Eat, Pray, Love: The Rest of Us

Monday, I saw a special screening of the new film, "Eat, Pray, Love." It was beautifully made and very well-acted.  Julia Roberts plays travel writer Elizabeth Gilbert, who leaves a broken marriage as a broken person, and decides to take a year off to find herself by eating in Italy for four months, chanting in India for four months, wrapping up with four months in Bali, hanging with a shaman and noshing on Javier Bardem.

If you ask me, that's a great idea. (Except for screwing Javier Bardem)

Unfortunately, like most earthlings, I'm unable to take a year off of work and move abroad.  I have to learn to revitalize my soul and spirit here, with the job I have, the food available nearby, and the God of my incomprehension. 

To me, the purpose of "finding oneself" is improving your real life wherever you are.  If, for example, you live in New York City, you will certainly find serenity if you move to an isolated hut in Bali.  Duh.  But how does that help you when you get back to New York? If you don't enjoy food anymore, spending four months in Italy doing little but eating and cooking and drinking wine will certainly invigorate you.  Again, duh.  Also, I think it's very likely that spending four months praying, meditating, and chanting in an Ashram would enrich your soul.  Duh, a third time.

Sadly, most of us can't afford to run away for a year.  We have to learn to Eat, Pray, and Love differently.

EAT: I like to cook.  I'm actually good at it, believe it or not.  I make the greatest pot roast in the world, and brother Marky and I bake a pineapple upside-down cake that can cure many diseases.  The reality is that I don't feel like being creative when I get home.  Much as I'd love to go to the farmer's market and buy fresh asparagus and grow my own herbs, as much as I'd like to drizzle things with extra virgin olive oil, I just want something fast. 

Other people in Tomworld have issues like feeding a whole family on one income, trying to make macaroni & cheese and hotdogs more appealing somehow.  Recipes with angel hair pasta, fresh vegetables and mussels give way to Poverty Primavera: ramen noodles with whatever vegetables are on sale, and a can of tuna.   I'd love to take a bunch of friends to my favorite bistro, order in Italian, and buy everybody carafes of wine.  The reality is that I can't do that.  I'm taking Team Punkin out for Birthday steaks Monday, and that will be it for August's fine dining.  After that, thank God for Value Menus, and that I actually enjoy Poverty Primavera.

PRAY: In Twelve Step groups, the spiritual core is simple: "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him." (Italics theirs) For me, it's like this: if I can understand God, God isn't God.  I just trust that there's a capital-s Something out there, Something bigger and wiser than tom.  I have friends who are agnostics, atheists, Muslims, Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics, Wiccans, Hindus, and every shade between.  This is good.  The one thing I profess to KNOW about God is that it ain't me.

I agree that meditation and chanting and prayer would probably help me find my spiritual center.  Living in a world with a spiritual focus…I have no doubt that would instill peace, much the same as rehab is a very safe place for alcoholics not to drink.  The problem is, how do I carry that peace out into the chaotic world outside the ashram walls? How do I stay sober in a world where every store sells beer and wine? 

The reality is that I'm not able to devote my entire life to finding myself.  My prayers are simple, like "Please help my friend Jo, whose husband of 34 years just died," or "help my friend who's having a difficult time with her pregnancy and her life," or "help my brother's back be okay." I'm not looking for enlightenment, just to survive.  I say "Thank You" when I see a gorgeous sunset, or walk along the beach holding hands, or realize that it's a huge damn miracle that I'm still here. 

LOVE: "Love, exciting and new, come aboard, we're expecting you. The looooooooooooooove boat, welcome aboard it's love."

Sorry.  That's the theme from "The Love Boat," a show where a nerdy, unloveable nerd (Sonny Bono) would find romance on the high seas with a heartbroken widow (Adrienne Barbeau), with wisdom from Captain Stubbing (Gavin McLeod), pina coladas and grins from Isaac the Bartender (Ted Lange), and perhaps an 8-ball of pink Peruvian flake cocaine from Julie the Cruise Director (Lauren Tewes).  The irony is that "Fantasy Island" followed "The Love Boat" on ABC's Saturday night juggernaut, and yet "Fantasy Island" was usually more plausible. 

Love is an important part of our lives.  If we're lucky, we experience love in many forms during life, from being loved as a child, to cherished as a friend, adored as a lover, loved back as a parent, revered as an elder.  It doesn't always work that way.  The Cowboy Junkies have a perfect lyric for the phenomenon of romantic love: "Sometimes you meet someone, and your guts just burst."

It's like that.  At certain times, our paths cross with somebody, and it's like stepping on a rake in the garden: WHAM, upside the head.  I've written before about how I, like some people, am a comet.  I come perihelion to people, shine brightly in their lives for awhile, then resume my journey.  But in the past year, I've realized how much love I have in my life.  It may not be the ratings-jackpot romantic love they found on The Love Boat anymore than I'll be dining on fresh asparagus and veal marsala when I get home.  The love I get from my friends and family sustains me.  The odd romantic fling flashes bright and burns hot, but this steadfast love from "my people" sustains me.  Thus far in life, I've had a lot more turkey sandwiches than decadent gourmet dinners, just as I've had a whole lot more good friendships than romances.  Life is good; love is good.

And hey, if you need to live in some paradise cabin and mount Javier Bardem to find love, God bless you.  (If nothing else, that leaves more Penelope Cruz for me)

Like I said, I enjoyed "Eat, Pray, Love." But I think I enjoyed it the same way I enjoy seeing Indiana Jones films: "This is entertaining, and I'm happy for the protagonist, but this life and tom-life are incompatible."

My mission is not to travel the planet searching for life's answers.  My mission is to live my life, and my life is here. My life is now.  My mission is to make the most of where I am, when I am, and with whom I am.  Like Dumbledore's Mirror of Erised, a truly contented man would gaze in the mirror and see only his reflection.  I gaze into my mirror, and I see…nothing.  My lightbulb burned out, and I keep forgetting to change it.  But I'm okay with that, even if I'm not meeting Penelope Cruz later for fettucine, prayer, and mounting.  At least for now, if I want it to be cooler in my life, I'll jack down the A/C, and not move to Antarctica.

Have a great weekend.

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12 Responses to “Eat, Pray, Love: The Rest of Us”

  1. I have studiously avoided both book and film but I did succumb to the World Market special enter-to-win thingie because – hey – who wouldn't want an all-expense paid trip to Italy?But mostly I, like you, live this life as it's dealt to me. I'll take a good neighbor over ashram boffing any time.

  2. When I read the book, I kept thinking about how unrealistic it was to 99% of it's readers… but I suppose if you're a writer, it's not so unrealistic… it's material. And you can write from anywhere.I'm not a writer. I'm a bank teller and that requires me to be at the same place every day. Soooooo, I've got to do the poor-[wo]man's version of Eat, Pray, Love too.It's not so bad… I haven't found any hunks to help me find "love" again though.(I'm glad to hear the movie is good. I'm considering a trip to see it, but I was unsure as it is the most boring movie poster I've ever seen. I was hoping the movie wasn't the same way.)

  3. Wow, what a fantastic post. That is exactly true!! We can't just take a year off….that is so unrealistic. And most of us are eating ramen noodles and grilled cheese as well. I like your take on the world, your realistic take on what is really important, what is feasible, and appreciating and living with what we happen to have, striving to make our spot in the world a bit brighter, not by leaving, but by staying there.

  4. Ok, I have read it all again and I am asking you seriously this time….can I share this post with friends and family? I will of course attach your name and url to it. Please let me know. This is inspirational. Are you a preacher in real life? 🙂

  5. You may share it as you wish. *blushes*
    Technically, I am an ordained minister, but that's in an Internet Church so I can do weddings. 😉
    Perhaps ironically, I got an e-mail from my parents' pastor, saying how much he liked it.
    Thanks for the kind words, Lauri. You're teh ossm. (despite dealing with too many… 😉 )

  6. Oh MAAAAAN, I wish you were near here so you could do my daughter's wedding!Her friend from high school got ordained so he could do the ceremony and I am sure he will do a fine job….but I am also sure you would do better! Hee! 😀

  7. And now you've seen it! And visited the Olive Garden in it's honor. Let me know if you find an ashram or a Javier Bardem in Christinaheartville. 🙂

  8. I think the greatest gift we can be given is that of being happy with what we have. Like Bob Cratchit's family, "They were happy, pleased with one another, and contented with the time."
    Thanks for the kind words, Freedom.

  9. I'd love to do your daughter.
    I mean, "perform her wedding ceremony," of course. *snerk*
    Sadly, I lost my certification card. It's too bad, because I'd paid $25 extra for the Doctor of Divinity degree. When I actually did Abby and Bryan's wedding, I officiated it as a Notary Public, not a clergy. This does you no good, unless you move everyone to Florida for the event. It was definitely NOT your standard wedding ceremony, to be sure. Kind of a Mental Chex Mix blended with massive panic attack.

  10. Lol!I can so relate on the massive panic attack! I'm glad Ashlee's friend, Jeff, is officiating and not me! Bahaha. Nope, my future son-in-law would most definitely disapprove of you doing my daughter! Snerk!

  11. Bryan, the groom, is a Deputy with the HCSO, and his groomsmen were all police, firemen, etc. The Best Man took one look at me, and he thought I was having a heart attack. lol Then the DJ's wireless mic wouldn't work, so I had to project like a theater actor to be heard in this giant atrium. It was…an experience, to be sure.
    Anyway, they're still happily married, so it was worth the panic attack. I'm sure Ashlee's wedding will be juuuuust gorgeous. 🙂

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