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.
UPDATE: In an earlier version of this post, I had some very caustic commentary about Gilbert’s words here. A friend and reader of this blog e-mailed me to point out that I was guilty of the sin of ingratitude. Gilbert had generously blurbed a book of mine, and in this reader’s view, I was wrong to be so nasty about this affair in her life. The reader was right. I had forgotten about the favor she did for me. I was wrong to issue a public rebuke, and I apologize. I took this post down while I finished a different task, but decided to put this amended version back up because so many of you had comments pending that it didn’t seem fair to you not to post them. I did want to take down my own ungenerous words, though. Whatever my opinion of her public act, it was not my place to say so.
I suppose it hit me so hard because I’ve spent this week working hard on the revisions of a core chapter of The Benedict Option manuscript — the one in which I lay out the monastic way of life, and include material from my interviews with the monks there. Adding material, and refining other passages, to this chapter has forced me to dig even deeper into the disorder of our time, and I found some stuff I plan to share with you on Thursday — material from a secular source that brings into sharp relief the fragility of our society and civilization, and how hard it is to maintain anything constant today.
All that was very much on my mind when I read Gilbert’s Facebook post, which another reader had sent, and it set me off. So much in our popular culture, both at the superficial level and in the deep structures of modernity, conspires to destroy anything permanent, including the things we need to have a humane life together. I’ll write more on this tomorrow, but let it suffice here to say that seeing all the struggles people in my actual, flesh-and-blood life are having to hold things together, Gilbert’s way of framing her domestic situation really got to me. I say that not to excuse my uncharitableness, but to offer an explanation for what was posted here before, if you were one of the readers who saw it.