My husband is my literal Eat, Pray, Love moment. I know that is some cliche shit. People joke about that book and all the women who went off the metaphorical deep-end after it was published — but it really happened to me. I was really sitting in my bathroom floor, really looking at my unrecognizable image in a compact mirror, really crying out to an imagined savior, really pleading for clarity. That clarity led me to pack my suitcase. It led me to make some regrettable mistakes, too. But ultimately it brought me to today — eight years and two more kids later.
In the most sappy way, that book changed my life — or at the very least, pushed me to change it.
In September 2016 Elizabeth Gilbert came forward to talk about her new relationship with Rayya Elias, one that began while her marriage ended.
From the original post announcing their relationship:
Now let me tell you something I've learned from Rayya, over the fifteen years of our friendship. She is the most brave and honest person I know, and she has taught me more about courage and honesty than anyone I have ever met. Here is her mantra on truth, which I've heard her express so many times over the years, in so many difficult situations:
"The truth has legs; it always stands. When everything else in the room has blown up or dissolved away, the only thing left standing will always be the truth. Since that's where you're gonna end up anyway, you might as well just start there."
So I did what Rayya has taught me to do: I just started there. I spoke my truth aloud.
For those of you who are doing the math here, and who are wondering if this situation is why my marriage came to an end this spring, the simple answer is yes. (Please understand that I cannot say anything more about it than that. I trust you are all sensitive enough to understand how difficult this has been. As David Foster Wallace once wrote: "The truth will set you free — but not until it's had its way with you." Yes, it has been hard. Yes, the truth has had its way with us. And yes, the truth still stands.)
So. Here is where we stand now: Rayya and I are together. I love her, and she loves me. I'm walking through this cancer journey with her, not only as her friend, but as her partner. I am exactly where I need to be — the only place I can be.
The reason I haven't yet spoken publicly about me and Rayya is because we (and our families) have needed this cocoon of privacy over these last few months, as we face all and process all these massive changes and challenges.
So why I am speaking publicly about this now?
Because — for better or worse — I am someone who lives her life in the public eye. This summer has been an essential period of silence, healing, and incubation for us. I have needed that time, and I've been grateful to have it. But summer is over. I have work to do in the world — work that I can't put off anymore. I will be out and about in a very public way again over the next few weeks and months. People will be looking at me again. And when people look at me, they will inevitably see me with Rayya, because — as God is my witness — whenever Rayya is healthy enough to be by my side, she will be by my side. (Trust me: We will not be wasting a moment of our time together, for as much time as we are given.)
For reasons of my own integrity and sanity, I need to be able to walk into any room in the world with Rayya on my arm, feeling relaxed enough to stand comfortably in simple openness about who we actually are to each other. If I can't be my true self (whether at home in privacy, or out there in the world in public) then things will very quickly get messy and weird and stupid in my life. Sure, I could pretend that Rayya is still just my best friend, but that would be…you know... pretending. Pretending is demeaning, and it makes you weak and confused, and it's also a lot of work. I don't do that kind of work anymore.
Here's what it comes down to for me: I need to live my life in truth and transparency, even more than I need privacy, or good publicity, or prudence, or other people's approval or understanding, or just about anything else. Truth and transparency not only make my life more ethical, but also easier. (Why easier? Because untruth is always complicating, and truth — no matter what the consequences — is always strangely simplifying.) So that is why Rayya and I have decided together to speak up publicly now — both about her cancer and about our love for each other. It's for the sake of our own integrity, but it's also intended to make our lives simpler.
As for what I am asking from you, in response to my truth?
Let me begin by saying what I am not asking for. If any of you kind souls out there are tempted right now to send me or Rayya information about treatments or cures for pancreatic or liver cancer...I gently and respectfully beg you to restrain yourselves. (One thing you discover when a loved one has cancer is that EVERYBODY has either a miracle story or a horror story about cancer that they are desperate to tell you. Rayya and I are already drowning in all these stories of special diets, amazing clinics, terrible doctors, new trials, cautionary tales… I understand that people only want to help, but please don't overwhelm us with any more data, ok? Rayya has chosen her path through this illness, and she is strong in her choices. Thank you for caring, though!)
But here is what I will ask for: Because I believe in love, I will ask for love.
Whatever extra love you might be carrying around in your hearts right now, could you direct some this way? I would appreciate it so much, and — trust me — it will be felt. And it will help. We will resonate with it, and we will thank you for it. Because truth is the force that guides us to where we need to be in life, but love is the power that heals us once we arrive there.
Peace, blessings, and health to all.
Yesterday Elizabeth announced Rayya’s death.
She was my love, my heart, my best friend, my teacher, my rebel, my angel, my protector, my challenger, my partner, my muse, my wizard, my surprise, my gift, my comet, my liberator, my rock star, my completely impossible non-cooperator, my otherworldly visitor, my spiritual portal, and my baby. I loved you so much, Rayya. Thank you for letting me walk with you right to the edge of the river. It has been the greatest honor of my life. I would tell you to rest in peace, but I know that you always found peace boring. May you rest in excitement. I will always love you.
My heart breaks for Elizabeth for a lot of reasons. The first is, of course, the loss of her partner, but beyond that, remembering when Elizabeth told that world that her marriage had ended so she could be with Rayya, and recalling the very real painful feeling of solidarity I had with her.
This is what I know to be true about love — it isn’t always convenient. Sometimes love surprises you. It catches you when you’re not expecting it. It grabs you and shakes you and upends your life. Sometimes love looks like a woman who was your best friend becoming your lover. Sometimes it looks like the guy who you met at the spelling bee when you were 11, becoming the person you share your always wonderful, sometimes messy life with.
The kind of love that Elizabeth had for Rayya, the kind I have for my husband — it isn’t something you can seek and find. This kind of love finds you, and when it does, it changes you; it changes everything.
We'll end here from a beautiful song from the late Rayya — may we all endeavor to be open to the sort of courageous love that she and Elizabeth had together.