A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend about relationships and he chided me and said, “Why must you have a traditional relationship.”
“Because I was raised on Disney and by the Catholic church,” I responded (and I’m not sure which had more influence, though my guess would be Disney).
My answer was immediate and quite true. Which got me thinking. And chiding myself. And being embarrassed.
Then, about a week later, I read a friend’s blog post about how great she felt to be in her 40’s because in her 30s she often thought of “ways she is lame.” And I thought that was exactly how I’ve been feeling ever since I’ve been in my 30s. Lamenting over wrong decisions. Deploring my inhibitions, my anxieties, my insecurities.
This has got to stop, I realized. I don’t want a whole decade of my life to be devoted to “ways I am lame.”
So, I pulled out one of my favorite books, the books that makes me believe in love, and prayer, and God, and most importantly, myself and my ability to make my life what I want it to be.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.
This book came into my life, first, when I probably needed it the most. I had heard of it from a few friends, but nothing more than it was an excellent “literature lite” (yeah, I spelled lite correctly and on purpose for the point of what kind of literature I’m talking about). So, after a pretty bad break up, I was in San Francisco at the Farmer’s Market, when I wandered away from my friends, walked down a bit, and saw a bookshop. Right in the front window was this book. And I just bought. I still don’t know why, but I did. I started reading it right then and there, and by the time my SF trip was over about 2 days later, I had finished. The book had given me the strength to feel more confident in my decision to end my very passionate yet broken relationship.
Fast forward a year later, and I’m married, pregnant, and miserable. Miserable. (I feel the need to say this twice to emphasize just how miserable I was. I’ll say it again in caps: MISERABLE). In the midst of all my life chaos I took the book down from the shelf and began reading it again, this time underlying important passages to me. Even though I had just read it a year ago, there was so much I had missed and the narrative spoke to me much more loudly than before. Between my therapist telling me to get out and this book, I divorced myself from this person, and then had a pretty difficult time rediscovering who I was.
Which brings me to this summer, as I have spent the past 3 years blaming myself, hiding from people I know, and generally reliving some pretty bad moments from my life. It’s like it took these years for me to see a pattern I had in life, especially with men, and a pattern that wasn’t good. And even though I was in no way depressed and was a fully functional, happy (how can you not be happy with two gorgeous children running around?), working woman, I wouldn’t say I was really living. Or forgiving. Because my life seemed to play out like a movie on replay in my mind. And only the bad parts. The parts where I’d hurt people, injured feelings, been too self-involved. And though I realize I’ve done a lot of good, it didn’t matter to my life movie. It was only the bad stuff.
Which is why I started this blog. And why, after thinking about how I wanted my 30s defined, I reread this book.
It came at a good time. And I think this is the type of book that has to come to you when you’re ready for it. I’ve given it to friends who have hated it, bored by this woman’s search. My own sister said she liked the Italy part (the pleasure), but hoped to God that she never had anything so dramatic happen in her life that would make her set our in search of God, depth, or to wake up on a bathroom floor crying in desperation. My hope is that none of my family or friends has to go through that, but my reality is that I did go through some terrible times, and even more real is that we probably all will at some point, and maybe this isn’t the book for everyone. My hope is that we find a book that saves our sanity, and this certainly was for me. (I also want to note that I’ve had people say that they couldn’t get into this book because she was an upper-middle class white woman, going through a divorce, who was paid to travel for a year. I think this is a moot point. Who cares about her income level, her race, or her means? I don’t think this changes the meaning at all.).
Anyway, this time I read the book a bit differently than the previous two times. I’m learning more how to love my flaws, embrace them, make them what makes me special. To not be so hard on myself. To learn to really, really, really love myself. To find God, something I’ve been on a search for. More specifically, to find God in me (as Gilbert writes, “God dwells within you, as you” and ” To know God, you need only to renounce one thing–your sense of division from God.”).
Oh yeah, and I also want to become really great at yoga, travel to an ashram one day, and, of course, fall in love one day–probably traditionally.
I finished my third read of this book today, and for all the great lessons I’ve learned, I’m so very thankful.
Maybe all try to do all three in one day. Could you see it: I’ll go to yoga (pray), go to dinner (eat), and then go to a bar (love).
Nooooooo, I’m really just kidding.