Next weekend I will be going to see "Eat, Pray, Love" at the theater. I first read the book 5 or 6 years ago for my book club. At that time, I was struggling with the fact that my dad, who was born and raised Catholic and then accepted Lutheranism when he married my mom, had become a Buddhist. As you can guess from the title, the book deals with spirituality, and I felt when reading it that I was beginning to understand why my dad needed to choose this new spiritual path. I remember him visiting me and I actually recommended him reading it because I thought that he might see that I was trying to understand him better. I don't know if he actually read it though.
With the movie coming out though, I decided to revisit the book, and I'm very glad I did. This time I listened to the audiobook version, which is read by the author, Elizabeth Gilbert. There's a certain luxury to having the author read the story to you. They have the inside scoop on what feelings and thoughts the story is trying to tell and at what time and they are able to pull that into the reading. It's more textured. If I was talking in math terms, it's like going from two axis to three.
Listening to the book this time, I realized that the story wasn't just about pursuing spirituality. It is the story of grief and how loss can force you to look inward and learn more about yourself. It's the story about deciding to fight against depression and winning, as well as accepting that in order to love the world you need to learn to love yourself. It's about learning how to let go of the things that hold you down from progress. Spirituality is an element of the story, but I would say that it's more of a means of moving the story than a full out theme. While the backstory of Elizabeth Gilbert felt darker, I think her climb out of that darkness felt much brighter.
Now I know that I'm not going to be able to do exactly what Elizabeth Gilbert did to make myself better. While I would love to spend 4 months in Italy eating, I can't really picture myself moving there, and then to India, and then to Bali. I need to find my own path - and I think that is what I have been doing for the last year or so. But she does highlight some really useful tools that I think anybody can use. My favorite - writing a petition to God about what you need, and then in your heart make a list about who will sign it. It's remarkable what a big pep squad you have supporting you to be better when you just think about it.
I do recommend this book to people, expecially to people who may feel like they are lost in the dark. It leaves you thinking, and it leaves you with hope. But don't be surprised if the book is nothing like the movie - just enjoy the both of them for what they are.