Shit Elizabeth Gilbert Taught Me

I’ve read ol’ Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert twice now: the first time I read it, which was 10 years ago, I FRIGGEN HATED IT. The second time, much more recently, I LOVED IT. I have to put my emotions in capitals because this book got me right in the feels in two completely different ways.

The first time I read the book, I was not happy. I was in a job I couldn’t stand, I felt as though I never had enough money, and I was stressed to the max about parenting, since I could not attend all the school events they held every second week (seriously, do they think we stay home all day watching Dr Phil?). Basically, life was pretty crappy, I had a fabulous eye-twitch, and my motivational motto was, “You just gotta get through another day”.

From that mindset, all I saw in Eat Pray Love was exactly what I didn’t want to see. It starts off a little dark, describing the tremendous amount of suffering Elizabeth had been going through in a deep depression and in a marriage she no longer wanted to be in, but didn’t know how to leave. I was fine with it at that point. But then, quite rudely, the book evolves to capture her joyful curiosity, optimism, and strength.

What. A. Bitch.

When I read the book back then, feeling like crap, naturally all I saw was crap. Ooey gooey girly crap. “Ohh look at me, I’m so freakin’ happy! I’m Elizabeth Gilbert! I make friends wherever I go, I’m quirkier than you, probably smarter than you, too. I’m certainly skinnier than you. I have adventures, I find inner peace, then I grab me a sexy Brazilian partner with the libido of a teenage boy and the sensibilities of a grown man. Yep, life’s pretty sweet for me. How you doin’?”

I didn’t even care about the fact that she had money to jet-set around the world while I did not. I’m sure she worked pretty hard for her dosh. I was jealous of her damn bubbliness and her in-your-face spiritual transformation.

Ten years on, it’s not surprising that my view of the book the second time around has changed. Now, I see the book as the story of a remarkably heart-driven woman on a spiritual journey, bravely sharing a large chunk of her soul to the world with incredible beauty and authenticity. There isn’t even much of the ‘oeey gooeyness’ I initially found so annoying.

I’m not saying that every bad book is a matter of a bad state of mind. And some people might be in a great place in life but still find my mate Liz a wee bit annoying. That’s completely cool. But isn’t interesting that one person’s perceptions can shift so remarkably? When I hold a belief system that life is pretty good, I tend to see more good things.

It reminds me of the old medicine man in the story, who tells Liz that Heaven and Hell are the same place, both here on Earth – the only difference is the road you take to get there.

“Heaven, you go up, through seven happy places. Hell, you go down, through seven sad places. This is why it better for you to go up, Liss.” He laughed.

“Same-same,” he said. “Same in end, so better to be happy in journey.”

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