Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Elizabeth Gilbert

American Author, Essayist, Short Story Writer, Biographer, Novelist and Memoirist

"You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight."

"A fish and a bird may indeed fall in love, but where shall they live?"

"As for discipline—it's important, but sort of overrated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you."

"A few weeks ago he said to me, completely ou of nowhere, 'You good friend to me, Liss. Loyal friend.' Then he sighed, stared off into space and added mournfully, ' Not like Sharon.' Who the hell is Sharon? What did she do to him? When I tried asking him about it, he would give me no answer. Acted suddenly like he didn't know who I was even referring to. As if I were the one who'd brought up that thieving hussy Sharon in the first place.)"

"A lovely evening of new idioms and fresh mozzarella."

"As smoking is to the lungs, so is resentment to the soul; even one puff is bad for you."

"But never again use another person's body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilling yearnings."

"A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master..."

"When asked how he could tell the difference, the saint said that you can only tell which is which by the way you feel after the creature has left your company. If you are appalled, he said, then it was a devil who had visited you. If you feel lightened, it was an angel."

"A true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that's holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake."

"A family in my sister's neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy, when both the young mother and her three-year-old son were diagnosed with cancer. When Catherine told me about this, I could only say, shocked, Dear God, that family needs grace. She replied firmly, That family needs casseroles, and proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing that family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this IS grace."

"A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave."

"A woman's place is in the kitchen...sitting in a comfortable chair, with her feet up, drinking a glass of wine and watching her husband cook dinner."

"All the pain of a human life is caused by words, as is all the joy."

"Addiction is typical in all love stories based on infatuation."

"According to the mystics, this search for divine bliss is the entire purpose of a human life. this is why we all chose to be born, and this is why all the suffering and pain of life on earth is worthwhile--just for the chance to experience this infinite love. And once you have found this divinity within, can you hold it? Because if you can...bliss."

"Addiction is the hallmark of every infatuation-based love story. It all begins when the object of your adoration bestows upon you a heady, hallucinogenic dose of something you never even dared to admit that you wanted—an emotional speedball, perhaps, of thunderous love and roiling excitement. Soon you start craving that intense attention, with the hungry obsession of any junkie. When the drug is withheld, you promptly turn sick, crazy and depleted (not to mention resentful of the dealer who encouraged this addiction in the first place but who now refuses to pony up the good stuff anymore—despite..."

"Also, I could finally sleep. And this was the real gift, because when you cannot sleep, you cannot get yourself out of the ditch--there's not a chance."

"All I could say was, I don't know what to do. I remember her taking me by the shoulders and looking me in the eye with a calm smile and saying simply, Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth."

"And love is always complicated. But still humans most try to love each other, darling. We must get out hearts broken sometimes. This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something."

"And naturally I was reading in the library a few days later from a book about the Indian saint Sri Ramakrishna, and I stumbled upon a story about a seeker who once came to see the great master and admitted to him that she feared she was not a good enough devotee, feared that she did not love God enough. And the saint said, Is there nothing you love? The woman admitted that she adored her young nephew more than anything else on earth. The saint said, There, then. He is your Krishna, your beloved. In your service to your nephew, you are serving God."

"Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment seeking-nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one....This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype- the overstressed executive who goes on vacation, but who cannot relax."

"And even beyond the flaws, there are just some simple differences between Felipe and me that we will both have to accept. He will never—I promise you—attend a yoga class with me, no matter how many times I may try to convince him that he would absolutely love it. (He would absolutely not love it.) We will never meditate together on a weekend spiritual retreat. I will never get him to cut back on all the red meat, or to do some sort of faddish fasting cleanse with me, just for the fun of it. I will never get him to smooth out his temperament, which burns at sometimes exhausting extremes. He will never take up hobbies with me, I am certain of this. We will not stroll through the farmer’s market hand in hand or go on a hike together specifically to identify wildflowers. And although he is happy to sit and listen to me talk all day long about why I love Henry James, he will never read the collected works of Henry James by my side—so this most exquisite pleasure of mine must remain a private one."

"As far as we know, we are the only species on the planet who have been given the gift-or curse, perhaps-of awareness about our own mortality. Everything here eventually dies; we're just the lucky ones who get to think about this fact every day."

"And what will I be able to do tomorrow that I cannot yet do today?"

"As I focus on diligent joy, I also keep remembering a simple idea my friend Darcey told me once -- that all the sorrow and trouble of this world is caused by unhappy people. Not only in the big global Hitler-'n'-Stalin picture, but also on the smallest personal level. Even in my own life, I can see exactly where my episodes of unhappiness have brought suffering or distress or (at the very least) inconvenience to those around me. The search for contentment is, therefore, not merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act, but also a generous gift to the world. Clearing out all your misery gets you out of the way. You cease being an obstacle, not only to yourself but to anyone else. Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people."

"As I got older, I discovered that nothing within me cried out for a baby. My womb did not seem to have come equipped with that famously ticking clock. Unlike so many of my friends, I did not ache with longing whenever I saw an infant. (Though I did ache with longing, it is true, whenever I saw a good used-book shop)"

"At some point, as Richard keeps telling me, you gotta let go and sit still and allow contentment to come to you. Letting go, of course, is a scary enterprise for those of us who believe that the world revolves only because it has a handle on the top of it which we personally turn, and that if we were to drop this handle for even a moment, well – that would be the end of the universe. But try dropping it….Sit quietly for now and cease your relentless participation. Watch what happens. The birds do not crash dead out of the sky in mid-flight, after all. The trees do not wither and die, the rivers do not run red with blood. Life continues to go on…. Why are you so sure that your micromanagement of every moment in this whole world is so essential? Why don’t you let it be?"

"At some point, you gotta let go, and sit still, and allow contentment to come to you."

"At that moment of realization (that union with God is always present), that's when God let me go, let me slide through His fingers with this last compassionate, unspoken message:"

"Back off, Jack-I got four brothers protecting my ass,' and I just rode on by him."

"Because God never slams a door in your face without opening a box of Girl Scout cookies."

"Authoritarian, such as physicians, is counted on the fingers of six components of a reliable treatment for a broken heart: Vitamin E, a lot of sleep, drink plenty of water to travel away from the person you loved, meditate and explain the heart of it was his destiny."

"Because the world is so corrupted, misspoken, unstable, exaggerated and unfair, one should trust only what one can experience with one's own senses, and THIS makes the senses stronger in Italy than anywhere in Europe. This is why, Barzini says, Italians will tolerate hideously incompetent generals, presidents, tyrants, professors, bureaucrats, journalists and captain of industry, but will never tolerate incompetent opera singers, conductors, ballerinas, courtesans, actors, film directors, cooks, tailors... In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted. Only artistic excellence is incorruptible. Pleasure cannot be bargained down. And sometimes the meal is the only currency that is real."

"Before you realize this truth, say the Yogis, you will always be in despair, a notion nicely expressed in this exasperated line from the Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus: 'You bear God within you, poor wretch, and know it not."

"Being content with what you have already is an art form that leads to a peace that can’t be replaced by anything else."

"Big deal. So you fell in love with someone. Don’t you see what happened? This guy touched a place in your heart deeper than you thought you were capable of reaching, I mean you got zapped, kiddo. But that love you felt, that’s just the beginning. You just got a taste of love. That’s just limited little rinky-dink mortal love. Wait till you see how much more deeply you can love than that. Heck, Groceries—you have the capacity to someday love the whole world. It’s your destiny. Don’t laugh."

"Because I know something that you don't know. I know that this is the worst experience of your life, but I also know that someday you'll move past it and you'll be fine. And helping somebody likej you through the worst experience of her life is incredibly gratifying."

"Both the five-year-olds looked at me with bewilderment and a bit of fearful uncertainty. I had a sudden horrifying image of the woman I might become if I'm not careful: Crazy Aunt Liz. The divorcee in the muumuu with the dyed orange hair who doesn't eat dairy but smokes menthols, who's always just coming back from her astrology cruise or breaking up with her aroma-therapist boyfriend, who reads the Tarot cards of kindergarteners and says things like, Bring Aunty Liz another wine cooler, baby, and I'll let you wear my mood ring..."

"But doesn't that make sense? That the infinite would be, indeed... infinite? That even the most holy amongst us would only be able to see scattered pictures of the eternal picture at any given time? And that maybe if we could collect those pieces and compare them, a story about God would begin to emerge that resembles and includes everyone?"

"But gay marriage is coming to America first and foremost because marriage here is a secular concern, not a religious one. The objection to gay marriage is almost invariably biblical, but nobody's legal vows in this country are defined by interpretation of biblical verse - or at least, not since the Supreme Court stood up for Richard and Mildred Loving. A church wedding ceremony is a nice thing, but it is neither required for legal marriage in America nor does it constitute legal marriage in America. What constitutes legal marriage in this country is that critical piece of paper that you and your betrothed must sign and then register with the state. The morality of your marriage may indeed rest between you and God, but it's that civic and secular paperwork which makes your vows official here on earth. Ultimately, then, it is the business of America's courts, not America's churches, to decide the rules of matrimonial law, and it is in those courts that the same-sex marriage debate will finally be settled."

"But at some point you have to make peace with what you were given and if God wanted me to be a shy girl with thin, dark hair, He would have made me that way, but He didn't. Useful, then, might be to accept how I was made and embody myself fully therein."

"But I explained that deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope."

"But I don't know how much more socializing I can do, Felipe. I only have the one dress. People will start to notice that I'm wearing the same thing all the time. You're young and beautiful, darling. You only need the one dress."

"But I was always coming here. I thought about one of my favorite Sufi poems, which says that God long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot where you are standing right now. I was never not coming here. This was never not going to happen."

"But he [Depression] just gives me that dark smile, settles into my favorite chair, puts his feet on my table and lights a cigar, filling the place with his awful smoke. Loneliness watches and sighs, then climbs into my bed and pulls the covers over himself, fully dressed, shoes and all. He's going to make me sleep with him again tonight, I just know it."

"But is it such a bad thing to live like this for just a little while? Just for a few months of one's life, is it so awful to travel through time with no greater ambition than to find the next lovely meal? Or to learn how to speak a language for no higher purpose than that it pleases your ear to hear it? Or to nap in a garden, in a patch of sunlight, in the middle of the day, right next to your favourite fountain? And then to do it again the next day?"

"But I disappear into the person I love. I am the permeable membrane. If they love you, you can have all. You can have my time, my devotion, my ass, my money, my family, my dog, the money of the dog during the dog - anything. If they love will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every sense of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will mentally endowed with all good qualities that you never really developed in yourself and I will buy Christmas gifts for the whole family. I'll give you the sun and the rain, and if not available, I'll keep my tickets later. I'll give you all this and more, until you feel so exhausted and depleted that the only way to restore your energy will be carried away by someone else. did not report these facts for themselves with pride, but it has always been."

"But the very fact that this world is so challenging is exactly why you sometimes must reach out of its jurisdiction for help, appealing to a higher authority in order to find your comfort."

"But this morning in meditation, after I heard the lion roar YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW STRONG MY LOVE IS, I came out of that meditation cave like warrior queen."