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What I Learned from a Weekend with Liz Gilbert + Cheryl Strayed
You may have seen this picture on my Instagram on Friday —
37th birthday trip has commenced! Hitting the road to Santa Cruz for a solo writing retreat at @1440multiversity with Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed!!!!! I am not excited at allllllll!
Pretty much everyone responded with, “OMG! Tell me everything!”
Well, that’s going to be hard to do. It was pretty magical weekend — me, Liz, Cheryl and 300 of our new BFF’s were gathered at gorgeous retreat center with lovely meals and yoga and an infinity whirlpool and redwoods.
The scene was set…
Though Liz and Cheryl had been email friends for almost 5 years, this was the first time they had met in person.
During the opening night interview session (they interviewed each other) — they actually read us the first email chain they ever shared.
It started with a panicked message that C sent to L asking for advice when Wild was taking off and she was freaking out. She didn’t Liz, but felt like the one person in the world who would understand was Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat Pray Love fame… And this particular middle-of-the-night-email-chain ended with a tough love email from L to C saying that she was the one in control here and needed to remember her power because she was Cheryl Fucking Strayed.
And you guessed it… First Name* Fucking * Last Name became a mantra of the weekend.
They each led a 3 hour class on Saturday about their own version of Brave Magic. They told personal stories about their own moments of fear and courage. We wrote in response to their prompts, discussed what came up with a partner next to us, and did a bit of whole group sharing.
(Familiar teaching style, eh? It was hard + awesome being the student, not the guide!)
And on Sunday morning they laid down Liz’s Dominatrix rules for Q+A sessions, and then proceeded to blow me away with their honesty, boundaries and wisdom. Seriously, Liz is even smarter than you can imagine, Cheryl is raunchier, and they are both articulate and warm and hilarious.
I know they are ultra famous memoirists who wrote bestselling books (and got played by Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon in movies about their lives!) but you know what struck me?
They are real women telling the real stories of their lives with utter bravery.
They don’t seem to take themselves seriously. They don’t have all the answers, but they’ll give you their opinion without apology.
They are the women you imagine they are when you read their books/columns/social media. It’s just obvious. And it’s so comforting to be able to keep them as my pretend mentors — the very top of my ladder of support.
So what am I leaving with? A renewed commitment to tell the truth about my life — all of it. Not as a performance, but as an act of connection.
I may not ever have a book published, but I’ve got the love letters I send you. This blog. And Instagram for gods sake!
That’s all I need.