This is a sad story and also a happy story. Elizabeth Gilbert has ended her relationship with the man she met in the final chapters of her best selling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, because she realized she’s actually in love with Rayya Elias, her best friend of 15 years. That’s the happy part. The sad part is that Elias has been diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer.
Gilbert wrote a post about it on Facebook this morning, detailing their journey and why they decided to come out now.
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.
On Facebook, Gilbert candidly spoke about her breakup from her husband, who appeared in the final chapters of her first memoir and was the subject of her follow-up book, Committed: A Love Story. The relationship ended because she realized she was in love with Elias and after a summer of settling on a strategy to fight her cancer and coming out to their friends and family, Gilbert said she wanted to come out publicly because she wants her partner to be on her arm at every writing event she attends, and she wants people to understand what they mean to each other.
Elias is also a writer (and musician). In fact, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the foreword to her memoir, Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair, and Post-Punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side, in 2013.
The Los Angeles Times points to a profile the two women shared in the Sydney Morning Herald last year:
[The Herald] described them as”clasping hands, finishing each other’s sentences, Elias absentmindedly fixing Gilbert’s hair” and displaying “a kind of intimacy only found in female friendships and, even then, not always.” Elias told the newspaper that her friends would often refer to Gilbert as her wife. “I know it sounds like a love story and it totally is,”she said.
Below you can watch Gilbert and Elias in an hour-long conversation called Sex, Drugs & Hair: Women in 2015, which was recorded last year as part of the Sydney Opera House Talks & Ideas series and the reason the Sydney Herald profiled them.
Gilbert closed out her Facebook post by asking her friends and fans to withhold advice and judgment and to send love instead.
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.