I recently finished a book that my good friend Cheri loaned to me called Eat Pray Love. Yes, I intentionally changed the middle word in my blog title. This alteration isn't just a commentary on the book, it's also to emphasize that I recognize that the road to healing is different for everyone.
As some of you know, I recently went through a divorce and was hurled out into the world to try to figure out who I am, if not just an unhappy homemaker. This combination, along with a few others, struck a chord in Cheri (who was also reading the book) and she began to insist that I look it over. After weeks of having me smile nicely and say, "Yeah, I'll try to, when I have time," she finally bought a copy of the book and handed it to me. It took me a few months even after that, but I finally dove in.
Eat Pray Love is a good book. I won't dispute that. It's a true and moving tale of a woman, broken by marriage and destroyed by divorce. One night, after realizing that she couldn't stand to be married anymore, she hit her knees and prayed for the first time. That moment changed her life and led her on a journey across the spiritual and physical world. Her only goal was to find balance, but by the end of the book she had found balance, beauty and love.
In the first of the three sections, Liz, also the author, describes her time in Italy where she played with gentlemen much younger than she. Her intentions there were only to learn the language and experience the joy of the place. Since she has sworn herself to celibacy for the year, sex isn't an issue and she is extremely content keeping the company of men a decade her junior. She absorbs her surroundings, eats mercilessly and regrets nothing. This is, in some small part, the same type of experience I had in Beijing. Although my trip was only a week, not the four months that she had the luxury of taking, it was still an eye opening experience. I indulged in the decadence of all types of food and all kinds of company. I saw beautiful sites and opened my heart and mind to another culture. Sex was also not an issue for me (as I'm convincing myself at the moment that noone would be interested, were I to lose my inhibitions) so I was more than happy to spend all of my waking hours with men that were talented, smart, funny, amazing and very unavailable to me.
I came home from China fully aware of the juxtaposition between the week I had lived in Beijing and the life I have at home. My responsibilities here are huge, but also greatly rewarding. If nothing else, it put a microscope on the things that I haven't gotten right yet, giving me a chance to continue working on them.
In the second section of Eat Pray Love, Liz spends 4 months in India, fasting, meditating and praying. She uses this time to find out who she is inside. She realizes that she's a social creature, but that she doesn't need to have possessions to be content. She finds solace by bringing God inside her and being one with him.
Now, this is where she and I vary greatly. I do believe in a cyclical energy...some sort of karma, perhaps...but I don't believe that there is an all-knowing, omnipotent being watching us to make sure we mind our p's and q's. I can see the value in pulling in the happy energy and letting go of the hostility that we hold toward people and situations. Unlike Liz, I think this balance can be achieved through 'playing' rather than 'praying'. Happiness is polite. It won't come in uninvited. You have to open your heart and your head and bring it in. Playing, dancing and joking are far more powerful ways to let in bliss. Meditation can bring in happy, but happy is fairly subdued. Laughter is even better. Laughter is a joy-gasm. I really see no need to stop with just happy.
Finally, for Liz, is a trip to Indonesia. She meets so many people there, including the man who she ends the book with. She tells him all the reasons that she doesn't intend to get intimate with anyone. One of the reasons that she lists is the fear of getting naked in front of someone new. It struck me as odd that someone who had been through all of the things she had and learned to be at peace with all-the-world was still not at peace with herself. At that point, is it true self-consciousness, or just a lack of being able to predict a lover's reaction? I recognize that it is possible to be a confident person and lack confidence in the way you look - in fact, I believe I fall into that category. For myself, I am generally unable to see loveliness in my physical appearance. Instead, I rely on the vision of myself inside someone else's eyes. Only when someone else sees me as alluring can I take a moment to basque in my own beauty. But then - just as quickly as I accept it - I lose it when the object of perception is gone. I haven't yet figured out if it's a flaw in my personality or a tool to keep me from becoming conceited... as we computer scientists say "Maybe it's a feature, not a bug."
Liz finds a man who loves her and she smiles because there is someone else in the world who can promise to take care of her. Someone other than herself. When she mentioned that, I got a little tingly. I've always believed that I don't 'need' to be taken care of by a man, but it would sure be great to find one that 'wanted' to take care of me. Even if I should never need a dime of his money or a moment of his help, it would be a realization of my personal fantasy to know that there was someone sincere in his offering of it. I applauded her find, but acknowledged the improbability that there is one of those for everyone.
Anyhow, you can probably tell that I identified with the book more than a little. I did get annoyed from time to time that a strong and intelligent woman would need to lean on thoughts of God to find balance, but I guess that's what the idea of Him is there for. It does get awfully tiring standing here trying to balance on my own.