Elizabeth Gilbert at the YWCA’s Inspire Luncheon

Elizabeth Gilbert and Jean Enersen at the VIP Reception

Elizabeth Gilbert and Jean Enersen at the VIP Reception

You do not need to be wealthy to be a benefactor.
Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert was in Everett, WA for the YWCA’s Inspire luncheon on May 9, 2013. It was just two days after my surgery, and I was extraordinarily fortunate and blessed to be able to attend the VIP Reception and the luncheon.  Ms. Gilbert is a patron of our YWCA and raised more than $500,000 when she was here in 2010.

At the VIP Reception, she chatted with KING5’s Jean Enersen and shared the backstory on Eat, Pray, Love which she characterized as a quest to transform her own life.  Ms. Gilbert married young despite feelings of doubt and ambivalence.  She stepped into a role that looked good to the outside world, but she was falling apart inside.  Her pain manifested in physical symptoms which were signposts that her marriage was in trouble.

She and her ex-husband, Michael Cooper, had planned to have children when she reached age 30.  It was a deal-breaker for Mr. Cooper, but Ms. Gilbert once again felt ambivalent.  It wasn’t a great way to become a mother.  But, how do you get out?  She soon discovered that it is impossible to transform your life without consequences.  During their two-year-long divorce process, she contemplated suicide.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Talents that are unused become burdens and metastasize.
– Elizabeth Gilbert

Joseph Campbell popularized the ancient concept of a hero’s journey.  The hero’s quest begins with a dark night of the soul.  Once the hero crosses the threshold, there is no turning back.  The hero must move forward.  Heroes’ journeys are the stories of humanity which have always been for and about men.  Women get consolation prizes and play supporting roles.  Women don’t get to be the hero.  This sends a clear message that women are here to be caregivers who should be happy to sublimate their own needs.

This was the role assigned to Ms. Gilbert’s mother.  Her mother’s generation kept the community tightly knit.  Their talents were untested, became burdens, and metastasized.

Meanwhile, the hero comes home but doesn’t weave his experiences into the community.  This results in a loss of the soul.  When women give and men strive, neither is enough.  Ms. Gilbert believes we need to create a new archetype to weave together giving and striving:

DO IT.  Don’t let anybody or anything stop you.  Come back to the village.  Use your life to serve others.  Make it possible for others to have their adventures.  Wherever you are standing is your village.

Ms. Gilbert believes she isn’t just here to serve her own ambitions.  She is constantly looking for ways to serve.  To this end, she donated $5,000 to the YWCA.

Elizabeth Gilbert at the YWCA's Inspire Luncheon, 5/9/13

Elizabeth Gilbert at the YWCA’s Inspire Luncheon, 5/9/13

I am a great believer in this organization.
There is hardly a more gracious gift that we can offer somebody than
to accept them fully, to love them almost despite themselves.
– Elizabeth Gilbert

At the luncheon, Ms. Gilbert announced The Signature of All Things would be published in October.  It is a multi-generational story of botanical exploration and adventure set in the years 1760 to 1880.

Ms. Gilbert’s sister, Catherine Gilbert Murdock, is also a writer.  Their mother Carole was the sisters’ first audience much like the fictional March family.  The family owned a tree farm in Connecticut and didn’t have a television.

Her Nordic ancestors weren’t pleasure seekers.  Her Eat, Pray, Love quest was designed to explore aspects of herself that she felt she had lost.  Since depression is essentially the loss of pleasure, she decided to go to Italy.  Italians revere pleasure and art form.  They are warm and well-fed.

Her pilgrimage to India was all about meditation.  Bali offered the opportunity to balance celebration with prayer.  She has returned to Bali with “Felipe,” her Brazilian husband Jose Nunes.

Susan Mayer and Judy Cromwell of the Mill Creek Women's Club

Susan Mayer and Judy Cromwell of the Mill Creek Women’s Club

Be an inspiration.
The future begins today.

The YWCA is the largest provider of services in Snohomish County, WA. This was the 25th anniversary of the Inspire luncheons. All 44 members of the Mill Creek Women’s Club attended.

Elizabeth Gilbert with Anne Caroline after the luncheon

Elizabeth Gilbert with Anne Caroline after the luncheon

That’s the thing about human life ~ there’s no control group,
no way to ever know how any of us would have turned out
if any variables had been changed.
– Elizabeth Gilbert

After the luncheon, Ms. Gilbert graciously autographed her books, chatted with her fans, and posed for photos.  My Buddha beads necklace was inspired by Eat, Pray, Love.

Related posts and pages:

Elizabeth Gilbert:  Eat, Pray, Love [book review]

Book Review:  Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things

Elizabeth Gilbert:  Eat, Pray, Love [my Elizabeth Gilbert page which summarizes my blog posts]


This post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2013 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #ywcaWWV.


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