I started reading Eat Pray Love several months ago and finished about half of it (two-thirds through India, or the “pray” part of the book) before I just couldn’t go any further. The author began to grate on my nerves and I put the book down for what I thought was the last time.
Then the woman who runs my book club scheduled a meeting to discuss this book, so I decided to pick it up again and just finish it. I expected it to be as painful an experience the second time as the first.
But what I realized in finishing the book is that I saw a lot of myself in Elizabeth Gilbert. And I thought that maybe the reason she annoyed me so much was that she writes the book as if she is the only person in the world who experienced the things she experienced. I don’t mean the actual events of her life, but the emotions and the enlightenment. She probably didn’t mean it that way, but that’s the way it comes across.
The saving grace was that I picked the book up again at a part where she talks about hosting people at the Indian Ashram where she’s staying. The people come from all over the world to spend seven to ten days in silent meditation and the only person they speak to is Gilbert, and only when necessary. She describes a lot of petty requests and complaints from the people arriving. Instead of being annoyed with them, Gilbert says that she thinks the people behave that way because they are afraid. The realization allows her to tend to their requests and complaints with patience and understanding. I need more of this in my life and my personality. I tend to be high-strung and generally prefer the company of animals to people.
The book made me think. I needed it. I need to spend more time in quiet solitude. I have successfully managed to mostly avoid television this week. I caught a few minutes of General Hospital yesterday, but mostly I just had the TV on while I started laundry, picked up and vacuumed. Then I turned it off, settled on the couch and finished Eat Pray Love before meeting friends for dinner. I read another book in two days just by choosing to read over watching TV. Chris does turn it on when he’s home in the evening, and I turn it on when I go to bed and am too tired to read anymore.
I don’t miss it. Not one bit. I will watch the last season of Lost next year and probably keep up with The Biggest Loser and Bones. But I can’t think of any other show I care to watch regularly.
I can’t say that I think Eat Pray Love is the best book ever. It’s not even in my top 20. I know a lot of people who loved it and a lot who felt much like I did on my first attempt. I understand both points of view. But I can’t dismiss it. I learned too much about myself from it, and it inspired a lot of positive changes I intend to work on, probably for the rest of my life.
A favorite passage:
[My guru] says that people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like the fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment.