if not for the foreseeable future. 

When Emma died in April, I felt like God reached in and took half of my soul, had of my heart. I could love halfway, I could participate in life halfway. I had spent sixteen years with this little dog who was by my side 24 hours a day, I didn't know how to move forward without that part of me. Asking me to go about my day and run my company, well, you may as well have asked me to complete a successful brain surgery on someone. The days, weeks and even months after her death left me feeling dark and angry. It felt cruel to lose a little one whose only goal in life was to be my friend, to cuddle with me, to sleep with her head against mine as we slept. 

For weeks after her death, I couldn't sleep. I was so used to her snoring in my ear that without this white noise, it was impossible for me to fall into slumber.  I laid awake thinking of her, of what I could have done to save her. When I saw the first light of dawn, I fell asleep exhausted until seven or so when I got up and still felt lost. 

When you write for a living, creativity is essential but mine was lost. I felt numb and about as far from creative as possible. One afternoon I looked on my bookshelf and saw that I had purchased Elizabeth Gilbert's "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear."  I took discovering this book as a sign. At dawn on a cool morning, sipping coffee, wrapped in a blanket on the deck, I started to read.

And I read. And I read. 

Yes, Liz Gilbert's earlier book "Eat Pray Love" stirred in me wanderlust, but as I read "Big Magic," the dark space that had invaded my being was slowly starting to fill with light.  I started to understand that a person does not run on all ten cylinders every single day. There are those days when you feel "on." You know that you look good, that you're going to excel at work. Your mind is clear. Your run far during your workout without a hint of pain. It's a good day but expecting this to be your day every day, isn't realistic. Some days, you need to be gentle with yourself and settle into the realization that it will be a light day, a recovery day but then that eudamionia will strike. You will be filled with divine creativity because you opened your heart and you expected this to happen.

Creativity, whether in your personal life or your work life, is within your grasp if you surround yourself with tools for success. This may be people who support you, or a therapist or a workout that makes you feel whole or prayer. It takes work. Creativity doesn't just happen. Think about this for a moment. Any creative person, whether an artist or an author or an actor or you, has to make a choice to open yourself up to possibilities. You may have failed in the past or you may have been hurt by someone or embarrassed by your own mistakes but that's not the end. You can choose to let fear paralyze or or you can give yourself a moment to grieve for your loss and then push yourself to expect good things. 

I am just midway through this book and I'm forcing myself to read slowly, to inhale every single word. It's working. I'm writing again. The grief that had wrapped itself around my brain and my soul, like a cobra, is starting to lessen. I can breathe again. I can imagine that life is going to be good again, that good moments are ahead of me, maybe even soon. Maybe I won't go to Italy,  India or Indonesia in the near future, but for now, the fact that I am here, that I am writing again, gives me  hope that love and kindness is stronger than fear. And that is enough for now.

Liz Gilbert's "Big Magic" is available on

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