Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Book Report: Just Keep Reading

It’s funny - when I started Eat, Pray, Love, I was under a lot of stress and I was looking for a quick light read, something to escape to. It seemed like everyone and their sister had read it and I picked it up over the summer and added it to the NEED TO READ ASAP basket next to my bed. (Just role with it… It’s one of my gagillion systems.) Instead I found this book to be quite the challenge.

Elizabeth Gilbert starts by painting her us her hell – she hit rock bottom. Her career, marriage, and self respect were in shambles and she spends 100 pages navigating us through her self loathing. I’ll admit – I found her tale of despair irritating, 90% of her woes were related to her attitude of the situation - I wanted to punch her for whining about it. Now, I idolize strong willed, outspoken, brazen women. Not whiners. But I kept reading. Not sure why but I did.

She divides the book into three parts from there on. She takes 3 trips over the next year to help patch her self esteem though self discovery, gastronomic escapism, and travel. It didn’t help hush the Maureen Dowd in me, when I found out that in the cesspool of her plight she was getting an advance for a book about her journey. Of course she’s going to find serenity - she’s going to get paid for it. But I found myself still reading the darn thing.

Off she goes to Italy for four months. Now this part I loved. She took one of my dream vacations - learning to study Italian in Rome for 4 months - what’s not to love? As she describes the food, the men, the culture, my guard starts to melt. A part that sticks out was a conversation she had with her delicious Italian tutor. He makes the case that- if you could deduce Rome to one word, it would be Sex, New York: Success. As she scrambles to find her word - I can’t help but try to think of mine Flexible? Family? Mouthy? Brash? I couldn’t find my word. That was 3 months ago. I put the book down and had to focus on other things - work, more work, and coordinating the holidays.

Then while I was packing for our vacation to the Dominican I threw 4 months worth of magazine subscriptions (the news related ones are the only ones I have time to keep current with: Economist, The Week, Atlantic, etc) and in case that wasn’t enough I tossed in Eat Pray Love.

Literally walking off the plane from a week whirlwind in San Diego for the holidays, changing suitcases after work, and walking back onto the plane I realized the last time I had some quality alone - hands free time was on our cruise. That was in August. While sitting on the planes I’ve been working out my 2010 strategy (I don’t do resolutions - I strategize,) I realized I have put a lot of things on hold - my grad school application, my fitness program , my blog, - hell just cooking has been shelved and my waistline serves as a reminder. Maybe that’s why I picked EPL back up.

I left the magazines in my carry on and I rejoined Lizzy’s journey. I was still a little bitter about her weaknesses compassion is a strong suite for me -- sympathy is not. That is to say - I feel your pain - I can see your point, but I don’t feel bad for you. But I kept reading.

I rejoined her, I on a soft canvas pillow on a beach lounger in the Dominican Republic - she on a dusty mat in an Indian Ashram. I hate the touchy feely spiritual pursuit. I’m catholic - not of the book totin’ persuasion - but a relatively good one. And like Lizzy, I do yoga too- but the second we move out of the Hatha Yoga instructions and into the “unite your body and spirit” talk - I’m gone. Checked out - doing my grocery list in my head and racking my brain to confirm I Tivo-ed 60 minutes. When we’re “meditating,” I’m taking a cat nap - gotta get those in when you can - so this next chapter was really hard for me. But I kept reading.

She introduces a friend she makes - a Texas man who has the bluntness of Helen Thomas and the charm of Clint Eastwood. I like him. Lizzy wails over losing her soul mate and he calls her out on it – one point for Texas. But in holding up mirror to her face, metaphorically speaking, he makes a really write-that-down point: he says very few people meet their soul mate - and even fewer stay with them. Their purpose is not to complete you - but to open your soul to the ability to love deeply. If that’s the case - time to change the e-harmony profile. I’m only half kidding.

Then we hit Bali - here she is reuniting with the muse that sent her on this journey - an old medicine man who predicated from her palm - she would be back in two years to live with him. Instead she meets her love. Game, Set, Match. And from the way she describes him - I would fall in love with this guy too. He’s a Brazilian expat living in Bali and his kids are in Australia. He’s adventurous, international, blunt, focused, and cultured, and if he’s anything like the Brazilians I know - he’s beautiful. Time to start shopping in Bali.

I’m glad I kept reading and I have to be honest - I say this begrudgingly - I liked the book. I love her writing style - writing as if we’re girlfriends. Heck I called her Lizzy all through this post. Maybe it’s her writing, maybe, and I hated to admit it, I identified with her. But more importantly I was moved by the journey.

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