This is the one sentence that Elizabeth Gilbert uses to sum up the theme of the new anthology “Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It”.
This past Saturday I had the honor of representing this book at a signing and reading at my local Barnes and Noble and it was truly a surreal experience.
I felt privileged to be one of the contributors to this book. First, because I just loved reading every word of “Eat Pray Love” back in 2008 and I was so thrilled to finally have the chance to share exactly how this book helped me at a time when I didn’t even know I needed it. Secondly, after reading the book and the other stories from my fellow contributors, I felt so humbled to be part of these stories of strength and courage.
During my reading, I chose to share excerpts from fellow readers, and from Elizabeth Gilbert’s introduction piece and then from my own essay. I also shared part of my writing process and what led to me writing my story but there were a few things I left out, a few things it was just too tough to talk about.
I had a lot going on behind the scenes last summer and fall when I first discovered my essay was chosen. This provided strength for me at at time when I wasn’t feeling strong physically. I received the email that my essay was chosen to be in the book about a week before I had my thyroidectomy. I was working through the edits with the Editor from Riverhead books when I was recovering from surgery and had no physical voice. This process provided a voice for me at a time when I didn’t have my physical voice and looking back, I think it helped in my recovery as it gave me an outlet to share my voice in an an alternate way.
In a previous post, I shared that this story was the easiest and most difficult 1000 words to write. It was easy because I knew exactly what I wanted to share. I recall that time in my life so vividly, I remember what time of year it was, what the air smelled like, what my 18 month old looked like as she slept in her crib on her stomach with her knees tucked under her and tush in the air. I used to go into her room at night and stand over her crib while she was sleeping and tell her I was sorry because I knew thing were about to get difficult for us. I recall what I was wearing and where I was standing in my kitchen when I let the words ” oh. YES. we. can. get. divorced.” come out of my mouth.
It’s for this reason that it was also so difficult to go back to that place again. As time passes we forget about those small details – we fill our minds with new wonderful memories, and then when we allow our thoughts to drift back to the details of a rough time in our lives, it can feel as if we were right back there again and that’s exactly how I felt while writing this essay.
I kept typing past the fear and uncomfortable feelings because I knew it was time to tell this story and that feeling was stronger than the fear. I just wrote and hit send. I felt as if I were writing a letter to a friend when I was writing this essay to Elizabeth Gilbert, I knew it was falling into good hands and that she would respect my story whether it was chosen or not. Not only did she respect and select my essay, but she quoted a paragraph of my essay in a post she did on facebook the week the book launched that was shared with her 1.6 million Facebook followers! Whaatttt?!
She related to my story even more than I anticipated and that thrills me because it fulfills a little dream that I had way back in 2008 when I first read “Eat Pray Love” and how I wished I could share with the author how much this book meant to me – that time finally came, 8 years later with this anthology and it’s been a beautiful, dream come true experience.
I read an excerpt of Elizabeth Gilbert’s introduction where she shares the concept of despair:
” despair is a spiritual condition in which you convince yourself that tomorrow is going to be exactly the same as today. Once you fall into this state of despair, you don’t even bother trying to alter anything about your life because what’s the point? You become hypnotized by your own stagnation. You resign yourself to sameness because thats what you’ve tricked yourself into thinking life is: eternal, soul-crushing sameness.”
Each contributor in this book had that moment of despair, that moment that their life would never change and they were sinking into “sameness” but then somehow found strength to change and found it somewhere in the words of EAT PRAY LOVE.
I went on to share the concept of Vitality. The idea of escaping your problems and galavanting around the world for a year sounds fun but is SO not in the cards for so many people including me, but this is where Vitality comes in:
“There is a belief in our culture that we have to get away or go someplace exotic in order to rejuvenate and rediscover our lost radiance. Yet Vitality can be found right here in each moment of our lives. It doesn’t need to be something we taste only for a moment or a few days on vacation and then disappears. Vitality is very simply an energy that comes from living a life of enlightened knowledge and action. When we practice vitality, we are revitalized and renewed right where we live.”
This is what I took away from reading EAT PRAY LOVE 8 years ago – I replaced sameness and despair with vitality and it gave me the strength to move forward. Even though, at that time in my life, I was moving forward through muck, and just like the line from “Shawshank Redemption” “Andy Dufresne crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side”, it took another 2 years, but I too felt clean on the other side.