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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 Comments  


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