A few years back, everyone I know was talking about Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir Eat, Pray, Love. Now the buzz is all about the movie version starring none other than Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem (who are both quite adroit at creating a buzz). If you are one of the few people in America who don’t know the story, it’s about a divorcee who gets decides to take a journey of self-recovery by traveling to Italy, India, and Indonesia. Who wouldn’t get over heartbreak with a trip like that and a book contract to write about it to boot? While the book and movie do have an inspirational message, which I always appreciate, it’s easy to wonder what kind of lessons an average divorcee like me could take away from them. I don’t have the means to take a long journey abroad. I’ve got kids and a job to do. So does this movie have any relevance in my life?
The movie has received a fairly good review from New York Times critic A.O. Scott, which is no easy feat. Scott is my favorite reviewer because he is sharp, witty and insightful and does a tremendously funny pan. While he astutely notes that “Eat Pray Love” offers moviegoers something they don’t often see in the multiplexes, a “movie that takes seriously (or for that matter has fun with) a woman’s autonomy, her creativity, her desire for something other than a mate,” he ends his review basically assessing it as an escapist film. “Watch. Smile. Go home and dream of Brazilians in Bali.”
That certainly has its own appeal, but I do think that there are certain lessons to be learned from the book and film’s basic pretext.
Eating, praying, and loving have their own benefits. And you don’t have to travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia to achieve them.
1) Eat. If someone told you to eat to mend a broken heart, you might laugh in their face about America’s obesity epidemic and the dangers of emotional eating. However, if taken in moderation, eating can have a palliative effect. Let’s face it, eating is our basic way of nourishing ourselves. When we are stressed out, busy, or single, we often tend not to eat much or to eat on the run. However preparing and eating a healthy and tasty meal can be one of the most important things we do in a day.
When a friend of mine lost her job a year ago, she went on a cooking spree. I understand how therapeutic that can be. It’s a great way of reaffirming one’s life-giving, creative and nurturing potential. Another friend separated from her husband had to cook for herself for the first time in her life. She embraced it, felt proud, and started posting pictures on Facebook of the lovely dishes she made. Cooking, and eating the delicious food you make, can be a means of empowerment and, of course, enjoyment. I myself made an apple-berry crisp with local ingredients yesterday, and I was struck just how orgasmic good food can be. It satisfies the senses in a way that may even rival sex. And it can stave off a broken heart, as my blogger friend Elvina Scott has demonstrated in her touching Recipes to Save a Marriage By.
2) Pray. Now this is certainly a charged term. Many people associate prayer with something that was forced upon them in childhood or that only a priest can lead you to. I think of prayer more as a moment of tranquility in a busy day, a moment of quieting my mind of the thoughts that are racing in my head as I multi-task, or a moment of self-reflection where I get to focus on how I want my life to be, not just observe how it is. I frankly don’t think you need to head to an ashram in India to find enlightenment.
Since my divorce, I have found several forms of “prayer” therapeutic. First of all, I got back into my yoga practice and actually stepped it up to five days a week.
While it has benefitted me physically, emotionally and mentally, perhaps the greatest part of yoga is how it has reduced my reactivity. It has taught me to take a breath and a moment of observation before I deal with a situation.
3) Love. Well, love may be the trickiest lesson of all for a recent divorcee. I was of the ilk to jump right back onto the horse, as it were, as I started dating just a couple of months after we split. Having a new relationship can give you a completely different perspective on yourself and make you feel great. As my recent posts have indicated, love can make the whole world seem shinier and happier, but if you come to depend too much on external validation, it can also be problematic. So make sure to love yourself as much as you love someone else.
Love can also come from your family and friends. I have extended myself more to others since I no longer have the emotional burden of keeping up a troubled marriage, and the bonds that I have formed have been wonderful. I have a whole new community of friends, mainly from yoga, and they are smart, thoughtful, witty and loving people. I felt so given to this year when they took my out to celebrate my birthday. I believe that after the disappointment of divorce, it can be so beneficial and even therapeutic to open your heart to others and remember, as one of my readers commented, that love’s messengers come in many forms.
For those of you who have read Eat, Pray, Love or seen the movie, please let me know what you think. Did you glean any insight from it? And what role do eating, praying and loving play in your overall happiness?