Thursday, March 5, 2009

Eat Pray Love

Eat Pray Love is one of my very favorite books. It was one of the first books my mom bought me after the fire. I never reread books although I love collecting books I've read. I decided though to read this book again, wondering if it would have some new insight for me given the last six+ months.

If you aren't familiar with the book, Elizabeth Gilbert (the author and narrator) splits a year between Italy, India, and Indonesia. She has just finalized a divorce, and she wants to experience pure pleasure in Italy, pure devotion in India, and find a balance between the two in Bali.

I am still with her in Italy. She is practicing Italian with an Italian in exchange for practicing English with him. She writes:
"We were talking the other evening about the phrases one uses when trying to comfort someone who is in distress. I told him that in English we sometimes say 'I've been there.' This was unclear to him at first - I've been where? But I explained that deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope."

I feel like I've been there. And it does feel like a place. It is here, but it is also somewhere else entirely, as though my reality is running parallel to those around me. Their lives didn't change that day, and I am just trying so hard to redirect my path back to intersect with normal again. Although sometimes I wonder if it ever will. My life was meant to change. And the direction I am headed now is very different than that of six and a half months ago.

A little later Gilbert writes about the Augusteum. It was built to hold Augustus's remains because "it must have been impossible for the emperor to have imagined at the time that Rome would ever be anything but a mighty Augustus-worshiping empire." It went through many changes in the time since, serving as a fortress, a vineyard, a garden, a bullring, a fireworks depository, and a concert hall (among other things). Reflecting on this, she writes:
"I look at the Augusteum, and I think that perhaps my life has not actually been so chaotic after all. It is merely this world that is chaotic, bringing changes to us all that nobody could have anticipated. The Augusteum warns me not to get attached to any obsolete idea of who I am, what I represent, whom I belong to, or what function I may once have intended to serve... one must always be prepared for riotous and endless waves of transformation."

So often we plug along through life so certain of who we are and what we are meant to be. And when something happens that alters that perception, it is easy to get lost in what should have been. But really, this is what is. There is no should have been. We are always changing. And our circumstances are always changing as well. I suppose we have to be open to change, be flexible so that those changes don't derail us. As difficult as this lesson has been for me, I am learning that it is much easier to let the wind carry you to your new path rather than resist that which is before you.


  1. Brooke,

    I loved your perspective on this book. I will just have to read it myself. When I got bells palsy and a few years later my step-father got bells palsy...I too had "been there". His palsy was on both sides of his face so his "there" was a bit different but similar. It sometimes is a comfort to know that we really are not alone in the journey. Thanks for writing!


  2. Hi Brooke! I too am re-reading this book this month (for our book club). I'll be thinking of you as I finish it! :)
    I think my favorite line to memory in this book is in India when Richard says "you have to stop putting your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be". Enjoy, and thanks for posting on this great read.