This summer, I took a much needed break from my personal Mommy Memoir Marathon ("Operating Instructions", "Waiting for Birdy", "Waiting for Daisy", "Expecting Adam", "Baby Love", "Crawling" etc. etc. etc.) to read "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was tough to go from the affirming, navel-gazing comfort of my MMM books to this one. In the first few pages, we find Gilbert alone on her bathroom floor crying her eyes out because she doesn't want to live in a house in the suburbs, she doesn't want to be married anymore, she doesn't want to have a baby. Um, HI? Thanks for saying you don't want my life. (Didn't you know? It's all about ME and how things reflect on MY choices.)
But I kept reading and wound up loving the book in spite of (because of?) how different her journey is from my current life. In brief, she leaves her husband and embarks on a year long quest to find, know and heal herself that takes her to Italy (that would be the eating part), India (she does some praying there, natch) and finally Indonesia (for the lovin').
I had a hard time not slamming the book down in a fit of envious anger when I read the section on eating in Italy. Savoring every course during her meals, creating whole days devoted to the slow, pleasurable experience of a fresh, well-cooked meal, taking her time to figure out what she really wanted, these things seemed a lifetime away for me. Scarfing some left-over toddler mac n' cheese while trying to duck under the flying sippy cup was not on her agenda and that made me almost hate her.
Luckily, Gilbert is a witty, self-deprecating narrator and her adventure is a wild ride I enjoyed taking with her. At an ashram in India for the middle third of the book, she meets some great characters, comes to understand her true nature and spends endless hours in meditation. Finally, she finds love in Indonesia. By the end, I was truly rooting for her and was sad to leave her company on the final page.
This weekend, I watched Elizabeth Gilbert on Oprah. (Gotta love that TiVo!). She seemed a genuine, happy, full-of-life person, just like I hoped. She very kindly reminded us that we can't all spend a year in Italy, India and Indonesia. (You don't think that Z would like to sit with me in endless meditations at the ashram? Hmmmmmm.) So she had three suggestions for people who want to have their own journey:
1. At the very beginning of every day, write in a journal the answer to this question: "What do I really, really, really want?" Apparently you need all the "really"s to get to the truth.
I don't know about you but I don't really have time to do this first thing in the morning, as I am always awoken at the butt crack of dawn by a incomprehensibly whiny but clearly and madly signing toddler who is ready to "Eat!" a "Banana!" and some "Milk!". If I did have the time to write first thing in the morning, it would always say the same thing: "I really really really want to lie in bed with my eyes closed for another half an hour and then maybe be awoken by a breakfast tray and the morning paper and no one in my face wanting the "Dolly!" to have a "Diaper!" "Change!" "Please!"'
How is writing that over and over again supposed to make me happier?
2. At the end of every day, write in a journal (same one?) "The happiest moment of your day". This one I can get behind. I can almost always find some part of my day that makes me smile with heart-bursting joy. And I should find a way to hang onto those moments. Perhaps this is it.
I may try to do this one.
3. Refine your mantra. Rather than suggesting we chose a mantra, she says we all already have one- whatever we constantly tell ourselves is our mantra. We should work on refining it or finding a more productive one, one that is leading us where we want to go.
My current mantra would be "I am out of balance, have no time and cannot keep track of my life". The thought of changing it ("I have all the time I need"? "The chaos around me is not within me"? "Changing Dolly's diaper for the 18th time today is not a boring time-sink that will make me gouge out my own eyeballs"?) is a big challenge.
Hmmmm, I'll have to work on that.