I finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love last night, and I wrestled with my thoughts to decide if I should really blog about the book. I did not want to write about it because, when so many people have already read the book, how is my little opinion going to change the course of the world? But ofcourse, I have changed my mind. Bear with me while I repeat some thoughts here.
When my marriage crashed, a lot of readers recommended Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. Although I politely agreed to read it, I told myself, “Who the hell is Gilbert? How does she know about the shit I am going through? I am not going to read about this rich woman, travelling to devour pizza and pasta, sojourning at an ashram, and making love to a Brazilian man. Please!”
But, the pressure mounted. Even the non-readers in my life judged me for not reading the book. That bruised my ego. Also, last month, I read Gilbert’s Big Magic. I wanted to marry that book. With a bruised ego, I also realised that Gilbert might have some golden tips for me in Eat, Pray, Love.
Has the book changed my life? Do I feel better about all the unpleasant things that happened to me? The answer is yes. But, not a big yes that I said to Big Magic. That book is still my favourite of Gilbert’s.
I am grateful to Eat, Pray, Love for planting some significant thoughts in my head.
In spite of being the last one to move out of my marriage, I harboured no hatred. However, I was filled with regrets, guilt, and self-pity. While depression, and loneliness haunted me, I grew mad at myself for — pardon my French — fucking up everything. When I read about Gilbert’s battle with divorce, and loneliness, I kept nodding. I kept saying, “That’s my life. That’s exactly how I feel.”
“It’s not fair for you to come here,” I tell Depression. “I paid you off already. I served my time back in New York.” But he just gives me that dark smile, settles into my favourite chair, puts his feet on my table and lights a cigar, filling the place with his awful smoke. Loneliness watches and sighs, then climbs into my bed and pulls the cover over himself, fully dressed, shoes and all. He’s going to make me sleep with him again tonight, I just know it.
…when I get lonely these days, I think: So be lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness, Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.
I had some uncanny moments, when I was reading Eat, Pray, Love. Like those strange moments when you can’t believe those words you see on paper, because they project an accurate picture of yourself, as though the writer was a fly in your bedroom, and had unconditional access to the most private sections of your life.
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.
This much I do know — I’m exhausted by the cumulative consequences of a lifetime of hasty choices and chaotic passions.
Not only did Gilbert make me feel that my struggle is not unique, and that I don’t have to allow the quicksand to suck me in, but she shared some wise words. I loved this one.
…when you sense a faint potentiality for happiness after such dark times you must grab onto the ankles of that happiness and not let go until it drags you face-first out of the dirt — this is not selfishness, but obligation. You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.
From the thousands of passages I have shared here, you might have deduced that I used my highlighter like a child who abuses her crayons. I tortured the highlighter even more after Gilbert met Richard from Texas. I love that guy; his sagacity is precious.
Someday you’re gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing…
Gilbert also met a plumber/poet from New Zealand, and I wanted to inhale, and drink that guy’s Instructions for Freedom. He wrote 10 points to help Gilbert let go of her last lover, and I wanted to hug the plumber/poet because I found his Instructions personal. I couldn’t help but shed a couple of tears on the book when I read it. I thought, “This. Is. What. I. Wanted. To. Read.”
The Balinese part of the book didn’t affect me like the first two parts. Perhaps, I still haven’t removed my skeptical-thinking-hat about love, sex, and all that. If a friend goes through a rough patch in life owing to a bitter marriage, I will not shove a copy of Eat, Pray, Love in her hands. I am not comfortable recommending this book to anybody, regardless of how flowery or thorny one’s life is. I liked it because Gilbert gave words to some of my most painful, private struggles, and she subtly dropped a rope to me to climb out of my abyss. And that is all you can ask of a book.
Deepika Ramesh is a reader, blogger, animal-lover, aspiring cyclist, and a sucker for tiny, warm moments. She blogs at https://worncorners.wordpress.com