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Books: Eat, Pray, Love

November 9, 2010 | Books

I read my friend Randi’s copy of Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert this summer in Norway. I’m finally getting back around to it.

I recently wrote this on Cindy La Ferle‘s Facebook page when she was wondering what others thought of the book:

I read it this summer, and I still haven’t figured out what to say about it. In the first section, I had to put it down several times just to catch my breath. She was like a 3-year-old, distracted by every shiny object … I was exhausted. (But I love Italy, and I suppose identical Italian twins might make me breathless too.)

It was very self-indulgent (on her part), but I did take lots of notes of things she said that resonated with me. While I don’t dig meditation, blue lights & dreaming of serpents, I do believe self-examination is essential. It’s just not always easy to go along on someone else’s intimate and very personal journey. I often felt like I was reading a diary that I shouldn’t have been.

I, too, spent a year going through a midlife identity crisis. Not in Italy, India or Indonesia, though. In Iowa. I had the I-place. Just not the book deal, darnit. Or … well … anything else she wrote about, except the parts about figuring out who she is. In the true spirit of her book, which was all about her, this post is all about me. I don’t think Julia Roberts will play me in the movie, though.

Looking back is hard. And painful. But we can never really know who we are today until we know who we were. I feel as though I’ve been putting together a big jigsaw puzzle all my life, but I only had some of the pieces, some of the time. Last year, when my crisis began (that’s a nice way of saying “when the shit hit the fan”), all the rest of the pieces were dumped in my lap. I’ve spent the time since then fitting those pieces into the puzzle.

Here are a couple of passages that resonated with me.

p. 19 I inflicted upon him my every hope for my salvation and happiness. And, yes, I did love him. But if I could think of a stronger word than “desperately” to describe how I loved David, I would use that word here, and desperate love is always the toughest way to do it.

p. 68 But I disappear into the person I love. I am the permeable membrane. If I love you, you can have everything. You can have my time, my devotion, my ass, my money, my family, my dog, my dog’s money, my dog’s time — everything. If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will project upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family. I will give you the sun and the rain, and if they are not available, I will give you a sun check and a rain check. I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else.

The specifics may not be the same, but I get the whole “desperate” thing. Someone told me once, “You need me more than I need you.” Ouch. Damn, that hurt! Then it made me angry. But you know what? It was true. Not only that, but I realize I’ve needed everyone in my life more than they ever needed me. Oh, yes. I’ve turned myself inside-out for people. Then I’d hit a rough spot and needed a shoulder or a hand. I’d look around and … nobody was there. I hadn’t seen that clearly until recently. So, yeah. I get it.

The whole crisis killed that desperate part of me. OK, it’s not really dead, but it’s been rendered comatose. Because I’ve also realized I am completely and utterly alone. I know that now. And every time I’ve felt that way throughout my life has come flooding back to me. It’s been a really hard fucking year. But I’m getting ready to pull the plug, to take it off life support. Because really? It’s been sucking the life out of me. She’s right. Desperation is the hardest way to do it. And I need to learn to be OK with Just Me.

My track record sucks, but the puzzling I’ve done over the last year has helped me figure out why. The even harder part now will be to figure out how to change that.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey was deeply personal (some might say selfish). I was on a similar journey, though, and her words helped me.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am  

10 Responses to “Books: Eat, Pray, Love”

  1. Randi Brevik Says:

    Well, well now..that’s what I’m talkin’ about! !! Not such a bad thing in retrospect, this lookin’ into oneself for the answers..I am sooo glad I dropped that book into your lap this Summer, seems it was time and you were ready to let the crisis have it’s way with you. As Freud says, crisis is the jump-start to change. Now, unless we learn from our life lessons, we will continue to make the same mistakes, attract the same wrong people in our life, or even worse stay unconscious to our own patterns and internal dialogue.So unless that crisis peels back a few eye opening mirrored images of how we perceive ourselves or even perceive others or see the damaging expectations we have of how others should be towards us…well then history will just repeat itself into infinity. Luckily the Universe has a system..first a whisper inside the head(no, not schizophrenic voices, thank you)..then if not heeded, a song may come on the radio, or someone will say something that sticks in passing…again, if not heeded, the Universe than proceeds to harsher tools.It starts shouting….we feel sick, uneasy,bad situations keep arising out of seeming-less nowhere…Next step if you’re still asleep at the wheel…Hmmm, let’s say like an iron skillet to the head..!!! Got your attention now, booba??? Outright havoc!! This is where the crisis, any crisis, leaves room for growth and change.We all have the key to change..it’s just that sometimes we are more afraid to turn that key and look in the mirror than the actual enlightenment of breaking out of the confines of our own making.

  2. Cindy L Says:

    Wow, great post, and I am so glad you shared the link on my FB page. Thank you. Makes me want to read more of your writing here, and I will! After I finished reading your post, something else came to mind. Try to imagine being Elizabeth Gilbert and going to bed at night, knowing that you’ve touched so many people, so profoundly, with your writing.

    While Gilbert’s book didn’t hit me where I live — at least not as hard as it hit others — I think EPL is a testimony to the power of good writing. So much depends on *when* we read a book (or any piece of writing, as I just posted on my own blog). Anne Lamott’s memoirs went straight to my heart and spoke to me on so many levels when I needed them, when my own son was a small child.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful to make such a difference to people who read our own work? Blows me away to think of it!

    P.S. Right now I am reading Dominique Browning’s “Slow Love,” which focuses on the year House & Garden suddenly folded and Browning lost her coveted job as editor in chief after 10 devoted years. She had to reinvent her career, her life. I can really relate to this one, as I lost a magazine job after the publication folded and went through a crisis of sorts at the time. Unemployment will do that to ya too…

  3. Becky Says:

    Thanks, Randi! :)

  4. Becky Says:

    Thanks, Cindy! I absolutely agree with you on the timing of reading books. It’s amazing how often I happen to read the right book at the right time.

  5. Deb Says:

    Awesome post, Becky. I believe you’ve hit the nail on the head for the woman sitting here, typing this. I’ve been on the fence about reading Gilbert’s book but now I think I must. I’ve never been able to voice that desperation like shes does or the feeling of loneliness like you. It’s brilliant.

  6. Becky Says:

    Thanks, Deb! I can’t wait to hear what you think of it.

  7. Karen Thurston Chavez Says:

    Your review makes me think of a book I read back in the 80s. Das Energi by Paul Williams.

    Might have to go finally post an entry on my blog now.

    Hate the painful part, but love the discovery and acceptance part.


    P.S. I haven’t read the book yet, but I thought the movie kinda sucked.

  8. Becky Says:

    Thanks, Karen! What will you post about? The book you read back then … or the movie? ;)

  9. ParentopiaDevra Says:

    The being alone thing? Yup, we are alone. Which isn’t necessarily a terrible thing because it means we have autonomy. Great post dahling! And you know while my shoulder is a few states away, I can always upload it and email it to you if you need a shoulder.

  10. Becky Says:

    Thanks, Devra! I’ll just send you the Bat Signal. ;)

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