Tuesday, August 24, 2010

lessons from "eat pray love."

Two years ago, I — along with nearly every other American woman in their 20s and 30s — finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller Eat Pray Love. Gilbert and I don’t have much in common, but I remembered finishing the book and wanting to read it again and again. Something about it just absolutely captured me. I didn’t understand her divorce and couldn’t imagine traveling the world on a seemingly infinite budget, but I knew: I liked her style. I loved how she spoke. I appreciated her willingness to look selfish and self-centered, to show the not-so-pretty parts of herself to anyone who picked up the book and chose to read it.

So I had my doubts about how the movie would be.

I wasn’t as disappointed as others I know were; I kept my expectations low, so I wasn’t bothered by the discrepancies between book and film. Several friends I saw the movie with were a little turned off by Gilbert’s “selfish journey.” My opinion on that is a little different, perhaps because I’ve read the memoir, and instead of focusing of the selfishness of Gilbert’s quest, I was struck by how we Americans — and perhaps we Christians — have completely missed the point of our own journeys (wherever they may take us).

During the “eat” portion of Elizabeth’s trip, she meets Luca Spaghetti, a passionate Italian man who informs her that Americans work too hard and, consequently, miss too much. In the film, he says, basically, this:

“You Americans work and work and work until you are burnt out! And then, you put on your t-shirt and sweat pants and curl up in front of the TV, and that, to you, is entertainment!”

At this point, Spaghetti bursts into a fit of laughter. Meanwhile, I was sitting in the cold, dark theatre thinking it all hit a little too close to home.

I am that person.

I go and go and go and go. When I feel myself wearing thin, I put on some pajamas and curl up in front of the TV or read a good book.

And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, in moderation.

But I don’t want to spend every spare moment of my life watching or reading about other people’s adventures.

Instead, I want to have one.

Maybe Gilbert’s journey was selfish. Maybe she never should have divorced. Maybe she should have looked to other places (i.e., not men) for ideas of true contentment. Maybe she should have stayed in New York and “discovered herself” there instead of embarking on a three-country tour.

But she didn’t, and I’m not going to judge her for that.

As my group of friends left the theatre, we got into a discussion about selfishness and contentment, finally getting into our cars after concluding that traveling the world must be nice, but stuff like that “only happens in the movies.”

We all left the theatre a little disgruntled, and I don’t think it’s really because we’re all self-sacrificing martyrs furious over one woman’s abandonment of her husband.

Instead, I’m going to argue that maybe we got a little frustrated with ourselves. We’re too scared to leave our jobs or spend our money or live without plans or do something unfamiliar. Maybe on the surface, yes, we thought Gilbert’s journey was a self-centered one. But dig a little deeper, and I guarantee you there’s a little jealousy there.

Jordan and I talk, frequently, about our desire for a simple life. A life full of family we love and friends we enjoy. Good food and good books and deep, lasting relationships. There are days when I look at our life together, and I think: This is it. Days when we cook together and read together and sit across from each other and smile.

But then there are other days. Days when my to do list is longer than my arm and my email inbox is overflowing and my prayers go unsaid and I overcommit myself to one thing after another.

That’s when I put on my pajamas and watch Tom and Meg fall in love all over again.

And I don’t think that’s what life is supposed to look like.

My nationality should not determine whether or not I can take a vacation without guilt.

My relationship with Christ should not mean that I have to say yes to every church activity or ministry that finds its way to my door.

My ambition should not be tied up in a job.

My worth should not be determined by how much I make or what gets checked off my to do list.

Eat Pray Love wasn’t the perfect book, and it’s not the perfect movie. It’s about someone’s life, so it’s bound to be messy.

But I needed a wake up call. As a girl who spends entirely too much time sitting at a computer and filling out dates in a planner, I needed a reminder that this life is so much more.

It’s pasta and prayer and people we love.

As Americans (and for me, as a Christian), our focus tends to be on our purpose. What should we be doing (and surely we must be doing something!)?

It never occurs to us that maybe, just maybe, we were meant to simply enjoy the gift.


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, as always.

Brooke Premo said...

I love this post. I never read the book or saw the movie because I thought the main character would be all "Edna Pontellier from the Awakening-style selfish" but it seems like there are parts that I would really agree with.

P.S. You are a great writer!

Lindsey said...

i agree wholeheartedly with this post. i miss you dearly, and i hope that you are finding more ways to enjoy the life that God has given you. :)

Maggie said...

Perfectly put... a very special post.