The author of Eat, Pray, Love reveals that her marriage to Jose Nunes, the man she met on the journey detailed in that book, and later married, ended this spring because she ran off to take up with her gay best friend. Gilbert wrote on a Facebook post that it was her friend Rayya Elias’s terminal cancer diagnosis that flipped the switch. Excerpt:
But something happened to my heart and mind in the days and weeks following Rayya’s diagnosis. Death — or the prospect of death — has a way of clearing away everything that is not real, and in that space of stark and utter realness, I was faced with this truth: I do not merely love Rayya; I am in love with Rayya. And I have no more time for denying that truth. The thought of someday sitting in a hospital room with her, holding her hand and watching her slide away, without ever having let her (or myself!) know the extent of my true feelings for her…well, that thought was unthinkable.
Here is the thing about truth: Once you see it, you cannot un-see it. So that truth, once it came to my heart’s attention, could not be ignored.
But what to do with this potentially life-shattering truth?
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.
Blah blah blah. ‘My truth.’ I hate this self-indulgent, self-righteous, New Age crap — and I would say the exact same thing if Gilbert had abandoned her husband and her marriage vows for another man (though the fact that Gilbert left her husband for another woman will no doubt win her all manner of hosannas from the media).
Gilbert fell in love with someone not her husband, and confronted that fact. The right thing to have done would have been to face the other truth, which is that she was married, and had pledged herself to someone else. Is that not a truth too? Is that not a truth that is more binding? Since when is Elizabeth Gilbert the sole arbiter of truth? Since when are any of us?
People are flawed. Life is hard. If Gilbert’s marriage (her second) was irreconcilably broken, maybe leaving her husband was the least bad choice. But it was still a bad choice. Something died here so that Liz Gilbert could have her way. It’s not so much the broken marriage that’s so troubling here — I didn’t blog on the end of her marriage when it was announced in the spring — as the fact that Gilbert is covering herself with glory for choosing “truth,” when in fact all she has done is chosen herself.