Friday, July 02, 2010

Book Report: My Journey back to Eat, Pray, Love

I believe that certain books have to wait to reach you at the right moment in your life. A copy of Eat, Pray, Love was given to me in 2006 while I was still living in Chicago, and before Eric and I had embarked on our travels around the world. Though the book was right up my alley (a memoir of a culinary adventure/spiritual journey/romance!) I never managed to begin reading it.

I'm so glad I waited.

There are many reasons why I was meant to read this book four years later than the moment when it first appeared in my life. Instead of the usual book review, I thought I'd tell you a little about what happened in my life between then and now.

In 2006, I'd finally finished college, which was a punishing endeavor. Though I did learn, the lessons came at great expense to my creativity and left me confused and frustrated. I was, like Ms. Gilbert at the beginning of her memoir, pulling myself out of a depression. I was no longer in the depths of it, but still working to build a different life.

In 2006, I had never traveled to the third world, unless you count fabulous resorts, which of course, you can't. Although I already liked to travel and explore, I had only been to Europe, which doesn't offer the same paradigm shift that you see in the third world. Europeans may eat sumptuous food and dress well, but their priorities and ours aren't that far removed.

So much changed in me during our travels. Little lessons intertwined with big ones.

Though I'd always loved eating great food- (thank you Mom!) I knew little about how to prepare it myself. Living in Kenya and Uganda forced me to begin cooking. If I had a hankering for something Western, I had to learn to make it- from the barest ingredients. Looking back now, I see this moment as a crucial one because I had to make candied ginger from scratch.

It took me all day, and what I learned was this: making food from scratch isn't really that difficult, but it does take time. Here is the best part, and I feel it's also a spiritual metaphor; if you can enjoy that time, if you can be present in what you are doing, it can be a joy instead of drudgery. And the end result, the buttery, flakey, ginger studded jewel of a result, tastes supremely better than anything you can find in a store.

I don't know that I could have learned this lesson earlier, because it was the first time I had long stretches of uninterrupted time to devote to a project like making candied ginger from scratch. Life is slower in Uganda and the rush rush rush of my previous life began to fade away. I began to try to relax into the moment.

There were many other lessons in our travels as well- mainly how vast the world really is. It's cliché, but we Americans often think that our way of life is the only and/or best one. What I learned in our travels is that there are an infinite variety of ways to live, a jangling swirl of different customs, attire, rites, languages, foods, architecture, crops to cultivate and ways to raise children. But the beauty of all this cacophony is that there are also similarities. The world is vast and tiny all at once. We all have to eat, fight, make love, dance, sing, clean up messes and think about what it means to be alive.

Eat Pray Love became the phenomenon that it is because it touches on some profound points. Yes, there are moments in the book (as a few of you pointed out when I first mentioned the book club) that are self-indulgent and egotistical. (What memoirist isn't a smidge egotistical?) Gilbert is very concerned that we like her, an unlikeable quality in a writer. But in the end, I fell in love with her anyway. This is a book is about following your bliss, something that so few people have the courage to really do.

It's a terrifying thing to walk off the grid that society lays out for us- it's uncharted territory and all you have to navigate is your own internal compass, which is far from infallible. But I believe that ignoring that fear (As Gilbert's Guru said: "Fear? So what.") opens up to you the possibility of life on another plane of being.

Walking through the fear towards your bliss is like that moment in The Last Crusade when Indiana Jones has to step out onto the invisible bridge of faith. The life of fulfillment you are meant to have lies across the chasm and if you have the courage to step into the void, a path will rise up to meet you. The beautiful part is that you won't see the help coming. It will just appear before you- just as it did in Liz Gilbert's story and just as it did for us during our gallivanting around the world. I'm so glad I read this book after starting out on my own journey.


ArtSnark said...

wonderful post

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

I love this post. I have the book but have never read it. Think I will give it a try.

Simply Sarah said...

I am so looking forward to your memoire my dear! Posts like this a but a tease. You really have a gift with words accompanied by incredible insight and exciting experiences... the world is waiting!

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