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Big Magic

June 2018

Dear you,

We’ve had an interesting few weeks. As part of my birthday present, Lea got tickets to see Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. She was running a Big Magic Event in London based on her book ‘Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear’. I was afraid!

Lea had booked a very swish hotel nearby and we got there on the Friday afternoon in time to have a Pret lunch in the park with a very tame squirrel and a small afternoon nap, before she took me out for a Lebanese dinner and a wander round Chinatown (bubble tea, who knew? Not I!). So far, so good…

We arrived at the venue the next day unsure what to expect. It was held in the Quaker building, in Friends house and we were to be in the Light room. All good signs. Yet I was nervous…

I’d read Big Magic a year earlier and had found it annoying, challenging and button pushing!! I can remember calling Lea on numerous occasions from my bathtub, indignantly ranting about some passage or other and insisting on reading said section out, spitting each word out venomously. My kids started to think ‘Bloody LIz Gilbert’ (BLG) was her real name!

And the reason for such tantrums and outbursts? Well, one of the biggest triggers was her insistence that ideas aren’t loyal. That they emerge out of the ether and search for a suitable host to bring them forth into the great universe of ideas to be magically realised. Surely that’s not so awful, I hear you cry? Ah, but you are forgetting something my friend…

Given that I’ve had an idea burning away inside me since I was in my mid twenties – an idea that I’ve never been brave enough to birth until now, some 20 odd years later – it feels more than a little unnerving to have BLG discuss my idea as some unfaithful, unloyal and fickle wee sprite, off to attach itself to another willing host if I don’t get my proverbial shit together – and the fear that maybe it already has…

Obviously, Bloody Lea Woodward (BLW) knew that behind all triggers there is damn useful learning fodder and so my present was purchased! But that wasn’t the only reason for us attending.

As you know, we’ve followed Liz Gilbert closely since we got together because nine years after Eat, Pray, Love’s romantic hetero conclusion, Liz Gilbert announced that she was in love with her, by then, terminally ill, female best friend, Rayya Elias. Following their love story whilst ours was also in its infancy was moving, poignant and ultimately painful when Rayya passed away in January this year. We identified with them and their journey, even looking vaguely like them as a couple, and to see someone find the love of their life and then lose them was a further wake-up call in our own vivid mid-life awakening.

Clearly there were a fair few other lesbian couples there who felt the same that day and that brings me onto my next issue with the day…the green eyed monster!!!

I’ve never really done jealousy before (more clues I was in the closet??!!) and yet with Lea I feel those pangs on occasion. It’s a most odd sensation in a relationship and quite disconcerting!!

To make matters worse I was in a very moony (for want of a less humiliating word) place with Lea, given that only a few days earlier we’d had quite a pivotal conversation about our relationship and the respective space we each occupy within it. This conversation deserves a whole post of its own, so I won’t dwell here, but suffice to say, I feel like I’m back at the start of our relationship; giddy, lovesick, yep there’s no less humiliating word, moony!

And yet here we were on a course with 998 other mainly women, unable to work together and Lea working with another pretty fit dyke. Seriously, this never really bothered me with men! I can even remember encouraging one of my exes to befriend his younger, fit PA, as I sensed a spark between them and thought it would make my life easier given I didn’t want to have sex with him! (Oh god that sounds so awful when I see it written down!).

On top of all this was Lea’s stuff; her utter loathing of being in a room full of people and being seen, especially when Liz was going round with a microphone and getting people to read out some of their answers and one of Lea’s partners, had her hand up wanting to read Lea’s! (I think she may have combusted had she not sat on both her partner’s said extremities and issued the Lea ‘stare of death’).

With all this emotional stuff going on as a backdrop, the workshop itself didn’t feel too taxing! We were guided through it beautifully by Liz who, still in the midst of grief, was open, warm and extremely skilled at making a room of 1000 people feel like a cosy intimate space where we could all share some pretty personal stuff, with strangers on a one to one, as well as with the whole room.

She joined in all the exercises with us which was useful (to see her examples), powerful (she’d done this process many times before and could get to the nub of things very quickly) and important as we felt she was really ‘with us’. Her relaxed and utterly authentic presenting style is still a rare one and – given that one of my core values is that people show up in my world with vulnerability – made me feel instantly trusting.

And the Big Magic? Well, the day itself was a gift in many ways – emotionally challenging, charged and thought provoking, however the really Big Magic happened after the workshop – but that’s really Lea’s magical tale to tell…

Dear you,

Yep, it was brilliant. I’m pretty sure 1,000-odd people left The Light (such a fitting name for the venue) wanting Liz Gilbert as their best friend!

The workshop itself was interesting – watching someone do their thing in such an accomplished, authentic and congruent way was worth the ticket price alone; the content of the workshop was valuable too. We basically had to write letters to ourselves from different parts of ourself – our fear, our enchantment, permission, trust and persistence.

And then we had to read each one out. To a stranger ?  She made us switch who we were sitting next to in the morning and after lunch; you can imagine my (and Becky’s) reaction to that!!

As I think back to the day though, my overriding emotion throughout was fear – probably more like terror actually. I felt highly visible, uncomfortably seen and towards the end of the day as Liz was doing a Q&A I had an overwhelming sense of being desperate to leave; and we practically ran from the venue once it was over.

This experience – the sensation of terror – in itself was the nugget of gold…in our processing after the event, it was like a download of my stuff directly into my head.

Why on earth did I feel such terror? Why did I feel so visible? Why is the prospect of being seen so utterly repulsive to me?

You know how I’ve always preferred to stay in the background – personally and professionally, avoiding the limelight and never wanting to be front and centre…why?

The answer: Because my first experience of being seen resulted in my ‘primal wound’.

The memory that felt like it was downloaded straight into my head that day was a sense that while I was in my birth mother’s womb I somehow knew I wasn’t wanted, but I had a hope – an expectation in fact – that in being seen (born) things would change and I would indeed be wanted, kept, loved and not rejected, not abandoned. Obviously that wasn’t the case and therein lies my first and fundamental experience of being seen and what happens when I am: Rejection, abandonment and separation. Ouch.

It was a powerful insight and I’m sure you can draw the same conclusions from that around my career (and personal) stuff of wanting to stay in the background, never being front and centre, so I’m never really seen.

And yet, when I look back at the letters I wrote, one common theme emerges: my desire to be more fully and wholly seen ?

As for us – Becky and I – it’s yielded all sorts of interesting insights!

On the day, we felt totally disconnected – which I think was largely down to me and my utter discomfort and need to disconnect.

And we didn’t actually read each other’s letters till a few weeks later – this past weekend in fact – which in itself was interesting and feel relevant to the whole theme of being seen and putting/having the focus on myself.

In a nutshell, Becky’s letters included a lot of me and mine didn’t include much of her!!! Although that caused a minor wobble, fundamentally I think it’s a perfect reflection of our stuff – our past experience of relationships, how we work together, and how we view our relationship together.

And no, it’s not that she’s not a feature of my life!! It’s that she’s already so embedded in my life as a defining feature, I didn’t feel the need or desire to make that explicit through my letters. And given there’s a current theme floating around of me finding and fighting for space and airtime, it feels like my letters – which were so unusually focused on me and no-one else – reflect that rather fittingly.

So…Big Magic indeed. And given what’s currently going on, this feels like just the beginning!

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

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