There are days when life kicks your arse. Even if you’re Elizabeth Gilbert.
I’ve had more than a few of them this year and if you are a sentient being living in the world, then you undoubtedly have too. This week, it’s R U OK Day when we’re encouraged to ask each other how we’re doing. To check in. To think about each other’s mental health and well-being. But often when I’m struggling, nobody can tell. Nobody would think to ask. Often, mostly, I have to find small ways to comfort myself, to soothe my anxiety or my stress or my frustration or my despair.
Tea helps. So does routine and exercise and distraction. And I do often reach out to girlfriends who never fail me, ever. And this little trick I picked up from Elizabeth Gilbert today is going to be one I add to my arsenal of coping mechanisms when life hurls some shit my way and I don’t have time to duck.
I quote Liz Gilbert a lot in my life, in my writing and in my head. I’ve interviewed her a couple of times and spent time with her in person and read her books and her words always settle deeply in my soul where I retrieve them often. So when I saw this photo on Instagram I immediately stopped scrolling. Liz has had the best and worst of years in her personal life. She married the love of her life, Raaya Elias a few months after learning Raaya had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
In the photo below, Liz is wearing a Love Warrior T-shirt as a gesture of support and solidarity with her friends Glennon Doyle (who wrote a book called Love Warrior) and her wife Abby Wambach who have been chronicling their own dramas these past few days, evacuating with their children from their home in Miami which was in the path of Hurricane Irma.
But that’s another story. The trick I picked up from Liz is buried in this photo, buried in the caption. You could easily miss it.
Student. Write the word student on your hand to remind yourself we’re all learning.
I went digging for more information about this idea and I found it on a post from back in 2015 on Liz’s Facebook page:
Dear Ones –
My friend Pastor Rob Bell once gave me this beautiful piece of advice, which I will now pass along to you.
He said that whenever he starts to beat himself up for not being good enough at life, he simply writes this word on his hand — STUDENT — and reminds himself to look at that word several times a day, and to meditate upon it.
He said that this one word — STUDENT — is his best defense against self-abuse, shame, perfectionism, failure, and regret.
Whenever he fails himself, or falls short of his ideals, or doesn’t know how to handle a complicated situation, he just looks at that word — STUDENT — and then gently allows for self-forgiveness.
Because we are all just students, after all.
We are all new at this.
We’ve never been here before — in these bodies, in this lifetime, in this world. We don’t always know how to handle things in the best way. We don’t want to suffer, but we don’t always know how to avoid it. We long for closeness and peace in our relationships, but we haven’t necessarily learned yet how to find it. We want meaning, but lose sight of it. We want revelation and transcendence, but don’t always know how to reach for it.
But we are learning.
We are always in the process of learning — and it’s not fair to expect that people who are in the process of learning should automatically always get things right.
Nobody always gets things right during the learning process.
We are merely students, after all, and students — by definition — are not masters. We will be students for as long as we live. We wake up every day and take a deep breath and back go to school in the world all over again. That’s what dedicated students do.
Every. Single. Day. (you can read the full post via the FB link above)
So I am going to take this bit of wisdom, this trick for shitty days, and I’m going to use it.
You might not want to write STUDENT on your hand – maybe you don’t want to answer questions and have to explain yourself. Maybe you want to write it on the top of your thigh so every time you go to the loo you see it. Or in the crook of your elbow. Somewhere secret. Somewhere just for you. In whatever you’re going through, whenever you’re going through it, just know you’re not alone. We’re all students, doing our best.
Listen: The hosts of Mamamia Out Loud discus another amazing Elizabeth Gilbert trick, her four questions of trust. Post continues after audio.
Here’s some more Elizabeth Gilbert Wisdom…….