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Eat, Pray, Love….Laugh: An Evening with Elizabeth Gilbert

February 12, 2010

Last night Elizabeth Gilbert spoke to 1,000 (plus or minus a few) people at Overture Center for the Arts. When I had interviewed Gilbert last week, she said that her usual audience was mostly women, but occasionally some men would show up. Interestingly, women of all ages come to hear her speak. And so it was last night. Gilbert spoke for about an hour and a half to a mostly woman audience about a variety of topics; why she became a writer, why she felt compelled to write her latest book, Committed and what her future plans were (writing a novel after a 12 year hiatus from fiction).

Photo credit: Deborah Lopez

Gilbert was funny, warm, and candid about her journey from the Christmas tree farm she grew up on, to her meteoric rise to success with Eat, Pray, Love. She spoke for an hour and a half—part of the time at the podium, part of the time sitting on a couch with WPR’s Joy Cardin (emcee) answering questions from the audience.

She spoke of a time when, after the success of Eat, Pray, Love, she was asked to speak in San Francisco in the morning and Santa Barbara in the afternoon. Gilbert arrived at the airport “seven and a half hours early” checked in, and sat at her gate waiting for her flight. But instead of reading, she started to think about buying Nerf guns for her sister’s 10 and 13 year olds who had asked her for the toy guns. She became so absorbed in thought, that she missed the flight to Santa Barbara, and had to call the woman in Santa Barbara to tell her that she would not be able to make the appearance. The woman told Gilbert that there was a flight to Los Angeles that she could make if she ran to the other end of the San Francisco airport. The woman would pick her up at the airport, drive her to Santa Barbara and she would be able to make the appearance. Gilbert agreed, but in the chaos that ensued, lost her speaking notes and her hairbrush. She did make the appearance but as she approached the podium she found it ironic that she was to talk about how she managed to ‘get her life together’. Gilbert acknowledged that she had not managed to get her life together, that life is a journey and must be ‘managed’ on a daily basis.

Gilbert touched on some political topics—same-sex marriage, for example, and how she thinks that anyone who wants to be married should be able to get married. She also encouraged the audience to purchase her new book Committed and perhaps to buy more than one copy—indeed, “buy several”. Why? To keep Sarah Palin’s book from being number one on the best sellers list. Gilbert said that she really didn’t see herself as competitive when it comes to book sales, but that there was just something about Palin’s book that brought out her competitive edge.

Gilbert told the audience how important it is that young women discover who they are before they get married—and that the chances for a successful marriage increases with age. If you get married at 22, your chance of divorce is 85% but if you waited until you were age 60, chances are you would never get divorced. She bracketed her comments with “if I were 22, I wouldn’t listen to anything I just said.”

One of the questions asked what Gilbert did to stay centered. She explained that she wakes up every morning at 4 am and meditates for an hour. She then does an hour of yoga, followed by a brisk 7 to 8 mile run….she stopped, laughed and said that  no, she doesn’t do any of those things “but I hope you do”. Gilbert does not like to meditate, but she does take ‘silence baths’ every afternoon in order to remain centered. She explained that she simply turns off “everything that buzzes” takes her cats, closes the door and lies down for a half hour. She said that these ‘silence baths’ are extremely restorative, and Gilbert highly recommends them. Of course, she explains, some people refer to ‘silence baths’ as naps.

The evening ended too soon with a book signing in the lobby. Gilbert proved to all in attendance that she is as funny, articulate, and intelligent in person as she is in her books.

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