Monday, April 7, 2008

BOOK: Eat, Pray, Love

I was running through the Seattle airport about a year ago; on my way for a long, free I might add, weekend in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The plan was simple: lie on the beach, sip cocktails, soak in the sun. Repeat.

During the dark dreary days of winter in the Pacific Northwest, you don't tend to see the sun much; perhaps ever if you work a standard day. This transplant needed a healthy of Vitamin D something fierce. I had the aloe, the margarita shaker, the bikini…but, I realized as I ran to my departing gate, no book!

My plane was boarding so there wasn't time for reading cover flaps, pithy New York Times reviews, inside pages, or the like. I grabbed Elizabeth Gilbert's, Eat, Pray, Love. It was the little noodles fashioned into the word EAT lain just so across the cover that did it for me. I like to eat. I like to eat noodles. They swiped my credit card and a few seconds later I slid into my seat; huffing and puffing with a sense of accomplishment like I'd just run some sort of marathon.

An hour later we are en route and passing cocktails back and forth and I am reading passages from this book to a male co-worker. He is thoroughly amused. Okay, he's a nice guy and could have cared less. He just happens to be one of those guys who know we women like being listened to and he appeased me. And then he continued to buy me more drinks and eventually my vision blurred and I stopped reading for awhile when he reminded me that I'd only bought one book and if I didn't stop reading now, I'd be done with the book before we even arrived at said beach.

That said, within 24 hours of my arrival in Mexico, I'd blown through the book it its entirety. It was so…perfect. So…me at just that moment in time. The book is autobiographical in nature; and follows the path of a forlorn, lovesick Gilbert as she tries to pull together the pieces of her life post divorce. Thankfully, the book is not so much about Gilbert's messy divorce as it is about her quest to find her true voice and to deliberately craft for herself a new life built from conscious intention rather than circumstance and motion. To do this, she lands herself a healthy book bonus and heads overseas, beginning a year long self-discovery journey. She spends the first four months in Italy, experiencing the sensory pleasures of food and language. She then travels to India to do yoga and meditate; and then to Bali, ultimately learning how to blend the spiritual, esoteric understanding of self and ultimately find out how to balance the act. The book is her journey and is filled with so many passages that stopped me dead in my reading tracks. Like this one:

"I have boundary issues with men. Or maybe that's not fair to say. To have issues with boundaries, one must have boundaries in the first place, right? 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."

So at the risk of divulging too much information, allow me to just say that at the very moment I read this particular passage, my two little nostrils might have been an eighth of an inch out of the muck of trying to wade through a particularly similar boundaries quandary myself. Finding someone who in prose alone is willing to be self deprecating, brutally honest and genuine was like breathing in a whole mouthful of salty ocean air after waking up and finding you've been chewing a piece of shitty gum for months.

I also had at that particular moment a few thousand other problems that seemed to have crept into my life and I was painfully desperate for a girlfriend who understood; who was fully willing to rip on me for all of them so that I could truly get myself in a space to be self reflective, laugh, cry and move forward. While I didn't find the girlfriend, I found the book. I've read it three times since. And when I did find the girlfriend, I passed it on to her. And when my other girlfriend Heather called from Chicago, we cracked open respective bottles of wine 2,000 miles apart one night and I read it to her. She ran out and got it, and passed it on to her friends. And now Oprah put it on her list of favorite things and I feel I've been outed, or perhaps my opinion is somehow invalidated to some.

Nonetheless, you should still read it. You should read it if you are a man because it will help you to see how crazy we women really are and I say that in the most respectful way possible. You should read it if you are a woman because I guarantee, if you read it in January, or July, or August or December, you will surely find some page that speaks to you; that makes you want to pack your shit and move, take a trip somewhere, or maybe just begin to believe again...or to remember to pray.

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